“I love baseball. You know it doesn’t have to mean anything, it’s just beautiful to watch.” – Woody Allen in Zelig (1983)
It’s funny, but it’s more difficult for me to write about baseball than it is for me to write about the more personal stuff. Perhaps baseball *is* more personal to me, who knows? What I do know is this: I. Love. This. Game. I just really do.
When I was seven-years-old, my dad took my sister and me to see Field of Dreams. Now, we all know this movie is one of the all-time, undisputed, greatest baseball movies ever. Ever. I mean, just look at this quote:
“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.” – James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams (1989).
I walked into the theater, sort of dragging my heels because I wanted to see whatever cartoon was out at the time. I walked away from the theater changed. You could make queso for the entire American League with all of that cheese, I realize this. But it’s the truth. I knew that I had seen something great–and I’m not just talking about the movie. I’m talking about the game. The Game. I was fascinated by it. Fascinated by the way the ball moved, by the way the players moved, by the crowds. Later that summer, my dad took us to a White Sox game in Chicago. It was one of the top-five greatest experiences of my life. The smells, the sounds, the tastes, and the way the air crackled with the electricity of thousands of fans, past and present…I was hooked.
So began a seven-year-old’s love affair with The Game. After the movie, my sister decided she was into baseball also. Dad told us that most people have a favorite team, the one they root for always. Ceci, being older and much quicker than I, shouted that she “dibsed” the White Sox (as they were the team in the movie, therefore the only team we really knew of). I was upset, but even at such a young age, I knew standard dibsing/shotgun rules. My father showed me a list of all the teams in major league ball, and I saw one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen: The NY logo. I was drawn to it. I pointed it out and declared the NY as my team. The NY what, I didn’t know, but I wanted them. My dad did everything he could to talk me into another team, any other team, but I held fast. I do believe in love at first sight–at least where baseball is concerned.
Through the years, my outward expression of this love dwindled. But the affair was rekindled during the 1998 season. Seeing McGwire and Sosa duel for the record…the race reminded me why I loved the sport in the first place. Like many others, I remember exactly where I was when McGwire broke 61 to hit 62.
It was in college, however, that my Yankees and I were reunited. Like many great love stories, ours was rekindled through the help of a friend; in this case, my friend Zach. Zach loves the Yankees more than anyone I’ve ever known (which might not be saying much, as I live in Texas, but still). Honestly, watching games 4 and 5 with Zach is also high up on my most-exciting moments ever list. I remember walking into his apartment, and being immediately handed a baseball. “You can’t watch the Series and not have a baseball in your hand,” said Zach. Whatever, dude, I thought at the time, but this tradition has followed me. On any given day, if I am watching the Yankees play, you can be sure I’ve got my squishy Yankees baseball in my hands and my stupid, too-big, too-stiff Yankees cap on my head. If any of you remember those games, 4 and 5, the words Yankee Mystique can’t be far from your minds. The energy in Yankee Stadium radiated beyond the Bronx…and the energy in Zach and Ty’s living room was tangible. The Yanks had heart; they had a city behind them…shoot, they even had a lot of the country behind them. And although they fell to the D-backs in the seventh game, that series had some beautiful ball.
I’d missed that excitement, to tell you the truth. While I love my boys, I haven’t seen the same heart in them as I saw during those games. Now, I know that the team has changed over the years, and I’m not complaining. But I will own up to the nostalgia I feel when I watch the highlights from that Series. To me, The Game is about The Heart, and that’s why I fell in love so long ago. I fell in love with The Heart of Baseball. Wow. I really am a big stick of cheese.
What brought all of this on? 2 things. One, tonight the Boston Red Sox made history and broke their 86 year slump. They won the Series, sweeping the Cards. And I must tip my Yankees hat to them and offer up my most sincere congratulations. It had been a long time since I had seen that heart in a team. And I loved it. (And I know that the minute I say this next bit, somebody is going to be knocking on my door, demanding to confiscate my ball and hat and shirt. I can only hope it’s Paul O’Neill because at least that way I’ll finally get to meet him. Unless it’s Zach, that would be okay too.) Okay, here goes: I became a Red Sox fan during the past 3 weeks. I rooted for them from the first pitch of the World Series until the last out tonight. Believe me, next year I’ll be front and center (in front of my TV set, at least) cheering on my Yanks. But in this moment, right now, I will retire their title as the Red Sux. Just until next season. They earned it.
Reason 2 for this sporty diatribe: I just finished watching my favorite movie of all time, 61*. Roger Maris is my favorite baseball player. It was a sign to me that the Yankees shirt I found in the thrift store bore the #9. He showed strength, courage, grace, and honor during that season of 1961. Honestly, whenever someone asks me if I could meet anyone, dead or alive, I say Maris. Well, unless I want to sound like a good Christian, and then I have to say Jesus. But even He knows that while I love Him, and will enjoy meeting Him when my day comes, I really really really would love to talk to Maris.
Toommate hears me talk like this, or hears me go on a rant about a stupid ruling, or a stupid play (Are your ears burning, A-Rod the Assclown??), and it prompts her to remind me that my penis is showing. Toommate is crass, but correct. (Well, not in the idea that I have a penis that shows…or one that doesn’t show. Okay, now I’m getting WAY off topic.) She’s correct because I don’t sound like the girly girl she knows, the one who spends an hour straightening her hair, the one who loves wearing pink toenail polish, the girl who twirls around in skirts and sometimes wears her flirty, sexy, ZaZaZing black stilettos around the house, in her pajama pants.
All I can say is that I love baseball, and true love lasts a lifetime. The Game is more than a sport to me; it’s a dance, a timeless ritual, something that makes sense no matter what is going on in my own life. And when I feel that crackle in the ballpark, that buzz that is so tangible on Opening Day, I know that The Game loves me, too.
Goodnight, and enjoy all of this cheese.
Mood at the Moment: Lovey Dovey about a sport. Please don’t judge.
Music at the Moment: Across the Universe- Fiona Apple (covering the Beatles).