I can count the number of true baseball fans that I am friends with (in person, not including those of you whom I have befriended through this blog) using just my fingers. Maybe it is because of geography (who has time to watch baseball all day when the surf is up) or perhaps because of the way the game has changed throughout America, but either way try and try as I might I can’t find people who are legitimately interested in the game. The task of finding fans of baseball history is even more trying.
Sure, there are Dodgers’ "fans" and Angels’ "fans" and Padres "fans," but they can’t tell you who is leading the league in RBIs. And they can’t tell you who the greatest player of all time was without resorting to the default 714 arguement. And they certainly don’t know that Sparky Anderson has the fifth most managerial wins.
I take a lot of slack for loving the game as much as I do. The other night a few friends gathered at a bonfire where someone started fact checking about baseball via thier sidekick "Cal Ripken played in the most consecutive games," "here is a fact for you, baseball is really boring." I sit out a lot of activities with friends to watch baseball, dinners, movies, anything really, baseball is my first priority.
And, therein, I take a lot of pride in my baseball knowledge. The other day when the 1924 Senators came up one friend made a sarcastic "oh those 1924 Senators were so good" remark, to which I replied "they really were, they had both Firpo Marberry and Walter Johnson." I know that because of this great book I have about the "Lively Ball" era, but so few people seem to understand the obsession.
So I’ve been thinking about what it means to love the game. When I use the exercise bike at the gym I like to read about baseball history. I love learning knew things from older fans, the guys that saw Mantle play in person, just from hearing thier stories. I do laundry at midnight the day before Lackey pitches to make sure that my "lucky Lackey shirt" is clean. I can’t wait for new episodes of the Bronx is burning. I spend the majority of my extra money on baseball cards or subscriptions, and my free time reading, writing, thinking, talking, and watching the game we love. I drag my best friend from the comforts of 5th and 55th in New York all the way to the Bronx and Queens so that I can see where some of the greats played before those historic stadiums get torn down. I even made her go all the way from Wrigley to U.S. Cellular so we could get the whole feel of Chicago, it made it even easier to relate to PJ from My Boys tonight.
So I guess that leaves me being just that. PJ from My Boys or Ben from Fever Pitch, a fan who loves the game more than anything else. So much so that I watched an interview with Don Mattingly the other day. I’ve never been a Mattingly fan, and knew surprisingly little about the Mr. Baseball, but the way he spoke about the game made me fall in love with him for the first tiem, and the game itself all over again.
I suppose that the point of this entry is that even though we have Barry Bonds about to break one of our most hallowed records, and we may never see another Don Mattingly: "the game doesn’t stink, Mr. Wheeler. It’s a great game." I just wish there were more people like Billy Chapel.