Monday, March 22, 2010

Favorite Baseball Memory

This week The Panel tackles a trip down memory lane and we try to come up with our best Baseball memory. Without further ado, lets see what everyone has to offer.

First up is Stephanie

So after being nagged a bit by miss Mollie Katie, it's been decided that my answer to this question has to involve that little slice of heaven known as the "right field roof deck" over at Fenway Park. The way this goes, you see, is that she has terrible luck -- as anyone who follows her on Twitter could probably attest to at this point. Ergo, whenever those Red Sox emails go out about entering contests to win tickets or to win the chance to buy tickets, they all somehow magically wind up redirected into my inbox.

What can I say? I think I've won at least once every year.

And last year? Oh goodness. It cost a pretty penny, but last year, for one beautiful afternoon, we enjoyed the comforts of the right field roof deck. Which has its own bar. And bathrooms that smell like cinnamon Altoids. And unnervingly friendly waitresses who cheerfully bring you the hundred bucks' worth of artery-clogging deliciousness that came comped with the tickets. Did I mention that the right field deck is awesome? The right field deck is awesome.

Next is Kristin:

Favorite baseball memory....not so much. I'm really not sporty unless my brother is watching because I don't like being left out and its fun to watch him yell.

The only baseball memory I have (notice I didn't say favorite) is "playing" little league baseball when I was in third grade. We were the San Diego Padres.

There were three girls on the team, myself included. One was my friend, the other girl was more boy than girl and I was kind of afraid of her. My friend quit after the first practice. I wanted to quit too, but my mom said that I have to finish what you, Kristin played baseball. Like a girl. With this hair. I wasn't good, but I played the entire season. Never ever again. That's all I've got.

What Jen had to say:

Best Baseball Memories

I have no one stand out memory of baseball. It's all feelings bound up in sounds, weather, sights. I get the thrill when I watch a game in person (it's been years), on TV or on radio. There's a sound to a baseball game that nothing else duplicates. The hum of the crowd, the crack of the bats, the intermittent roars of approval or disappointment. It’s like a big picnic, with an incidental game going on.

I went to Angel’s games with my dad when I was about 8 or 9. I was enamored of Dick Schofield. He's the reason that I am a fan of the short stop position today. I think of those games and it makes me happy that I had those times with my dad, even if I don't remember them individually. Then there is last season’s World Series. My team, The Phillies, played against the Yankees. It was epic for me and I watched every game. I'll look back on it fondly for a lot of reasons but I am hoping the next season is even more memorable for me.

So my direct memories are slight, but the sensation is strong and that works for me.

Michelle had this to say:

This one time, at baseball camp, I.... nothing quite as good as an overused and not funny anymore joke, yeah? Anyway, baseball, as American as apple pie, and a few other cliches that I can't think of at the moment. As such, you would think I would be into baseball, well that, and the hot guys playing with bats and balls, but surprisingly, I'm more of a hockey girl. To me, baseball only brings back horrid memories of PE class and getting yelled at by the kids I got stuck on a team with because of my extreme lack of athletic ability. Rules are simpler to understand than basketball and football, so I understand what's going on in a game, but it lacks enough action to make me happy, and not enough violence. So baseball? Meh. Give me men swinging sticks at each other, not at flying balls, and I am a happy girl indeed.

Now from Justin:

Let me paint you a picture.

It’s Sunday, October 3, 2004. Game 162 of the schedule. The Astros are sitting on a six-game winning streak at 91-70 after firing Jimy Williams the day after the All-Star game after leading the Astros to a mediocre 44-44 first half of the season. A win against the Rockies clinches the Wild Card and a playoff berth. The whole town was behind the Astros and Phil Garner, brought in to serve as interim manager, is the most popular man in town.

43,082 people are jammed into Minute Maid Park on a warm afternoon with the roof closed. We’re all expecting Roger Clemens, who wasn’t looked upon as a steroid-popping douche at the time, to take the mound, but he doesn’t. Word is he picked up a stomach bug the night before from one of his kids, so Brandon Backe is handed the ball instead.

Backe tosses five innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 6 K’s and 2 BB’s and winds up earning the win.

Brad Lidge (pre-Albert Pujols mindfuck) comes into the game with two outs in the 8th and strikes out all four batters he faced. When He rung up that last strikeout, the building went nuts. We’d won the Wild Card and were going to the playoffs!

How could that not be my greatest memory?

What did I think:

As I think back I have some fond baseball memories, but my favorite one is my boy Chris played on a baseball team called the Red Legs. For some stupid reason the league wouldn't let them have the Red Sox so they did it their way. This was a great group of kids put together by a great coach named Ray Johnson who turned these kids from a ragtag bunch of neighborhood boys to a real baseball team.

Chris was a very good fielder, but he was weak on the bat. He liked to bunt instead of swinging away to make up for it and the other teams picked up on it. They liked to work him over and Chris go more and more frustrated. Ray worked with him and worked with him but he just couldn't get over the hump.

The last season Chris played he was up to bat and had a strike or two on him when he swung at one that stayed in the sweet zone just a little too long. The ball cut a high arc over the third baseman's head and the left fielders head and dropped between the outfielder and the fence. The ball wound up at the 350 foot mark and my poor, slow white boy son got a standing triple out of it with two RBIs.

The dugout erupted like they had won the war!

Mollie Katie's entry:

I don't think there is any fan base in all of sports more collectively superstitious than Red Sox Nation. It takes a real man to be a Red Sox fan, because they'll break your heart and make you cry. I firmly believe that.

I became indoctrinated into this little cult when I was born in April of 1987. And if you're a Red Sox fan, you know that '86 was one heartbreaker of a post season for my boys. Both sets of grandparents were huge fans, and both took turns babysitting tiny little newborn me for the first few years of my life. My grandfather Don told adult-me that holding baby-me in his arms while watching the games on TV was his method for learning to swear less. Which worked...eventually. He was understandably relieved when my first words were not a variation on "motherfucking Red Sox." I learned to crawl on the front porch while my grandfather Pete listened to the game on the radio and yelled score updates down the hall to my grandmother Minnie in the kitchen. Just writing that now gives me a craving for her poppyseed bread. Minnie and Pete didn't end up living to see the Red Sox win it all in 2004, but Don did. My other grandmother, the one that I am named after, died before I was born, but she is most memorably quoted in our family for calling Yaz a "stupid Polock" because in her opinion he only hit homeruns when the Red Sox were crushing their opponent. It's even funnier when you realize her son married my mother, who is herself 100% Polish. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Superstition! I'm pretty sure that even non-Red Sox fans are aware of "The Curse Of The Bambino." The basic story is that in 1919, then-owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth's contract for $100k to finance this moronic 1925 Broadway musical "No No Nanette" that his wife wanted produced, and that in selling away one of the greatest players in baseball history, he doomed the Red Sox into never winning another World Series. Before 1918, the Red Sox were the only name in baseball. After, it was all the Yankees' show. There's also another "curse" that is lesser-known. The Red Sox actually had the opportunity to sign the first African-American player in the MLB, but they balked at the end of the day, and the honor fittingly went to the Brooklyn Dodgers (now based in Los Angeles) with the signing of #42 Jackie Robinson. Not the Yankees, but nonetheless New York City got all the press that Boston did not. It stung. Are you understanding yet why the rivalry is so intense? There's baseball history in every game we play. One team can be having a shitty stretch of games, or even a whole season, but when you're the Red Sox playing the Yankees and vice versa, you come to put on a show. You play your hardest. You leave it all out on the field. It's your blood, your sweat, your tears, and at the end of the day, your history to make. This IS baseball.
My brush with destiny began in 2003. For some reason, I noticed that whenever I watched the game on the love seat in the family room, the Red Sox won. When I watched the game in my basement lair, they lost. My father joked that it was the "lucky couch" and so a series of experiments inadvertently began. I was in high school then, and I used to do my homework while lying on the floor in front of the TV. If my foot was touching the love seat, good things happened. If not, bad things. It became such a good predictor of Red Sox game outcomes that my family started getting up and bringing me beverages and snacks while I remained stretched out on the "lucky couch." I felt godlike...until, of course, I had to pee. And my worshippers were screaming at me outside the bathroom door that I better not waste time washing my hands, because there was the potential for a double play ball. I'm going to tell you right now that while my home doesn't look like the Jimmy Fallon character's shrine in the rom-com "Fever Pitch," my heart most certainly does.

As 2003 went on, this became the norm. At 6:55pm EST (unless it was a day game), I would be yelled at to get my ass on the "lucky couch." Then, something crazy happened. The Red Sox made the playoffs. And unlike the 1990s, we had a shot to win it all. To get there, though, we had to go through the Yankees. And honestly, as much as I would delight in the Yankees missing the playoffs all together, it's so much sweeter to silence any naysayers by beating the pants off the Yankees in October playoff baseball. No team can beat us quite like the Yankees can, and anyone who knows anything about baseball will tell you that. So it's 2003. We take the Yankees into Game 7 tied. We live and die with every pitch. And on Aaron Boone's homerun to lift the Yankees to victory, I was in the next room fixing myself a glass of chocolate milk. My father and sister were asleep in their respective recliners and my mom was working her overnight shift as a nurse. My attemps to pelt my minions with pillows so my craving could be satisfied failed. I was thirsty. I sincerely thought the game would continue on in extra innings. I've never really forgiven myself for that decision.

I did not make the same mistake in 2004. I had previous committments the first three nights of our series against the Yankees, so we were down 3 games to none when I finally made it onto the "lucky couch." I was a senior in high school then, and my schedule was so ridiculous that my grades wound up slipping all of late September and early October due to baseball. The cocky Yankees quotes in the press about how they had the series in the bag made my blood boil with rage. So I said something along the lines of "fuck that noise," and I sat my ass down on the "lucky couch" to watch Game 4. No distractions. If I may be so bold as to quote Tears For Fears..."When you think it's all over, it's not over, it's not over." The Red Sox went on to win the next 4 games in a row to take the series from the Yankees 4 games to 3, making baseball history. And if there's a taste more delicious than besting the Yankees in the playoffs while making MLB history, I don't know what it is. I'm sure if you asked, A-Rod would answer "Jeter juice." Yes, this entire heartwarming family story of Red Sox superstitions was just a setup for a "Yankees are gay" joke... Not that there's anything wrong with that!

The Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals 4 games to none to win the 2004 World Series. The magic of the "lucky couch" is gone now that the curse is broken, and I'm okay with that. My grandfather Don was in the Navy during World War II. He was a quiet man who rarely ever smiled, and on that night in 2004 I got to see him grinning ear to ear like an idiot little kid again, shouting "THEY WON IT IN MY LIFETIME"! He was born in 1918. We all cried tears of joy. I walked around dumbfounded for weeks, thinking I had dreamed the whole thing up. But in 2004, I like to think with a little help from me and the "lucky couch," my boys ended the curse. My grandfather Don passed away right after the All-Star Break in 2007, so he never got to see the Red Sox repeat the sweep in the 2007 World Series against the Colorado Rockies.

This season, the Red Sox are playing Opening Day at Fenway Park against none other than the New York motherfucking Yankees. I managed to win tickets to games against the Yankees in May and October and I could not possibly be more excited without dying of a heart attack. This is what I live for. This is what we live for. May God continue to bless Red Sox nation.

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