A love letter to baseball, by Steve Safran

Many of us are feeling the nostalgia-twinged excitement tonight. Go, Sox!

Mom didn’t expect to see herself on the bright, new, hi-def Enormo-tron overlooking 36,000 people. None of us had ever been on Fenway Park’s big screen before. But there we were, enormously memorialized during Game One of the 2013 American League Division Series. How many lucky guys can boast attendance at this game, accompanied by the parents who birthed him into this great (Red Sox) Nation? Me. I can. Look at us.

Dad, Mom, her nose, and me

Dad, Mom, her Band Aid, and me

Mom wishes she’d timed the nose-mole removal a little better, since now her Band-Aid schnoz is captured forever, both here and on the JumboTron. We’re too superstitious to have arrogantly assumed this game would foretell future pennant grabbings. But now, my childhood team of bearded heroes is headed to the World Series, and the Jumbotron still of me, my parents, and one of my oldest friends gains even more sentimental cache. Also, superstition dictates that Mom cannot remove the Band Aid until this wraps up in November.

At the risk of having a puck hurled at my head, I’m partial to baseball over other popular sports in these parts. Playoffs in basketball and hockey are interminable. They’re playing when you file your taxes, hunt for eggs, and plan brunch for Mom… and they’re still at it when you put out the patio furniture and buy socks for Dad. That’s not a playoff system– that’s three entirely different cute kitties on the calendar. Baseball? Lose three out of five and you’re gone. And I’ve been to some magical nights at Fenway. As Humphrey Bogart once said “A hot dog at the ballpark beats a steak at the Ritz.” A bad night at the park–with the parking ticket and the drunk asshole and the Sox breaking our hearts–that’s still a damn good night.

A life-long love affair with the Red Sox, fostered by their parents, and shared with their best friends is a significant part what makes Bostonians of all ilk high five in the streets and feel Boston Strong. And tonight, on the eve of the first night of the World Series, I’m writing a love note to the Red Sox, to Fenway… to Baseball.

Dear Baseball,

I saw your gorgeous, green Fenway field for the first time in 1975– the very year the Red Sox came thisclose to winning the World Series in what is agreed to be one of the great Fall Classics. I was the seven year-old boy who cried when Fred Lynn crashed into the wall in Game Six, so worried for my idol that I sobbed myself to sleep that night. There was something about Carlton Fisk, and I missed the rest of the game, but Dad has his I-was-there story for all time.

That home run I hit in Little League in 1979? That cemented our bond, baseball. Maybe it was a grounder that went through the shortstop’s legs, allowing me to scoot from one base to another in a comical series of bad throws. Never mind all that. It was a Home Run, with merit trophy proof of my commitment to you… even if it was for coming in second.

I dozed off every summer night to announcers calling your plays on AM radio. Stu loved you as much as I did, and took me to game after game—a childhood relationship chronicled in Fenway ticket stubs. So I know you were sad, too, when it happened, losing one of your purist fans on September 11th when I lost my best friend.  After that we became even closer, baseball. Your games took on new meaning—weightier and urgent– as I root hard enough for the both of us.

A love note to you inevitably includes a family history of heartbreaks. Papa was a Boston Braves fan who was 20 when Babe Ruth played his final, sad year on the club. Dad once left a game early with his father, only to see a Ted Williams homer sail over his head as they walked behind the Green Monster. And me? Well, I died a little in 1978, 1986, and 2003. But then, in 2004, you rewarded us for our faith in you. (Because we know you love the Sox, too.)

Passing on our passion for you to our children is like a covenant in this town. My middle son was born in the fourth inning of a Sox game in 1998. I held him and explained your rules… starting in the sixth. Appreciating the subtleties of baseball, I told him, is a lifetime commitment. Baseball, you are the great imitator of life, providing the perfect proverb for my kids: though you may fail most of the time, you will still be a hero as long as you stay at the plate.

“How can you not get romantic about baseball?”  asked Billy Beane, echoing our feelings exactly. You are our shared history, our shared hot dogs, our shared disappointment, and tonight, our shared excitement. You’ve provided the venue for me to bond with my family, reminisce, enjoy new friendships, honor old ones, and drink an immoderate amount of beer. But you are a fickle lover, baseball, and I won’t implore you to bless our Sox tonight. We’ve got this covered. We’re Boston Strong. And Mom’s still wearing that Band Aid.

With great love, and a Pedroia jersey,

Steve

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10 responses

  1. Pingback: Why I love baseball | John Pyle

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