WHOOSH!!! As the sound of fighter jets flew over my apartment, my heart leapt with joy (and fear—those things are deafeningly loud). I ran to the window to see those four planes head straight toward Fenway Park to do a fly over, marking Opening Day for the Boston Red Sox. I called my dad to tell him I’d seen and felt the planes, and we talked baseball for a few minutes as the ceremony continued. Ted Kennedy, looking weak but happy, threw the opening pitch to Jim Rice, and for once, the political divide between me and my dad didn’t matter. Even my conservative dad couldn’t begrudge an old liberal the chance to toss a ball. Sadly Dad had to get back to work, and so we said our “Go Sox!”s before I settled in with a cup of coffee and my knitting to watch the game.
People are often surprised by my love of baseball. Even here where almost everyone at least claims to be a Red Sox fan, I don’t fit the baseball “type.” I’m not athletic. I hate sports bars. Jocks bore me. I own nary a piece of Red Sox merchandise. My tastes tend toward “culture.” I could care less about any other sport going, but baseball just makes me stupid happy.
It wasn’t always this way. Although I’d been a fan as a kid, growing up with Yaz and the Boomer, my baseball fandom pretty much ended with the 1986 World Series. My dad had woken up my mom to watch what should have been the final out of the Series. “Oh, Mr. Sundry,” Mom said, rubbing her eyes, “these are the Red Sox. They are going to find a way to blow it.”
Sure enough, the ball went trickling through poor injured Bill Bruckner’s legs, and the dreams of a Sox win went with them. All my mom said was “See” to my stunned father and me. As I watched her pad off in her nightgown back to bed, I thought to myself that maybe my mother was right about just this one thing (I was thirteen at the time, so my mom was pretty much wrong about everything). And that was pretty much it for me and baseball for a long time. The next time the Sox made the Playoffs, I busied myself kissing my boyfriend’s neck, trying to distract him from the game. He didn’t appreciate it.
My indifference toward baseball would have likely continued if it hadn’t been for an autumn evening in 2003. I’d just arrived in Massachusetts to start my recently ended job, and I had been staying with some friends of friends in Salem. These guys were hardcore baseball fans, and apparently the Sox were having a great year. If I ever wanted to sit in the living room, I needed to be able to tolerate baseball. Despite myself, I found myself rather charmed by the sloppy looking Sox. They just looked like they were having a good time. That didn’t mean that I was interested in the game. Or wasn’t, that is until that fateful night.
We were at a party in West Gloucester. We’d had beer. Somehow the party wound up becoming two parties, with women dancing to cheesy pop music in the kitchen, and men drinking beer on the porch, listening to Game Three of the series against Oakland on a hand-cranked radio. However much my sister and I love to cut a rug, the music was a bit much, so we decided to join the guys on the porch.
I don’t know if it was the beer, the October air, the romance of the hand crank radio, or the general collective tension surrounding the game, but it took only a few moments before my sister and I were hooked. No one needed to tell us to shut up, because we were listening intently to the broadcast. The game was close, and error filled. It went into eleven, nail-biting innings. At one point, when the tension became almost unbearable, my sister and I looked at each other. “Oh no,” we said together. “We care!”
“I want them to win!” shrieked my sister.
“Me too!” I cried.
The injured Trot Nixon stepped up to the plate. Magically, or so it seemed to me at the time, he hit a game-winning homerun.
“TROT!!!!!!!!” all the guys yelled. Sister and I joined them, “TROT!!!! YAY!!!!!”
From then on, Red Sox fans we were. Now would we have become fans had the Sox had a mediocre year in 2003, I can’t say. But ever since that night, I’ve loved baseball. I might not have truly felt the heartbreak after Game Seven against the Yankees in 2003, or deserved the happiness I felt in 2004 and 2007, but I don’t care. My dad loves it that his daughters have crossed over to the dark side (my mother feels betrayed). It gives us something to talk about, even when other current topics make us quarrel. Baseball’s a game that brings an arch conservative and an ardent liberal together to rejoice in Opening Day.
So, yes. I love baseball. That the Sox won today makes me stupid happy. Play ball!