How baseball sucked me in
The Giants are in the playoffs. It’s a sentence that fills me with the usual emotions – anxiety and dread, punctuated by moments of extreme elation. How did I get here? I grew up in Houston, and had absolutely no interest in the Astros, other than the fact that they played in the Astrodome, a modern Wonder of the World (or so we were told at the time). But then I met Alec, my future husband, who was and is a die-hard SF Giants fan. Before we were married I would take a novel or the Sunday papers to Candlestick, and while he and his friends watched that boring game, I would catch up on my reading. Then they decided that before I could marry their friend, I had to pass a sports quiz (You’re right, this is straight out of the movie Diner). I can’t remember much about the quiz, except that the answer to most of the questions was Willie Mays. And that they flunked me and I wasn’t very happy with them at the time.
Later on, Alec and I moved to Chicago, and he gave me a book called Baseball Access. It was perfect for people like me who knew nothing about baseball. I realized that I could either be a baseball widow for half the year, or I could learn about the game. I started by memorizing the names of all the major league stadiums and their teams. I loved the whole concept of Wrigley Field – the ivy on the outfield’s brick wall, the day-game-only policy, kids standing on Waveland Ave. hoping to catch home-run balls. Alec would show me off to his friends like a precocious child – Cincinnati Reds? Riverfront Stadium! Pittsburgh Pirates? Three Rivers! New York Mets? Shea!
Next I learned about the managers. My favorite was Whitey Herzog of the Cardinals, with his crew cut, and the way he would get right up in the umpire’s face, shaking his finger and getting thrown out of the game. I loved the nicknames, most of them really unflattering. Tommy Lasorda was The Fat Man. The Giants had Jeffrey Leonard, who we called Penitentiary Face. Then there was legendary Cubs announcer Harry Caray, who was the master name mangler of all time. He called Rafael Palmiero ‘Rafeel Palermo.’ Andrés Galarraga became ‘Garragala.’ He would lean out of the press box and lead the crowd in rousing versions of Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
My love for all the characters in baseball drew me in through the back door, until I finally got interested in what was happening on the field. I learned the infield fly rule, that a walk does not affect a player’s batting average, and what constitutes a win or loss vs. a no-decision for the pitcher. So now, here I am, hooked for life.
Go Giants! – AQP