Thursday, April 3, 2008

End of a fifty year love affair?

Let's get it right out there right away. I am seriously thinking of switching my major league baseball allegiance away from the San Fransisco Giants. This must mean that I disagree with the spoken philosophy of Saw Doctor Leo Moran, who claims sports team allegiance is genetic. He once said this in an effort to explain his devoted following of the various Galway GAA teams. GAA stands for Cumann Luthchleas Gael, which is widely known in English as the Gaelic Athletic Association, the umbrella organization for sports in Ireland. All of Ireland. There is no northern Ireland in organized sport; it is the only way in which Ireland is still united. I do think Leo was joking when he said this, but it doesn't really matter to me.
I am not sure if I can do this, this wholesale switching of affections. Maybe it will be like quitting smoking, something I have no personal knowledge of, but something that appears to be difficult, something you have to really work at, but something that can be done, even with certain rare setbacks.
My fondness for baseball began in the spring of 1953, when I managed to catch two consecutive serious childhood illnesses pretty much back to back. I missed several weeks of kindergarten, but for much of this time I was not very sick at all. I imagine it will be hard for younger readers(do we have any younger readers?) to imagine a time when we not only did not have cable tv, but didn't have tv at all. We did, however, have a radio and on it was broadcast the game of the day, sponsored, if memory serves, by Gillette.
So I started listening to baseball games every weekday afternoon, instead of going to school. I was six years old and soon began playing the game. The league for the youngest players in Hastings was called peewee, and I faithfully attended summer mornings in early elementary years, learning the game(good name for a Buddy Holly song). Following summers were packed with pick-up games and even more interestingly named organized leagues (little, pony, senior, midget, legion).
The real tipping point in my Giants infatuation came in 1956, with the creation of the Nebraska State League, a Class D minor league. While Kearney had the Yankees, and McCook the Braves, Hastings had the Giants. Many of the players lived at the hotel where my Dad worked, so I kind of slid into the batboy job. I got to see 60-some baseball games up close every summer. I learned to swear from Leo Schrall, the mild-mannered coach of the Giants, and I learned a hell of a lot of baseball.
Over the four years this league was in existence, I met young men who were on their way to becoming big league baseball players, although not many. The NSL was a rookie league, and most all the players were 18 or 19 years old. Many had just graduated from high school, and were giving a professional baseball career that one shot. And for most, that shot was over by September. There were players from Cuba and the Dominican Republic who could barely speak English, there was a guy from New York who claimed to have sung on the street corner with Dion, there were southern boys who had never been away from home before, and there was even a guy from Lincoln, Bill Honnor, who now lives in Waco, NE.
So, since the last of the fifties, I have followed the Giants. I haven't followed them to a championship, because they haven't won a World Series since 1954.
When, in 1974 I moved to San Francisco, my mother said it was the Giants that drew me there. I don't really think that was really the case, but it was certainly a fortuitous coincidence.
I can't really tell you how may Giants' games I saw in those seven years, but it had to be more than one hundred. Here's how it worked for Kevin and Joe going to games. Kevin would call Joe at his office before noon; Joe would shoot over to the Powell St. downtown box office for tickets; and Kevin would pick up Joe on the way to Candlestick Park. Later in the 70s, this pattern got a whole lot better, when Bob Bizio, who used to work with Kevin, got a management job in the Giants' ticket office. Bob would let us trade the tickets Joe bought at noon for the best tickets available for the same price. We'd go from twentieth row down to about the third.
I will try to limit my memories. Kevin, Dick, and I saw the shortest nine inning game played in the last four decades, one hour and thirty-one minutes. Kevin snatched a foul ball off the bat of Roger Metzger out of Joe's hands. One day without Kevin there, I saw a no-hitter pitched by Ed Halicki. I probably saw Jack Clark sprint off the field after the second out about a dozen times. Jack apparently couldn't count to three.
But that is the past. I haven't lived there for 27 years, and I've forgotten most of the details of those batboy years. Should I switch to a different "favorite" team, I won't have to discuss Barry Bonds in the same manner I do now.
Now, I have to decide which team to cheer for, watch on tv, and rarely attend games in person. I could go about this logically. Whose teams games can I see the easiest on tv? Which team plays closest to my current location? Or I could go with emotion and choose a team that has a Lincoln boy starring for them.
But, no, I'm thinking about going with a winner. As this is being typed, the evening of 4/3/08, there is only one undefeated major league team. It's a long way until October but, as they say, hope springs eternal.
The Kansas City Royals have the best record in baseball and Lincolnite Alex Gordon is currently hitting two homers every three games, a pace that would suggest that, at that rate, he would hit over 100 homeruns this season. Of course, I can watch lots of their games, maybe even catch a game live a couple times each summer.
This decision is not final, but I'm going to seriously examine the whole situation. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I posted this to the wrong article, oops.

I love that memory. I started out as a Cleveland fan, for no apparent reason other than guys like the Bob’s, Feller and Lemon and later Rocky Colavito, a power hitter. My Dad on the other hand loved the Giants, be they NY or SF it was his team. He killed me in 54 as the Giants sweep the Indians in a series made memorable by the “catch”. I love the line about Willie Mays; his glove is where triples go to die.

I had dead period in my life that changed when I moved to SF and became a fan. I seem to have carried that back to Nebraska and passed it along to my Son. He now subscribes to the whole MLB internet season in order to watch. He is directing some Omaha Royal games and has a real love for the game. I think it may be genetic and if I pass nothing else along, I hope he retains that passion.

I feel the pain of what is a poor SF team now, but remember other poor Giant teams and will remain loyal, I can’t help it. I enjoy KC and hope they do well and will always have a fondness for Cleveland.

SF is in KC this summer, I think. A week before a wedding, timing be damned.

April 4, 2008 6:22 PM