White Hat Sports Headlines

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How am I a Baseball Fan?

The best that I can tell, you start remembering stuff when you're about 5 years old. I have an exceptional memory, so I remember a few things from when I was just a bit younger: like the time Timmy walked out of the bathroom at preschool with his pants down, which is an unfortunate thing to remember. I was born in 1985, so the first things about sports that I remember are Super Bowl XXVI and the Braves- Blue Jays World Series. I remember staying up as late as I could to watch the 1993 World Series and then taping them when I went to bed and refusing to go to school until I saw the ending the next morning. I vividly remember watching those tapes and just as I was about to pop in the tape of game 6, I saw Sports Center first and Joe Carter's legendary home run.
Things were going good for me as a baseball fan, I loved watching it, I had friends that played too and even though Wade Boggs left the Red Sox I had developed a connection to Mo Vaughn. Then it happened, the Strike of '94. Coming off a terrific post season that saw the underrated NLCS between the Braves and Phillies and then the dramatic and also underrated World Series between Philadelphia and Toronto the canceling of the World Series was the worst possible thing that could happen to me when I was 8. I didn't understand what the labor dispute was all about or what the need for replacement players was, but I knew that I wasn't going to have the playoffs or the World Series.
Bill Simmons has said that there is a year in your life when sports means way too much and for me that year was 1995. I had been into the Patriots and Celtics, but the 1995 Red Sox were an everyday thing for me. Mo Vaughn entered idol status and Tim Wakefield was the trusty pitcher who seemed to never lose. (I had heard Clemens was good, but remember 1993 to 1995, I hadn't really seen why he was so good. Wakefield on the other hand started the season 14-1. Who knew 14 years later Wakefield would be an All-Star for the Red Sox.) I remember where I was when the Red Sox traded our phenom pitcher (Frankie Rodriguez) for Rick Aguilera, the final piece of the puzzle. My best friend Zach and I were at my camp and had heard about it while listening to the game. It was a big moment, we thought that this was all we needed. I also remember Zach trying to teach me how to properly say Aguilera, I don't think either of us ever got it right, but we thought we did. An American League East title and Mo Vaughn winning the MVP and we had reason again to be the biggest 8 year old baseball fans you'll ever see. Little did we know the pandoras box we were about to get into.
Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa supposedly brought baseball back to it's heights after the Strike of '94. They were everywhere all the time, you couldn't escape them if you tried. It was a great summer for Zach and I, Sox made the postseason again, this time armed with Mo, Nomar and Pedro and we even saw them win a playoff game, something that had not happened since 1986 (Zach was 1 and I was 10 monthes old). Then the other shoe dropped. McGuire was dirty, Sosa was dirty and the claimet to all the home run crowns, Barry Bonds, was dirty. Remember Roger Clemens? He was dirty too. Yet somehow in the wake of all of that, we persevered as baseball fans. Transfering our love of baseball into a love of the Red Sox, a much bigger thing. While the names of Giambi, Sheffield and Bonds were being torn down by somehting called Balco, we were busy following the first Red Sox world championship since 1918. None of our guys were being caught, so we didn't care, we followed the team and the team finally won. 9 years after we reached our peak, we reached the mountain top again ('04) and again ('07).
That's what made today so hard, David Ortiz, the most beloved Sox player of all-time (think about it and you really can't argue this) was tested positive for PED's in 2003. It hit Red Sox nation like the Ice Storm of 1998, the only difference was that knocked out phone lines and today my phone recieved 35 text messages in the 2 hours after the news broke and none of it had to do with the Red Sox afternoon game. The question that kept running through my head as I tried to process the news was, "How I am a Baseball fan?" I mean look at what has happened in baseball during my lifetime. It started with the World Series being canceled and then 3 years later we entered the steroid era. Maybe that's why now at the age of 23, I find myself looking at highlights and video's from the 1993, 1995 and 1997 World Series. Now everytime you fall in love with a team like the 2004 Red Sox, or a player like David Ortiz, something is happening where their name is being dragged through the mud. It's like everytime you date a woman, she sleeps with the town giggalo. It hurts everytime, you try to move on, but you always think about the giggalo when you think about her. Everytime I see David Ortiz or think back to the best parts of the 2004 and 2007 World Series teams, I'm going to remember that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were not on the up and up. Hell, going back to the beginning of this piece, even Mo Vaughn was named in the Mitchell Report. Though I sooth myself by saying he only did it for a week at the end of his run with the Mets and never during the glory days of my childhood.
I am a baseball fan because I watched the 1993 World Series and found out how great the postseason can be and how the memories can remind you of good times. Once you feel that, you just can't turn your back on it. I remember watching the Phillies take the lead in the 1993 NLCS at my friend Jason's house, I remember seeing Zach the next day at school after the Red Sox clinched the AL East and saw Mo Vaughn ride a police horse. (That's right, Mo started that in 1995, no Wade Boggs in 1996. Sorry Wade, you had your chance and you went to New York.) I remember listening to 10 years of Red Sox play off games starting in 1999 at Fryeburg Fair and hearing game winning home runs in 2003, 2007 and 2008. The older I get the more these memories mean to me and the more I remember things that happened to me because of baseball. So to answer my question, I'm a baseball fan, because I don't know how not to be.

Sterling Pingree

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