exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

what i remember

by J at 7:31 am on 28.10.2004Comments Off
filed under: classic, this sporting life

This is what I remember:

- Learning to throw a baseball at age 7 with my dad and brother in the backyard, in the sweltering heat of summer. Always overhand – I didn’t know girls weren’t supposed to throw. Catching pop-ups and fielding bouncing grounders in the uneven grass, learning not to be afraid of the ball coming at your face hard and fast, even after taking a few in the teeth. Swinging for the fences, choking up on the bat, and following through to make it soar. Oiling my glove, wrapping it around a ball with rubber bands, and sleeping with it under my mattress.

- Taking my glove to Fenway with my family at 9. We sat it the nosebleed bleachers, and packed our own peanuts and popcorn in a sack. The little transistor radio we brought sending out tinny updates to describe the plays we were seated too far away to see. Every foul ball seemed like it could be headed our way, and we wore our gloves for the entire game, with pure childlike optimism.

- My brother collected baseball cards. He pored over them and memorised them and organised them with the intensity of an ancient texts scholar. He could quote statistics at will, even if he couldn’t do long division. The Holy Grail was a Carl Yazstremski rookie card, and he tore open every new pack with the whispered prayer of finding one. He never did.

- Carl Yazstremski retired from the Red Sox in 1983, after 22 years in Fenway’s left field. I was 11. I watched him jog slowly and reluctantly around the field, shaking fans hands, waving his cap, tears in his eyes, to the thunderous adoration of 35,000 fans, who didn’t want to let him leave. It remains the classiest baseball moment i’ve ever been privileged enough to witness. He remains my all-time baseball hero.

- Yaz, Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, Jerry Remy, Carlton Fisk, and Dennis Eckersley. These are the men who inspired my lifelong love for the game.

- Listening to the games in the summer on the radio, on the porch, laying in the sun. I learned more about baseball with my ears than with my eyes. I learned to imagine the heroics being acted out in high drama on the grassy stage. I learned to appreciate the artistry and beauty of the game inside my head.

- A trip to Yankee Stadium with my aunt, uncle, cousins, to watch the Sox play New York. My dad bet my Long Island uncle that Boston would win, and we did. I was 12.

- In my first year of high school, the Sox made it to the World Series against the NY Mets. It was 1986, and I was 13. I stayed up late to watch, and the whole of New England was glued to the television. We were one out away from winning the title in Game Six. Champagne corks were popped. A routine groundball headed up the first base line to Bill Buckner. It should’ve been over with in seconds. Instead, the groundball hopped through his legs, into the outfield, into history, into infamy. Runs scored and we lost Game 6, and went on to lose Game 7. I’ve felt sorry for Bill Buckner ever since.

- In my early 20s, all five of us siblings got together and took Mum to Fenway for Mother’s Day in May. It was freezing and drizzling and our seats were terrible, and she loved every second of it. This became our annual Mother’s Day tradition.

- The Sox won the American League East in 1988 and 1990. I remember them getting swept by the Oakland A’s both times. I remember hating Jose Canseco.

- In 1999, we were in the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians. We had clawed our way back from being two games down to tie the series. I remember Game 5, where Pedro Martinez came in as a complete surprise from the bullpen with an injured back, and threw six no-hit innings which took your breath away. Pedro would become a Boston legend from that day forward.

- Following the 2003 ALCS over the internet, from my little room in my little flat in Peckham, London. The series was tied 3-3. The day of Game 7, I was in Paris, trying to sort out my work permit, which was slipping through my fingers. On my way back to London, I was detained at Immigration for 3 hours, stripped of my passport, and informed I would have to leave the UK immediately, possibly never to return. I was finally allowed back to my flat, shattered and distraught, at 1 am. I tuned into the internet feed of the ballgame, praying for some sort of redemption on what was arguably the worst day of my life. Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens were pitching, but by the top of the 8th inning, the Sox had a 5-2 lead. Everyone expected Pedro’s work was done. But he came back to pitch in the bottom of the inning, and before you knew it, the Yankees had tied the game. It was 5 am. I’d been awake for 24 hours straight, and suddenly realised I could not stand to listen to the rest of the game. I was scared and alone and exhausted, and drained of every emotion possible, and the possibility of facing another devastating blow was just too much. I remember switching off my computer, knowing that if the Sox managed to pull off a win, my family would call and wake me up to celebrate, and that if the Sox lost, I would deal with the heartache and disappointment in the morning. I did not get a call from my family that night, and awoke in the morning to the sad news of yet another bitter defeat. No one understood my grief, and I never felt more alone.

- On our second date, Jonno and I broached the weighty topic of baseball. I remember thinking right then, that I had found a soulmate. I’ve found a partner for the other love of my life, and he and I will follow the Sox together, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health. No matter what happens, I will have someone to celebrate or commiserate with. No matter what happens, I will have someone who understands. No matter what happens, I have someone by my side for the ride.

I will remember tonight. Tonight, when dreams everywhere came true. When my team became the champions they were always meant to be. Fulfilling a destiny, inexorably bound to be theirs. Performing their craft with a joy and bumbling grace I’ve never before seen them exude. Playing for the love of the game. This is why I love baseball. This is why I love the Red Sox.

I will remember this.

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