One of my favorite quotations is this observation by A Bartlett Giamatti:
“[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
I grew up a Boston Red Sox fan. In the 1970’s, the Red Sox nearly always left one to face the fall alone, without even the solace an AL Pennant, let alone a World Series win. Even in 1975, after a spectacular Series, even after Fisk’s 12th inning home run in Game 6…the following evening, baseball left us to face the fall alone. And for those of us in the elementary school set, the Curse of the Bambino was to evolve into our first experience of predestination. We’d never win. We learned that hope is, by nature, edged with desperation and resignation.
It didn’t matter. Every morning my sisters and I looked first at the sports page, the standings, and then at the front page. We learned what the “magic number” was. Our Saturday mornings started with Schoolhouse Rock; afternoons with WSBK Sox broadcast. Memories of my father climbing onto the roof in Vermont during a downpour to rig up a better antenna to at least (maybe?) be able to see the game, of him Halloween morning with red and black Marks-a-Lot markers, transforming my white sweatshirt into a Red Sox jersey, complete with #19, for my trick or treating costume, of my playing catcher on the softball team with him breathing down my neck–umpire Dad, calling balls and strikes, which, at 13, I found wicked annoying.
I left home. I watched the 1986 World Series with a bunch of Mets fans in upstate New York. I married another baseball geek, though he was a lifelong Yankees fan, and because we lived in upstate New York, the Yankees were the only games broadcast. Summer evenings, driving the rural highways home from my night classes, I’d look at the farms and cows and the hills, and listen to the game.
By the time the Red Sox vanquished the Curse , I was long a confirmed Seattle Mariners fan. Here was a team that was destined to break my heart and soul all over again. It’s September now. The Mariners have gone from an 11 game lead over the A’s to 9 games behind them in the Wild Card. There’ve been fisticuffs in the locker room, a star suspended for drug use, some spectacular pitching, a phenomenal closer and some truly great baseball. Sadly, most of the great baseball occurred largely before the All-Star break. It’s been a gently sloping ride into oblivion for our poor Mariners. They’re so much better than they have been in years. In any other division they’d look a hell of a lot better than they do.
I’ll root wholeheartedly for the Red Sox in the playoffs. I’ll be ecstatic if they can win the whole thing.
But the Mariners. Ah, the Mariners are leaving me to face the chill rains of fall alone.