Around 1993-1995 I completely lost interest in baseball. Being in my early 20’s, my childhood interests waned and became passé–as they tend to do–and in my delusional mind, my new interests were a bit more sophisticated and engaging in an era that offered no safe landings. My interests in music and punk rock chiefly were blossoming into a near obsession: my friends and I tended to be critics who viewed the dominant culture of the day not with occasional skepticism but with permanent hostility.
In addition to joining a garage band, I was also delving into the often knotty literary and modern art worlds: doing my duty as a young person trying to “figure it all out” with a speculating, cynical, and sometimes critical mind. And as much as I loved to scan the box scores and catch a game or two, I just didn’t have time anymore with my band-mates, job, and girlfriend needing my immediate and rapt attention while I was learning how to piss standing up as a screwed-up human being in the paint-by-numbers slacker jungle I had created for myself. The coming-of-age ritual of being handed knowledge was tempered by the realization that it meant eventually outgrowing the certainties of youth.
F. Scott Fitzgerald thought that one of his pals had invested too much time writing about baseball. “A boys game,” Fitzgerald said, “with no more possibilities in it than a boy could master, a game bounded by walls which kept out novelty or danger, change or adventure.” I couldn’t stomach Fitzgerald’s stuffy writing and disagreed vehemently with this statement. (I valued Descartes’s opinions much more, and wasn’t his vocation to think about thinking?…the absolute essence of the game)
So after reading a tiny smattering of the classics: Genet, Hemingway, Hesse, Didion, Auster (yes, and even that Post-Burroughs/Warhol/Patti Smith deluge we all overdosed on in our late teens/twenties) –I decided one day through a haze of mar-eee-wanna smoke that baseball was indeed a cerebral sport more suited to a literary rather than pictorial culture and returned to it for the ’96 season. The A’s were still the same pile of dung that I had flushed 3 years earlier, finishing 3rd in the West with a 78-84 record, but the game was interesting to me again, even fun. It was a catharsis that I hadn’t needed before as my identity was becoming more complex and fluid.
This was to be Mark McGwire’s last full year with the “Elephants” (his trade the next year was devastating and truly the end of my childhood) and he finished with 52 homers. This was also Jason Giambi’s first full year and he finished with a pathetic (for that time) 20 round-trippers. I attribute this to youth and the lack of steroids–a reputation that would turn out to haunt both players. Terry Steinbach was typically solid behind the dish; and a fan favorite with a funny name, Geronimo Berroa was coming into his own. There was also a curious player, Ernie Young, who hit 19 homers that season, never to hit more than 5 in any other season in his career.
As I enjoyed another season of watching my lovable losers, I decided that baseball not only doesn’t acknowledge the passage of time, it ignores it. Then began my post-adolescent and lifelong obsession with the game that has taken over my daily existence with mind-boggling statistics and a mystifying yet comfortably unorthodox visual affair. I find that the more I know about this game, the less I know about this game. It keeps unfolding in ways I could never imagine, offering the viewer roller-coaster emotions, knee-jerk reactions, blissful states, and unadulterated anger in the vile pits of hell. This cruel game can also make an atheist recite prayer and a logical individual superstitious without apology or regret. Time seems to stand still and then speeds up again, with the changing of the seasons in the forefront amidst implied mortality–and shaping a world in which play seems vital.
Great read! I especially related to your quote on Mark McQuire regarding “his trade the next year was devastating and truly the end of my childhood.” The EXACT same thing happened to me when the Philadelphia Phillies traded Richie (Dick) Allen in 1969 when I was 10 years old. It broke my heart, scarred my soul, and still to this day…51 YEARS later, I never, EVER got over it….and never will.
Thanks for reading and stopping by. Sometimes it seems like this game was invented to break your heart.
In a sense, my experience was the opposite of yours. I liked baseball all my life, but didn’t solidly become a fan until the Bonds era ended, and the Giants really became a team again, instead of just supporting cast in the Bonds circus.
It took some time, but it happened that that was a terrific time to get on board the orange and black bus. I’ve sure never regretted it. I really try, since I live in Oakland, to work in some attention for the A’s, but I seem to only have the band width for one team at a time. As a true “fair weather fan”, though, if they make it to the playoffs- if there are ever any playoffs, again- I’ll be there. Good baseball is good baseball.
Please, let it return, soon (but not too soon)!
Hey, John. Long time so see. Thanks for dropping by!
Growing up in the midwest (Oklahoma) with no immediate allegiance to any professional sports team, I cheered for the Braves and Cubs throughout the 80’s just because of TBS and WGN. I always leaned towards the lovable losers on the northside because of Harry Carey, but when it came to the AL, I will admit I was an Oakland A’s band-wagoner in the late 80’s through the mid 90’s. Mostly it was due to Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco and the thought that my ’85 McGwire rookie card was going to be worth thousands one day! I fell hook, line, and sinker for the marketing ploy of “The Bash Brothers.” Their poster hung on my wall, and in turn I discovered “Hendu” and Carney, Gallego and Steinbach, and I couldn’t get enough of Rickey being Rickey. I loved the starting pitchers and I longed to see Eck closing it down in the 9th. I even hung on to the illusion that Walt Weiss was the next in a long line of great A’s headed for Cooperstown. But alas as you mention how Mark McGwire’s trade was the end of your youth, I was equally horrified (as a Cubs fan) to learn he was going to the hated St. Louis Cardinals. I will admit that I cheered for him personally to hit bombs (particularly in the summer of ’98), but I always wanted the Cards to lose as I still do to this day.
I was never really a fan of the Cardinals either. Not because they were the rival of any team I like particularly, I just always thought they were sort of boring. I watched a ton of Cubs games on WGN as a kid and loved Harry Caray. Glad they finally kicked the curse.
I stopped following the Dodgers the year after they won the World Series in 81…then came girlfriends and yes like you a band. In 88 at the age of 21 I started again…it was great timing for me to start following. When they picked up free agent Kirk Gibson from the Tigers that is what did it.
That gap of 7 years was filled with girls and playing music. I haven’t left it since…
Thanks for the compliment…and girls and music doesn’t sound too shabby.
On WFAN in New York there is a host named Steve Sommers. He’s been there for years — possibly the longest of any of them. For some reason Sommers loved the name, Geronimo Berroa. In the middle of his shows he would sometimes, a pro po of nothing, call out ‘Geronimo Berroa!’ This was funny for no good reason!
That’s good stuff! Thanks for the comment.
…..Wow, I listed to Steve Sommers like forever….Doris from Rego Park, The Chief, and all those late night crazy callers from NY.
Thanks for bringing back a memory I haven’t thought about in years!
… Sincerely, one of those crazy callers from NY
“I find that the more I know about this game, the less I know about this game.”
While working for the A’s as a consultant I once said to Billy Beane, “The older I get, the less I think I know.” He used that line in an interview a couple of days later with no attribution.
I am the forgotten man of the Moneyball revolution. Perception is reality, even if it isn’t.
Hey Gary, I disappeared from baseball about the same time as you, maybe a few years earlier, missed the twins braves series in 91 which was a big bummer because like you, i was a big fan of Kirby Puckett……my culprit was a backpack and wanderlust. Turns out I was a horrible traveler, walked in circles and more than anything, felt alone, but I did wind up meeting some interesting people. I guess that’s what traveling is all about, meeting people, for me anyway.
Don’t you find when we return to baseball, we return with a vengeance? and dear old baseball never judges us for jumping ship. We’re home again.
A guy at work and I play baseball trivia. He hit me earlier this week with ‘Last pitcher to win more than 25 games?’ I said Verlander. He corrected me with Welch and then went on to praise the 89 A’s as one of the best teams he’s ever seen.
That line about baseball never judging us and returning home was a great thing. I knew exactly what you meant, and I think exactly how you felt when I read that.
Greetings from the Pig’s Arms Cyber Pub in Inner West Cyberia (aka Sydney).
Unlike most Australians I like a good game of baseball – which started when my daughters began playing T-ball and progressed to junior baseball. At about 14, when the boys are getting bigger and hairier, girls mostly drop out and play softball – which is what happened in our family.
But our coach was a former state second base man – and a wonderful teacher. We got to watch the USA play Cuba in the Sydney Olympic Final in 2000. We (I think you call it rooted) for the Cuban underdogs – Aussies tend to do that. Just as an aside , Australian English uses the term “barracked – as in supported) for the underdog”. The term “rooted” here essentially means “fucked” 🙂
Seasons greetings to our American friends and best wishes for a much better 2022 (boy, what a bloody shitfight 2021 has been !)
Therese Trouserzoff (say it aloud)
Thanks for stopping by! It makes it almost feel worth it to keep banging away at this thing and someone from the other side of the world actually takes the time to read it. Cheers, and Happy XMas and New Years.