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.