Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Yankee Fan

It's hard to understand why a person is a sports fan. I mean to get at the roots of it. It's not easy to be a fan today given the insanely high salaries (Melo Anthony gets $18 million a year while the Knicks newest star Jeremy Lin "only" makes 500K), and the steroids use which makes records meaningless, and the mercenary impact of free agency ( Pujols in an Angels uniform? Come on!).  My wife has not a clue why or what a baseball fan is. How can a grown man sit in front of a Mariners game day after day, even with a DVR. How can any sane person watch a Mariners game when they are so bad year in and year out.

But my story is more about the Yankees. I am a fan of the Yankees. The Mariners are a distraction until I move back to NY - and without Root sports on the local cable lineup this summer my love for the Mariners will be seen for what it was - just baseball lust.

 I am not sure how I came by my passion for the Yankees. I did live in NY. My parents though were not sports fans. My dad played basketball in high school. He was 6 feet 4, tall and wiry. But he grew up on a farm during the depression so he did not make every game.There were chores and he lived four miles from the school with no transportation other than his legs. He told me once his parents never saw him play. When I was growing up my dad watched the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday but I don't ever remember him watching baseball. Of course, there weren't many games on tv then. I played baseball with a passion. Every day in the summer there were pick up games at a local ball field. My dad coached my Little League teams and he even got a bunch of dads together and built a sandlot ball field in a vacant lot behind our house. That was cool. So, how did I became a Yankee's fan. I can't put my finger on the genesis of that passion. In my mind I was Mickey Mantle every time I came up to bat. I treasured my Yankee baseball cards. For a couple years I had a strat-o-matic league with a buddy of mine and we played 162 games with about 5 teams (that was all we could handle: it was so time consuming!) keeping meticulous stats. My Yankees lost in that league, too. They were not too good when I was growing up. Mabye that was when I developed a love for the underdog. Hard to believe now that the Yankees were every underdogs. But, their history does include those pre-Steinbrenner years.

My mother had no use for sports. She grew up in a large family and they all had outside jobs just to make ends meet. She never had much interest in my sports pursuits and she never missed a chance to mock my sports hero, Mickey Mantle. "Old rickety legs", she called him. When he was ministered to by Bobby Richardson on his death bed after a life of self indulgence and accepted Christ as his savior, she never believed it. You don't get to live life in the fast lane and then get God too in the last minutes of your life, she said. He should have done it sooner if he was really serious.

So my Yankee passion was not born at home. There was no tv. I had a transistor radio so I could listen to some of the games. Many of them were played while I was in school though. While I lived in upstate NY I never went to Yankee stadium until I visited it with one of our sons who was in his school's marching band and then I even got to walk out on the outfield grass - right where Mantle ran on his old rickety legs. It was a thrill. I couldn't sleep the night before (or was that because I was chaperoning a bunch of middle school kids).

So I don't know where that Yankee spirit came from. But I do know I grieve the loss of Posada, and can't bear to think of Mariano retiring in one more year. I hope Jeter bounces back after a slow start last year. But win or lose, baseball's back.