I used to love baseball. Playing it, watching it, talking it — it was a great love of mine growing up. I loved the Pirates when I was very young, seeing as I was born in Pittsburgh. Big surprise, eh? But I did get to see Roberto Clemente in person before he died. Not that I remember it, seeing as I was maybe six or seven, but I do recall going to the park.
When we moved to Connecticut in 1971, I was in new territory: Red Sox territory. Some tried to make it Yankee territory, but mostly, people were Red Sox fans. I became converted.
I remember watching El Tiante on the mound with his crazy windup, and his getting a hit in the playoffs — 1974 or 1975? — something like that. I remember Spaceman Bill Lee confounding hitters with his blooper pitches, and some hitters wanting to charge the mound. I remember Jim Rice and Freddie Lynne as rookies, and the original Pudge, Carlton Fisk.
I remember Yaz barehanding sure-fire doubles off the Green Monster and throwing out the hitters.
Then came 1978 and Bucky Dent. A one-game playoff lost, shattering the dreams of Red Sox fans the world over. 162 games ending in a dead-tie, only to be rendered moot by a homerun from Dent.
The 80s came armed with new hopes. Clemens. Hurst.
1986 and Billy Buckner’s knees. Pain and agony for us fans.
I tried to continue following after that, but my heart couldn’t take it. I still followed somewhat until 1990, when I moved to Manhattan. My other great sports love, the New York Rangers, took over as I could watch every game on cable or in person. Pain in another form gave way to joy as the Rangers won the Cup in ’94.
I knew what victory could taste like, and I wanted more.
In 1995, Kim moved in with me, and we lived on Stadium Avenue in the Bronx. Not that Stadium, mind you, but still. In ’96, when the Yankees won the Series, our neighborhood exploded with fireworks. It was like the Fourth of July. I was happy, despite not having really watched, since Wade Boggs was a Yankee then and he finally got to win a Series after all the failed attempts in Boston.
Then came 1998-2000. It was hard to not read about the team, given their power and pervasiveness in NYC. And then, Clemens came to town. My all-time favorite pitcher.
Last year, I actually watched playoff games. Part of my renewed interest in baseball stemmed from the Tolkien Baseball league I’m in, but I must admit, it was fun. Even Kim had a mild interest in the Yankees/Sox series, given the history there.
My head said Yankees, my heart said Sox. Naturally, my heart lost, as it always does with sports teams.
So this year, enough was enough. Even though the Sox have been owning the Yankees in regular season play, I am now the proud owner of clothing for the baseball equivalent of the New York Rangers — a rotisserie league of dream players who are underachieving. I bought shorts, a t-shirt, and, yes, a baseball cap, all emblazoned with the Yankees logo.
It’s been a long time coming, but it’s hard to deny this when you still live adjacent to Stadium Avenue.
Of course, I could state that in reality, this is all a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel. Maybe, by succumbing to the Dark Side that is the New York Yankees, I’ve now lifted the curse on the Sox. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll win this year.
Or, maybe the Ghost of Ruth will read this and laugh, continuing the curse.
We’ll see. Either way, if one of the teams makes it to the Series, I win.