Baseball fans are a fortunate lot, especially in October. Whether or not your team is in contention–as a Tigers fan, over the years my team is quite often not in contention–there’s always a ton of great baseball coming your way. There’s nothing better in my mind than the cool of autumn and the thrill of those playoff and World Series games. Even when they are broadcast on Fox.
But set aside the game itself–the highs and lows, the miraculous plays and the dunderheaded moves that make you groan–and the drama that is inherent in baseball, and marvel at the accoutrements, as thrills are evident in all sports. What baseball fans have over other athletic events is our history–and that is unique in all the sports.
Yes, it is true that basketball, hockey, and football have history in a literal sense. They’ve been around for many decades, true. But it’s also nearly literally true that fans of those sports don’t give a flying handshake about their sport’s history. They just don’t. Yes, you have old farts looking back fondly at Bud Grant’s Vikings of the 1970s, but show me a kid, someone born after that era, and you’ll see someone whose eyes glaze over at the mention of Fran Tarkenton. What they care about is now. There is nothing else.
But baseball fans! Holy cats, do we love our history. True, kids get into the players from their own time first and foremost, the golden age that exists in their youth (mine was the late 1970s), but give these youngsters a few years and they are rattling off the hallowed numbers and dates of the pastime: 56, .406, 755, 1951, and so on.
This weekend found Janice and I wandering a barren wasteland of estate sales in Minneapolis and Edina, coming home with only a few books and a nice, thick robe that I’ll spare modeling for you. But this week’s sales paled compared to one I stumbled upon on the edge of Edina, that of longtime Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) member Frederic J. Souba, from whose home I bought some wonderful books, scorecards, cans with pictures of 70s ballplayers, and found an old sign from Nicollet Park that I promptly donated to the Minnesota Twins. Oh, baseball!
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