Thursday, July 9, 2009
Other Sports: Part the Third - Baseball
A word of warning: this could get...emotional.
It may surprise you to learn that I love baseball. It's not anything to do with the hilarious chaos of an error-strewn inside-the-park home run, the clockwork of a perfectly executed triple play, or the rare stealing of home plate (which when witnessed live will cause you to choke up with its simple deceit, like a nymph deigning to rob Zeus himself).
No, I love baseball because baseball introduced me to the euphoric, almost hallucinogenic high of watching a team from your home town win. Like really fucking win. Twice. Torontonians will talk about 1992, 93—the consecutive seasons when the Blue Jays won two World Series titles—for the next thousand years, likely because they will never be repeated. No one really remembers what 1967 felt like, the last year the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. And the Grey Cup, as venerable as it is, is an all-Canadian trophy. Canadians like beating Americans. It's in the water we drink. And winning the World Series, the highest trophy awarded to followers of America's Pastime, was liquid acid to the Canadian psyche.
I will never forget them. John Olerud, Roberto Alomar, Pat Borders, Dave Winfield, Joe Carter. My God, Joe Carter. He was, simply, my hero. Carter's 1993 World Series-winning homerun, the homerun that jostled The Shot Heard Round the World out of its place a bit, was beyond magic. When I saw it I accidentally jumped on my friend's dog's tail. I ran outside, twelve years old, waving a giant Canadian flag on one of Toronto's many leafy sidestreets. I believed, sincerely believed, this would happen every year, forever, as long as I had my being. But it was not to be.
I love baseball. But because I loved it so much, so intensely, I knew after the 1994 season, the baseball strike, I would never love it the same way again. I can still watch it and feel the way I did when I was ten years old. I smile with recognition at short stop plays from youth ("Tony'd caught that"), the abuse poured on the right fielder by half drunk crowds, the dead confidence of a pitcher walking off the mound who has struck out three in a row after giving up a couple of basehits on no outs.
But no one who puts on a Blue Jays shirt can ever be John Olerud, with his .400 average and his scarecrow batting stance, no one will have the ancient wisdom of Paul Molitor, the jheri curls of George Bell, the accent of Roberto Alomar. No one who puts on a Blue Jays shirt will ever be Joe Carter, the man who made a twelve year old kid feel like a king for a day, the man who introduced to him the fleetingly rich glory of games played in the sunshine.