Category Archives: Baseball

What I follow mostly during the three months there’s no real hockey.

Baseball Is Generational: A Cooperstown Trip

My father and I made a short pilgrimage to Cooperstown this weekend; short in distance, relatively speaking but not in time. We attended a VIP Weekend at the Baseball Hall of Fame, including an after-hours access window to the main museum exhibits, and then two private sessions with an artifacts expert and one of the Hall librarians, who shared a variety of paper ephemeral that have been made permanent. It was a true pilgrimage for me, in many ways, as this may be the first year I did not watch a single baseball game in its entirety, the first summer I didn’t wait to hear John Sterling’s “The Yankees win! Theeeeeee Yankeeeees win!” on the radio, and the first post season that felt like a necessary conclusion only to get to the next season of sport.

Upon arriving, we were greeted by some of the Hall staff who reminded us that “Baseball is generational” – they told stories of three generations of single-family fans of single-sport fandom visiting, the innings of their stories and heroes spread over thirty or forty years. This trip, however, was generational in my enthusiasm for the sport. We don’t have the same-team affiliations across the generations in my family – I grew up a Pittsburgh Pirates fan (hence the Willie Stargell obsession) and have veered toward the local favorite Yankees, my son is a Nationals and Red Sox fan (by-products and time and geography) and the first of many discoveries this weekend is that my father was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, until another change in geography and time (my father’s college years and the Dodgers move west). On the topic of Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round The World”, the home run that sent the New York Giants to the 1951 playoffs (while my dad was a high school student, in prime sports rooting years) – and something that repeatedly came up in our behind the scenes tour of the artifacts – my dad’s comment was that “my team lost.” The stories aren’t always happy ones.

One of the few remaining Honus Wagner T206 trading cards

One of the few remaining Honus Wagner T206 trading cards

Honus Wager’s T206 card, on prominent display, is a neat intersection of time and space. It was donated by the collection of the late Barry Halper (a fellow Livingston resident for a while); is the subject of one of my favorite baseball card books; conflates hockey and baseball (Wayne Gretzky owns the other pristine example of the card); and to quote Cory Doctorow from “Craphound,” there’s a poem and a story there. Wagner went on to coach with the Pirates nearly two decades after his playing career ended, and one of his minor league prospects was a future dentist who later became my father’s best friend.

LeRoy Neiman piece at the Hall of Fame

LeRoy Neiman piece at the Hall of Fame

I’ve always loved LeRoy Neiman’s bold, brushstroke heavy work, especially depicting baseball, because it captures the way we see those events – through summer haze, through flying dirt, through a light shower, never quite fixing the image perfectly in all places at once. A new exhibit at the Hall is about the art of baseball, including one large-scale Nieman work (which I believe is Willie Mays). You see art differently when you visit with an artist (like my dad).

One  of four $25,000 bonds used to purchase Babe Ruth's player contract for the Yankees

One of four $25,000 bonds used to purchase Babe Ruth’s player contract for the Yankees

We cannot tell our baseball stories without names, and I became acutely aware of the power of choosing names during our library artifact tour. One of the items on display was a nearly 70 year old player statistics register, a green lined ledger book better suited for the accountants of the game. Before computers and spreadsheets, it was the system of record for all statistics, and once a player had a page in it for a single at-bat or chance in the field, it was a matter of record. Neatly printed in block letters across the top of one page in the 1947 register is the name “ROBINSON, JACK R”. Not “Jackie” as has been retired in our memories and ballparks, but “Jack Roosevelt,” his given and preferred name. “Jackie” was a concoction of the media to make him “less threatening;” the librarian also spoke of Roberto Clemente, whose baseball cards read “Bob Clemente” so that he might be somehow less Latino. We are given names, but choose what we wish to be called, and when another party — media, public, fans — makes that choice for us it robs a bit of our self-determinism. Nowhere was the power of names to control more evident than on the reverse of one of the four $25,000 bonds posted to finance the sale of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees; it is one of two remaining and is been endorsed by the Boston American League Baseball Club. Over the years that transition had names swirling around it: “Curse,” “Bambino”, “Babe” but the formalities simply involve a man named George and a club named Boston. The librarian also pointed out to us that they prefer items that are not autographed, because they collect artifacts, not memorabilia. We ascribe time, place and context to memorabilia, as it tells a story of who, why and where we acquired the item, but artifacts tell the large story of the game, left for us to interpret later in different contexts, when the names perhaps mean more.

The bat used in Stennett's 7-7 game in 1972

The bat used in Stennett’s 7-7 game in 1972

The Hall continuously rotates artifacts in and out of display, and while I was disappointed not to see Ron Blomberg’s first designated hitter bat, we did discover Rennie Stennett’s bat used in his 7-for-7 game (the only player in the modern era to do so). Stennett was an integral part of the Pirates in the 1970s – the team that was the object of my affections and box score scrutiny. Only a few weeks after that batting feat, Stennett and company lost the National League playoffs to the Reds on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth – a defeat that for me was on the order of Mookie Wilson’s hit through Buckner’s legs, the ignominy of the Bartman incident, or Bobby Thompson’s home run as experienced by my dad.

Sometimes the stories just need a generation, and a road trip, to become happy ones.

Kevin Youkilis Does Not Eat Bacon

Part two of my Israeli travelogue.

Tuesday morning, Toby and I were invited to volunteer at the Ben Gurion elementary school in Bat Yam, Israel. Our route to school was a cab ride to Elana’s apartment, walking half a kilometer to the #19 bus stop (picking up my morning soofganiya – Hanukah jelly donut – at the bakery across the street), and taking the #19 through Bat Yam to the school. Lessons for me began getting on the bus – once the last person is off the curb (or at least the last person the driver feels like picking up), the driver floors it. I’m surprised more bus windshields don’t have tourist imprints on them.

We arrived as recess began and got to see the full spectrum of 21st century Israel: kids of Israeli, Russian, and Ethiopian parents, dancing and playing soccer (using an outdoor basketball court with soccer nets built into the basketball hoop stanchions) and singing.

Our project was to help a fifth grade teacher work with her students during their English language lessons. All Israeli students learn English as early as the 1st or 2nd grade and Arabic in secondary school. But with 35 kids in a class, some of whom clearly didn’t leave their energy on the concrete soccer pitch, and a wide range of English skills, it was a challenge. American volunteers with Young Judea Year Course, like our daughter Elana, have been spending their time with these students over the past three months and we got to join in for just one hour.

It was a long hour, but I would do it again. And again.

I was given some of the more rambunctious boys – A, Y and AC – and was told (after 10 minutes) to complete the sentences on page 105 of our English workbooks. All three had wonderfully neat Hebrew handwriting, and learned quite a bit of English from watching “Drake and Josh” on TV. Y and AC are fairly recent Ethiopian immigrants, both of whom speak English well with that distinctive sub-Saharan inflection. All three have a remarkable knowledge of American sports and music.

A asked me if we (Americans) had something like “One State, One People”, and he sang “Hatikvah” (the Israeli national anthem) for me. I started on “The Star Spangled Banner” but stopped as soon as it was obvious that my singing was more painful than completing the sentences about getting dressed and taking your schoolbag from Mum (the English workbooks are excessively British). Y and AC took the musical interlude another step, and asked if I knew Usher, Jay-Z, and Beyonce. “Know” is a tough word, because it means “you know who they are, and like them” or it means “you know them personally.” Depends on how much you need to establish street cred, I guess. Younger Israelis hold out hope that New Yorkers know American idols personally. I wonder sometimes if the closing Anatevka scene in Fiddler on the Roof (where someone assumes that going to America means you’ll meet his cousin in Chicago) is based on some deeply rooted need to network that predates Facebook.

AC then began boasting to me that Usher is his uncle, and Jay-Z is his mother’s uncle, or his mother’s uncle’s son, with one family tree traversal ending up with AC and Jay-Z as brothers (that logical flaw I didn’t let slide). Bottom line: AC is very proud of American musicians who are, as he announced loudly, “African like me”.

One State, One People.

Y was quick to point out that “Jay-Z and Usher have big noses, not like us.” Many global people, although fifth graders are pretty much a universal constant.

When I explained that I was from New York (much more resonant than New Jersey, sadly), I heard “New York Mets” from Y. AC, however, is a Red Sox fan (big difference from our trip to Israel in 2004, when New York produced “Yankees” and not much else). This was my cue to teach English, sports, and geography all at once.

“Kevin Youkilis shel Red Sox yehudi” and repeated in English, “Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox is Jewish.” Eyes wide with amazement. I had to repeat myself, “Kayn, kayn, hoo yehudi” (Yes, yes, he is Jewish). Suddenly these boys were connected to an American star not solely by the color of their skin, but by their personal identities as well. I just had no idea what that meant.

AC closed the loop for me by hollering out “Kevin Youkilis does not eat bacon with the team!”

Morah Larissa (his teacher) is going to be scratching her head over that one for a while, as it had very little to do with Guy and Mary brushing their hair and their teeth in the morning, and most definitely wasn’t a sentence on pages 105 or 106 of their workbooks.

I tried to counter with “Kevin Youkilis lo haredi” (Kevin Youkilis isn’t Orthodox) but didn’t know how to go down the path of religious variety, where “Jewish in America” means everything from being modern Orthodox to being aware of your Jewish identity when the matzah comes out in the supermarket. In Israel, it’s hard to find pork products, and while religious variety even across Jewish people is quite strong, aversion to pork is much more universal. My three fifth graders identified being Jewish with some basic elements of keeping kosher. The image of Kevin Youkilis shunning bacon at the team buffet worked for them, and will stay with me the way that Sandy Koufax’s decision not to pitch on Yom Kippur colored our parents’ generation’s view of Jewish baseball players in the 1950s.

One people indeed. And I miss my students, who taught me quite a bit about being part of that Jewish people.

The Value of Pie

No, not 3.14159 or circumference divided by diameter or even the real but irrational part of the natural logarithm of -1 (e to the i pi references rule). Something natural, real, rational and not subject to circular arguments.

It’s not even a thinly veiled reference to my favorite high school hockey goalie, best known for saying “Mr. Stern, I like pie” at least a few times.

I’m talking about the value of a pie in the face, the Yankee’s informal ritual celebrating a walk-off hit that began sometime last season. Last night was the first pie plate-at-the-plate appearance of the relatively young season, marking Marcus Thames as a pie-zon. It wasn’t just seeing A-Rod jumping up and down and being first on the third base line to wave Thames in. It wasn’t the delight in seeing Papelbon get dinged for a pair of gopher balls in the bottom on the 9th (although that made up for Chan Ho Park looking like he came off the disabled list to join the incapable list). It was the fact that the Yankees are having fun in public, and they make it looks easy as, well, pie.

There is immense value in team chemistry, and having fun in sports. It was the watchword of my all-time baseball hero Willie Stargell: It is supposed to be fun. The man says “Play ball” not “Work ball”. When the pies started flying, the Yankees fortunes on the field seemed to similarly alight. It’s something to which the Devils should pay close attention, especially if Rich Chere’s comments from Brian Gionta are within the circle of possibly explaining the Devils’ post-season collapses.

It’s just fun to watch athletes having fun. The best post game interview is one given behind a veil of cream.

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Nick Swisher Renews My Faith


Nick Swisher has renewed my faith in baseball players. For years I’ve thought of most baseball players as being too busy, too focused, or too impressed with their large contracts to pay much attention to the fans. Yesterday I attended the Nick Swisher autograph signing at Sports Express in the Livingston Mall, where I waited almost two hours for my Swishalicious minute.

It was worth it.

Check out the pictures from the event. Swisher is smiling in every single one. He had just played a game, cleaned up and gone from the Bronx to Jersey in time to sit for two hours with a sore biceps (on his signing arm). And he smiled, and talked to fans, and mugged for pictures. I asked how his arm was, and he replied, politely and positively. I think he signed about 500 autographs last night, and even though I was near the end of the line, I didn’t feel short changed at all.

Swisher even adds a moment of clarity to the “pointing to heaven” gesture after a hit: he does it in honor of his grandmother who raised him. It’s certainly not a religious gesture, otherwise how would you explain the Devil’s horns he’s making in my candid with him? He’s a guy who knows where he came from, where he’s going, and how to have fun. Not a bad set of morals for any player.

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Hot Potato and The Friends You Don’t Know Yet

Disclaimer: I consider Justin Shaffer a friend, and have gone to Yankees games with him, but we bought our own food.

Justin Shaffer, former geek in residence at MLB Advanced Media, the digital arm of the nation’s pastime, is on the cusp of tossing a new entrant into the social media game with “Hot Potato”. When Apple finally gets off its duff and approves the iPhone application, you’ll be able to experience it first hand.

There’s been some reasonable press coverage since Justin first tipped his hand at TechCrunch last week, but I think Hot Potato is more like Twitter: until you use it, you won’t get it. Put another way – Every time the Devils score a goal at a game where the Bubba and I are rockin’ our last row seats, we make sure to high-five people sitting behind us. I don’t know who they are, they wouldn’t pick me out of a crowd, but for 90 seconds they are my best friends in red and black. I’d love their thoughts and comments on the event as it unfolds. Sports fans participate by sharing their views, however loudly, and it’s more fun when you have an audience.

Despite media predictions that “location” is the next killer service, it’s not. I don’t really care what half-wasted Rangers fans think of the Devils, even if they are in the building. There were plenty of coffee-loving people at my favorite Dunkin’ Donuts this morning, but I’m not interested in connecting with them, just having them avoid double-parking so the lot doesn’t congest further. Location and intersection of interests is the killer – add in the mildly unknown, like an amazon.com recommendation, or (gasp) a Facebook ad based on your preferences and recent activity, and you have the basis for digital life accentuating the real world.

Now if only we could really throw hot potatoes at Rangers fans, via our iPhones….

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More Jewish Baseball T-Shirts



My “Jews For Jeter” t-shirt provided comfort, good luck and naches during the Yankees’ championship run. But if you’re a Mets fan, the off-season came early, without celebration or pre-holiday post-season splurges at the local Dicks or Sports Authority.

Take heart, fans of the injury-prone but get’em next year Amazins: New Rome Clothing has something equally sacrilegious for you. You can have “Messiah” embellished with the mogen david, sporting Sandy Koufax or Hank Greenberg on the back.

Tip of the yarmie to ESPN: The Magazine for the New Rome pointer.

Counting the Growth Rings

Sports fans most definitely mark time by sports seasons, and clearly associate events staggeringly good or bad with particular slices of our life. The 1969 Mets are what I remember from 1st grade; the 1972 Pirates-Reds National League Championship Series marked the beginning of understanding sadness in sports; the Devils won their last Stanley Cup the first year my son played travel hockey. But like financial prognosticators who picked stock market direction based on the conference affiliation of the Super Bowl winner, I have specific memories of World Series events and their perceived impact on my life.

1969 World Series: Miracle Mets, watching from Miss D’Amico’s first grade class on a black and white set perched on her desk, lights turned off, 25 of us clustered around the 12-inch screen to mark the first time I ditched school (or work) for a sporting event. My fascination with baseball cards started that following spring, collecting pasteboard memories of what transpired at the beginning of the school year.

1977 World Series: Yankees win, Reggie Jackson is Mr. October. I had put away my baseball cards the previous spring, upon graduation from middle school. I remember watching it with my cousins, amazed that they had such passion for the Yankees, not quite appreciating the magnitude of Jackson’s performance. It was likely the first sports event I can claim to have watched as a young adult.

1979 World Series: Pirates “We Are Family” series, Willie Stargell leading the black and gold to another championship, preaching unity before “diversity” was in the vernacular. In the fall of my senior year in high school, baseball was less interesting than college applications, dating, and doing statistics for the football team. My fascination with Stargell had faded a bit, into the mental left-center field gap, but came back front and center in the last Fall Classic I’d watch while living in my parents’ house.

2000 World Series: I watched the Yankees win from the comforts of a higher-end hotel, where I was addressing a dot-com high-flier the next morning. I remember seeing Sun Microsystems (my employer) stock jump the next morning, along with a basket of other technology stocks I owned. I sold only to be reprimanded by my manager for not believing the stock would continue its rocket ride. Just a few days, later, SUNW hit an all-time high, and since that day it’s been a remarkably difficult period to be a Sun employee or shareholder.

My personal definition of “lost decade” is that stretch from the Yankees last adding a ring until tonight. The World Series can’t make the market go up, or improve corporate earnings, or find jobs for all of my friends who have been displaced in the past year. Furthermore, there’s nothing I (or any other fan) personally did to propel the Yankees through the season and postseason. But for everyone who is a fan, who has been marking time since the first year of the double zero decade, the years marked with naught in every conceivable sense, there’s a bit of a halo effect that we’ll enjoy for a few weeks. It’s a nice way to wrap up the last season of this decade, bookending the way it started.

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Geography of Abuse

It’s time for the Fall Classic, and this year it tramples the Garden State in multiple ways. Growing up in Freehold, NJ, I had the benefit of being located as close to the centroid of the state as you could be. We lived only a few miles from the boundary of the 201 and 609 area codes, a Mason-Dixon line that separated Philadelphia from New York, Tasty Kake from Entenman’s, and pizza from cheesesteaks. The New York-Philadelphia battle lines run deep — it’s not about rivalry or competition, it’s about deep-seated, long-running, geo-politics, with New Jerseyans caught squarely in the cross-hairs, aiding and abetting each side.

Here’s a prime example: During my formative, impressionable pre-teen years, the local Rotary Club would sponsor a father-son trip to a baseball game (it was the 70s, forgive the political incorrectness). For some reason, we’d trek down the Turnpike to Veteran’s Stadium to see the Mets play the Phillies. Never mind that Shea Stadium was closer, and represented the Mets on home turf for displaced Long Islanders in the area. New York for some reason was off-limits: too dangerous, too far, too expensive, too something. So the upper levels of the Vet invited us, took us in, and shielded us from a 2-hour rain delay. In the middle of that weather interruption, I witnessed a fight break out between fans of the opposing teams, resulting in a Mets fan being dangled over the railing until he took back a comment made in haste or hates, depending upon your view. Beer dampened senses (common and otherwise) to the point where nobody would have felt the injuries until the next day. The Mets won, so all was for naught anyway.

Phillies fans are famous for hurling insults and snowballs at Santa Claus. Really. When JD Drew refused to sign with Philadelphia, his first visit to the outfield was punctuated with D-cell batteries. Philadelphia news media celebrated the minimal rioting that came with last year’s World Series trophy.

It’s the City of Brotherly Love only for some definitions of love that involve the home team, home team fans, and their supporters. Don’t cross Philly fans. Do not, under any circumstances, after your wonderful and cannot-be-denied NJ Devils defeat the Flyers to force a Game 7 in the 2000 NHL Conference Finals, after listening to nearly 3 hours of abuse, vulgarity and bodily noises coming from 200 level of the Meadowlands, turn around and holler “Hey Philly fans, bite my dad’s ass!” (Yes, this happened, yes we lived to tell about it, because I think the fact it came from a 6-year old’s mouth shocked everyone enough to give us a 3-step lead down the staris).

I believe that Philadelphia fans are rabid out of a sense of being in a perpetual “not” comparison; they’re not New York; they’re not Pittsburgh; they’re not the nation’s capital (although they were for a while); they’re just consistently belligerent. If Philadelphia is fueled by inferiority, then New York is driven by superiority: how many rings, the new stadium, the excise tax on the baseball payroll, the “world’s most famous arena” (Madison Square Garden), the winningest franchise in sports. The longest game closing call known to man originates from the broadcast booth at Yankees games. Yankees fans set themselves up for abuse; Phillies fans dish it out faster than a cheesesteak at Jim’s on South Street.

Baseball is America’s pastime because it includes, covers, habors and engenders such strong emotions. It’s acceptable to abuse your co-workers, your neighbor, your brother-in-law, just until the final out is made, and you go out for breakfast or lunch the next day and gently tease each other. It’s the basis for movies and television and songs and, well, slices of American life. It’s passion shared and surfaced and played out, each season after the other, a way to mark time without ever growing old.

A kid who used to skate on one of my hockey teams chided Yankees fans earlier today: “You don’t have a game tonight; the team does.” Oh, but fans of both sides have a game tonight. It’s our given right, protected by the Constitution, to enjoy free speech, with some allowance for volume. And anyway, the Red Sox are done for the year. Nah-nah.

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Teaching Kids To Play

There’s a disturbing trend of parents pushing their kids into sports thinking far too long term. Elementary schoolers toting half-sized golf bags around the driving range are the next Tiger Woods. Pop Warner football players are Heisman material as soon as the other 8-year olds have trouble catching them on long runs. Little Leaguers who can hit the ball out of the infield are given $200 bats and $3,000 in batting lessons in preparation for that call from Brian Cashman of the Yankees. The problem with all of these postures is that they teach kids that sports are a business rather than a pleasure.

Teaching kids to play means infusing them with a love of the game, whatever game it may be. Don’t think too far out; enjoy every season, every game, every at bat or shift or putt that successfully clears the windmill on the 8th hole. Youth sports should be a preface to adult sports, and adult sports are primarily about life skills and lifetime enjoyment. Very, very few youth players are going to play or participate in professional sports, but kids who learn to love a sport will become fans, play in adult leagues, or teach their own kids the love of the game and create familial traditions that are far more valuable than any dreams of a professional contract.

Put another way: my love of the NJ Devils and meanderings at late night Friday skates has helped me land or influence business through taking customers to games and “talking shop” with my peers. My love of hockey has become a family sport as well, as was gloriously demonstrated this weekend: Bubba and I skated together for the first time, on the same team, not playing shinny but playing with the “big boys.” On the way home, he remarked that we almost had a Stern-to-Stern scoring play, as he fed me the puck at the half boards. There’s no way to put monetary value on that kind of fun. When we pick our sports heroes, I look for that same balance of loving the game and the family around the game. I became an even bigger Mike Cammalleri fan after a post-game hallway scene at the Rock last season – Cammalleri had picked up two assists in a game the Flames lost, and had a gaggle of fans waiting for autographs, pictures and handshakes. His first action, though, was to hug his father and greet one of his father’s friends. Nothing was said about the game, because father-son relationships trump all other commentary. His dad clearly taught him how to play the right way.

So what’s a parent to do?

  • Teach kids to respect the game and its players. You don’t swing on a 3-0 count. You pass the ball or puck to the open guy. One of my favorite Friday night hockey moments was a game in which the center consistently passed me the puck. He didn’t do it because I was that good; he did it because he was that good, and insisted on moving the puck around. I converted on maybe two shots of the half-dozen chances he gave me, but it was worth it to him to watch me pepper the goalie (his brother!) with shots. This is but one reason I refuse to watch the NBA: it’s devolved into three guys mostly standing around, a horrendous derivative of the Princeton offense that relies on motion, intelligence and passing.

  • Practice is supposed to be fun. There’s nothing worse for kids than standing in lines to do drills. If you can’t keep everybody running, involved and interested, then you’re running a bad practice. And if you don’t have the manpower to keep four or six stations filled with coaches, see the next point. My favorite golf practice is a game the Bubba has taught me called “two over/two under.” We pick a spot on the putting green and attempt to 2-putt a designated hole. We keep going until one of us is 2 strokes over or under “par;” and we’ll play two out of three. It’s fun, and I’m 3-putting fewer holes.

  • Invest more time than money. Instead of $3,000 in batting lessons, take your kids to a professional baseball game. Buy a bucket of baseballs and spend an hour doing soft toss as soon as the school ball field dries out from the winter. Volunteer to coach, manage, organize a gathering for players, parents and siblings, or help the league or on game day. I’m continually blown away by the number of people who will scream at hockey referees but yet never consider getting their own ref certificate. The defining moment of my last season in youth hockey management came in a game when our opponent had three players in the penalty box, and one of the parents began wailing for her kid to get on the ice when the first penalty expired (for the less hockey conscious, with three players in the box, the third penalty “stacks” and begins when the first expires. However, since the team is still down two men, the first player cannot leave the penalty box until there’s a stop in play, otherwise the penalized team would have too many men on the ice). There’s no reasoning with people who cannot take the time to understand the rules of their kids’ games, and worse yet abuse the officials with their own misunderstanding.

    Your kids and their teammates will usually appreciate understanding over screaming, time over money, and in the musical phrasing of Dire Straits, love over gold in all interpretations.

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  • Facebook Reveals The Snowman’s Origins

    My intense and borderline unhealthy obsession with snowmen and their numerical equivalents (the number eight) stems from a childhood fascination with Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Willie Stargell. I remember liking Stargell because he was the de facto leader of the Pirates, and my best friends Scott and Glenn cheered for the Bucs so I followed gold-and-black suit. That’s how young allegiances are formed; it’s no stranger than loving the Yankees because your father did so before you were born. Finding sports heroes, and the converse, spurning them when they let us down, is the ultimate referral economy. We were retweeting in our own way, although it mostly involved who got to be Willie Stargell, and who was relegated to the roles of Manny Sanguillen, Dave Parker, and Al Oliver in our games of backyard baseball.

    Until this week, I had no idea why Glenn and Scott – twins, with one of them in every one of my classes from first through sixth grades – were devoted Bucs fans. They weren’t from Pittsburgh, they hadn’t had any life-changing experiences in the Three Rivers area, and in the waning years of the 60s the Pirates were the equivalent of the modern-day Yankees: good but not regular champions. Pre-dating networked recommendations, the only way you knew what was going on was through newspaper box scores, the occasional game of the week on TV, and your friends and family. Earlier in the week, one of the twins found me on Facebook. I haven’t heard from him in years, and I was thrilled by the outreach, but almost immediately (thinking about wrapping up the hockey book in the next few months) I had to ask about the Pirates.

    Turns out, in his words, that his father followed the Pirates because he had a friend who played for them. Minor league, journeyman, or senior circuit, we’ll never know, because my boyhood friends lost their dad several years ago. For me, the incomplete explanation more than suffices: it’s another case of love inherited from our parents and our parents’ generation. Thanks, Scott, for sharing the story with me.

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