Standing in the check-out line at my local grocer, I scanned the magazine rack hoping to find out if Khloe Kardashian had eaten herself to death or how drunk Jennifer Aniston got in Cabo while still thinking about Brad. Instead, I was subjected to an image I thought I’d blocked out 25 years ago:
Eldra “El” DeBarge.
On the cover of Jet.
Who’s Johnny… she said…
*cue the daydream montage*
I see Bert Blyleven record his 3,000th strikeout…
I see Bob Horner hit four homeruns in one game…
I see Mike Scott no-hit the Giants… the Red Sox come back to win the ALCS after being down 3 games to 1… Ray Knight skip like a schoolgirl on Mookie Wilson’s Bill Buckner nutmeggin’ dribbler…
…and… and, I… I see…
*snaps out of it*
Oh, Youppi… oh, dear, dear Youppi… no!!! It’s not FAIR! It’s not fair that El DeBarge gets a comeback and you don’t… not fair that in 2010 you’re relegated to Montreal hockey duty while El DeBarge gets nominated for a Grammy.
A GRAMMY FOR JEEBUS’ SAKE!!!
And you wonder.
You wonder why I don’t believe in god.
No loving god would subject the altruistic baseball fan to such chronic despair!!!
So hate me ‘cuz I I think El DeBarge topped out in ’86, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
I had the good fortune of spending this past weekend in South Jersey with some of the hardest of hard core Phillies fans one will ever meet; and I have a barrage of UDIs* to prove it. My host, Bill, CEO of MyTeamRivals.com and co-author of the Phightin’ Phils Phorum has one of the coolest baseball man-caves I have ever seen, touting a full bar alongside every Phillie autograph you could imagine plus stunning memorabilia including a Mickey Mantle signed bat hanging proudly on the wall.
Like Chico Escuela, “Beisol been a bery, bery good to me.”
Without the interwebs and blogging baseball for the last two years, I would have never met Bill. In fact, through writing about my obsession, I have become good friends with so many cool, interesting, like-minded baseball fans that sometimes I just have to pinch myself at how neat it all is — that I could become good friends with people I have never met who live all over the world, from Tokyo to London to New York to L.A. to Denver to Houston to Boston to Philadelphia and everywhere in between.
And on Saturday night, while the Phillie faction was deep into a heated discussion about Ruben Amaro’s sanity, I was drawn to the poor Mr. Met effigy hanging upside down at the end of the bar, and more importantly to the fella sitting in front of it. His name was (still is) Mike. Mike, the lone Mets fan. We got to talking about baseball (what else?) and before long it was revealed that Mike was at Game 6 of the 1986 World Series — perhaps the greatest World Series game ever played.
I explained to Mike how that game (and that World Series) was the key component to my baseball fanaticism going from casual to die-hard at the speed of a first base-side groundball through the wickets. And the St. Louis Cardinals weren’t even involved.
Of course, I was only 7 years old, but I remember the hype, the hoopla, the buzz about the Red Sox finally one game away from a title and the unruly and wildly charming bad boyz from Queens standing in their way. I sat alongside my father and my grandmother, watching every pitch. And as the game approached the bottom of the 9th, I clearly remember thinking that this was finally going to be the Red Sox’ moment, that they would finally reach the top after years of disappointment.
In those days, if the Cardinals weren’t in the World Series, I took my dad’s side in rooting for the National League team, no matter who it was, for according to him, the National League’s was the better game — the way it was supposed to be played.
And I remember, as the Mets’ magic unfolded and Ray Knight crossed home plate to the tune of Vin Scully’s “And the Mets wiiiiiiin it!”, that I, too, went nuts with excitement. I jumped up and down and ran around the house with the type of joy that is best defined by youth — a little boy’s bliss brought on by the simple idea that you can do anything if you work hard and never give up.
At that exact moment I decided that that was what baseball was all about — and that life was a game of baseball: full of drama, full of hope, full of solace, full of emotion.
Mike was there.
He knew what I was talkin’ about.
Anyone who has ever called him or herself a baseball fan knows exactly what we’re talkin’ about.
And that, to me, is power.
So, y’know, don’t hate me. ‘Cuz I’m right.
*UDI = Unidentified Drunken Injury