This won’t mean a lot to most of you out there, but this weekend the Detroit Tigers clinched their first division title since 1987, and their first American League Central title ever.
It’s kind of a big deal.
But don’t worry. This post isn’t going to be filled with statistics and names of men being (over)paid to play a boy’s sport or ridiculous metaphors about the game that I’ve loved all my life. If you don’t love baseball, you certainly won’t love my explanation of why I do. If you do love baseball, you don’t need it.
But for me, it’s more than a game.
It’s remembering summers by games that were played and the sensory clues I still find—the crack of the bat, the stitch on a ball, the smell of the grass in the field. It’s looking forward to spring training in the dead of winter when every other joy seems frozen beneath layers of ice and of snow.
It’s being able to identify players by their batting stance or jersey number and feeling an instant connection with a complete stranger when I see them wearing a shirt with the old English “D.”
It’s a simple game—a bat and a ball—but it can unite a city, a state, a family—with one swing of that bat or one pitch of that ball. It can make grown men cry, and sometimes, even a 30-year-old woman who usually one cries for road kill and good food spilled on the floor.
For me, it’s my escape.
Sports in general afford me the opportunity to forget about the mundane concerns of everyday life for a while and to spend an unpredictable amount of time with others who take pleasure in enjoying a similar break. It’s a reminder that I can still feel excited about something when a lot of the time I’m just numb.
For me, it’s family.
It’s a 90-year-old woman who can’t always remember who I am, but will tell me about a game in 1948 with a clarity time hasn’t stolen quite yet.
Some days the games are all foreign to her and she couldn’t care less if one’s on. Some days watching the game with her takes me right back to being sprawled on her living room floor as a kid, watching each game on mute while Ernie Harwell came through on the radio (but not lying underneath the ceiling fan, as I was warned the goddamn thing would inevitably fall on me and crush me to death. Fuzzy memories.)
Because while I joke about her and there are still good times, the bad days outnumber the good by a lot. But on those good days, baseball bridges a gap as we talk of the games and the team. It’s tradition and memories tied up with box scores and hopefulness mixed in with stats.
From this year’s Opening Day to where we are now, this season has felt somewhat special. And despite my promise not to wax eloquently with corny language, I guess I can’t help it. Sure, it’s a “pastime,” but it’s my favorite way to pass that time.
For me, it’s more than a game.
It’s my perfect game.
I have baseball and sports, but what’s your “thing,” so to speak? What are you unapologetically passionate about and have never grown tired of?
Girl, I feel the same way about hockey. Each season is it’s own story. The game is just a huge high for me; memories with with my dad, the excitement of the play, the toughness but also the humility, the sexy Canucks – I love it all.
Hockey runs a really close second, so there might be a post in a few months about the Wings 😉 However, there aren’t quite the family ties, so I suppose I’ll defer to you for that angle. And hello? A Canadian accent is the sexiest accent ever, eh?
I used to be as passionate as baseball until the 94 strike. I left it for a while and came back to the game on my own terms, so to speak, about 5 years ago. I dig it a lot more than I used to. I try not to be all football crazy til October 1st. It’s hard.
I love the story about the woman who can recall a game in 1948. I have older relatives who can tell me about a Yankees game in the 50s. It’s really special.
What the stroke took away, to some degree, was that magical feeling in the sumemr and fall of 1991 when the Braves went from laughingstock to pennant winner. This town was insane. They united the entire south. I was in college in Alabama and the whole region was a lit Christmas tree.
Good luck in October. The Tigers pitching and hitting are impressive. Maybe my Braves can surprise and meet you guys in teh Fall Classic.
I love the Detroit Tigers (and baseball), although I’m consumed with guilt for cursing my Tiger, Brennan Boesch, for the past two years. Maybe next year I’ll give him up so he can have the great year he deserves.
I was very sad when Mark, The Bird, Fidrych died recently. Many of my best childhood memories center on baseball and the sound of Ernie Harwell’s voice. And I know that many of my children’s favorite memories will swirl around baseball.
Boesch will be back. He’s young. He’s hungry. He’s a rock star in training. I think anyone who has ever loved the Tigers has an Ernie memory (or 1,000 Ernie memories.) He is the voice of summer baseball, and the fact that you’re a Tiger fan makes me love you even more 😉
This is really endearing Abby. I love this side of you!
Sports-wise…I guess I love my Chicago Bears. My favorite sport to watch live is hockey. That goes back to school dayz I spose.
Great post! My memories of baseball as a kid are limited to my dad using a blow horn off our balcony the year we came to Canada and the Jays won the series…also, losing my baseball glove in the middle of a street and having a car run over it. As an adult, my memories are of attending 15 dollar Jays games with friends and forgetting my glasses..good times! In my family, hockey was THE thing. The only family we had here for a long time lived near Detroit and every visit was centered around watching Wings games. I also dated a guy from Battle Creek for a while in university..needless to say, I love my Leafs but I consider myself an honorary Wings fan. Reminds me of being a kid for sure!
And I think you know I am an obnoxious (at times) die-hard Eagles fan, and recently I’ve gotten into watching more of the Phillies games too. Mostly because we spent the majority of our nights in Jamaica last year on our honeymoon watching the playoffs. It was super romantic. (the sick thing is for us it actually was.)
My Dodgers are killing me or maybe I should say their freaking deadbeat owner is killing me.
That is a very sweet story about the woman I assume is your grandmother.
Yes, I liked back to the “Opening Day” post because she’s the biggest fan I know. Now sweet? Not so sure. She could cuss out the McCourt’s and make the bat boy blush, but she loves the game. Don’t we all? 😉
I was born and raised in Boston. So yeah, I feel ya. RED SOX FOREVER BABY!!!
I totally read this comment in my head with a huge Bahston accent.
Andrew is a BIG BIG BIG Tigers fan, so I am by default. I love all the reasons you list for loving baseball!
Also love, “men being (over)paid to play a boy’s sport’ so funny.
I don’t know this “Andrew” that you speak of, but he sounds like a very, very wise man 😉
Abby, terrific post. My dad passed away 20 years ago at only 50 years old. My fondest memory of a man of few words was an 11th inning homerun by Darryl Strawberry of the Cardinals’ Ken Dayley in 1985. My dad jumped forward from the couch, stuck out his hand to me to give him “five” with a huge silly grin on his face. We watched a lot of Mets games together, including the 1986 World Series but that was the 1st and only time he ever did that. It was the happiest he’d ever been watching a Mets game. I’ll never forget that day 🙂
Awesome. I have that “one” distinct memory as well, and I love how after all the games and all the hours spent watching the games, I still hang on to that one swing of the bat. Priceless.
Barry Manilow and musicals. I love both..to this day.
I absolutely loved this post. The memories might be being stolen from your grandma, but you hold them in your hands and your own mind.You can keep them for her and all the wonderful things you remember about watching those games on her living room floor.
I also loved how you gave us baseball, while I am not a huge fan, I have a METS fan since he was a little boy(Hubby) and two little boys who are bound to find some pleasure in the game I am sure. You described the CONNECTION that game gives us as a community, a city, a state or even a nation perfectly.
Kir, your comments are always poetic, and I don’t even think that you try. You amaze me, even if you are a “Fanilow.” 😉
Well, i’m a person of many passions… writing, photography, decorating, crafty things… blah blah.
I just don’t know which one I love the most. They aren’t really entertainment like watching sports is. They are things I do…. so I’d prefer not to have to choose thankyouverymuch! haha.
but, i do enjoy some reality tv… guilty pleasure. it’s how i zone out.
It’s funny because I have a lot of things that I enjoy a lot and have for some time, but I tend to go through full circle phases with them. But baseball has always been something I’ve never questioned. It’s always been constant, which is comforting to me.
This is so sweet. I love baseball too. This year I started playing fantasy football and I have to admit I am kind of addicted.
You already know that I’m a HUGE Red Wings fan. I remember watching Don Cherry on the CBC getting progressively drunker from one intermission to the next. It was almost as good as the game.
I used to be a huge Tigers fan and have great memories of the 1984 team. I had all of their posters (Krogers was handing them out!). My Grandfather was a huge fan and we have a little family theory that when they finally won the World Series, he was ok to die (he was really sick but hung on until they won–a very stubborn man).
I agree so wholeheartedly with all of this. We are huge Tigers fans and it also has very sentimental value for us that they’re doing so well this season. It’s an amazing thing to watch a group of guys get it so right. Postseason is going to be amazing. I just can feel it.
Since the majority of replies have been about sports (which is great, really!) I’m going to break things up by admitting my passion for fashion. I’ve been in love with clothes and designers since first watching the Sonny and Cher show or maybe even earlier when Glinda the Good Witch appeared on screen (that chick could rock a ball gown!). I feel the same way today even if I spend the majority of my time in sweatpants. Love love fashion.
But Go Tigers!
Just found your blog courtesy of Brit over at Blunt and I know this isn’t your most recent post but I just had to say: I’m the same way about the Phillies! And no, NOT just because they clinched the division for the fifth year in a row recently. I have been a diehard fan since the days of Lenny Dykstra (who, incidentally, shared his name with all of my pets during the 90’s). Right now I’m living in london and I try to stay up to catch the first few innings of each game…and inevitably fall asleep with my computer on my chest.
Nice to meet you Abby!
Yes! Okay, this will cement my status as certifiable, but all our dog’s toys and random yard gnomes are named and identified after athletes. There is a Magglio, a Grandy, a Jiri, etc. Whew. Glad that’s out in the open. So glad to meet you as well, as at least we can share a common bond of fanaticism and Brit 😉
I’m with you on the baseball. Love it. I have lived for this sport for many years. And though the Phillies are my true love, I also am with you a little bit on the Tigers. I covered their one minor league team for six years, so I am connected to many of these players (and, unfortunately, some who Detroit shipped away) and love to see them do well. Unless, of course, they play the Phillies. (and I love the Ernie Harwell references. My voice mail is of the Phils’ late great Harry Kalas calling me hitting a home run. He did it at the Hall of Fame a few years back. It will never change!)
I love baseball too! Just watched my Texas Rangers make it to the world series.. beating the detroit tigers.. hehehe >:)