Posted by Andy on January 26, 2010
Pardon me as I make one of my rare non-stat posts.
This country, and probably the world, is clearly divided into two group: fans of the game of baseball and those who think that baseball is the most boring thing on the planet. For non-fans of the game, watching it is like torture. Even for most fans, especially those like me who never played the game, watching every single pitch can sometimes be dull. I can't differentiate all that well between pitch types and I know nothing more about pitching or hitting than one can learn from watching a lot of baseball (which I think isn't all that much.)
But why, then, do I love the game so much? Like most fans, there was a point in baseball history that turned me on to the game. It made me fascinated by the complex beauty of the game and ever since, I have loved every moment of Major League Baseball.
For me, the point in time at which my love for the game ignited was Kirk Gibson's home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. It was an incredible moment. I wrote about it previously here and here. The things that made that moment special for me were, in no particular order: 1) the underdog Dodgers beating the seemingly unbeatable Eckersley, 2) Gibson hitting a homer on such an ugly looking swing and in such obvious pain, 3) Jack Buck's simple and organic call of not believing what he just saw, and 4) Gibson's very cool and spur-of-the-moment fist-pump as he rounded the bases.
As time has gone on and I've watched baseball with many other folks, I've seen the love take hold of other new fans. One time was during the 1993 National League Championship Series. In Game 1, the Phillies beat the heavily-favored Braves (as they would eventually do in the series as a whole.) When Kim Batiste got a hit in the bottom of the 10th inning, the TV feed got a wonderful shot of John Kruk motoring around 3rd base when, even in the days before high definition, he could clearly be seen chewing like mad (not sure if it was gum or tobacco.) The friends I was with, who were all new to baseball, were giddy at the thought of somebody chewing while running home on such an important play. With much screaming as Kruk scored, these folks were absolutely hooked on the game.
Another case of new love for baseball occurred in 1997. I was sitting in the living room with a friend's family as we watched this game between the Pirates and the Astros. After the top of the 9th inning, the Pirates' Francisco Cordova had not yielded a hit or a run, but the Pirates hadn't scored either and the game continued. I explained to the family that no-hitters were rare but pitching 9 no-hit innings without the game ending was even rarer. I explained that if the Pirates could score in the bottom of the 9th, we would see an exceptionally rare feat--a no-hitter that ended without the winning team's pitcher on the mound. However, a young Billy Wagner blew away the Pirates 1-2-3 and the game went to extra innings. Ricardo Rincon retired the Astros in the top of the 10th without yielding a hit, and the Pirates got another shot at the rare event in the bottom of the inning.
After a couple of runners reached on walks, Mark Smith pinch hit for Rincon. I believe the announcer was Gary Thorne and that I watched this game on Saturday Night Baseball on ESPN. He mentioned how Smith was batting to try to give the Pirates the shutout, the no-hitter, and the win. Just as those words came out of his mouth, the pitch was delivered, and Smith absolutely crushed it for a very deep and very obvious homer and Thorne continued his sentence by adding, "...and he got them all!!!!"
Shivers went down my spine and those of everyone else in the room. It was an incredibly cool ending to a game and one of the most fun baseball moments I've ever witnessed. For people who had never witnessed baseball for, these people became real fans. I can even say that one of the people in the room that night went on to marry a major-league player who is still playing today. How about that?
Anyway, tell me your story of when you became a baseball fan.