As the wise author of this site’s content demonstrates in post after post, there is a lot to analyze about the game of baseball. Putting aside WARs, WHIPs, and other implements of statistical battles, we’ve always been able to debate the best team ever, the best player ever, the DH rule, etc. And that’s the important part. Whether it’s among friends or family, baseball provides a way for folks to talk to each other and build friendships and relationships.
My first year of real baseball fandom was 1983. In Chicago the Sox were winning ugly. Everyone was a Sox fan — or so I thought. I was all in; I can still tell you the lineup. In 1984, the Cubs were good and everyone I thought was a Sox fan was actually — you knew it — a Cubs fan. I was alone in my north side Sox fandom. Until I met a guy at summer camp who was just as much of a contrarian as I was. (He was even moreso; he was also an 11 year old fan of Ronald Reagan and Chrysler LeBarons.). That commonality was more than enough to spark a friendship that’s still going 35 years later
It’s not always easy to talk to your dad, and I know as a dad, it’s not always easy to talk to your son. Saturdays at the Rosemont Convention Center made it a lot easier. We’d walk around to the different vendors, and we’d learn about 1950s and 60s players — with a concentration on good-field, no-hit infielders. We met Bob Feller, Lou Brock, Billy Williams, and many more. We jointly bought a 1966 Mickey Mantle for $25 — learning negotiation skills was just a bonus.
If talking to your dad isn’t easy, then your great grandmother is in a different league. Even if your great grandmother is as with it as my boys’. When the conversation goes to baseball though, the boys are all in. Whether it’s a play by play rendition of Don Larsen’s perfect game or machinations of the current Cubs team, baseball is a language they have in common.
A lot of the conversations I’ve had with my sons about baseball aren’t even about the game. We’ve talked about Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Frank Robinson, Curt Flood, Sandy Koufax, Ty Cobb, Pete Rose, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Frank Thomas, Anthony Rizzo, Shoeless Joe and the rest of the 1919 team, and a whole lot more heroes and goats. We’ve talked about what it means to be superhuman and human, and that in the baseball world just like the real world, we are always only the latter. Which is never more evident in baseball than now. And once we get through this, hopefully we’ll get back to the important stuff — once Ben teaches me what WAR, WHIP, WRC+, OPS+, FRAA, FIP, and UZR actually mean.
-Dan Laytin (Guest Blogger)