Of Playoffs and Boston Politics


On Sports

Dear Will,

It seems we’re going to have lots to talk about over the next few weeks, from haircuts to hurt. For starters, an answer your question: A fielder’s choice is recorded when the batter reaches base or a runner advances while another runner is put out. The infield fly rule prevents a trick double play on a pop-up. It’s important to note that The Paris Review team does not play with the infield fly rule in effect.

I became a fan the old-fashioned way: My father took me to a baseball game. Dad cut work, I cut school, and the Orioles beat the Indians, 2–0. Around that time (I was ten years old), my father also bought me a baseball glove. (OK, it was a softball glove, but I insisted on breaking it in with a baseball.) My little sister got one too, but after I showed off my arm by throwing at her head a few times, she went inside for good.

A few years later, when I was beginning my mornings with box scores, my dad started giving me books: David Halberstam’s Summer of ’49, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Wait Till Next Year, a copy of Out of My League inscribed by one George Plimpton. In high school, I worked summers and Friday nights in the Washington Post sports section; in my interview for the job, I discussed the relative merits of Roger Angell and Roger Kahn, the Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio of baseball scribes.

The day my parents took me to college was a beautiful September Sunday. My dad had a few hours to kill before leaving, and the Red Sox were playing the Yankees. We headed to Fenway—only to find that standing tickets were sold out. “Try Gate D,” the ticket man mysteriously said. We tried Gate D. The guard directed us to Gate H. At Gate H, the guard answered our inquiry with silence. My dad turned to me. “First lesson in Boston politics,” he said, and pulled out a twenty. “Don’t be so obvious next time,” the guard said as we jumped the gate. When we walked into the stands, I felt like I was walking onto the field; I’d never been in a park so intimate. (I’ve actually always thought that American League parks look smaller than those in the NL) The game was already in the seventh inning and the Sox were down, but I didn’t care. It was baseball.

But in truth, my enthusiasm for the sport had already been waning. I’d discovered the newspaper had a front page, not just a sports section. I’d figured out that boys tended to like girls who knew a little about sports but not those who knew a lot. It had become harder to do homework while listening to baseball—until one day I realized I didn’t want to listen, anyway.

Another problem turned out to be the Red Sox. I tried rooting for them when I first got to college—home team, Yankees-haters—but I was distracted, and my heart wasn’t in it. And when they made it to the ALCS in 2003, and then, the next year, won the World Series, I felt I’d done something wrong. I hadn’t earned the joy, because I hadn’t had the years of pain. By the time I was through college, I’d stopped following baseball altogether.

It’s good to be a fan again. I’ll be cheering for the Giants this year. I like their pitching. (Of course, I could say that about the Phillies or Rangers too, but I dig Tim Lincecum’s Gumby style.) Plus, I can’t root against Buster Posey. Which brings me to a question for you: Is it legit to adopt a team in the postseason? And can a girl return to the game after a decade away? It’s my sense that baseball isn’t hospitable to second chances (just ask Pete Rose). Finally, does Chase Utley have the best hair in the baseball? I have friends who think so. I’ve got a lot to catch up on.