Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Some Random Facts

The popular thing these days seems to be the "25 Random Things About Myself" meme that is apparently making it's way around Facebook. Craig over at ShysterBall took the idea in a slightly different way and wrote "25 Random Baseball Things". The idea seems to have caught on, so who am I to fight it? Here are 25 Random Baseball Things About Me... (it's pretty long, so I understand if you don't make it all the way through)
  1. For the first 4 or 5 years of my life, my family lived in the Los Angeles area. My dad was a big baseball fan, and he took us to ballgames at Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium fairly often. Or so I'm told. I don't remember any of these games, but my mom and my brothers tell me it's true.
  2. During the 1988 season when I was 7 years old, I decided that my favorite team was the Baltimore Orioles and that my favorite player was Cal Ripken, Jr. I don't know exactly why I decided Cal was my favorite player, but I'm pretty sure it's because I had more baseball cards of him than anyone else. Also, living in central California, equidistant from LA and San Francisco, I didn't feel any particular loyalty to any one team. (Though I have always had a soft spot for the Dodgers.)
  3. As a kid, I made it my mission to collect every single Cal Ripken baseball card ever made (ie, not just the regular issue Topps or Donruss or Fleer cards). It was a much too ambitious goal, especially since we weren't really in a position to buy too many baseball cards. Plus, I was collecting cards right when the hobby exploded and you could find five or seven cards of a single player in each set. Eventually, I had about 200 different Cal Ripken cards, but I mostly stopped buying cards by 1993 or so. These are pretty much the only cards that I still have from my youth.
  4. My baseball card collection consisted mostly of Topps and Donruss sets from 1988 through 1991. I had other cards from other years, but that was the prime collecting time of my childhood. My older brothers, however, had drawers of older cards from the early 1980s. At least once, I remember browsing through these cards and setting aside some of the better cards (Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs first and second year cards, for example) and then slyly putting them into my own collection. My heist wasn't successful for very long.
  5. As a kid, I played a game that my older brother invented. Basically, it was a simple version of Strat-o-matic or something, using playing cards to determine the outcome of every at-bat. A '2' was a groundout, a '4' was a double, a '9' was a ball, and so on. There was no strategy involved, but I would still manager match-ups and call for stolen bases and such. It was a lot of fun, and it helped us kill a lot of hours.
  6. In high school, I turned this game into an electronic game for my graphing calculator. My friends and I would play the game on my calculator during class instead of listening to the teacher. That killed even more hours, and it actually looked like we were working. I may still have some of the files somewhere. I was pretty proud of it.
  7. The first game that I remember attending for certain was this Indians-Angels game in 1989. I distinctly remember Jesse Orosco coming in from the bullpen and Lance Parrish nearly hitting a home run into our section (it ended up going foul). I also remember going to an Astros-Giants game that year. I remember it as being a Rick Reuschel-Mike Scott matchup, which would make it this game, but I could be mistaken. It may also have been this game.
  8. I didn't attend a major league baseball game again until 1999. My buddy and I flew up to Seattle to see the Orioles play the Mariners in the two-week-old Safeco Field. My uncle was able to get us tickets to two games that weekend. We sat about 12 rows up from the O's dugout that Friday night and then a little higher the next day. Cal Ripken, who was the reason I was there, played great over the two games, but went on the DL for a month the next day. He was sitting on 399 home runs that weekend, and barely missed hitting #400 by about two feet while I was there.
  9. During the game that Friday night, someone pointed out that Frank Robinson was sitting one section over from us. Somehow, I was brazen enough to walk over to him and ask him to sign the bill of my cap. He was pleasant to me, but I was obviously intruding on him. I'm glad I did it, but I do feel a little bad for bothering the guy. I'm not sure I would do the same thing today.
  10. Overall, I've been to twelve major league ballparks in my life: Dodger Stadium, Angel Stadium, Candlestick Park (old SF Giants), PacBell Park (new SF Giants), Oakland Coliseum, Safeco Field (Seattle), Camden Yards (Baltimore), Miller Park (Milwaukee), Wrigley Field (Cubs), US Cellular Field (White Sox), Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park (Boston). Pac Bell (or AT&T) Park is by far the nicest that I've seen. Safeco is quite nice too. I had a blast in Fenway. Yankee Stadium was overrated, but I'm glad I was able to learn that for myself. I love coming to Miller Park every week, though. It's a nice stadium, but what makes it so great is the affordability and the fact that it's full of real baseball fans every night. That's not always the case at some of the other parks I've been to.
  11. I attended Cal Ripken's final games in both Angel Stadium and Oakland Coliseum. He did not play well in any of those games, but at least I was able to see them. I stayed after the game in Anaheim to get an autograph (I was 20 years old, I know...). There was a huge line of people lined up on the right-field wall waiting for him. He went down the line and silently signed balls and cards and such. He totally skipped over my picture. In hindsight, I blame myself for choosing a fancy oversized card... he probably thought I was trying to get something signed that I could sell. That was a bummer.
  12. After graduating college, I visited my uncle's family in Germany for two months. On the way home, instead of flying into California, I flew into Washington DC so that I could go to an Orioles game that night. I had every aspect of the trip between the stadium and airport planned out (buses, trains, etc) except for where I would keep my one piece of luggage during the game. That ended up screwing me over. The only place I could find to keep it was in the train station's luggage room, which closed at 10pm. That meant I had to leave the game in time to get to the station before 10pm. It was a really slow, rainy game. By the time I left the game at around 9:30pm, it was only the 4th inning. Disgusting, huh? I was able to see a grand slam from Melvin Mora, though. In the end, I spent ~$300 and travelled for 48 straight hours to see 3.5 innings of baseball. Not exactly what I was hoping for.
  13. If it's up to me, I *never* leave a game early. Even in 12-1 blowouts. In high school, my buddy and I left a Fresno State Bulldogs game an inning early to walk to the car. The Bulldogs were losing by 5 runs when we left. By the time we got to the car, they had tied it up. It was a strong lesson. I'm not sure, but I'd guess that Jeff Weaver was pitching that day.
  14. I try to keep score at every game I go to. I love it.
  15. In the summer of 2004, I was paid to keep score at Fresno Grizzlies baseball games by a well-known stats company. During the second half of the season, I saw about 20 baseball games. I would drive to the stadium, park in the lot where I didn't have to pay, and then just walk into the ballpark. It was a fantastic way to spend a night. My tickets for the game were always in the same seats, but I would end up sitting anywhere I wanted. The best players I saw that summer were Xavier Nady and Chris Burke. I did have to score a 16 inning game one night. That was a long night.
  16. I think something that the internet is lacking is a way to catalog the games that you've attended. Kind of a "My Ticket Book" feature. In my vision, I would be able to check off every game that I've ever attended and the website would then give me each player's statistics for those games. Perhaps this is something I should talk to Sean Forman about (or maybe I should just learn the baseball-reference API).
  17. By the late 1990s, my favorite player of all-time was still Cal Ripken, but my favorite current Oriole was Mike Mussina (if that makes sense). I was really disappointed when he left to the Yankees, but I understood it.
  18. When Moose came within one pitch of a perfect game, I was watching the game on tv and actively rooting for him. This was in spite of my intense dislike for the Yankees. When Carl Everett broke up that perfecto with a 1-2 count and two outs in the ninth, it just gave me another reason to dislike the guy.
  19. I moved to Milwaukee in August 2005. With only six weeks left in the season, I was able to make it to six Brewers games (including the game where Ben Sheets went down for the season - how fitting).
  20. Over the next couple of years, I tried to maintain my loyalty to the Orioles. At some point, though, it became clear that I was now a Brewer fan. It feels a little weird at times, since I spent so much of my life as an O's fan, but I've made peace with it. It's hard not to become a fan of a team when you spend every day watching them and reading about them and going to 20 games a year.
  21. I met my terrific girlfriend during a clean-up of the Hank Aaron State Trail outside Miller Park one Saturday morning. We ended up going to the ballgame that afternoon and saw a great game, with the Brewers hitting five home runs in one inning. That was three years ago, and we've been to dozens of games together since then. I'm a lucky guy.
  22. My favorite baseball story is "The Night Manny Mota Tied the Record" by W.P. Kinsella. It's a short story in the collection The Thrill of the Grass. It asks a great question, and the setting was perfect.
  23. I started buying Sporting News and Athlon season preview guides in 1998 or so. Since then, it's become a little hobby to collect these old magazines and read through them to see what people were saying about the game and various players at the time. As of today, I have 55 magazines spanning 1974 to today.
  24. I bought my first season-ticket package last year, purchasing a 20-game "choose your own" package. When I chose the games, I very purposely got tickets to all three Cubs games for the final weekend of the season because of the possible playoff implications. By the time that weekend rolled around, those playoff implications were very, very real. Sadly, though, I was only able to go to one game that weekend, so I had to decide beforehand which game would be most worth going to. I chose to go to the Saturday game and sold the Sunday game to a friend of mine. It was the wrong choice. The Brewers clinched their first playoff game that Sunday, and not that Saturday. We did celebrate with a glass of champagne at the bar we were at at the time, though.
  25. I am very grateful to be living in an affordable major league baseball city with an exciting young team to root on. If I were to ever move, I don't know if I could ever again live in a city where there was no professional ball club, or where the price of the tickets make attending games nearly impossible.
Boy, that was a lot longer than I expected it would be, and took a little bit longer than I thought it would. And I could have put in so much more (minor league stadiums, near-misses on foul balls, etc.) It was fun, though. I hope you enjoyed reading it.


Paul said...

You're right - that was really fun. #16 is a gold mine, too. I can't believe you just gave that idea away to the internet.

Ryan said...

Well, here’s what an hour of not working will get ya!

1. I was born into a family who loved baseball, and especially the San Francisco Giants. My room as long as I can remember has had some piece of Giants merchandise on the wall.
2. I don’t remember much about my 1st baseball game. I know it was a Giants game. I know it was at Candlestick Park. And I know that the thing I remember the most is walking and seeing a MLB field for the first time and being in awe of how green it was
3. My hero was Will Clark. He was everything that I thought I a ballplayer should be. My father had seen him play when he was in Single A playing for the Fresno Giants. I still think he had the smoothest swing I’ve ever seen
4. Another time at Candlestick Park, I was watching batting practice from the front row down the 3rd base line. I recall Kevin Mitchell pulling a line drive that was around a foot away from nailing me in the face.
5. Its one thing to have a hero. Its another to see him in the playoffs destroy a team. Which is exactly what Will Clark did to the Cubs in the NLCS in 1989. I was 9, but looking back now it has to be one of the top 5 playoff performances of all time.
6. A few weeks later I recall the WS going from a sure Giants Game 3 victory to a rerun of Roseanne on my TV due to an earthquake. Very depressing. Well, maybe Bud Selig will retroactively give us the title since the A’s were clearly on steroids.
7. My father went to the Giants Fantasy Camp. This caused us to go to games in the pre-renovation Oakland Stadium in order for him to play games on the field after the actual games against other fantasy leaguers. I recall splinters from the bleachers in RF. I recall Jose Canseco hitting a HR. I also thought that running around an empty stadium when I was 10 was pretty cool
8. I recall thinking that the Giants going to St. Petersburg was the worst thing ever. Going from that to signing Barry Bonds and staying in San Francisco within a month or two of each other, was unreal
9. The 1993 team was unreal. Its without reason thinking back that a team wining 103 games doesn’t make the playoffs. It had Will Clark, Matt Williams, and Barry Bonds in the heart of the lineup. That’s a dream lineup for me.
10. I went to the last home game that the Giants played before the players strike in 1994. I hated the void of not having the WS that year. That and Matt Williams was on pace to break the Maris HR record. Earlier in the year I saw him hit two in a game, one of which was a walk-off. The only Walk-off I have ever witnessed live.
11. 1997 was an unreal season. However, it was the beginning of a few new things for me. I recall vaguely the 1987 playoffs against the Cardinals. I recall more of the NLCS in 1989 than the WS. But in 1997, I was 17 and my favorite team was in the playoffs. And I recall every stupid play that caused us to lose. I still can see fat Wilson Alverez giving up a Grand Slam to Devon White in Game 3 that effectively ended the season. It was a trend that would only get worse
12. In high school, I played baseball on a graphing calculator that my buddy wrote the program for. My friends and I would play the game on the calculator during class instead of listening to the teacher. That killed even more hours, and it actually looked like we were working. I don’t know Calculus due to this. That calculator must have cost me $10k a year in salary now that I don’t know Calculus. Or multiplication or long division either. Depressing.
13. In 1998 the Giants AAA team moved to Fresno. I wanted tickets, but they were sold out. However, a local radio station was giving out tickets to who could hit the most HR’s on a videogame HR derby. A game I happened to play. I happened to go to the first game shortly afterwards. Goodtimes.
14. Safeco field opened mid-season 1999. My friend and I flew to Seattle and saw two games. It was exciting since he was an Oriole fan and Cal Ripken was one HR short of 500. We watched him hit a few long fly balls, but it didn’t happen for us. We did see Frank Robinson and in one of the most amazing acts I’ve ever seen my buddy do, he walked right up to him and asked Frank to sign his hat, which he did.
15. 2000 marked the opening of PacBell/SBC/AT&T park in San Francisco. An insanely hard ticket to get. However, a local radio station was giving tickets to who could answer who had hit 3 HR’s in the stadiums 1st game. 2 callers before me couldn’t answer (the game was like a month or 2 before this contest) but of course I knew the answer was the all-time power hitting great Kevin Elster! I won 4 tickets and my Friends an I saw the Rangers take on the Giants.
16. 2000 brought a few things for me and the Giants. #1 was the Giants winning a playoff game for the 1st time in 11 years. Then there was the JT Snow HR against Benietz in Game 2, which we lost. Then the one-hitter by former Fresno State pitcher Bobby Jones to close the Giants off in Game 4. Another playoff heartbreaker
17. I don’t regret leaving a 12-1 game when my team is down just to hear them come back. I don’t. It stinks and its ironic, but the 1 time out of 1000 that it happens makes me not regret it.
18. I was in Anaheim and saw Cal Ripken hit a HR in his last season.
19. Grizzly Stadium in Fresno is great. Its clean, beautiful, and no one goes. I got a Joe Thurston HR ball there, and I have stolen multiple bullpen baseballs. The summer they paid my buddy to be a nerd and watch baseball and keep score, I have no idea how many games we went too. Minor League baseball is cool.
20. 2002, opening day at Dodger Stadium. Bonds hits 2 HR’s. I’m wearing Giants gear. A Giants fan is killed in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium later on that year. I was lucky.
21. The greatest moment of my sporting life was the Giants winning the Pennant in 2002. I was so happy. I cant talk about the WS though. Its still too fresh….
22. Stadiums I’ve been to: Safeco Field, Dodger Stadium, Old Angels Stadium, new Angels Stadium, Old Oakland, New Oakland, Candlestick Park, PacBell/SBC/AT&T park.
23. Watching the Fresno State Bulldogs win the National Championship this year was surreal. My buddy and I actually went to quite a few games there over the years (including a game that I convinced him to leave while they were losing 12-1 in which the came back to win) Its great for the school and it was really exciting to be interested in College Baseball. With the bats and the ability of anyone to hit a HR at any moment, it was pretty cool not feeling worried or comfortable no matter what the score of the game was. The support this team has now is pretty cool too.
24. Overall, I’ve seen these future or actual HOF guys (At Least I think so) Bonds, A-Rod, Griffey, Ryan, Ozzie, Ripken, I-Rod, Kent, Piazza, Mac, Eck, Raffy, Frank Robinson (in the stands).
25. Stupid Field of Dreams always makes me cry in the end. Go Giants!

MilwaukeeGal said...

1. The Home Opener in Milwaukee should be declared a holiday because it IS a holiday. I love the Home Opener. After a long Wisconsin winter, there's nothing better than thoughts of spring, and that first beer of the baseball season. I love beer, but there's something about the way the beer tastes at the first baseball game of the year....and during day games during the season.

2. I give opening day presents...My fella gets a new hat every year. We try to watch every baseball movie we have the night before.

3. One of my favorite memories is growing up a Red Sox fan in Western Masachusetts. A REAL Red Sox fan (not this bandwagon crap I saw in Seattle. My father went to BU and told us many stories about rooting for our guys. When the Red Sox made it to the World Series in 86, we were allowed to stay up late and take a half day. Because I was only 9, I fell asleep early (even though I tried to prop my eyes open with my fingers). Every morning, during the series, I would go into my parents bedroom, as if it were Christmas morning, asking if the Sox won. My parents would reply, 'No sweetie, they didn't'. It was hard on us when they lost, I think it was hard on my dad too. So me and my sisters just decided to rewrite history in our backyard by playing baseball where WE were the Red Sox and WE won. I think Buckner was screwed...I blamed him for awhile...but I think he got screwed.

4 I had always fantasized about what it would be like when the Red Sox won the world series.I always assumed I'd have someone special to share it with. And I was slightly upset that I never got to kiss anyone. Then again, when they won, I'm glad I was alone because I just fell to the ground and started crying. I cried for my dad who died 8 years earlier and would never get to see it. I cried because I was happy. I cried for everything that was and ever will be. It was wonderful. I still cry when I see replays of when they won. And now it's just weird.

5. I only went to Fenway once when I was a kid and hadn't gone back till my fella took me for our anniversary. It was wonderful and yet sad all at once. I think the SportsGuy was on to something when he said that it was more of an event now than an every day thing.That's important to me; that it feels like an every day thing. It made me extra super grateful that I live in a city (Milwaukee) where going to a game is affordable and the ballpark is accessible. I miss the good ol' days of County Stadium where you could get in for $3 in the 3rd inning.

6. I was so relieved when the Brewers moved to the NL.

7. I love the NL. I think it's more democratic.

8. If the Brewers played the Red Sox (with the Sox having won 2 World Series), I'd root for the Brewers. The Brewers remind me of the Red Sox teams and feelings that I grew up with.

9. I love that my fella keeps score. I try to keep score, the game is more exciting when you do. But occasionally by the 7th inning I'm a little sauced so I just move on to cheering because then I just get bratty and write snotty commentary on the scorecard.

10. I'd like to go and focus on minor league teams. We had fun at the Madison Mallards game (in Madison, WI). Nothing beats the excitement of a ziplining sandwich throwing duck.

11. Baseball slows everything down for me. It's like running. I'm always so relaxed after a game (except when the Cubs come to town).

12. I don't like the Yankees or Cubs. But that doesn't mean that I'm a jerk about it. I"m tired of the violence. I think a rivalry is fun and healthy and maybe an occasional fist fight or slap is warranted..maybe a beer can but not a beer can filled with rocks (unless you needed to do it in self defense)..but don't send someone to the hospital over it. It's lame. My great aunt was a Yankees fan, and it was fun hearing her and my dad (a Sox fan) heckle each other.

13. Would like something else on TV other than Red Sox vs Yankees. There I've said it. The media has WAY over hyped the rivalry where it isn't even exciting anymore.

14. I could only live in a city whose baseball team I could legitimately be a fan of. Right now it'd have to be a minor league team or Minneapolis. I like the Twins. I felt bad for them when Selig tried to obliterate them so I can't hate on them. The Dodgers are another team that I always want to do well. They've got good fans. The Royals....I want them to do well again. So they're probably my 2nd favorite AL team.

15. Spring Training is a valid romantic honeymoon destination

16. I love it when St. Louis fans come to town. They're great. They know their baseball and just love the game. It's like your relatives coming to town or something. They're so respectful of our city and I'm happy about that.

17. My favorite players of all time are Robin Yount, Ted Williams, Tony C, Brett Saberhagen, Hank Aaron, Mike Greenwell.

18. I don't believe in buying a current players jersey. Though I caved in for a Varitek tshirt, and rewarded Ryan Braun's dedication with a tshirt. It's kind of a commitment to wear a players number. I almost regretted it regarding 'Tek's shenanigans this year....

19. Cooperstown was one of the greatest experiences of my life. We haven't been to Dyersville yet, but I'm kind of thinking that Cooperstown is the original field of dreams. It's ethereal.

20. Booing players on your team is tacky and unsportsmanlike. Nothing makes me more irritated. Booing and heckling players on the opponents team is completely appropriate and encouraged.

21. I could play catch all day.

22. I love day games. We love that we live in an awesome enough city where we can ride our bikes and carry in food to the ball game.

23. I think the Brewers will win the NL central.

24. I've ridden the elevator with Bud Selig a few times and he knew my name. I was always so nervous that I could never talk to him. I think that he did a crap job wit the steroids thing. But I do think that he made baseball more competitive and exciting. He did something right....

25. I can pretty much quote all of Major League and The Sandlot. "Are you saying Jesus Christ can't hit a curveball?". "Anyone who wants to be a can't hacky pantywaist who wears their mama's bra, raise your hands"

Andy said...

Regarding #16, ESPN.com has actually already done that with their Sports Travel Passport feature. I've been tempted to start one for myself, but with all the games I've already attended, it seems like a really daunting task.

mo_positive said...

Glad to hear you were able to get Frank Robinson's autograph. If I were to create one of these lists, one entry would be:

X. When I was 10 years old I went to a Cactus League game between the Giants and the Cubs. Frank Robinson was the manager of the Giants at the time and I asked him for an autograph. He told me to f*** off.

mo_positive said...

Hey MilwaukeeGirl, I'm a New England transplant in Milwaukee, too! Weird. Watched the Sox win the 2004 series in Halliday's Lounge on Farwell.

If the Brewers and the Sox met in the series, I'm not sure who I'd root for. I'd probably just be happy.

I miss County Stadium, too. Miller Park makes me feel like I have to behave.

lar said...

Andy: Thanks for pointing that out. I think I saw the phrase "Sports Travel Passport" on their site once, and wondered if that's what they were implementing. I'll have to go take a look at it and see how good it is. personally, I think it's the perfect idea to integrate into Baseball-Reference, since you'd likely be going back years to find the games you went to (if you're anything like me, I mean).

Mo: Thanks for the story. I'm really glad that's not what happened to me. I remember asking for his autograph as he sat there watching batting practice, and he said something like "Aw man!", like he didn't want to be recognized and have people coming up to him all day. Other than that, though, he handled it as well as I should expect (I was intruding on his personal time, after all). I would've felt differently, though, if he said something like that to me.

Anonymous said...

Baseball and me - 25 random things:

1. My parents loved baseball, and so did I from an early age. My earliest memories are playing baseball in Roslyn, Pa., and Willow Grove, Pa., from about age 4-8. My dad took me to my first major league game at age 6 in 1964 at Connie Mack Stadium. The Phillies beat the Giants (perhaps 9-3) and catcher Gus Triandos hit a grand slam home run. I also went to a Phillies-Dodgers game that year that the Phillies won, but it was disappointing because my father had tickets to see Sandy Koufax against Jim Bunning, but that game was rained out.

2. Another early memory was flipping baseball cards against a wall with my next-door neighbor who was my best friend. I had these “gold cards” that Topps was issuing that year for the all stars or something, and my friend took me for my whole collection. I went home crying, and my friend’s parents made him give them back. It was an early lesson to avoid gambling.

3. I lived for baseball and the statistics on the back of a baseball card. I am convinced that my early aptitude for math was because of baseball statistics. I would take my statistics from local games in the street, and figure out batting average, on-base percentage, etc. I knew that 2-5 was .400, 2-6 was .333 and 2-8 was .250, so I’d sit for an hour trying to figure out what 2-7 might be. And I’m sure I came pretty darn close to .286.

4. I wasn’t necessarily a great player as a young kid, because I was small. But I knew every rule in the rule book, knew where every player was supposed to be depending on the situation, and was generally a total baseball geek. Why was that important? I always won the arguments that inevitably crop up in a kid’s game of baseball.

5. My mother was more of a baseball nut than my father. She wouldn’t go out for dinner if a ballgame was on TV. After we moved to New Jersey in the New York area, she became a Mets fan, and no one could get her to leave the house when the Mets were on. Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner will always be the voices of baseball in my head, with Rheingold beer the sponsor of choice.

6. We moved to New Jersey in 1965 when I was 8, and I couldn’t understand how my parents could become Mets fans. We were Phillies fans!! Mom explained how she was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan growing up, and Dad was a New York Giants fan, so when those teams moved to California, they had lost their team. They could never root for the Yankees. Now New York had a new National League team, and we lived near it, and so they were Mets fans now. I always thought they were traitors. Forty-five years later, I am still a die-hard Phillies fan, but I understand a little more.

7. My parents still went to ballgames a couple of times a year with me, and they were nice enough to always see when the Phillies were coming to town. Because the Phillies were so bad back then, they were probably an easy ticket to get, but they took me to those games without fail. I might have to put up with the Dodgers or Giants once in a while, but generally, when we went to Shea, it was to see the Phillies.

8. My favorite player in my early years was Cookie Rojas, who played 2B for the Phillies. Not only did he have a very cool name, but he was small like me, could play all nine positions like me, and he was a pretty good player, but not great. I was also a big Richie Allen (later Dick Allen) fan, because he was cool, had some of the best quotes in baseball history, and hit some of the longest homeruns in Shea Stadium history. He was such a stud.

9. I also remember rooting for Johnny Briggs because my mom would call his homeruns. We were at a game (I don’t remember if it was at Connie Mack or Shea), and she yelled out, “Come on Briggs, you’re due.” Sure enough, he hit one out. He gets up again, and she yells out, “Come on Briggs, you’re still due.” And sure enough, he hit another one out. All the fans around us were astounded. Briggs is one of the few autographs I had as a kid (along with Rojas).

10. I’ve been to the following major league ballparks: Connie Mack Stadium, Veterans Stadium, Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium (for a football game, Giants vs. Dolphins in the early 1970s), Fenway Park (my only playoff game, game 2 of 2007 ALDS, Manny Ramirez walkoff), Memorial Stadium (again for a football game, Steelers-Colts), Wrigley Field, Jack Murphy Stadium, the Louisiana Superdome (exhibition game between the Astros and Yankees), and that may be it. I intend to get to a Rays game at the Trop this season.

11. To me, there is nothing like walking up that ramp and seeing all the green of a baseball diamond. Shea Stadium, for all its detractors, will always be a magical place for me. I may have seen 20-30 games there, and everyone was exciting. From taking the Subway into Queens from Penn Station, walking up those ramps, and that first flash of green, it’s one of the great feelings of life.

12. My size continued to hamper my baseball playing career into high school. Though I was an all-star in the Babe Ruth league (13-15) with a batting average over .400, I couldn’t even get a sniff at high school tryouts because I was about 5’2” and 100 pounds. I had a good arm, average speed, and could hit, but after two practices where I didn’t even get a look, I quit and joined the golf team. The coach tried to get me to come back as a junior (I had grown to six feet tall at that point), but I declined. I was playing men’s league softball at that point, and still liked the golf team, and I was a little vindictive, so I said no. It turned out to be a good move, because I still play and love golf to this day, and there aren’t many 51-year-olds running around baseball fields, unless your name is Julio Franco.

13. As my baseball playing days drew to a close, my slow-pitch softball days took off. As a 16-year-old, I started a softball team with a few friends to play in the local men’s league. I got the local hot dog stand, Stewarts Root Beer, to sponsor us and buy uniforms. Our first year, we sucked. We were baseball players, not softball players, and there is a difference. We went 1-15 and missed the playoffs by far. However, I learned a lot. I handpicked an 11-man roster for the next year with friends on the baseball team and others. All 10 starters knew what position they would play and where they would hit in the lineup. The 11th guy knew he was only for an emergency. We never had any drama over playing time. I used four outfielders who could all go back on a ball well, and played them all as shallow as possible (I believe the Rockies should play their three outfielders in this manner). We tore the league up, got the moniker the “Hot Dogs” for our brash play and silly sponsor, went 15-1 and lost in the league championship game. I continued to play a pretty good shortstop into my early forties, before giving up the game a few years ago due to bad shoulders and losing many steps.

14. After college, I stopped following baseball with the same passion for several years. Oh, I still followed the Phillies and knew who most of the players were, but in the 1980s, other sports jumped up to the same level of interest as baseball. My dad was a New Orleans Saints season ticket holder, New Orleans didn’t have a baseball team, and I also fell in love with basketball in a big way (Sixer fan, of course). I didn’t become a huge baseball nut again until the Internet, the adult version of baseball cards for the guy who loves stats.

15. Labor strife in the 1990s also dulled my enthusiasm. I don’t even know what year it was, but one year looked like it was going to be record-setting in so many ways. I remember Raines was threatening to have more than 100 steals, a couple of guys were making runs at home run records, and it was just a dazzling year for baseball. Then they packed it in. It sucked. I was pissed. However, I also found out that I will always come back.

16. In the late 1990s, I discovered fantasy baseball. For those of us who consider ourselves smart about sports, this was like a dream come true. I could draft players, and be the general manager against a bunch of other guys who thought they knew baseball. I kicked some serious ass. But mainly, I learned about every player in the league, every kid coming up who was promising, and was totally immersed in baseball again. It was like being a kid all over again.

17. Also in the 1990s is when I had a chance to meet several ex-ballplayers. I was in the Navy in Norfolk, Va., when MCI (the old telecom) had a Legends golf tournament annually at Sewell’s Point Golf Course. I had the chance to play golf with Paul Blair of Baltimore Orioles fame, Catfish Hunter, Doug Flynn, and Bill Mazeroski. There were other players there, too, but those guys stand out because they were either on my team, or I got the chance to talk to them for a while. I still have the signed scorecard from Catfish, and Maz was one hell of a golfer who carried my team. They were all great guys who made my day.

18. Fantasy baseball made me want to learn all I could about ballplayers and statistics. On ESPN.com, I discovered a guy named Rob Neyer, who once worked for Bill James, a widely-known stats guru. Neyer would pull out all these marvelous new stats to analyze players, punching holes in “proven veterans,” while introducing me to OPS, VORP, WARP, and the Fielding Bible. I read “Moneyball” and learned to appreciate well-run franchises. Frankly, he reinvigorated my love for baseball by showing me new ways to look at winning baseball, and I remain an absolute baseball fanatic today long after I’ve given up fantasy baseball due to time constraints.

19. As a family man, I tried to get my two daughters to enjoy baseball. My older daughter played Teeball, but she never really got into it. I brought her to that game at Fenway, and though she had a great time, it was the event and going to Boston as much or more than the game. My younger one is into soccer. She finds baseball boring. My wife enjoyed softball and was quite good (in fact, we met playing co-ed softball), but she could care less about professional sports and hates going to a ballpark with all the drunks. So my love for the game hasn’t filtered down to my family.

20. I wanted to work near Tampa after I left the Navy, because I wanted to live in Florida in a major league city. However, the job market has sent me to Jacksonville instead. The Jacksonville Suns are a nice AA club, but I miss a major league market. Sports talk is all Jaguars all the time. It’s rough for a guy who grew up near New York City, where every sport had a couple of teams.

21. One nice thing about being employed is that baseball is still a topic of discussion at work. I find myself playing the local sabermetrician, explaining to the die-hard Red Sox fan why he really doesn’t want Jason Varitek to eat another 400 at bats this year, or why the best catcher in baseball this year may very well be a guy in Baltimore who has yet to have a major league at bat. I live for the Hot Stove League, and agonize that the Phillies are overpaying for Howard or downgrading in left field. I’m still a fan who hopes his team will land that big free agent that will keep the Mets down. Maybe Carrasco will be the next Cole Hamels.

22. Sometimes I wish I was young and irresponsible again. I won a lottery to go see the Phillies play game 1 at the Trop last fall. I didn’t purchase the ticket because I had to attend a conference for work the next morning at 8. I calculated game times, travel times, etc., and saw that no sleep would be had. I couldn’t show up to the conference and fall asleep, so I passed on the tickets. If I was still 20, or even 30, I’d have been at that game. Chances are that was the last time in my lifetime that I’ll have a chance to see the Phillies in person in the World Series. I still have a good job, though.

23. It’s hard to get mad at today’s players for steroids. Anyone who has played sports knows that you try to get every advantage you can. If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying. When Reggie Jackson sticks his ass out to get out of a rundown, it’s cheating. When you swallow a bunch of amphetamines to get through the long grind of the season, it’s cheating. When I took uppers to get through final exams in college, I guess that was cheating. All the holier than thou types screaming for the heads of Bonds and Rodriguez ought to be glad no one examines their lives too closely. If you’re caught, pay the price and move on. Only golfers call penalties on themselves.

24. I love the baseball of today as much as I loved it 45 years ago. I still remember the agony of the 1964 Phillies, and the joy of the 2008 Phillies. Cookie Rojas, meet Chase Utley. Dick Allen, meet Ryan Howard. Bobby Wine, well, we all knew he stunk. But hey, meet Jimmy Rollins anyway. Gus Triandos and Clay Darymple (my mother called him Clayfoot, for his 10 second times to first base), meet Chris Coste and Carlos Ruiz. I root or rooted for them all, and can’t wait for the next generation of Phillies.

25. Thanks to Rob Neyer, Keith Law, Rich Federer, Buster Olney, Tom Tango, John Dewan, Bill James, and the dozens of other Internet writers who have fed my love for the game of my youth. I am no statistician who can add to the body of work, but I am an eager consumer of the work others are doing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.