Random – “So How On Earth Did You Get Into Baseball?”

One of the most asked questions when someone finds out my passions, interests, etc is “so how on earth did you get into baseball?” ? I guess it’s a relevant question… why?does a British woman love?a sport that is not even a blip on most of the UK’s radar. ?The history goes back a while… so if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin.

Back where I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, ‘America’ was an exotic place that was only seen on films and TV. It wasn’t a place you could ever imagine ever being able to visit. ?Travel to Europe was about as far as one could dream, and the US was only for rich types from London, not a poor girl from Wales.

I’m a night owl, but from around age 11 on I had to get up at 5 am every day to go swimming training, plus?every evening, so I didn’t get to watch much evening TV, but I did listen to the radio while in my room. ?I would listen to American Football on the USAF?Radio. I loved the accents, the alienness of it all, and the visual descriptions of a sport I had never ever seen played. ?Note – It would be around 4 years after hearing the first broadcast that I would actually see a game and could finally see a “1st and 10” visually. ?It was pretty much as I’d imagined..so that was nice.

(Why is she on about American Football? ?Keep with me, I’m getting to it…. I ramble, you should know that by now!)

Anything American was exotic and by default interesting. By?the time I was 15 (in 1984), I had had to give up my Commonwealth and Olympic?Swimming?hopes due to dislocated shoulder and other issues. ?That meant?I was no longer out every evening, and with the lovely gift of a TV for my room, I finally got to watch all these shows people were quoting in school.

In the dearth of programming on a relatively new?TV Channel – Channel 4 – they were trying to find different niche programmes and as part of that remit they started doing a weekly Baseball programme, showing a condensed game plus the results from the rest of the teams. It was about 45 minutes (+ adverts) long?and I don’t know how many had been shown when I saw my first one, but probably not many.

Anyway, in 1984, one free evening I turned on the TV, twisted the dial (yes, thats how TVs worked back then LOL) to Channel 4 and started to watch a New York Yankees?at Boston Red Sox condensed game, with Roger Clemens pitching for Boston. ?I was immediately hooked. ?I had no idea of the rules, the strategy or anything, but wow, the chess-like decisions that the commentators were talking about totally grabbed me. ?That “pitch was made because x?is on 2nd“. ?He “just walked x?because his numbers are better against a left handed hitter“. ?It was completely new language but wow…to make decisions about how to throw a ball based on things like that was amazing to a 15 year old me.

I decided that I loved baseball and wanted more of it, so the first thing was obviously to pick a team. As I only knew two teams – the ones I’d just seen – and the Yankees had lost that game, I decided to support the ‘underdog‘ and picked the Yankees.

Yes I am aware of the naiviety of that decision – it has caused a huge amount of hilarity over the years when I re-tell that story.

It also embedded the dislike/rivalry/whatever you want to call it over the Red Sox.

I had heard of Joe DiMaggio in a Simon and Garfunkel song, but had no idea who he was. I’d heard the name Babe Ruth, but again, no concept of his standing in the game. ?Don’t forget this was before the internet, this was before satellite TV, this was before cheap travel to the US.

I sent away to Channel 4 for a Baseball Guide…and through that, and watching these weekly ‘games’, I started to figure out the rules, strategies and that was that, an obsession was born.

(You read this far? ?Wow, well done…think we lost a few on the road.)

By late 1986 I was (pupil) Head Librarian of my school which came with the power to order books for the library – a big deal to a vociferous reader like myself, and I immediately ordered as many baseball books as?were in the albeit limited catalogue. ?That definitely helped my knowledge of the teams and rules, and history. ?”Ah, so that’s who Babe Ruth is” *headdesk*

Fast forward to 1990 and my first access to the ‘internet’. ?It was very clunky, via client front ends and typing in IP numerical addresses, but finally I was getting?to see the results of games the day after they were played. ?That was huge! ?I could follow the Yankees along through the season, through their wins and (mostly at the time) losses in near real time, not a vague round?up a week later. ?Seems hilarious now with the MLB app etc… but then it was everything.

Now as any Yankee fan knows, the 80’s and early 90’s weren’t the best, so my initial ‘underdog’ belief wasn’t that far off *cough* – but at least Boston wasn’t winning either.

My first trip to the US/New York was in late October 1992, so no baseball…but just being in the same city, breathing the same Bronx air?as the Yankees was amazing. It didn’t seem real.

I finally got back to New York in 1994, the start of my higher earning enabled travels, unfortunately it was when the Yankees were on the road, so my first ever live game was Mets v Braves at Shea Stadium. ?I think the Braves won 5-2, but I can’t really remember as I didn’t really care. ?I do remember it was sunny, I remember drinking beer, and sitting high up surrounded by very vocal Mets fans. ?It felt nearly perfect?- just the wrong stadium.

I finally saw a Yankee game the following year (1995)… and since then have been to around 200+ games in New York alone, some memorable – Last Game at the Old Stadium, First Game at the New Stadium, Jeter into the Stands, Mo’s Last Game, Pettitte’s Last Game, Jeter’s Last Game and many more – and some not so memorable. However every?single one?is a result of a 1 hour?show back in 1984 of an evening game at?Fenway Park, where?the New York Yankees lost to the Boston Red Sox.

It is also because of that I will only go to Fenway once I’ve been to every other ballpark. I want to leave it until last as a personal marker for that day back 32 years ago when I found my lifelong obsession.


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