Note: though I wrote this Sunday, I couldn’t post till today b/c if had to wait for the 24 hour requirement before achieving membership status.
I’ve been lurking around the edges of AN for a few years now. I read several other sports blogs and AN by far & away tops them all. Absent here is the hollow blowhards, the blasphemous & bigoted who populate so many other sites. Kudos to Blez et al, whose labor of love we all enjoy. Forgive my verbosity here; I lack the cleverness of Nico, the goodness of BaseballGirl, the caustic insight of PT, the minor musings of Taj, the fun that is Grover. Categorize me as a junior executive at Marquez67 Inc., the man who weaves stories using baseball, family, and artifacts. I like to tell stories (though not as well as Marquez), and on this day, more than any other, I have a story to tell and this seems like the place to tell it. So here I am.
My dad died at age 89 on Oct. 21, the day before the last World Series began. He was rooting for the Rays as he always loved an underdog. "Give someone new a chance," he said. He loved baseball and taught me to love it too. He used to tell me stories of growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm. He and Pa were big Yankee fans and they’d get the paper a few days late. Pa would ask how many Ruth hit and the conversation would go from there. Over the years, he outgrew the Yankee affection and shifted his love to the Milwaukee Braves. They broke his heart and moved to Atlanta. His love was baseball. He’d watch almost any sport, but baseball was number 1.
For years and years, we watched baseball together. I began following the A’s with their move from KC in 1968. I began with Danny Cater and Campy and Catfish. In the 70’s, with all it’s glamour and concrete, we visited the Coliseum every summer, travelling the 100 miles from the steamy Central Valley to sit in the cool (sometimes freezing) night to watch my beloved A’s. We saw Vida Blue lose to Mel Stottlemyre 1-0. We saw the A’s beat the Red Sox in 1976, coming from a 6-0 deficit and winning on 2 runs in the 9th. On weeknights during the summer, we often found a game on TV. If it was the A’s we cheered together. If it was the Giants, we cheered together for the other team. His favorite name for them was “the umbees,” perfect piglatin to describe the boys from the wrong side of the bay. He had particular disdain for McCovey and Cepeda ,Bonds (father & son) and later, Kent and Mitchell and anyone who supported the orange and black too.
When I left home and moved 2000 miles eastward 25 years ago, we regularly spoke by phone. I made sure to call during ballgames because I knew he’d be watching. Opening night, Playoffs, World Series, he was watching. He just loved the game. When I visited, I made sure to drop by when a game was on, preferably the A’s. When the A’s finally won a playoff series by beating the Twins a few years back, we lived the moment together in his living room. Later in life, especially the past few years, he’d doze during games, but I didn’t care. He sat in his grey recliner, the game played on, and life was good.
And now, for the first time in 49 years, I’m looking at a baseball season without him. I’m incurably sad. Since October 21 I have visited AN far more than is necessary. I know baseball is not my salvation, it’s simply my comfort food. I can hear James Earl Jones (in that voice) beginning his speech to Costner, “It’s baseball, Ray.” On the cusp of this season, I want to thank AN for being there for me. You didn’t know it, but your posts, photos, and predictions helped me make it through the coldest winter (both literally and figuratively) in my life. I wish I lived there so I could be a part of the live contingent who tailgates, attends A’s games, and now does community service.
My online pseudonym is JJ Martin, a tribute to my dad (JJ) and Billy Martin who brought renaissance to a moribund A’s team in 1980. Both men, though flawed, have traits I admire, qualities I don’t possess that I wish I did. My moniker is my private salute. And on this opening day 2009, this is my hello to AN, a community I've long admired from afar.