Many of you will doubtless write me off as a loony when you read this, but I suffer from a rare mental condition: I am a loyal fan for two Major League teams, the Oakland Athletics and the Pittsburgh Pirates. I used to contribute quite a bit, and I haven't written a post on AN or Bucsdugout since they were called "Diaries", but I thought this topic would be worthy of a bit of baseball scribing.
I grew up in Centre County, Pennsylvania, an area whose name very literally describes its position between the western and eastern metropoli of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. I was born in 1961 into a family of Pirate fans. Though I was not alive when Bill Mazeroski hit the greatest home run in World Series history, I like to console myself by the fact that I was surely conceived as my parents were basking in the off season glory of the great victory of the underdog Bucs over the over-stocked Yanks.
As we were three hours from Pittsburgh, we only got to go to one or two games a season, but I LOVED to go to the game. We had an annoying joke in our family that when we were going to a game, one of us would ask another fan heading toward the ball park if they were "Goin' to the ball game?". We were pegged as simpletons, but we had our yucks.
The Pirates in the sixties and the seventies were magic to me. Most enchanted was I by the great Roberto Clemente, whose charisma and talents seemed mystically intense and infinitely deep. 1971 was what will doubtless be for me the acme of my baseball experience as a fan: as a ten year old, my team won the World Series. I can still name the entire team.
In 1972, when the Pirates lost to the Cncinnati Reds in the playoffs, I was distraught. I hated the Reds, and there wasn't a chance I was going to root for them in the World Series. Even though I knew nothing about them, and everyone else was for the Reds (our area was decidedly National League), I decided to root for the A's. Well, over the next three World Series I discovered that The Moustache Gang was a great team to root for.
In 1984, I moved to Oakland to attend graduate school, and I started to go to A's games. My youthful fling at A's fandom, which had been dormant over the years as I had struggled on with the Pirates through trying times, was renewed. I thought the Coliseum was gorgeous, and I could go see the Pirates play two series a year at the 'Stick. I became an A's season ticket holder (this is still one of the great deals in baseball, and I remember I got my first half season seat in section 317 - 41 games for less than $300). I had come from the Wasteland (can you say "three hour drive to Three Rivers Stadium?") and had arrived in Baseball Heaven.
This was all before Interleague of course, so it was easier to reconcile my mental dysfunctionality of being a fan of two teams. Back then, the A's and Pirates both pretty much sucked (certain exceptional years around 1990 notwithstanding), so there was little chance of them playing each other; I was safe.
Then Interleague began. For a few years it didn't matter much as teams played only close regional matchups, but then... Tuesday June 18, 2002. It was the first time I had to bear the pain of watching my teams go against each other. I went to all three games in that series, but I found myself physically unable to root for either team. I suppose it was my way of dealing with the difficulty of being loyal to the teams I loved, but I just sat there, silent (drinking).
But now it comes around every few years like a bastard comet: this Pirates at Athletics series. This year I will be going to only Saturday’s game, but my formula for surviving the mental challenge will be the same. Please don’t mock, but rather pity the fool in his Pirates 59Fifty and Joe Rudi jersey (I’ll have my Clemente Tshirt on underneath, with my A’s Hoodie ready in the bullpen for a chilly Coliseum evening).