In this season of the Major League Baseball World Series, I am sharing a confession I wrote in October 1985. The New York Times took a pass, but I did get a lovely note from the opinion page editor. Those were the days.
With the World Series upon us, it is time for me to come out of the closet and confess a shameful membership — men who are not baseball fans.
During the early weeks of the season it was no big deal. As the season progressed, though, I was slowly edged into the backfield of my peer group. Every conversation seemed to turn to baseball. The trend accelerated as the weather turned nice and baseball outings became de rigueur.
Even in social settings, the talk invariably turns from shop to the “Great American Pastime.” I am generally able to skirt these conversations, leaving no one to observe, with that air of astonishment only fanatics can muster, that I don’t know a backstop from a shortstop. Unfortunately, I am occasionally stranded in right field, unable to punt.
Some time ago I found myself in chambers with a judge, her clerk and the court staff, playing a game called “Acronyms.” The object is to stump the other players with obscure initials.· Not only was I able to hold my own against BART and SCUBA, but I threw a curb ball at them with COYOTE. Though I was able to avoid embarrassment over ERA by referring to the constitution, I knew I was about to be tagged in. The judge quickly sensed my fear as she moved in for the kill with RBI. I was a little startled at how fast they saw through my bluff. One would think it would be important to keep stats on “Runs by Infielders.”
About ten years ago I decided to face my problem by making an ill-fated attempt to become a baseball aficionado. The first and, alas, final step in this process was to convince a friend to squire me to a Milwaukee Brewers game. Even though I had no idea of what was going on, I was having a great time cheering and booing, as cued by the crowd, and munching on all manner of ballpark comestibles.
That is until some now forgotten Brewer strolled up to the platter and hit a foul tap into my lap. I think my buddy, a life-long fan who’d never caught a ball, was about to be gracious about my good fortune. However, when I plucked the ball from my popcorn and returned it to the gridiron with a toss, he simply lost control. Fortunately, the referee I’d beaned with my lob sent the souvenir pigskin flying back my way.
In the intervening years I have resigned myself to irreversible baseball inaptitude. Generally, I avoid the topic or keep my mouth shut, should it come up. The rules change in October, though. Suddenly everyone is living and breathing baseball. The only topics of conversation are baseball pools and how many matches the Series will go. Not to mention the indignity of having the semi-finals pre-empt my favorite show, Cheers (even there I can’t escape baseball!).
I realize it is hopeless to expect to elude baseball in the real world. So, until the Pendant Race is over, I’ll just watch PBS and damn Abner Doublemint.