David Brooks has written an entertaining column about his new baseball loyalty. Having grown up a New York Mets fan, Brooks has bought season tickets to the new Washington Nationals franchise. As his allegiance shifts, he's doing a lot of self analysis.
I know how Brooks feels. He writes about treasuring a piece of sod from Shea Stadium. As a kid, I was never that close to a Major League franchise, but I do remember arguing earnestly with my childhood friend John Carter about the outcome of the World Series. I couldn't understand how John could be a Yankees fan.
My first Major League baseball game was seeing the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. It was a night game, and I remember being very cold.
For a decade, my wife and I were Baltimore Orioles fans. We had the good fortune to see the Orioles during the Earl Weaver years, when the O's played fantastic baseball. Weaver had the best lifetime record as a manager against the Yankees. The Orioles-Yankees series in those years were thrilling from the first pitch to the last. One of those games began with both teams' leadoff batters homering on the first pitch.
The Orioles were a major seasonal element of our family culture in those days. One of the photos in our scrapbook is of me with tickets to the 1979 World Series in my pocket. Seeing the Orioles and Pirates was part of our courtship. I couldn't understand why my grade school chum John was a Yankees fanWe also have a framed photograph of my son and me on opening day 1984. He's in an infant carrier and we're both wearing Orioles' caps. My wife took a picture of him watching his first World Series on television, the 1983 games between Baltimore and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Moving West was a move away from baseball. The Seattle Mariners played indoors in those days, and that was something I really didn't want to experience. We continued to follow the Orioles. Their move from Memorial Stadium to Camden Yards was a moment of great sentiment. We followed the succession when Weaver retired and was followed by Joe Altobelli, Cal Ripken Sr., and Frank Robinson. Over 14 seasons, Weaver's winning percentage never fell below .500 and he reached .673, and his team won one World Series of the two they played.
Sadly, it has been a downward trajectory in recent years. The Orioles are owned by Peter Angelos, who has run the franchise into the ground. Angelos' wrecking crew is intentional, if you believe Tom Boswell, the baseball writer of The Washington Post.
We've taken a run at being Mariners fans. Safeco Field beckons as a beautiful, hospitable ballpark. Last season was very tough, watching the M's deteriorate.
After last year's implosion, I did not rush out to buy Mariners tickets. My ambition this summer is to join my daughter in seeing the Portland Beavers and to take in Tacoma's AAA team, the Rainiers. I hear Tacoma has a very comfortable stadium.
We've also made plans to see the St. Louis Cardinals. One of my wife's high school chums lives in St. Louis and is the ultimate Cardinal fan.
I know that we will not likely see a playoff series like last year's, which produced the Boston Red Sox and the Cardinals. Unless Chicago throws off its curse, we won't have a huge moment in baseball history.
But baseball is about memory as much as it is about imagining the future. That's the fun of the game.