In Part 1 of this 3-part series, we met Ryan Ferguson, a young Englishman whose infatuation with American baseball was cultivated by the sounds of the game. He spoke to the intrinsic and steadfast characteristics of the sport that have allowed it to stand the test of time.
In Part 2, we learn exactly how a Brit got so caught up in America's Pastime that it quickly consumed him. But it wasn't the Cubs that first caught his eye, or ear as the case may be. It was another once-cursed franchise run by a boy wonder in the front office.
I like to take long walks, allowing the innings to float by whilst breathing in the fresh air and contemplating life. The streets of Bromborough, a mass of residential estates sprawling from a central village, are still at night. I snake my way through, allowing Pat and Ron to inform of events four thousand miles away.
To passing drivers and people walking dogs, I cast a rather odd figure: clenching fists or cursing aloud in accordance with a game played out in my ear alone. I once exploded into public celebration when Darwin Barney parked an unlikely homer, drawing quizzical laughter from a phalanx of construction workers hammering nearby.
When Edwin Jackson takes the mound, promising to wait an eternity between pitches, I extend my ramble to encompass the large woodland which rests due east, or one of many beaches scattered about the peninsula. Anywhere, really, which allows me to feel free whilst listening to the game I love.
By this point, you're likely intrigued as to how a Brit becomes so engrossed in baseball. Well, it's a long story; one which owes almost as much to soccer as it does America's National Pastime. You see, in being completely obsessed with continental football, I'm something of a typical European.
In addition to supporting my hometown Tranmere Rovers, a hapless outfit mired in the fourth division of British football, I've long been known to watch soccer from all over the globe. A particular affiliation with Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven arose in 2004 following a chance viewing on terrestrial TV, and I would regularly lay awake past midnight watching weekly repeats of matches on Channel 5.
In the Fall of 2004, I planned one particularly elaborate all-nighter to watch a PSV match, only to see it swamped by over-lapping coverage of some weird American showcase which bore a passing resemblance to rounders. I became irate, as the clock ticked agonizingly towards another school day: 2 am...3 am...4 am.
Still no PSV.
Amid a growing volcanic frustration, my attention was finally caught by a maelstrom of bearded men, clad in grey uniforms, spraying one another with champagne and jostling for possession of a golden trophy. It looked pretty cool, but I was blissfully unaware of that moment's magnitude. By pure fortune, I had experienced live the ultimate fruition of ancient New England fantasy.
Those bearded men? Johnny Damon and his clan. That golden trophy? Major League Baseball's World Series Championship, which had fallen into Boston's grasp for the first time in 86 years. How's that for serendipity?
Naturally, I became a Red Sox fan. When doing so in the spring of 2005, one risked eternal scorn. You were a glory-hunter, a fair-weather fan, a turn-coat. But please, hear me out! I was barely eleven years old and, outside of the New York Yankees, Boston was the only baseball team ever to register in my consciousness. I didn't choose to support a winning sports team, nor did I even elect to become interested in baseball. Rather, I chose to follow a path which was revealed to me.
I felt a magnetic pull towards the stories and characters and history of baseball, which flooded unsuspectingly through my small bedroom TV. As I became a regular viewer of Channel 5 baseball, something stirred deep inside; a throbbing desire to succumb and allow this intriguing game to become part of my life. I began watching documentaries about The Curse, which led to reading books by Dan Shaughnessy, buying merchandise online, and daydreaming endlessly about America.
Before long, mine was a world of Red Sox infatuation.
I became a walking encyclopedia on the Olde Towne Team. From Smokey Joe Wood to David Ortiz, to Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Roger Clemens, I read every tale. From the Morse Code scribbled on the Green Monster to the fluorescent CITGO sign perched in downtown Boston, every inch of Fenway Park was covered by my imagination. From the euphoric high of watching a World Series champion to the depressing low of seeing my favourite player traded away, I experienced it all with the Boston Red Sox.
By 2008, baseball was the central pillar of my life. It eclipsed even football in my mind. Every moment of my day was consumed by baseball; by books and cards and bats and balls and caps. I watched so many games, spent so long browsing the Internet, and read so many words as to become entirely fluent in its rules, its nuances, its language. (Author note: I still contend that my collection of 135 books is Britain's largest baseball library.) Baseball became my sole pursuit in life.
I was fascinated by the strategy involved; by the idiosyncrasies and sheer unpredictability which wrinkled every pore. No two baseball games are the same, which is beautiful. It's a game of purity. No shot clock. No draconian field dimensions. No hurry. It's human. Like humans, baseball is a wondrous story-teller.
We're able to compare players, ballparks, and even cantankerous executives from different eras with complete ease. What other sport boasts this ability? What other sport cultivates so rich a history? What other sport has been blessed with near-mythical giants like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby?
Follow me on Twitter: @PrentoniaPSV
Thanks for reading; if you enjoyed it, please share with others. And if you'd like to be updated on my future posts, and those from the rest of the Cubs Insider team, you can subscribe below.
Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.
And be sure to like Cubs Insider on Facebook.
Filed under: Uncategorized