Baseball’s second season, the playoffs, begins next week. Sadly, my current home team, the Seattle Mariners are going only if they buy tickets. It’s now been a dozen seasons since we’ve had the thrill of post-season baseball in this town. Seattle fans who were in town for either the 1995 run or that 116-win, first-round elimination 2001 season, know what it’s all about. But for the fair-weather crowd, baseball in Seattle is usually over by June.
It’s for that reason that people look at me strangely when I care so much about the post-season. By now, the majority of the people I know have moved on to football–college, pro or both–and don’t understand why I’m not letting go since Seattle doesn’t have a team involved.
Of all the sports, baseball has been there all my life. Go back to my childhood and I can recall (while I still can) having the TV off and most evenings, listening to Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett call the Dodger games on the radio every night. Seems unimaginable with today’s standards, but there was a time when NBC had a baseball game of the week and select out-of-town series were put on TV. Otherwise, the way you followed the teams were to go to the games or the radio.
Several things fueled my interest in baseball. It was the only sport, as a kid, you could play. Little League was about it, if you wanted to play organized sports. Back in those dark days while the earth cooled, a Helms bakery truck would drive up and down the street selling freshly baked treats and offering packs of baseball cards for a nickel. You’d get 10 cards and chewing gum that tasted like pink cardboard for just 5-cents.
Baseball was a lot like fishing to me. One of my first-ever fishing experiences was going out on the Missouri River back in South Dakota and fishing on a boat with my uncle James and my dad. They gave me a kiddie reel, which I resented…but when the day was done, we had caught a bunch of Northern Pike and I landed the biggest! Needless to say, that set the stage for a lifetime of being out there on opening day every year.
In baseball, I was lucky enough to be a Dodger fan at the peak of their franchise. As I grew up, I got to cheer for guys like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Maury Wills and so many others. Even eventual Seattle Mariner manager Jim Lefebvre (le FEVER) played second base back then for “the bums.” As I grew up, they swept those nasty Yankees 4-0 in the 1963 World Series and in the 1965 series, they lost the first two games to the Minnesota Twins, but came back to win the series in 7 games. If that kind of magic doesn’t get you addicted, nothing will.
For as long and drawn out as the regular season can be, the playoffs have that magical intensity that every pitch matters. Every out gets you one step closer. Every home run could be all you need. Mr. Octobers step up or an entire team of very talented players chokes.
So, yes, I’m excited about the post-season, especially with my childhood team—the Dodgers–making a run at the National League title, while my back-up team–the Boston Red Sox–are looking real in the American League.
Oh, I’ll still be there for every second of Husky and Seahawk football. But now it’s time for the Boys of Summer to see if they can land a few Northern Pikes of their own.