For this first anniversary, I decided to write. Not just articles, though. I decided to write people- as many of the baseball writers, analysts and bloggers I could think of. I asked what seemed to be a simple question: what is your favorite baseball memory?
My reasoning for this little project was all over the place. Partly, it was because it seemed like something that would be interesting. Partly, it was because I was curious to see who would answer. And, of course, partly it was because I thought perhaps it could tell me, and all of us, a bit about baseball fans.
For that reason, it was a rather eclectic group I sent the question to, ranging from big names that everyone has probably heard of, to the proprietors of smaller or more specialized pieces of the web. I also tried to ask the fans, bloggers or writers of a variety of teams, since the fans of one team would, of course, probably have a different favorite memory than fans of another.
In the end, I received responses from less than half of the people I sent the question to. But, hey, hitting in the upper .300s is nothing to sneeze at.
So what did I learn?
First off, as probably could be expected, a lot of the memories involve fathers. Pirates blogger Pat Lackey, for example, remembered going to a doubleheader with his father and seeing new-dad Rob Mackowiak have the day of his life. Others treasure memories of playing baseball with their children or going to their first game with them.
Secondly, the favorite memories in many (but certainly not all) cases involve actually going to games. And, again, I’m not surprised by this. Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, is one that is best when seen in person, where you can get a true feel for the crowd, take in all of the unique sights, sounds and smells, and see the shifts and strategies at work. On TV, it just isn’t the same.
Third, and connected to the second thing, a surprising amount of favorite memories had nothing to do with a team winning a championship. Oh, sure, there are some, but for many, it was comparatively small things like scrambling to get tickets to see Rick Ankiel make his position-player debut, like Daniel Moore of Viva El Birdos did, or hearing that your their favorite childhood player had just hit their first (and only) big league home run, as Joe Posnanski remembered.
But lastly, what’s great is that everybody’s favorite baseball memory is unique and personal. It’s not like a bunch of people all had the same memory (although there were a few that were close), no, everybody had something unique, with a special meaning to them. For some cases, it was because it made them fall in love with the game. For others, it was seeing or experiencing something they never had before. And still for others, it was just something special, something that can’t be duplicated and will forever stick in their minds.
In other words… they were all reasons why we love to watch baseball.
So, after all of that, want to see the responses I got? Go below the jump:
(The replies below are done in a semi-random order to ensure that longer responses aren’t right next to each other and to have a bit of variety and are only edited in some cases of misspelling, grammar or removing unrelated things from the e-mails such as hellos and goodbyes)
David Pinto (Baseball Musings):
I went to a double header at Yankee Stadium, I believe it was July 2, 1978. They played the Tigers that day. In the second game, the pitcher for the Tigers threw a brush back pitch at Graig Nettles. Nettles fell over getting out of the way. I had seen this happen before, and knew how Nettles would react. Sure enough, Graig hit the next pitch for a home run. It’s much better than charging the mound.
Joe Posnanski (Joe Blogs, columnist for NBC Sports):
Daniel Moore (Viva El Birdos):
The first time I went to Shea Stadium by myself. I remember buying a ticket with a pocket full of quarters and dimes and taking the endless elevator up to the upper deck that seemed like an eternity. It was a day game and I had skipped school. There was that smell of hotdogs and cigar smoke and then emerging from the concourse and stopping to look out on the great field. The parking lot beyond the outfield wall with the hundreds of busses. The big Marlboro sign. Finally being pushed into reality by the men who wanted to get to their seats and had no time for a kid daydreaming. Carefully filling out the starting lineup on the scorecard with a broken pencil. Pat Zachery for the Mets. Lee Mazzilli and Joel Youngblood. Elliott Maddox. My God, Elliott Maddox – he wore my number 21 back then.
Every so often, if I close my eyes on a warm day when I blow off work, and the smells are right and the breeze is blowing a certain way, and a jet plane flies somewhere overhead, I think I can faintly hear Jack Franchetti reading out the days lineups…
That’s my favorite baseball memory.
Callum Hughson (Mop-Up Duty):
My favourite baseball memory was in 1993, when I attended Game 6 of the 1993 World Series when Joe Carter hit that epic home run to clinch the Blue Jays’ second consecutive World Series.
There’s actually one game that immediately jumps out for me, so let me set the scene a bit. Also, I swear to you that all the stuff with my dad is true. It seems crazy, but this is really how the whole day played out. This is probably longer than what you’re asking for, but I just can’t do this story justice in one or two paragraphs.
2000 Olympic semifinal. Set up the Cuba-US gold-medal game we all wanted.
Michael Clair (Old Time Family Baseball)… who also shared his best-with-a-caveat and worst memory:
Best Memory: There’s a lot of them, from seeing a Big Papi game-winning homer to a fourteen inning single-A game that finished with an infielder on the mound, but my favorite has to be the week that I spent following the Road Warriors of the Atlantic League. It all started with some friendly heckling of the team’s utility infielder, Joe Nichols, while the traveling team was in Bridgeport, CT, but soon we decided to spend the end of summer vacation driving from game-to-game in beautiful cities like Camden, NJ (then only the second most dangerous city in America), York, PA, and Somerset, NJ. We met the players, accidentally staying down the hall from them in the same hotel, took pictures with their family and friends, and generally had the best week possible before heading back to school and real life.
Best Memory Stained By Other Circumstances: In 1998, I was crazy for McGwire, covering my binders in horrible Rob Liefeld-esque overly-muscled drawings of McGwire and buying every piece of memorabilia available: the special card set, the weird, kind-of bobblehead thing, even eating a Big Mac in his honor. And on September 8th, with my parents out for the night and my next door neighbor, Scott, making sure I didn’t set fire to the house or order a dozen pizzas, McGwire hit #62 with a laser down the left field line with Sammy Sosa on the other side of the field, leading to me screaming for a half hour and breaking a lamp in excitement.
Of course, things being what they are, that precious memory has been tarnished a little.
Worst Memory: Every moment of my final year of Little League. Added to the Fairfield Orioles, the ‘Majors’ of Little League in my town, out of pity because I’d try so hard and loved baseball so much, I went 1-for-19 and committed an error every time a ball was hit in my direction. Seriously. I never successfully recorded an out that year. I also took a ball off the throat.
We won the town champion, so I guess I went out on top? Maybe?
John Thorn, Official Historian of Major League Baseball (Our Game):
Playing catch with my sons, in the backyard, each in their turn and then all together.
Josh Wilker (Cardboard Gods):
Going to the 2004 victory parade in Boston with my brother.
Alex Hall (Writer for Athletics Nation):
I’ve seen Marco Scutaro hit a walk-off homer against Mariano Rivera, I witnessed Miguel Tejada‘s walk-off bomb in the 18th game of Oakland’s 20-game winning streak, I went to Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS (which Oakland sadly lost in front of a raucous crowd), and I even worked over 50 home games one season on the Athletics’ promotion crew alongside the mascot, Stomper. However, nothing compares to visiting the set of the film Moneyball.
Murray Cook (Murray Cook’s Field and Ballpark Blog, MLB Fields and Facilities Coordinator):
The 2000 USA Olympic champions having a police-escorted bus ride through the streets of NYC to game 3 of the Subway Series. Lasorda was directing traffic inside the bus.
Alicia Barnhart (Ballparks on a Budget):
My favorite baseball memory was at Chase Field in 2010 when we went to see the Yankees play the Diamondbacks during our little west coast trip. My sister Alex and I were standing by the field taking pictures before the game with our signs when a member of the grounds crew came over and asked if we’d like to come on the field after the game. Of course we said, “YES!”
We didn’t believe that he’d be able to let us on since he was kind of young and really, who lets people (especially away fans) on the field anyways? Sure enough after the game (9-3 Yanks!) we went down and got to hang out on the field. It was so much fun standing on the mound, where an hour before Andy Pettitte had pitched. We also got to sit in the Yankees’ dugout and were treated to some bubble gum and sunflower seeds!
Tim Dierkes (MLB Trade Rumors):
One day in May, just before my 16th birthday, I came home from school and put on the Cubs game. Kerry Wood was pitching for the Cubs against the Astros, only the fifth start of his career. I tuned in around the sixth inning and I think he had around 15 strikeouts (I might be wrong on the exact numbers). I knew he was a strikeout pitcher but I did a double-take seeing he had so many Ks with several innings left. I was transfixed as he dominated the Astros’ lineup that day…his curveball was so nasty. Wood ultimately tied the record with 20 Ks, and watching the one (infield) hit later by Ricky Gutierrez, I always wondered what it would have been like if Wood had struck Gutierrez out instead. That would have been a 21-K no-hitter!
Paul Lukas (Uni Watch):