Thursday, October 21, 2004

God has stopped hating Red Sox fans, for now at least

No Major League Baseball team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a postseason Series until yesterday, when the Boston Red Sox and their attendant hair and scruffiness knocked the hated and clean-shaven New York Yankees out of the ALCS in four straight games, winning the last decisively 10-3. Fun to watch, and really impressive, considering they were an inning away from being swept.

It's fascinating to watch baseball when you have a real sense of the game, which I just barely do, having worked for a couple of years for Beckett Baseball Card Monthly, the Dallas-based company that is now a collectible empire with all of the other major sports and Japanimation types now represented with their own mags. When I started, though, it was just baseball, and a core of about 10 baseball fanatics lived, ate and breathed the game between pickup basketball games on the adjustable rim out back (remember the scene from Office Space where the Initech guys are walking back to the office from lunch and have to climb down and back up the grassy spillway - that was right next to where I worked). I spent the first month just reading the Baseball Encyclopedia, an enormous tome that contains every Major League player's stats by season and just about anything you want to know about baseball. At first I knew so little it seemed like a ridiculous task, but frankly I was perfectly willing to get paid for reading a book all day, and after a while I started to get an idea of how vast and varied the game has been over the many years of its existence. More interesting than it initially looks, is what I'm saying.

George Will, the political analyst, wrote a book tited Men at Work that details the kinds of things people like Tony LaRussa, Greg Maddux and Tony Gwynn know about baseball, which are amazingly intricate for such a seemingly boring game. Great players are physically gifted, yes, but they are also thinkers and students of the game and other players, like great poker players. I'm not sure Terry Francona fits that mold, but Curt Schilling does, and for all I know the unfrozen caveman who hit two homers last night to crush the Evil Empire is too. I sure hope so . . . GO RED SOX!

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