Month: May, 2011

Dating Yankees, the 2003 ALCS, and Pedro Martinez

This piece first appeared on Saves and Shutouts during the site’s week of honoring Pedro Martinez. 

Full Disclosure: I have dated two Yankees fans.

The most recent was last year. We met through a mutual friend at a party, and he’d asked for my phone number. Successful and handsome, I considered him out of my league, but when he called I agreed to meet him for coffee.

We met before class, which parlayed into skipping class and getting a little handsy in a public park while we stared at the stars listening to a Pavement concert across the street.

The next date, he took me to a nice dinner where he seemed incredibly nervous. Sweaty and uncomfortable, nose crinkled as though he smelled something offensive. I asked if he was alright, and he stammered through his answer, staring at his dinner plate.

“After I got your number, I googled you. I don’t know how to tell you this, but… I’m a Yankees fan.”

Dinner with the enemy.

I was shocked that my friend hadn’t warned me about his baseball allegiance. And his nervousness on this topic, made me uncomfortable.

I could date a Yankees fan, right? Was it a big deal?

Perhaps he was afraid I would have made a scene by throwing my glass of bourbon in his face and storming out… but I’d never waste alcohol like that. Plus, sometimes, I’m a lady.

We broke up later that week when he decided to get back with his ex-girlfriend, making him the second Yankees fan to treat me unkindly.

 I went into my first real relationship knowing he was a Yankees fan.

Growing up in the Midwest, New Yorkers seemed like they were a different species.

The way they talked, their ability to ride on trains for long periods of time without getting sick, and their affinity for floppy pizza and soggy bagels.

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A Weekend Without Best Friends

This weekend, I should be at Fenway Park.

Really… the three of us should be there, but we’re not.

My best friend in Chicago identifies as a Cubs fan. I’m sympathetic and ask a lot of questions.

Why does Ryan Dempster do that thing with his wrist?

What are the troughs in the men’s room like?

What would you do if you met Bartman?

When will the Cubs win a World Series?

I find teasing him cathartic.

As a girl with best friends that are men, you learn to develop a tough skin and the ability to think on your feet, lest you be buried by the sharp wit and intellect of those around you.

My humor is a crutch and I’m okay with that.

My other best friend lives in Boston and is a Red Sox fan. Our conversations about baseball tend to go a little bit deeper and since we share an alliance, the trips to Fenway are our favorite past time.

We’ve splashed in rain puddles while heckling Travis Snyder. We’ve had helmets of  ice cream on warm days. We’ve labored over what T-shirt to buy, and swapped Varitek baseball cards.

Some think platonic relationships between men and women aren’t possible.

To those people I say, if a man can wrestle you to the ground of a rooftop deck over a bottle of wine, there’s no way he would ever sleep with you (nor would you want him to).

Chicago best-friend and Boston best-friend are actually close friends too, and the idea was to convene our annual meeting at Fenway for the Cubs and Red Sox meeting for the first time since 1918 at my beloved ballpark.

We’ve always joked that when the three of us get together, since it’s so rare, the world would end.

Seems fitting for rapture weekend.

Months earlier, I entered my email address into the Red Sox lottery for an opportunity to win the right to purchase the tickets, and somehow I was selected. I checked my work calendar and May seemed like the perfect time to blow some vacation days for a trip to Fenway.

Since money is tight, the Boston best friend offered his futon, which is one of my favorite things about visiting.

Climbing the insanely narrow staircase in his house, which I believe to be the very first constructed after landing at Plymouth Rock, with a giant suitcase is a welcome struggle. If I get a running start I can make it to the top of the stairs without falling over backwards.

Every morning he insists on folding the sheets and blanket and making the futon back into a sofa and I stand back and watch the master at work as he somehow fits all of the sheets and blankets back into the trunk that doubles as a coffee table.

The airfare seemed reasonable, and it seemed that the three of us were destined for the epic weekend we’d been dying for since last year’s visit: where we witnessed the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup on the Jumbotron at US Cellular Field.

But at some point, the plans fell apart.

The Red Sox ticket lottery didn’t go as expected. Though I waited in the virtual waiting room for hours, we never got tickets.

The flight prices spiked because of a rise in fuel costs, making a weekend trip seem impossible for my graduate school budget.

And perhaps the worst part, a friendship that once seemed impenetrable and solid on all fronts is on life-support for reasons that I don’t quit understand.

And then the plans were canceled.

So this weekend, I’ll miss the futon at the top of the narrow staircase, and the little cobblestone streets that I complain about every time I’ve had too much to drink.

And I’ll miss that moment when the Red Sox and Cubs line their respective dugouts in the park that feels like home to me, and I’ll wonder if things could be different or better.

I knew that I’d be disappointed when this weekend arrived, but I guess I underestimated how much it all—baseball, but mostly friendships—really do mean to me.

Adventures in Solitude

There comes a point in time where you learn how to take care of yourself.

Some children learn independence early, while others still bring their laundry home to their mother’s in college. For some, the independence of taking care of oneself is a source of great pride, for others a survival mechanism.

I think I learned at a young age to be self-sufficient.

I knew how to do laundry, which meant waking up early to iron my oxfords with the hideous Peter Pan collars for my uniform I wore to Saint Francis Borgia parochial school every day.

I didn’t want training wheels on my bicycle, because I knew without them I’d be able to ride my bike to school, which meant freedom.

It meant independence to duck down the paths I’d been warned to avoid; it meant staying later at the ball fields after softball practice was over so I could do a little extra base running.

The freedoms were important.

In college, I met a man whose biggest fault was that he could never leave me alone.

Clearly the image in my head of dating a man several years my senior—a divorced bachelor—were much different than its realities.

As a successful businessman who seemed to have life figured out, I assumed he was arrogant. But, he was the most insecure man I’d ever met. Because of this, my vision of coexisting independently was never realized, as we melded into the same person over the duration of our time together.

Though we preach independence, we become accustomed to support systems.

They become the backbone for everyday interactions, and when we ask life’s big questions, the support system answers.

“What do you want for dinner?” (Steak. His  answer was always steak)

“What should I wear to the party?” (The blue dress, he’d say because it matches your eyes, but no heels or you’re too tall)

“Where can we go on vacation?” (Anywhere except the beach)

“Do you love me?” (More than life itself)


When we separated nearly five years later, I had forgotten how to do things for myself. Making a decision without consulting him for advice seemed tedious. I changed careers and life-goals and floundered on all of those decisions without support.

The dread and worry of creating your own path can be exhausting. I know that I second-guessed every decision I made for months following our separation. Did I make the right decision? Could I change a flat tire myself? How many cups of sugar were in his mom’s fudge recipe?

The post break-up tabula rasa was now filled with clichéd attempts at finding myself, building a new chapter. A new apartment in a funky neighborhood about thirty minutes from where I’d be attending graduate school. A new job that let me work at home; a new puppy to keep me company.

But it all felt like a futile attempt to bide time until something better, something purposeful bigger than myself, came along.

So, I tried dating.

I waited for men to return phone calls, and they rarely did. I went out with men that were out of my league, and others who were embarrassing to be seen with in public (like a Yankees fan).

But it never lasted, and we’d inevitably go our separate ways over small differences. If they didn’t know the Stones were superior to the Beatles or that Dustin Pedroia had earned the 2008 AL MVP, there was clearly no foundation for a healthy relationship.

The clarity came when I learned to take care of myself.


It was still winter and some sort of independent woman aura took over me. I spent my day record shopping in Wicker Park, an activity I’ve often done alone. While it’s not quite as satisfying to find a copy of an old vinyl by the Kinks when no one’s watching, it’s still a thrill nonetheless.

After the record shopping, I marched myself into a bar where I ordered a beer and watched hockey on one of the big screens. Though I felt awkward about being in a crowded bar alone, it was somewhat freeing. No one noticed me and I was content in solitude.

That day, the adventures in solitude began.

Instead of the world passing me by while I waited for phone calls from friends (which I don’t have many) or dates (which I have even fewer), I took the world by storm at my own pace and did the things I wanted to do, regardless of company.


Then came baseball season.

Perhaps the thing about the move to Chicago I’d underestimated was its proximity to Major League Baseball.

There are two teams in the city (we’ll consider the Chicago Cubs are a major league team, for argument’s sake).

Milwaukee has the Brewers.

Detroit, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Cleveland are just a road trip and cheap hotel room away.

At first, I’ll admit, there was a daunting fear of going to a baseball game alone. When you go to a game, you see reminders of society’s norms all around.

Proud fathers bringing their children to their first games.

Young couples snuggled under blankets and huddling for body warmth on a cool spring evening.

Businessmen entertaining clients.

…and then there’s me. Alone, surrounded by silence, scorecards, and a moleskine notebook where I keep a game log.

My first reaction, especially on my first few endeavors, was to tense up and feel depressed… envious of those around me. Sure, there was baseball and that was the reason I came, but it certainly didn’t help the loneliness. There was always that nagging feeling of if 32,458 others at the game had found happiness, why couldn’t I?

It took time, but I finally realized that enjoying moments in life, regardless of company are what make life worth living.

And not just a idle living… but a celebratory sort of living. An embracing every moment and cherishing the things I do have, rather than the ones I don’t.

That dread and loneliness I once felt morphed into a genuine appreciation for the quiet times that I can spend in contemplation, deeply immersed in my scorebook, a 40-man roster, and peanuts.

I realize now that sometimes the opportunities and risks we take in life are the contentment and security we’ve been seeking all along.

I’m finally living in the way I’d dreamed about when I was a kid—free of training wheels and able to take paths I’d been warned against just to run a few extra bases by myself.

Turns out, we really do create our own happiness.

Jackie Robinson Day: How I Passed Fifth Grade

I was a difficult kid and I hated going to school.

I was not the kind of kid that liked sitting in a classroom all day. I did not like the pressure of being silent, upright, and proper. I was always petrified I’d get in trouble with the nuns because my skirt wasn’t long enough–not because I had been rolling it up like the other 5th grade teases, but because I was nearly 5’9″ by that age.

I was awkward and often teased. I was dyslexic and struggled in the classroom.  I would get good grades without even trying, but there was something about the whole process that felt forced and difficult.

In 5th grade English class, I had a teacher I liked, Mrs. Stevens. She inspired me, was kind, and had this really captivating accent from the distant state of Nebraska.

During recess I’d often play catch with her, as we shared a love of baseball. I also didn’t like playing 4-square with the other girls, because they cheated. And I hated cheaters.

Yes, Mrs. Stevens and I had a lot of fun, until she decided to have a baby.

While Mrs. Stevens was on maternity leave, we were stuck with this substitute teacher I loathed. She was an older woman, she had an absurd amount of loose skin hanging from her neck, which earned her the nickname “Mrs. McGobble”. She made our lives miserable… we were always the last class dismissed for lunch and recess. She made fun of me for a book report I did on Bob Dylan, complete with an acoustic version of Mr. Tamborine Man.

Part of 5th grade English was reading a novel as a class, then having ‘pop-quizzes’ over the material we’d read. So far that year I’d failed quizzes on To Kill a Mockingbird and The Red Badge Of Courage. When we got the next book, I was intrigued.

The book’s cover was pastel. It had an old-timey radio wit an Asian girl listening intently. It had a bright red label and atop that… was an African American man swinging a baseball bat. I knew if the book had even a little bit to do with baseball, I’d read it.  I flipped it over and read the back jacket

In The Year Of the Boar and Jackie Robinson: Shirley Temple Wong Sails From China to America with a heart full of dreams. Her new home in Brooklyn, New York. America is indeed a land full of wonders, but Shirley doesn’t know any English, so it’s hard to make friends. Then a miracle–baseball–happens. It is 1947, and Jackie Robinson, start of the Brooklyn Dodgers, is everyone’s hero. Jackie Robinson is proving that a black man, the grandson of a slave, can make a difference in America. And for shirley as well, on the ball field and off, America becomes the land of opportunity.

For a children’s chapter book, the message is great and one that stuck with me. I knew about baseball, but only the selective-pieces of baseball history I’d been fed through my grandfather and father. Of course, I’d heard Jackie Robinson’s name, but at that age I was consumed with Barry Larkin. Until that point, I hadn’t grasped the enormity of the impact his career had on and off the ball field.

Books? Sometimes you learn things.

As the first African American to play in the Major Leagues since the 1880s, Robinson was instrumental for ending racial segregation in baseball, which had relegated African American players to the Negro Leagues for six decades.

Robinson’s career in Major League baseball had an impact much greater than his on field contributions and changed the way baseball worked–his dedication and perseverance paved the way for people of all races to achieve in the face of adversity.

Robinson was also the first African American television analyst for MLB, and the first black vice-president of an American corporation. After his death, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

In 1997, Robinson’s jersey number 42, was retired throughout Major League Baseball, the first time any jersey number had been retired throughout an entire league in any American sports.

The players and fans of the MLB honor Robinson every April 15th, with Jackie Robinson Day, and for the past two years, all players and umpires have worn #42 on their jerseys (just to the chagrin of the confused announcers who have trouble keeping the players straight with the identical numbers).

Today marks the 64th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier, and teams accross the league have commemorative events in place. Most notably, the Dodgers are holding a panel discussion on Robinson’s effect on baseball and society. Robinson’s former teammate Don Newcombe will moderate the panel.

Make sure you check out sponsored by the MLB for videos from baseball players, MLB officials, and celebrities who discuss the impact Robinson had on their careers and lives.

If I were to create a video, I suppose mine would say thank you for paving the way for minorities to chase their dreams on and off the baseball field. Oh, and thanks for the renewed faith in reading… because of you, I passed fifth grade English.

Stars On Cards

Editor’s Note: This article really has little relevance on Red Sox baseball, but it’s a glimpse into baseball fandom that I’m sure many of you can recognize and appreciate. We’d love to see your comments and stories on what has brought you into the world of baseball, because those stories are what shape and fuel the camaraderie of fans everywhere.

1987 Barry Larkin Fleer Card. One of my favorites.

When I was a child, I hated cleaning my room. More than anything.

My family relocated often and my rooms never felt like my own. My parents didn’t let me hang posters on my wall. I had a couple of generic framed pictures (one of tulips and a young girl running through a field) that added a touch of color to white walls, but were tasteful and generic for staging purposes for the next buyer.

“Do you know how difficult it is to patch holes in all of the rooms when we sell the house? We have to think about resale value!” my parents would scream every time I begged to get a baseball pennant at a game we’d attended.

Pennant less and uncomfortable from my childhood in flux (parents, moving can be traumatic on children) I did not care if my room was clean. I didn’t want to make the bed. I didn’t care if my Teddy Ruxpin was placed back on the shelf near the Jetsons lunchbox that contained his cassette-tapes.

The chaos was my solitude.

The little Lite-Brite pegs on my carpet were the land mines that kept everyone out of my fortress (I couldn’t have a moat because finding someone who wanted a moat when it was time to move again would be difficult and bad for resale value).

After many attempts to get me to clean my room–I am stubborn, one of my most endearing qualities–my folks turned to bribery. If my room was cleaner than my sister’s, then I would get a prize.

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