If there was ever a “True Yankees Fan” contest, I would probably lose it if we were judged by traditional standards. I stopped watching baseball for four years in college (blame World of Warcraft and 2004), I have absolutely no memory for remembering plays and events before the most recent season, and I can’t identify pitch types. I’m more a personal essay kind of person than I am a statistic nerd kind kind of person, if you haven’t already figured that out. But, obviously, I consider myself a pretty big fan. Once you start running around blogging, it’s serious. The Yankees are extremely important part of my own identity, in my own way, including personal essays about it.
Aside from March being the first month of real baseball, it’s also my birthday. I don’t get a lot presents, but this year, I received a collection of New York Times Yankees covers that stretched all the way back through Yankees history. As a devoted fan, I can’t quite explain how it felt to be looking at a replica of the newspaper proclaiming the Yankees (then Americans) had acquired Babe Ruth from the Red Sox. Goosebumps spread down my neck and across my arms. I felt like I was holding history.
To me, Babe Ruth is more of an icon in history than an actual living and breathing person. As a Yankees fan, Babe Ruth is part of who I am – he made this team, he made me. To think that, in the past, he was traded for just like Curtis Granderson or Nick Swisher is a little like seeing a strict teacher in a liquor store. Of course, Ruth’s trade went on to symbolize the “curse” the Sox manage to only recently broke, but back then who could have known that? How did people feel when they looked at this cover proclaiming the New York Americans acquired Babe Ruth for $125,000? Had there been blogs, would we have sung the praises of this trade like Blue Jays fans celebrated the departure of Vernon Wells? The newspaper said Ruth was expecting such a trade – could he have predicted that he would go on to be so deeply and intrinsically linked with this franchise? Like my teacher, I have certain expectations for Babe Ruth in my head: that he is a hero despite his less than stellar off-the-field personality, that he represents the great franchise we all know and love, and that he’s closer to a saint than an actual person. To think that New York Times articles were written about him, rather than biographies and documentaries, is a strange thing to think for me. Perhaps the Francesas of that era blasted him. Hard to imagine anyone saying bad about the baseball prowess of the Babe. But maybe they did. Despite the weakness of the Yankees fan to canonize Ruth, he was only human. He probably struck out with the bases loaded once or twice. I’m sure he botched a play or two. To think that perhaps, in those singular moments, people were calling for his head just boggles my mind.
These two vaguely related events got me to one awesome conclusion: that I am extremely, extremely lucky to be raised a Yankees fan. While I mean no offense to the expansion teams – I like the Rays even if I want them to come in second place every year, and the Rockies are just adorable – the full history and legacy of the Yankees is something I am extremely glad to be a part of in my own small way. I am very grateful to be part of the successful, expansive history of the Yankees and, in the most insignificant way possible, adding to it with my blog posts, my bold proclamations of Montero success, and, the most important, my wallet. The Yankees help make me who I am. Every Spring Training, I realize that these total strangers running around in uniform hitting balls with sticks are so deeply sewn into my being that watching them run around makes me think about last year, and the year before that, and all the family history I have watching them,.
It also got me thinking: in 80 years, will Derek Jeter be an absolute saint? Hard to imagine people bringing up this dramatic off-season, considering the way we talk in reverent voices about a womanizing alcoholic. Maybe we’ll find out he was a womanizer in the tell-all unauthorized Derek Jeter biography. Either way, I’m just grateful to be a part of it, and I’m glad you’re all here with me. Yes, even the haters.