August 2007

Career Home Runs: 1

Below is another article in a series I’ve written as part of my campaign for president of Red Sox Nation. This article originally appeared on my other blog at Crawdaddy Cove. 

From little league/youth baseball to high school to college to the Yawkey League,
I played 22 baseball seasons and perhaps 500 games. Unlike Wade Boggs
(whom I loved watching play, growing up), I don’t know any of my
batting stats from my baseball career – except one. Total home runs:
ONE. It happened when I was 14 years old, playing in Brookline’s Babe
Ruth League at the playground next to Lawrence School, which is about 1
1/2 miles from Fenway Park.

I remember there were no fences – so any four-bagger
would have to be legged out. I don’t remember the pitch but it was
probably a 57 mph fastball right down the middle. When I struck the
ball on the sweet spot of my ultra-light, 29 oz aluminum bat and saw
its impressive arc, I knew this was my chance. As I sprinted towards
first base, I was already focused on beating the throw to home plate.
Nearing third, I saw my coach frantically waving me home, but the look
on his face told me it was going to be close. I saw the catcher
awaiting a throw from the cut-off man. He caught the ball, I slid, he
tagged me, and there was a cloud of dust.

The next moment, before the umpire made his call, is what I remember
most clearly. In my memory, time stopped. I recall thinking, "That was close. Was I out or safe? Out or safe? PLEASE say safe, PLEASE say safe." Then time resumed. "SAFE!" yelled the teenage umpire.

HOME RUN. I had done it. Skinny little Rob had hit an
honest-to-goodness dinger. "So this is what it feels like to be Fred
Lynn," I thought. It felt really good. And I never got that feeling
again, the rest of my days as a ballplayer.

After the game, walking to my car with my parents, an old man whom
I’d noticed had been sitting in a lawn chair near third base called out
to me. "Hey," he said, "Good hit. You wanted that homer as soon as you
hit it, didn’t you? I could see by the way you ran the bases. You were
hungry!"

Isn’t it funny that I remember that old man’s comment? I suppose
that, just as Henry Aaron will always remember everything about his
715th, and Yaz will always remember everything about his 400th (I was
there), I’ll always remember everything about my first…. and only.

To read an article about my candidacy that appeared on the
front page of The Brookline TAB and The Wellesley Townsman on Thursday,
September 6, click here.

Stage 5: Home is Wherever The Sox Are Playing

The following article (which originally appeared on my other blog at Crawdaddy Cove) was written by my brother, Benjamin Crawford (left), the greatest Red Sox fan I know, who lives with his family just outside Washington, D.C. He liked my ?four stages of Red Sox fan evolution? but felt that HIS stage was missing…

BCC at Camden YardsStage 5 is the stage where you move away from New England and Fenway, lucky to see the place even once a year, yet still impart the fandom to your kids…and, in my case at least, wife. This is the stage that a large number of the 40,000 fans at Saturday night’s game in Baltimore come from….and my sister’s family in Allentown, Pennsylvania….and of course, me. We highlight the days on our calendars when the Red Sox will be playing at a stadium within driving distance…we travel five hours with our small children to see the Sox play an exhibition game?..we teach our kids that the blue hat with the red "B" (and, of course, the red hats with the B and the green hats with the B and the pink hats with the B) is the one we root for, despite being surrounded by "W" hats or O’s hats or, in many cases, the dreaded interlocking NY. We miss work (don’t just go in late) to fly around the country to see the Sox play in the postseason. We read the Globe and Herald every day online….even in January. And when we read the Globe, we wish Peter Gammons would go back to doing what he does best, the Sunday notes, and stop his ESPN gig. We teach our kids to sing "root root root for the RED SOX" during Take Me Out to the Ballgame. We cover the walls of our basements with pictures of Fenway, and old timers in Red Sox hats (in my case it’s autographed photos of Ellis Burks and the immortal Butch Hobson). We hang Red Sox/Fenway stuff in our offices…prominently. We stand out as Red Sox fans.

RSN at Camden YardsFenway Park is a place we only see on our TVs (many people in RSN, in this stage of fandom, panicked when it appeared that DirecTV would be the sole carrier of MLB extra innings) and hear through our radios (thank you, MLB.com!). Our Red Sox experiences these days are in far away ballparks. With that in mind, we revel in walking around a visiting ballpark and seeing the people who make up Red Sox Nation, and of course their Red Sox paraphernalia (evidence that there really is an article of clothing out there for everyone). With a mix of amusement and pride, we laugh as the home fans get increasingly annoyed as they look around and see themselves surrounded…and drowned out…by Red Sox fans. We giddily discuss the vagaries of this year’s squad with our neighbors in the stands…because we can. Where I work, nobody cares about whether Dustin Pedroia is leading off or hitting second. But these people do. My neighbors don’t care that Francona went with Delcarmen instead of Okajima in the eighth inning in a game RSN at Camden Yards the previous week…but these people do. It’s our cross to bear and our badge of honor to overanalyze every minute detail of the team.

Perhaps more than anything, we get goosebumps when we hear a non-Fenway stadium rise up in chorus, "Let’s go Red Sox" (and are pleased to note the beautifully harsh Boston accent…"Sawx" instead of "Sox").

My college roommate, Mike Mahoney, grew up a member of the Nation on the coast of New Hampshire. He left New England eight years ago to take a job in Chicago, and since then has moved to Philadelphia. By his own admission, he hasn’t been to Fenway in years. However, by his count he has seen the Sox play in both Chicago stadiums, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Yankee Stadium, Busch Stadium (Game 4…he was there!), and Seattle. This is what he has to say about stage 5:

"I have good friends who are still in New England, and of course I am jealous of them when they go to Fenway. But I also love calling them when I am in a ballpark somewhere else and I know they’re back home watching on TV — jealous of me. And I tell them that there is no way to fully understand the power of Red Sox Nation until you’ve seen it in another ballpark. It is one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced, and it is probably the thing that makes me proudest of where I grew up. It really is an identity. To be honest, I look forward to getting the schedule each year now because I see it as an opportunity to visit a new place, using the Sox as my excuse. Because no matter what city you are in, if the Red Sox are in town, it feels like home.?

"I sometimes watch the Red Sox players in other ballparks and wonder how they view this, if they ever talk about it with each other. Even more, I watch FORMER Red Sox players who are now on the other side…a guy like Millar with the Orioles…and I wonder if they have more of an appreciation of their days in a Sox uniform. It really is a traveling carnival. As an Oriole, Millar will play the Blue Jays or the Devil Rays in front of about 10,000 fans. When he was a member of the Red Sox, every game in every stadium was a sellout…and most of the people were there to see him and his teammates. What an amazing thing!"

Evolution of a Red Sox Fan: Stages 3 and 4

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’ve written as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation. This article originally appeared on my other blog, Crawdaddy Cove.

My last article discussed stages
1 and 2 of the four stages of evolution of a Red Sox fan. Now, it’s
time to take a close look at stages 3 and 4. As I said earlier, no
stage is better or higher than another (indeed, I wish I’d stayed in
stage 1 forever) and all fans at all stages are equal in their Red Sox
Nation citizenship. (Did you go through a stage that could be described
differently? I’d love to hear about it.)

Stage 3: Prioritization, Re-calibration, Sacrifice 

Stage 3 is the hardest one to enter, because it requires a complete overhaul of one’s habits and values regarding focus
on baseball. This is the stage when we learn how to integrate our
passion for the Red Sox with our desire for solid, long-lasting
relationships with people who don’t share our Red Sox obsession. Some
consider stage 3 to be evidence of fan regression, not evolution. (I do
see their point.)

When our spouses, significant
others, and children (who, although we love them, are occasionally
"significant interruptors") request our undivided attention when the
game is on; when we’re absorbed in the pages of the Sunday Globe or Herald;
when the World Series pre-game show has just begun; when we’ve got
tickets and we’re running out the door — we are facing a stage 3
moment. In this stage, a Red Sox fan can either take a deep breath and
calmly engage with the significant interruptor, or cling to the
die-hard-fan mentality, blow-off the significant interruptor, and
strain or destroy his/her relationships. A genuine stage 3 fan has
learned to manage his expectations about how much time he will be able
to spend "being an active fan," and recognizes the moments when he’s
torn from his fan experience as "critical relationship-defining
junctures" and ?necessary baseball sacrifices.? Every fan who enters
stage 3 and re-calibrates his priorities is destined for long,
contented interpersonal relationships, a degree of baseball starvation,
and a dependence on Tivo.

I had a stage 3 moment last
Tuesday night after my wife and I had finished putting our four
children (ages 8 to 1) to bed. While enjoying the fifth inning of the
Sox-Orioles game on NESN, one of the four kids woke up, came
downstairs, and asked me if she could watch a Dora The Explorer video.
(She had fallen asleep at 5:00pm and we were hoping she’d sleep through
the night…) The stage 2 fan in me felt a twinge of resentment and
even wanted to say, "Nope, sorry darlin’," and just endure the little
girl’s woeful sobs. But the stage 3 fan in me won out, and 30 minutes
of Dora’s Pirate Adventure ensued. I was proud of myself. For my "evolution." 

ballplayers in the outfieldStage 4. "I am one with baseball."A
stage 4 fan is one who, with an endless archive of Red Sox memories,
has developed a philosopher?s appreciation of The Game; whose passion
is ignited by the way a third baseman kicks the dirt between pitches;
who knows the Red Sox will win another World Series in his/her
lifetime, and it won?t be because of a particular managerial move or
trade, but because the stars align and the players get on a roll; who
sees baseball as a metaphor for numerous truths and paradoxes of the
natural world; who can thoroughly enjoy watching any major or minor
league team play, and indeed, can get as much enjoyment from watching a
local little league game as from a Red Sox game; who reveres a
slick-fielding, reliable shortstop with superior range (regardless of
his ability to hit) as much as a dominant closer or triple-crown
contender; whose number-one reason for not wanting to miss an inning of
any game is the fear that something will happen, the exact nature of
which he’s never seen before; who understands completely that the Red
Sox are a business, but who still sees the magic in baseball
and the majesty of Fenway Park; who is grateful for the chance to watch
Derek Jeter play, even though he’s a Yankee; and who is deeply moved by
baseball?s unparalleled capacity for enchantment,
particularly in the hearts of children, and is on a quest to recapture
his/her own innocent, child-like appreciation for the game (stage 1).

Stage 4 is sort of like becoming a
baseball buddha. Of course, stage 4 encompasses all the other stages,
because the stages are cumulative to some degree. But at the same time,
stage 4 is absolutely distinct from the other stages. And by the way,
only those of us who were fans in 1918 were able to access stage 4
prior to the last out of the 2004 World Series. (Now, we all can.)
Perspective, appreciation, and sagacity are impossible when you’ve only
experienced heartache your whole life and you actually wonder if curses
are real.

Being the father of an 8 year-old Red
Sox fanatic has launched me into the realm of stage 4. While my love
for the Red Sox remains very personal, the most joyful aspect of my fan
experience involves my oldest son (the other three haven’t caught the
baseball bug yet). I am re-living stage 1 through him, and loving it
even more this time around. I have witnessed first-hand how baseball
has led my son to dream big dreams and believe anything is possible;
how baseball fills his afternoons with hour upon hour of serious play;
how being at Fenway engrosses him and engages his imagination in
spectacular ways; and how Red Sox baseball has become essential common
ground in our very close father-son relationship, ground to build on
for years to come. (And now, I understand how much fun my parents had
with me and my three siblings when we were stage 1 fans.)

Are you a stage 5 fan? If so, let me know what’s in store for me. Many, many thanks…..

Evolution of a Red Sox Fan: Stages 1 and 2

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’ve written as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation. This article originally appeared on my other blog at Crawdaddy Cove.

 

I’m a different Red Sox fan now than I was as a kid, and before I had kids, and before 2004. Is it possible that all Red Sox fans go through an evolutionary process? I’ll go on the record asserting that there are four distinct stages
in the evolution of a serious Red Sox fan (at least, there have been
four for me). No stage is necessarily better or higher than another
(indeed, I’m striving to return to stage 1), and all fans at all stages
are equal in their Red Sox Nation citizenship. Here’s how I’d define
the first two stages.

Stage 1. Discovery, Innocence, Optimism 

This
is the stage in a Red Sox fan’s life when he/she is awakened to the
existence of the Red Sox and Fenway Park, and when everything about the
team is joyful and thrilling. (Stage 1 fans could be six year-old
children, or college students from outside New England, for example.)
People in this stage have feelings for the team that resemble an very
intense crush. They have a favorite Sox player whom they idolize,
treasure the Sox posters in the Sunday Globe, and cannot conceive of a scenario where the Sox fail to win the World Series this year (they are overflowing with hope.)

For me, this stage began in
about 1976 when I was in second grade and it continued through high
school and the 1985 season. I kept a few journals for school during
these years, and half of my entries focused on the Red Sox and the
Sox-Yankees rivalry. All entries were cheerful. The journal entry I
wrote the day after Bucky Dent’s homer in ’78 (I was ten) hints at more
melodrama than pain. My eight year-old son is in stage 1 now, and I
pray for him that it lasts as many years as possible. These are the
wonderful years of baseball innocence.

Stage 2. Identity, Obsession, Vulnerability

This is the stage of the "die-hard" fan. These fans have several
emotional Red Sox memories (or scars), and their excitement about the
Red Sox has blossomed into a full-fledged addiction. They cannot miss a
game. Or even an inning of a game. People in this stage throw their
souls at the mercy of the Red Sox’ fortunes. They experience
unparalleled euphoria when things are going well, but are vulnerable to
deep depression when the team disappoints. Every win or loss is taken
personally and somehow reflects their own self-value. Some fans choose
to never leave this stage, and we admire them for that.

For me, stage 2 began when I
went to college in New Hampshire and was surrounded by people from all
over the world, but mostly from New York and New Jersey. The Red Sox
served as the core of my identity. I felt like a full-fledged member of
the team. I would travel very, very long distances, stand in long lines
(even overnight), pay money I didn’t have, and change any long-standing
plans (such as participating in a relative’s wedding) to watch them
play in person. Like I say in my song, it’s a kind of insanity. (Most fans in stages 3 and 4 re-enter stage 2 when the Sox play the Yankees, or are in the playoffs and World Series.)

Coming soon, the definitions of Red Sox Nation citizens in stages 3 and 4 of their fan evolution.