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The Conversion of a Yankee Fan

by John Berosh

1978. I was 11 years old growing up in suburban Bethel, Connecticut.

I had just been arrested for throwing rocks at cars. Moving cars. I didn't mean anything by it, I guess I was just being 11 years old. So anyway, I got grounded for the rest of the summer, and I was forbidden to hang out with my trouble-making friends. I couldn't even ride my bike into town.

Bored out of my skull on one of those long, drab afternoons, I turned on the TV and started to turn the dial (no remote back then), hoping to get a glimpse of Charlie's Angels or something. The Mets were on channel 9, but our antenna didn't pick it up too good. The Yankees were on channel 11, and that came in just fine. There wasn't anything else on. I watched the whole darn game, just because there was nothing to do. I don't even remember who they were playing.

The same thing happened the next day and the day after that. I liked seeing the same players everyday, and it was great that there was a game on almost everyday. Before I knew it, I was hooked.

I would've been hooked even if they were in last place, but suddenly Phil Ruzzuto (the Yankee announcer) started to talk of the Yankees actually catching the Red Sox. Suddenly, I just knew that they would. Guidry and Reggie and Sweet Lou just seemed like a sure bet.

Toward the end of the summer, my parents loosened up a little bit, and took me and my brother and sister up to the Riverside Amusement Park just outside Springfield, MA. I was proudly wearing my plastic, Yankee batting helmet, but it didn't occur to me that anybody else really cared that much about baseball or the pennant race between the Yankees and the Red Sox.

It took me completely by surprise when 4 or 5 teenagers wearing Red Sox hats gathered around me chanting "Yankees Suck! Yankees Suck!" I laughed. I could sense their fear. "The Yanks are gonna win and you know it," I said, feeling ten feet tall. They all laughed at me and told me how badly the Yankees sucked. I walked away feeling like a total bad-ass.

Back in Connecticut, I tuned into the games with a new feeling that this was for keeps. This was more than just me finding a way out of the boredom of being grounded. I knew that those silly teenagers from Massachusetts were watching too.

Suddenly, the Yankees were only 4 games back and were heading to Fenway Park for a 4 game series. All day I waited for game-time. This was it.

It was also the first time I would see Fenway Park. The Green Monster! The old time scoreboard at the base of the wall, with green and red lights which signalled balls, strikes, and the number of outs. What a place. Even on TV, that wall seemed gigantic. It didn't look anything like those boring stadiums where the Royals or Brewers played. It even made Yankee Stadium look bland. There wasn't anything to hate about Fenway Park. Just the opposite.

And the Red Sox had cool uniforms, too. The red hats were cool. And the Spaceman was cool.

But I had come all this way with the Yankees, and I was ready for battle. The team that gave me something to do during a long boring summer was heading into the ultimate showdown. Needless to say, the "Boston Massacre" was absolute bliss. "Yessssss!" I yelled again and again, alone in the family room as Yankee after Yankee crossed home plate. It was a true bludgeoning. What were my Massachusetts teenager friends thinking now?! Ha Ha!

Little did I know that being grounded was the best thing that ever happened to me. I didn't miss throwing rocks at cars at all.

School started up again, and I made sure to get my stupid homework done and out of the way so I could give my complete attention to the games. I couldn't believe the Yankees lost to Cleveland on the last day of the season when they could have clinched. Cleveland! Cleveland was nothing. A total non-factor. And now it would have to come down to a one-game playoff at Fenway!

Like everybody else who followed the Yankee/Red Sox Pennant Race of 1978, that one game is vividly etched in my mind. Yaz' homer that just wrapped around Pesky's Pole (Pesky's Pole?! Fenway is too much!), Mickey handing Bucky a new bat, Bucky hitting the next pitch over the Monster, Piniella's lucky blind stab, Goose facing Yaz with the tying run on third...

How was I to know that my first year of being a baseball fan would be a year for the ages?

I continued to follow the Yankees until 1982 or so, but they got rid of Reggie and began to suck. Nothing duplicated the magic of '78. And I turned to sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll instead.

And I didn't even pay any attention to baseball again until I moved to Boston in 1995.

For some reason, the first thing I wanted to do now that I lived in Boston was to go Fenway. I had to see the Monster. I had been to Yankee Stadium, and Shea Stadium, but that always meant a hellish road trip into the city. Suddenly I lived within walking distance of Fenway! My very first day living in Boston, I walked down to Fenway for an April game against the Mariners. Sweet Lou was now managing Seattle. The sidewalks in Kenmore Square were jam-packed with one big herd moving quickly around the corner up Brookline Ave., and then I saw it. That perfect shade of green.

Words can't describe it.

Half of me was watching the game taking place that day, the other half was reliving 1978. Somewhere along the line, I disconnected from the arrogant swagger of being a Yankee fan. I realized my heart is that of a Red Sox fan. Fenway surrounded me with its exquisitely doomed charm. I saw Fenway as the personification of hope in the face of no chance at all. Rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for Microsoft; they already had it all. But the one thing they lack is the unspeakable glory that whispers throughout the haunted, ghost-filled corners of Fenway.

And luckily enough, I didn't have a post blocking my view of the pitcher's mound.

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Copyright © John Berosh. Printed with permission of the author.