Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Deferred Arrival

When I was in grade-school, I lived in a part of Pennsylvania that was remarkably rural despite its proximity to the I-95 corridor. Even trips to the nearby Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton metropolitan area felt like expeditions, because the circuitous backroads my mother and father favored maximized the changes of scenery I'd see en route. At the same time, though, the antenna on our roof enabled us to pull in television stations -- this was long before cable arrived in that area -- from both Philadelphia and New York. I had the best of both worlds, in a sense, with the ability to wander aimlessly through the acres of dense woods surrounding our former farm house and still make it back in time for the programming I wanted.

Because I had the most stereotypical boyish interests imaginable -- sports, cars and war -- my televisual desires expressed themselves a love of auto racing of any stripe, dedication to the WWII show Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, and, above all else, a deep affection for baseball on the tube. My father was -- and is -- the kind of Yankee fan who should be above reproach from even the most passionate haters, someone who had stuck with his team through the bleakness of the post-Mantle years. Besides, if your favorite pinstriped player was Joe Gordon, who began his career alongside Lou Gehrig, you should get a pass on principle. For my part, though I rooted for the Yankees out of solidarity in most cases, I was first and foremost a Phillies fan. My favorite player was their second baseman, interestingly, the underrated Dave Cash.

When I first started paying attention to baseball, both teams were showing major improvement after years of languishing amid the also-rans. Or worse, if you consider the 1972 Phillies. I attended my first Phillies game in 1974 and then typically saw a few games each year at the Vet, despite the ninety-minute commute to get there. Because I spent a week with my dad's older sister's family in Astoria every summer from the time I was five until we moved to Maryland, I also has the opportunity to catch plenty of games at both Yankee Stadium and Shea with my much-older cousin Donnie, who was a dedicated sports fan and every bit as loyal to the Yankees as my father.

Both the Phillies and the Yankees made the playoffs in 1976. Although the powerful Big Red Machine swept them both, dreams of Phillies-Yankees World Series ran wild in my head. I was sure that it would be the best sporting event of my life. Each of the following two years, though, I was terribly disappointed to watch my Phillies go down in defeat to the Dodgers, even as the Yankees returned to the Fall Classic and went on to beat L.A. in some memorable contests.

We moved to Maryland in the summer of 1979. My father remained the same Yankees fan he had always been, even if he couldn't watch his team on Channel 11 anymore. And I remained a Phillies fan, getting rewarded with their first World Series victory over the Royals in 1980. Over time, though, my childhood dream of a Phillies-Yankees World Series took a back seat to other concerns. The Phillies spent most of the 1980s and 1990s being not very good, though I had cheered them on in 1993. I still pulled for the Yankees on my father's behalf in 1996, when they were underdogs against the Braves and prevailed on an October 26th that was special for other reasons. And I could never muster the animus against them so prevalent among my friends even at the height of their free-spending arrogance.

That's why I'm delighted to finally see my wish come true. The Phillies may only be my second-favorite team now -- I converted to being a Giants fan shortly after living in the Bay Area for a while -- and the Yankees may be a team that I mostly refuse to root against, instead of rooting for, unless they are playing a team I hate like the Angels -- see Rally Monkeys and 2002 for my entirely reasonable rationale -- yet I will still savor the games. I'm looking forward to watching C.C. Sabathia, who grew up in the town of Vallejo, CA and starred at Vallejo High when I was playing pick-up basketball games across the street, take on his former Indians teammate Cliff Lee. I'm looking forward to seeing how Ryan Howard measures up with Alex Rodriguez. And I'm looking forward to watching Derek Jeter in the Series again, as much as it may pain some of my friends for me to admit that. Because his rookie season culminated on the fateful October night in 1996, his presence comforts me. Mostly, though, I'm just excited to be able to talk to my dad about the games. I wish I could watch them at his side.
Tags: analysis, autobiography, sports

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