The Major League Baseball season started in earnest yesterday with Opening Day 2009. I find myself again having to adjust to the baseball landscape. Having lived in different areas of the country (Tennessee, Nebraska, Chicago, Nebraska, South Dakota), I keep finding myself in different regions with differing baseball allegiances.
Growing up in the South, it was always the Atlanta Braves. It was hard to be a Braves fan back in the 80s when they were perennially in the cellar. Then they good really good during the 1990s run. One of my fondest memories from middle school was dancing around the house late at night with my parents the year Sid Bream scored in the 9th inning over the Pittsburgh Pirates to get the Braves to the World Series. We were all suppose to be in bed, but my parents said I could listen to the game on the radio. (They apparently were doing the same thing.) The Braves are still my favorite team, although they are trying really hard to get back to the glory days of being the perennial cellar dwellers.
Then I moved to Nebraska the first time. About the only Major League Game you could pick up was the Kansas City Royals. They have a good announcer, but they were always so bad I never got into listening regularly.
Then to Chicago, which is a truly great baseball city. I was considering seminary either there or in Virginia near DC, and I remember my father said, "Well, that's a no brainer...Chicago has two baseball teams and DC has none." This was true at the time, as the Nationals were still in Montreal.
I was luckily enough to live in Chicago when the White Sox won the Series. I will never forget the victory parade where none of the Chicagoans knew how to react. They knew they should be happy, but Chicago had not won a baseball championship since WWI. It was just more than the locals could compute. They were so used to be cursed in both leagues. (I think the Cubs misery might actually end this year, but the Goat still lives.)
After this, I moved back to Nebraska and the Wretched Royals. Luckily, Lincoln had a independent minor league team that was pretty good.
Now, I find myself in the great, white North: Twins Country. I listened to part of the Twins opening game on the radio yesterday. I just can't bring myself to root too hard for the Twins. I still have memories of the classic Twins/Braves World Series in the early '90's. Losing that was almost too much my Southern psyche. To this day, I hear "Minnesota Twins" and forever branded into my mind's eye is that Series, particularly that image of Twins' first baseman Kent Hrbek's brazen cheating pickoff of Ron Gant on first base.
The Braves later won it all in '95, but I really believe if the Braves had won it against the Twins, they would have had a run of 4 or more World Series victories in the 90's. Unfortunately, they began to resemble more of the Buffalo Bills of the NFL.
I don't blame any of that directly on the Twins. They wanted to win as much as the next team. That was just such a classic rivalry. I'll listen to the games on occasion, as they have a really good radio announcer. But I can't ever see myself saying I root for the Twins, even if I am not in Twins country.
But, maybe the Twins might actually win a few games, more so than Kansas City or the Braves of late. I'll certainly be sure to tune in when they play the Chicago White Sox. I still have a little South Side pride.