I have a friend, a Yankee-hating Red Sox fan, who sports a cool little tattoo on her ankle—a bright red pair of those Boston Sox with white toes and heels. She’s not from Boston and she’s never been there. So how did she latch on to the Hub Nine? When she was a little girl, her aunt dated a fellow Portlander, Johnny Pesky, for a few years. My friend met Pesky and fell in love with the Red Sox. End of story.
Traditionally, a kid becomes a fan of a team because her dad or mom was a fan. Doris Kearns Goodwin is a classic example. Her dad loved the Brooklyn Dodgers, so she loved Dem Bums. When they abandoned Brooklyn for LA, it broke her heart and pissed her off. So she attached herself to the Red Sox. Another example: A friend of mine, who died in 1996, grew up in Brooklyn and also loved the Dodgers. Unlike Goodwin, when the Bums flew the coop to the west coast, he simply became a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Of course not every kid follows his progenitors’ path. Some parents aren’t even ball fans. I knew a guy in high school who became a lifelong Dodger fan after he saw a movie in 1952—”The Jackie Robinson Story.” One last Dodger case: A veterinarian in Salem, Oregon cast his lot with the Dodgers when their Triple-A farm team played in Spokane, where he grew up. The team featured the infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey, and Bill Russell—which became the longest tenured infield in big league history.
A lot of Iowans in the late thirties, including my old man, liked the Cleveland Indians simply because of Bob Feller (Rapid Robert), the fire-balling hurler from Van Meter, Iowa.
Geography often plays a role. The former publisher and editor of Elysian Fields Quarterly cheered for the Washington Senators when he grew up in the DC area.
Geography also determined my loyalty. In the late 40s and early 50s I liked the Cubs. But when the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee and immediately began winning, I fell in love with them and Eddie Mathews their slugging third baseman. A former boss of mine here in Portland, grew up in Boston and loved his Braves, but ditched them when they lit out for Milwaukee. I did the same when they pulled up stakes in 1966 for the greener pastures of Atlanta.
I’ve not had permanent loyalty since then. I follow several old teams—franchises from the first years of the 20th Century, and if a team strikes my fancy by winning a lot, I root with the same passion I had for those Milwaukee Braves. I loved the Cardinals of the 60s and 80s; the Dodgers of the 70s; the Red Sox in 1986 (I screamed in horror when that little ground ball found its way between Buckner’s legs); the Phillies in 1980 and the early 1990s; the Yankees of Jeter, Mariano, Jorge, Andy, and Bernie; the Cardinals when they beat the Rangers (I screamed in utter joy when David Freese deep-freesed the hated Rangers).
This year I root for the Cubs, like a lot of fans. But if they meet the Giants in the NLCS, I’ll be torn, because the Giants are my favorite team these days.
Anyway, I guess you could call me a front-runner, and you’d be right.