October 1, 2014
I’ve obsessed for years over the people in the backgrounds of old films. People with blurry faces in hats standing at presidential inaugurations, the woman smoking in the background of the club scene in White Christmas. People who might be dead now. People who definitely are dead, but live on as a blurry figure in the background. This video may not survive the record books, it may be obscured by greater accomplishments and greater seasons, but for the moment: this video is history, the moment Johnny Cueto helped himself achieve his 20th win of the season.
And there, in the background, amidst a sea of red and fists pumping and hats waving, is a figure in red, jumping up and down. That’s me.
It takes a careful look. There’s the hit, then Bourgeois running to home plate. I’m a speck in the crowd above a sign advertising “Wonderful Pistachios,” bouncing elatedly between Bourgeois and his destiny (and the splayed leg of the injured Pirates catcher).
I love this so much, and the reason I love this so much is because it is quite possibly the most accurate depiction of how baseball makes me feel, and there it is, imprinted digitally, broadcast out to the world for all to see. The unbridled excitement of an unexpected hit (Cueto with only 9 hits all season, and one of them was this), a run scored on a beautiful day. It’s not insignificant either that this happened at the end of September, the final game, the 8th inning. After hours of baking in the sun, after 18 games and three stadiums, after chants and clap-clap-claps and endless proud belted-out renditions of that feminist anthem “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” after surviving the disappointment of a team that couldn’t get it together after the All-Star break: here is how it ends. I’m still here, I’m still a fan, and I’m more excited than ever.
That speck in the background, so happy to be there. Whenever I’m at the ballpark, I think about Malamud’s fictional woman standing and cheering for Roy Hobbs. I stand and cheer for pitchers in the depths of bad losing streaks, even when we’re already losing the game, which may be wrong, but I can’t help it. I want to encourage, I want to cheer. To the last inning. I want to sit high in the stands or low on the field and ponder its shape, the beautiful place between second and third where the dirt meets the grass, how Eve Babitz compared it to a Japanese zen garden, how Roger Angell wrote about the beauty of the pitch. I think about every woman who has ever entered a ballpark, I think about Katie Casey and her demand, one that everyone now sings at every game, not even realizing that it’s about a woman who can’t get enough of the baseball. And there I am, standing for the proverbial Roy Hobbs, just thrilled to be there, thrilled to be taking in a game. And it shows. That’s me.
So it will become part of my history. My highlight reel.