Monday, March 16, 2009

Buster Olney, Dodger Fanboy

One of if not the best baseball bloggers on is Buster Olney. This weekend, Olney posted a piece about a childhood memory in which the point of it is how he met Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf as a kid; however, the beauty of the article is how it was Dodger fandom which fostered their fateful meeting:

I was a teenage nerd who spent way too much time playing baseball board games, looking at baseball cards and thinking about the upcoming baseball season. Part of my nerd-dom was that I couldn't go an hour without wearing the baseball cap of the team I worshipped as a kid, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I had Dodgers T-shirts. I had Dodgers plastic batting helmets. I had Dodgers stickers, Dodgers souvenir bats and posters of Dodgers. But mostly I had the Dodgers cap, with the interlocking L and A, my proudest possession, something I had bought from a vendor outside Fenway Park on one of those days when my parents released me from bale-stacking and cow-milking responsibilities.

I wore the cap in our hay fields, in our barn and in the woods. And, of course, I wore it to school. I had it on when I came through the front door at school one day when I was 15 years old, and it caught the eye of a gentleman -- he must've been in his 40s at the time -- who was sitting in the lobby. It was the fall of 1979.

"Are you a Dodger fan?" he asked. "I grew up a Dodger fan. I loved the Brooklyn Dodgers."

Whatever class I was supposed to attend immediately became of secondary concern to me. If you're from a town of 400 people in central Vermont, there aren't a whole lot of opportunities to talk with someone who might've seen your heroes. The man was waiting for his son to come down the hall, and he fought to keep up with my questions.

Did you see Pee Wee Reese?

Did you see Sandy Koufax pitch in Brooklyn?

Did you see Jackie Robinson?

What was Ebbets Field like?

He patiently and cheerily waded through all the questions. It was a conversation across generational lines that covered several prior generations, a conversation for which baseball is particularly well suited. In retrospect, it is clear that the man was as big a baseball geek as I when he was a boy, the kind of person who would wear his Dodgers cap everywhere he was allowed to wear it.

We must've talked about 20 to 30 minutes before I finally headed off to class. I had never met him before, I had never heard of him before, but it turned out that he was more involved in baseball than I knew. His name was Jerry Reinsdorf, and he's now the owner of the White Sox.

I share Olney's childhood experiences of having baseball, and Dodger fandom, transcend gaps of generation, unfamiliarity, and silence. I've had people strike up conversations with me based on a Dodger cap I was wearing, or a random shirt I've picked up from a baseball trip I took years ago. But those are other stories for other posts for me; I can revel in Buster's blog today, though.