"A lotta room in right-center... if he hits one there, we can dance in the streets... The 2-1... Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream, Here's the throw to the plate! He is... safe! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!...... Braves win!"
The quote above features the words of the late, great Skip Caray as he described the game-winning, series-winning NLCS walk-off single by Francisco Cabrera to give the Atlanta Braves the National League crown in 1992. This is my first legitimate sports memory, and one that attribute (in great measure) to my crazed love affair with sports to this day.
I was six years old, and had been asleep for an hour or two when the Braves came to bat in the bottom of the ninth down 2-0, and on the verge of heading home prior to the World Series. After a series of events, the Cabrera hit and Sid Bream slide occurred, and there was Skip, serenading us with those words and 6-year-old me and my father, who had graciously gotten me out of bed to watch the proceedings live, jumped and screamed around the room to the point where my mother, shaken from sleep, raced into the living room to see if I was okay. The pure joy of that moment is something that has rarely been repeated in my life, and the sound of Skip's call brings tears (literally) to my eyes each and every time I hear it.
Baseball can do that. Because of the daily grind of the sport, the emotional investment is unparalleled for professional sports in my opinion. College football fans would argue that the pageantry and tradition of their universities (even sometimes with those they themselves have attended) can bring forth passion that transcends other sports, and to a point, I'd agree, but on the other hand, 162 games over 6 months is another level of investment. When March madness ends, there's baseball to takes over in early April. When Memorial day brings cookouts and the start of summer, baseball games rule the television inside and the radio outside. On the Fourth of July, I picture "The Sandlot" and kids playing baseball under the light of fireworks. On Labor day, the season is winding down and pennant races are heating up. And finally in October, the live-and-die aspect of every pitch grinds baseball fans to dust. This is what we do.
I realize that my generation (and especially those younger than me) doesn't possess the same passion for baseball that those older than me have. It's a slower-paced game than basketball, the laziness of it can allow for this nation that has a short attention span to be unmoved by it, and there's no violence that football possesses. But as the season opens today for my favorite team, the Atlanta Braves, I'm reminded that there are still kids growing up dreaming of being Chipper Jones or Roy Halladay, and I hope they all can experience something to hold on to forever like I did with my father in 1992. Thank you so much, Dad, for waking me up.