by PK Steinberg
Like many, my baseball story starts with my father, who introduced me and my twin brother to the sport by the late 1970s. My first baseball memory is of the 1979 World Series where the Pittsburgh Pirates, my first baseball team, defeated the relatively-home-town Baltimore Orioles. I was a Pirates fan because I liked their hats. Hey, I was only five! I followed them for the next few years until a young man with a last name that was my favorite fruit broke into the Majors, at which point I became a New York Mets fan. Thank you Darryl Strawberry!
We traveled to Baltimore to see baseball games in the summer. I remember seeing Mark McGwire hit a home run out of Memorial Stadium. Even if it didn’t actually leave the ballpark, it seemed to. A couple of summers we’d travel up the road to New York to see the Mets or the Yankees play. The Yankees were my father’s favorite team when he was a boy in Long Island and he passed that Yankees love to my brother and, in utero, a disdain for the Dodgers . I wanted to see Strawberry; he wanted to see Don Mattingly. But the best part of those trips wasn’t the baseball games. It was going to my grandfather’s bakery and getting cookies.
We had a local farm team, the Alexandria Dukes (later the Prince William Pirates). But when they played in Alexandria we would go see games. We definitely saw Bobby Bonilla play, and when they moved to Prince William I’m sure we saw a game there. So for the sake of fantasy, I’ll say I saw Barry Bonds play minor league ball. (I’ve never made up a fact that wasn’t true.)
Baseball cards and This Week in Baseball were how we occupied our time as boys. Rainy days were awesome because it just meant we could be inside all day. I remember reading the box scores in the Washington Post and disliking west coast trips because it meant seeing “Late Game” and not finding out the score until the following day; an eon of time back then. I also recall trading cards and playing fantasy baseball, but I neither remember any big or significant changes nor how we played fantasy. I think our favorite game, when not playing ourselves on local little league teams (I generally played left bench), was playing stealing bases in the backyard. Having a twin meant having a built-in play mate. And often this kid Brian (who had an awesome rattail) would come over to make the necessary third person. My brother and I also always took batting practice with a tennis ball in our driveway. Both right handed hitters, we’d often try batting lefty, mocking Strawberry’s and Mattingly’s stances. Highlights included breaking the bathroom window, denting our neighbors siding, and going next door to retrieve balls that landed on the neighbor’s roof.
When Strawberry left New York I stopped following baseball as closely. As a result, my biggest regret in baseball occurred: opting to miss Opening Day at the new Oriole Park at Camden Yards and instead, going to school. I followed enough, though, to really like the Phillies’ John Kruk and even travelled to Philadelphia to see a game. I wrote a song about him too in college.
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The mid-to-late 1990s are a blur and I didn’t follow any baseball until May 1998 when, visiting Boston, I attended a game at Fenway Park. When I moved to Boston two years later I attended lots of games. That was a time when you could walk up to the ticket window, the day of the game, and get a single seat. I sat all over the park. I followed the Red Sox pretty heavily until that disgusting, loathsome chicken and beer scandal that took down the 2011 team. Bobby Valentine’s joke-hire 2012 didn’t make things any better. At that point I swore off die-hard fandom of a team and instead, now, following the sport, follow stories and players with passion, but dispassionately.
My wife and I took a three city tour in 2015 to see the final week of play in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. That year the last games were meaningful, and we were in Pittsburgh to see them clinch a wild card spot. In Cleveland, we got into the park for BP and I caught a home run ball that some Minnesota Twin hit. The weather was atrociously rainy and cold but for the most part, it was a memorable trip. I saw a couple of games in Boston with my brother and in-laws. In 2017, my father flew up to Boston to see and Yankees/Red Sox game. It was Aaron Judge’s birthday and he hit a home run and made a great catch in right field. We were right behind the Sox’s on deck circle (pictured above), which were tickets my father-in-law got for us and we were on TV almost the entire night! We also got a ball from the ball boy. Other recent highlights are traveling to see games in San Francisco and Los Angeles, seeing some Grapefruit League Spring Training games in 2016 and 2017, attending the Home Run Derby in 2018 at Nationals Park, and establishing a tradition of seeing the 4th of July game in DC with family every year.
Lastly, I think Buster Olney’s ESPN Baseball Tonight Podcast is the best thing. I’ve been following Buster since he arrived on the set of Baseball Tonight in the early 2000’s. (I greatly miss the television show!) Then I became a regular listener to his podcast when it came on the scene and I usually listen to it at work when it drops or on the drive home from work. I really enjoy the interaction with Buster via #BleacherTweets, the closing segment where they take questions from listeners. Along with Buster, Tim Kurkjian is the best! I began sending in #BleacherTweets in 2015 and in the six seasons since, I’ve been honored at least 178 times with having my questions answered on the air, which is staggering to me. I’ve never met Buster, but we did talk on the phone this summer for a podcast where he had a handful of regular BleacherTweeters on as guests and it might have been the coolest moment of my baseball life.
When PK Steinberg isn’t thinking and tweeting about baseball, he’s an archivist. He’s published four books on the poet Sylvia Plath. He is the author of Sylvia Plath (2004) and co-author of These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath (2017); and he is the co-editor The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume I (2017) and The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume II (2018). He is a co-editor of the forthcoming The Collected Writings of Assia Wevill (2021).
PK at Yankee Stadium, 2013
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