One definition of the word “fool” on www.merriam-webster.com is “a person with a strong and habitual liking for something.” Some examples are “I’m a fool for cheeseburgers topped with blue cheese and bacon.” Or “I’m a fool for The Foo Fighters.” Normally, I relish the opportunity to write an April Fools Day post about some hypothetical scenario or outrageously overblown event to support another definition of the word “fool” which is “a person…to amuse with jests and pranks.” But this April Fools Day, it just doesn’t seem very appropriate to write a sarcastic post when so many are suffering and ailing and struggling to come to grips with the world we live in.
Instead, I want to exclaim that I am indeed a “fool” for baseball. Case in point, this past weekend I turned on the MLB Network for some baseball news. Playing on the network was a recap of the 2004 Major League Baseball playoffs. In those playoffs, the National League had teams from St. Louis, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Houston (who played in the National League at that point.) The American League was represented by teams from Boston, New York, Minnesota, and Anaheim (now the California Angels of Anaheim.) The recap included game footage, player and manager commentary, and chronicled the divisional series, league championship series, and the World Series games. The entire playoff series recap took about an hour, with commercials, to play out in front of me that morning.
It was really interesting watching the games without the pressure of a live game. I knew the results, of course, of each game, each series, and also some of the back stories. I took special attention to the Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees American League Championship series recap. I watched how the Yankees absolutely ruined the Sox in the first 3 games. How they ran and hit and slugged their way to impressive wins with seemingly demoralizing intent. The Yankees were in high gear. The Sox were in neutral, down 3 games to zero. No team in the history of Major League baseball had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs to win the series. I flashed back to my basement (I was living in Warwick at the time) frustrated and pissed off that I’d have to say “better luck next year” once again. 86 years of misery would certainly continue, apart from a miracle comeback for the ages.
In the MLB Network piece and prior to Game 4, the cameras followed Boston Red Sox utility player Kevin Millar, who took it upon himself to be vocal and loud and positive and optimistic. He would shout and boast “if we win Game 4, we are on our way,” “don’t let us win tonight,” “they (Yankees) can’t win the series if we (Boston Red Sox) win Game 4.” Over and over again, to whoever would listen, Millar would chirp and talk and smile and strut around Fenway Park touting this fact “If we win Game 4, we will win the series.” Nobody in their right mind, other than a “fool” could possibly take Millar’s prophecy serious. No “fool” of baseball history could possibly support the notion that baseball would have a miraculous comeback with one team being so incredibly flat (Red Sox) and the other being so incredibly hot (Yankees). Millar’s overtly optimistic approach to a very stressful situation seemed to rally the Boston Red Sox faithful and the “fools” in the stands, in the basement Man Caves, in the bars, and the rest of Red Sox clubhouse because what happened next is now the stuff of Legends.
Game 4 was a very close, stressful, intense baseball game. Both teams played well and lead changes were almost inning to inning. Fast forward to the bottom of the ninth, last at bats for the Boston Red Sox down 4-3 against arguably one of the 20 best pitchers of all time. Mariano Rivera needed just 3 outs to send the Yankees to yet another World Series. Boston stayed calm throughout as Red Sox Nation paced and bit their fingernails and gulped and gasped with every pitch. Kevin Millar drew a walk and was replaced by pitch runner Dave Roberts. Roberts took his lead, sprinted to second, and slid in safe – and the Boston Red Sox crowd of fans (living and dead) went absolutely berserk. Roberts would score to tie the game. I actually stood up and fist pumped the air watching a game that was played 16 years ago and shouted “Yeah, let’s go!” As if I was watching the actual game – what a fool I am.
The Boston Red Sox would go into extra innings in Game 4 to win, on a historic walk off home run by David Ortiz. Again, I got out of my chair, in 2020, to celebrate a home run hit some 16 years ago. I raised both arms over my head in joy and felt a tear coming to my eyes, so I quickly sat down to try to contain myself, but the truth of the matter is I couldn’t. Game 5 brought more fist pumps and standing ovations and tears to my eyes. Game 6, Curt Shilling and the bloody sock and the gutsy performance by a veteran player stepping up in the face of adversity. The hits, the home runs, the absolute dominance the Red Sox had exhibited vs a seemingly unstoppable opponent in the Yankees was undeniably so pleasurable to watch. And the final game, Game 7 when the Red Sox literally embarrassed the Yankees at Yankee Stadium to complete the most historic comeback in professional sports history, I stood up and raised my arms up and just inhaled all of the baseball awesomeness that win represented.
I did finish the MLB Network program with the World Series victory by the Boston Red Sox and was emotionally exhausted by the hour long program. All the emotions of remembering those moments in Boston Red Sox history came rushing back that morning. Watching the horrific start of the Yankees series, my Red Sox getting totally overrun by the Yankees, watching the Yankee fans seemingly laugh in the face of Red Sox Nation. Then, to watch Kevin Millar strut around Fenway, to watch Dave Roberts sprint, to watch David Ortiz slug home run after home run, and to watch the Boston Red Sox come back to win was absolutely what this FOOL for baseball needed. I stood up and cheered and teared up and felt exhilarated and felt ALIVE!!!
So, I declaim I am an April Fool for baseball. And proud of it. Go Sox!!!