Batter up

I have been urged by my friends– all of whom mean well– to begin writing in this space without introducing myself, as if I have been standing here all the while only you haven’t noticed.  But I don’t think I’ll do that.  I think I’ll start off by telling you a little about myself and what I believe in.  That way, we can start to fight right away.

With those words, published February 12, 1961, Jim Murray began his career as a sportswriter with the Los Angeles Times.  Over the next four decades, Murray would set the bar for excellence in his industry, winning sportswriter of the year 14 times and a Pulitzer Prize in 1990.  Along the way, he lost a wife to cancer, a son to a drug overdose and nearly went blind, though he kept writing until the day he died in 1998.  He influenced a generation of sportswriters and as one of them, Rick Reilly, wrote in Sports Illustrated after his death, “Murray could write anything; sports just happened to get lucky.”

As the great Murray did, I will begin here by telling a little about myself.

When I was eight years old, my grandfather gave me a 567-page book, the 20th Century Baseball Chronicle.  Covering every season from 1900 to 1990, the book listed World Series winners, award recipients and everything else needed to recapture nine decades of America’s past time.  My grandfather has since told me he hoped I would apply myself to something by reading it and so I did.  It took nearly three months, if I remember correctly, but I read the book from cover to cover.  I was an odd child, I suppose, and some things never change.  I can still name most World Series winners along with seemingly mundane trivia, like the year Dizzy Dean died (1974.)

It’s been almost 20 years now since I first read that book, and my relationship with the game has transformed.  As a kid, baseball for me was all about playing Little League (I struck out a lot) and trading Kevin Mitchell, Jose Canseco and Darryl Strawberry cards with my friends.  Players to me, past and present, were larger than life heroes, more myth than men.  Somewhere between the 1994 strike, the dawn of the Steroid Era, and my own coming of age, my perspective changed.  I rarely have the patience to watch an entire game on television anymore and it’s been a long time since I cared about a team as passionately as the Will Clark-led San Francisco Giants of the early Nineties.  I am rarely enchanted by contemporary players and am in fact skeptical that most of the good ones are probably on steroids.

Nevertheless, I still love stories of when the game was great and support players these days who seemingly capture the spirit and ideals of bygone eras.  A new season has begun and Ken Griffey Jr. and Derek Jeter are still playing.  There are others like them.

This space shall ostensibly be about the best of baseball, past and present.  Perhaps the heroes of my youth never existed but in my imagination, though I will do my best to evoke what I love of the game and bemoan what I think is lacking today.

That way, we can start to fight right away.

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