Once upon a time, some 27 years ago, I was offered a job at the Mesa Tribune as an agate clerk – a guy who coded box scores for the newspaper. I was 16 years old. And I wasn’t going to get paid for the work. (Though I did eventually parlay the unpaid gig into a previously non-existent 30-hour-per-week position.)
On the shelves of the Tribune sports department was a book I’d never seen before … The Baseball Almanac.
While being able to look up the statistics of any player from any season (hell, from any game almost) now seems passe, to a 16-year-old baseball fan it was akin to falling over the Dead Sea Scrolls while tending to my sheep. I learned of pre-1900 teams I never knew existed, of franchise movements and, oh God yes, statistics.
Even at that age I was a list person, a statistics junkie – at least when it came to baseball. Pre-steroids I could tell you everyone who had hit 500 or more home runs in their careers or 50-plus home runs in a season. Both were shorter lists.
Armed with statistics and with no sense of probability, I tried to invent my own dice baseball game. It was a dismal failure. Then a friend handed me a copy of his own neglected Statis Pro Baseball 1981 and my tabletop baseball affliction began.
Though I’ve long since moved from the tabletop to the computer (and still miss the cardboard backgrounds of major league outfield fences Pursue the Pennant provided to slip inside the box and provide some needed realism), the games still have been played. Through girlfriends, my first marriage and this one, the birth of a child and the raising of her and two stepchildren, through five presidential administrations, though high school and college and middle age, the games have been played.
I’m J. Henry Waugh without the crazy.
Last night, I finished playing a replay of the 1991 National League season. This attempt – there always seemed to be multiple attempts as I got bored and then lost some of the stats and had to start over – began August 13, 1999 with Ramon Martinez and the Los Angeles Dodgers beating the San Diego Padres 4-1.
My Princess, who just turned 13 a couple of weeks ago, was barely five months old when I played the first game of that season.
I’ve often wondered what has caused me to stop playing this season in favor of others over time, why I’d play a dozen games – two days worth – and call it quits while I went to a different year. I remember the hitting statistics were far worse in 1991 than 1990, at least on the benches where it was impossible to find a pinch-hitter with a batting average starting with a 2.
One would think it would be a season I cherished, since I listened to just about every Los Angeles Dodgers game (broadcast here before the Diamondbacks came to life) that entire season. But then again …
1991 was a tumultuous year. I moved out of my parents’ house into a studio apartment that cost about $350 a month. A long-time relationship ended, another woman married the wrong man, and I found myself relying heavily on the love of a kitten to help mask just how difficult the times were. As my wife suggested not so long ago, maybe that’s why the season waited. Yes, I remember cursing Dennis Martinez’s perfect game against my then-beloved Dodgers but there were many other moments that I just sort of conveniently forgotten, an unconscious emotional response that only seemed to be triggered when these replay games began.
The thing about such unconscious responses is we don’t know what will trigger them until they happen because, obviously, we don’t know they exist. This is one of the reasons why I tell prospective buyers that, Fair Housing Act aside, you ought not rely on someone else to tell you whether a given area is “good” or not by your own definition because you’ll know better than me when you first step foot into a neighborhood or a home.
These are the type of responses that make all the difference not just when purchasing a home but in life. They shape who we are, what we want, what we do.
In a recent conversation, I mentioned that the only way I’m moving out of this house is when I’m carted off. Though my house isn’t quite the way I want it, my wife and I knew as soon as we walked in that it was our home. There was never a question about it.
This job is more pschology than sales, to be perfectly honest with you. In knowing there are triggers we can’t explain, we can find strength and confidence from the reaction simply by knowing that it is a reaction. It can limit us but more often it empowers us, empowers us to overcome the inherent fear in a large purchase and do what we need to do for our own futures.
You never know exactly how you’ll feel until you get there, though.
For me, with the 1991 baseball season finally done and catalogued, I’ll not have to worry again about how I feel when I see it.