Please indulge an old man while I wax nostalgic about the concept of Yankee fans. You see, my father and Grandfather were Yankee fans. Well, sort of.
As those of you who are familiar with my background, you know I am a big devotee of the Chicago White Sox. You see, the White Sox have been a major part of my life since the beginning. Literally. I was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital on the South Side of Chicago on September 19, 1959. The White Sox clinched their last pennant prior to 2005 3 days later, on September 22, 1959. My dear departed mother would often re-tell the story of my coming into the world over and over – the Fire Commissioner blew the air raid sirens to celebrate the White Sox pennant. My mother and I were still in the hospital, and she thought the world was coming to an end. I was ushered into the world by the sirens that celebrated the Sox. From the very start, my life was intertwined with the comings and goings of Chicago’s American League franchise.
But this was not the baseball roots of my fore bearers. My Father, and his Father (my Grandfather, whom I called “Gramps”) shared a great passion for baseball. Gramps had grown up in the hill country of Tennessee, and escaped to Chicago out of high school to make a life for himself. It was in the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and he rooted for those old Yankee powerhouse teams simply because that was all had known coming off the farm. My Grandmother told me of how her husband taught her to keep score, and she would listen to the games in the afternoon on the radio so she could fill him in after returning from his day at work. Being a follower of the American League, Comiskey Park was where Gramps’ baseball passions were fulfilled.
My Dad came of age in the 1940s. The White Sox teams of those days were pretty pathetic. But as a teen, my Dad got to spend the summer of 1949 staying with his Aunt and Uncle on Long Island in New York. He got exposed for the first time to the excitement of pennant race baseball, and was there first hand to witness Joe Dimaggio’s heroic comeback from injury and the Yankees coming from behind to snatch the pennant from Boston’s grasp. He was hooked. Later, his baseball idol would be Mickey Mantle.
My Dad and Gramps would take us to ball games all the time. Later on, after Gramps had retired and moved back south, Dad got a season ticket package. What he did was get a consortium of his coworkers together, and they would buy a 4-seat full season package. Then, they would have a lottery for the more popular games. As I little kid, I saw a lot of White Sox games versus teams like the Washington Senators, the Kansas City A’s, the Kansas City Royals, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cleveland Indians – teams that just were terrible in the late 60s and early 70s because the tickets for games against the Yankees, Tigers, Orioles and Red Sox were snapped up by the others.
Now, it wasn’t so much that my Dad and Gramps were Yankee fans – they pulled for them, yes, particularly in the post season, sure, but they were baseball fans first and foremost, and American League baseball as well. Plus, by the time I had come of age, the Yankees had become shadows of their former selves, and were really a pretty lousy team, along with the Senators and Indians and such.
Gramps was really old school. He believed that Bill Veeck had ruined the White Sox when he introduced all that “Hollywood” stuff, like exploding scoreboards and ethnic theme nights. Indeed, he felt that organ music at the ball park was too much – “Organ music belongs in funeral homes” he used to say. He must be spinning in his grave today considering what the White Sox do for between inning entertainment.
With my Dad, baseball was like a religion. He scolded me when I learned how to keep score, for he felt that if you were writing things down, you might miss something important. No matter what team the White Sox were playing, my Dad always came up with something my brothers and I needed to be focusing on when we came to a game – every game became a baseball clinic. For example, when the Orioles were in town, we were told to watch that third baseman, Brooks Robinson. Sometimes he picked obscure but effective players. The Washington Senators had a shortstop back in the late 60s that my Dad was high on (can’t recall his name). With the Royals, it was Cookie Rojas or Freddie Patek. We sometimes even focused on White Sox players. (Imagine that!) But you were there to watch the game, no goofing around. And as the years passed, my Dad’s devotion to baseball as played in the cathedral that was Comiskey Park evolved into our love for the team that played there.
But my Dad never really lost his devotion to the Yankees -- we cheered for them together in the late 70s, when they made their "comback tour" featuring Reggie Jackson, and even now, given the choice, I think both of us would rather see New York win than Boston -- his because of left over love for the Mantle-era Yanks, me because Red Sox fans are too much like Cubs fans -- incessant, self obsessed whiners.
I have never really understood the hatred for the Yankees and their fans. Jealousy? Yes. Frustration? Yes. But you can't argue with success. I always viewed the Yanks as "lodge brothers" in the AL with the White Sox, because I've always felt that league loyalty trumped any rivalry with any NL team. Plus, hating on the Yankees is like hating on U.S. Steel or General Motors -- the big corporation with the most money is the most successful. Its like class warfare more than anything else. Do we hate rich folk just because they're rich? Nah. Our team should be so rich, eh?
No, I reserve my hatred for stupid teams with stupid fans. The Cubs are no. 1 on that list. The Red Sox are probably number 2, but more for their fans, I like their players. I also tended to dislike the Dodgers because of their overall arrogance.