Column: Simply the best

By Jeff Feyerer

“Two outs, bottom of the ninth, Game 7”

Those were the same words that scrolled through my head right before the last pitch of every batting practice session I’ve ever had.

And I’m probably not alone.

To be American is to be a baseball fan. No other qualifications are needed.

When I realized at an early age that my dream of being the next Robin Ventura was out of the realm of possibility, living vicariously through the Pale Hose was the only other option.

Thank you Mom and Dad for bringing me up cheering for a team that hadn’t won anything significant since the abacus was considered technological advancement.

So when the decision was being made on what I should do on the greatest sports night of my life, I thought about my life as a baseball fan.

Who played catch with me, bought my first pack of baseball cards, let me stay up late to watch games, washed my uniform, coached my teams, drove me to practice and in 1988 brought me to Comiskey Park for the first time?

This was too important a moment to spoil on a large bar tab while staring at a television surrounded by a smoky aura.

I took a seat on the couch with my parents and celebrated with the people who enabled my addiction.

Champagne, cigar, backyard patio and after 88 years, peace.

Grinder Rule #88: It only takes one year for a lifetime of memories.

And that’s what all Sox fans now have. Happy memories.

Occasionally, I’ll look through a bag of old ticket stubs I have and remember every detail about a particular game.

But this season is different. More detailed.

I don’t have written evidence, but I’m pretty damn sure I can recall what I was doing, where I was going and who I was with for every game this season.

I can probably tell you what pair of boxers I was wearing during an April 6-0 victory against Oakland. (They were blue with gray stripes if you were wondering).

In no other sport is there such a rich history that it forces me to stay on the phone with my brother for a half an hour trying to name the most obscure White Sox player during our lifetime. He beat me with Lorenzo Barcelo.

In no other sport, can three guys in a bar yell out a band’s name and have that song become the rallying cry for the entire fan base. Never has Journey sounded better.

And in no other sport can anyone have some sort of personal anecdote about each player.

There’s Aaron Rowand, my jersey choice for this season, who patrols center field like a free safety.

Bad Bobby Jenks, a man who was born to be tickled. I see a marshmallow endorsement in the future.

Luis Vizcaino, who makes me cringe every time I see him warm up.

Joe Crede, who has finally made me look good for sticking up for him all the time.

Lil’ Willie, the Big Hurt, Captain Chaos, The Vulture, Widge, Jon No H, Burls, Dustin, the Lizard with the large rear end, Pods, Crazy Carl, Gooch, Jose, El Duque, the Rock, BA, Borch, GLOOOOOOAD, Frat Boy, Damaso, JD (the lovechild of Michael Jordan and Dave Winfield), Pablo, Timo, B-Mac, Paulie, Coop, Walk and Ozzie.

And finally, Geoff Blum, whose name I purposely said incorrectly since his July 31st acquisition because he had yet to do anything I considered constructive.

Until Oct. 25, 2005.

After almost three months, five and a half hours of baseball on a fall night and countless yawns as I begged for someone to hold my eyelids open, Blum decided, “Hey, now seems like the right time to hit the ball.”

And that’s when I knew.

Just when I thought I had seen everything, the Sox surprised me again and proved to this glass is half-empty Southside fan that there is room for a little optimism.

I sat there. Stared blankly for 10 minutes. Turned off the TV. Laid in bed. Looked up at the ceiling and for the first time uttered, “Geoff ‘bleeping’ Blum.”

With the exception of the Illini, I’ve seen all my teams take home a title: the Irish, the Bulls, the Packers (we all have faults).

But none of them comes close to this. Because it’s baseball.

James Earl Jones once waxed poetic about the sport’s significance as the writer, Terrance Mann, in “Field of Dreams,” or as I like to call it, the only movie that makes me cry.

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

Never has a truer statement been spoken.

I’ve been telling all of my pouting, rehab-entering, Cub supporting friends, that I hope the Northsiders can one day win a title. As long as it’s not against the Sox.

It feels that good. It’s worth the wait.

I could go on and on about skipping class to watch the first Cleveland series, hugging the entire bleacher section during Game Two of the ALCS, or punching a hole in my apartment ceiling when Jon Garland struck out Miguel Tejada on the filthiest breaking ball I’ve ever seen, but I have to stop.

I’ve got more important things to worry about.

Only 109 days until pitchers and catchers report.

Let’s hope the wait for our next title is shorter.

My dream will never be realized, but this year was sweeter.

Jeff Feyerer graduated in May and is a former Daily Illini columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]