Friday, December 16, 2011

I Finally Figured It Out

On April 21, 1970, as I walked to Lance Junior High School, I was a very sad 12-year-old kid. Before leaving for school, I had watched Ray Rayner show a clip of Randy Hundley being run over at home plate by the Cardinals’ Carl Taylor. The collision resulted in Hundley missing three months of the season. I hated Carl Taylor.

The next time baseball made me sad was my junior year in high school. It was December 6, 1973. The Chicago Cubs traded Hundley to the Minnesota Twins for George Mitterwald. I might have been 16 years old, but I didn’t get it. He was my favorite player and the Cubs traded him away for some guy nicknamed “the Baron”.

Just a few weeks earlier the Cubs had traded Fergie Jenkins to the Texas Rangers. Five days after unloading Hundley they sent Ron Santo across town to the White Sox. It was at that point that I decided to quit being a fan of the Cubs. I couldn’t take it anymore.

Fortunately for me, in 1970 the Seattle Pilots had moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers. I had a new team to follow! My blue baseball cap no longer had a red “C” on it; it now sported a bright yellow “M”.

During the summer of ’74 I got the autographs of George “Boomer” Scott and Johnny Briggs at Burger Chef. The next year, my senior year of high school, I skipped school to attend opening day and watch Hammerin’ Hank Aaron play his first game in County Stadium as a Brewer. I was hooked.

When I graduated in 1975, I was a diehard fan of the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago Cubs were a distant memory, a memory that had left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Over the years that bad taste would develop into a full-fledged loathing.

The Brewers were my team from that point on. My undying loyalty for the Brew Crew has never waned. The Brewers never forced me to do what the Cubs had done back in 1973. Not once did I even consider changing my allegiance to another team.

Not until this year. After completing their most successful campaign since the 1982 World Series season, the Brewers have done something to make me question my blind faithfulness.

What could they have done to shake my dedication?

Once again, it appears that my favorite player, Prince Fielder, is going to be plucked from my chosen team. Not since Randy Hundley have I had such an affinity for a baseball player. Not with Paul Molitor. Not with Geoff Jenkins. Not even with Robin Yount. It’s been Prince and only Prince.

I know it’s not the fault of the Brewer’s that he is leaving; free agency has radically changed the game since my days as a Cub fan. Things are different nowadays. Milwaukee is the smallest market in the Major Leagues and can’t compete financially with New York, Philadelphia and, dare I say, Chicago. I understand all of that.

Unfortunately, the kid in me doesn’t.

As a fat little kid, I became enamored with Randy Hundley because he was a catcher. I always got stuck playing catcher because I was fat and slow. That’s why I became so attached to the “Rebel”, he was a catcher and so was I.

Similarly, my fondness for Prince came about because he too is a “man of size”. When he first came up on June 13, 2005, there was talk of the potential of him becoming a star. There were also many cruel and unkind comments about his weight. Insults like fat-ass and lazy slob. People were content to overlook his ability and talent because of his size. But Prince proved these insensitive detractors wrong and has since become an elite superstar.

And now he’s going to leave my Brewers and play for another team. And that makes the kid in me sad. Again.

At least I have finally figured out that’s the reason I am mad at the Brewers. Like I said, I know it’s not their fault, but the kid in me doesn’t. That is why I’m going to be a fan of Prince, no matter which team signs him.

Even if it’s with the Cubs.

Now don’t think for one minute that I am going to be a Cub fan. Not on your life. That’s just not going to happen. Ever. I will still be a Brewer fan, but first and foremost, I will be a Prince Fielder fan.

A friend of mine recently gave me this sage advice, “Cheer for players, not laundry”. It made perfect sense. That way I can cheer for Prince even if the Cubs happen to be the team doing his laundry. That’s something even the kid in me can understand. I finally figured it out.

Until next time…from the booth.


Anonymous said...

Don't hate the game, hate the playa.

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

Don't be going all ghetto on me, Kool Papa…

Anonymous said...

Some numb nuts (shaved head, radio guy) was ripping Prince on a half hour Milwaukee TV show this morning. Ticked me off. Prince really doesn't owe anybody anything. He's just operating within the current structure of the game to, what he feels is, his best advantage. I think that he genuinely enjoyed playing here and he ALWAYS gave it his best shot. Can't ask for more than that. KP

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

Papa, it was probably that punk, Doug Russell. Was it on CBS? Everyone in the media has to create a "buzz". Chicago has always had their share of morons guilty of that and now Milwaukee is trying to catch up. Plus, we have the "chick" factor - Jenn Lada, Stephanie Sutton and Trenni Kusnierek. The next time Kusnierek has an original thought, it will be the first time. She's horrible.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against female journalists as long as they are good. Julie Swieca was good when she was on WSCR. But this group in Milwaukee act like want to be on the field chewing tobacco and scratching themselves…

spags said...

Russell is terrible. The fact that he was replaced with Chuck Freidman, one of the worst guys I've ever heard on radio, is telling of Russell's skills/knowledge.

As you noted, you cannot fault Prince. Like LeBron, he tried his best to win with the pieces put in place around him. Unlike LeBron, baseball is much more individualistic, relying on strong individual performances from both hitters and pitchers.

I'm glad to see Prince getting paid, but something tells me if he had someone besides Boras, he'd still be here in MKE.