Sunday, July 24, 2011

Innocence Lost

There's an interesting piece in The New York Times today in which readers recalled when their innocence about sports was replaced with the knowledge that the game and heroes they loved were imperfect after all.

The responses were interesting. Moments that left fans disillusioned included the trading of favorite players Rocky Colavito, Lou Brock and Tom Seaver), wife swapping between two players on the New York Yankees (Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson), and the moving of a team (Brooklyn Dodgers).

The responses started me wracking my brain to remember back to when I had illusions about the purity of the game. I admit I was stumped. No single trade or huge disappointment came to mind.

Sure, there were trades I didn't like (Gorman Thomas). And I was only 6 when the Braves left for Atlanta. I remember my Southern cousins breaking the news that it was going to happen. I do remember not believing them, but I don't recall being emotionally distraught.

Maybe because I was young when Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" came out in 1970, I learned that ballplayers were just people and not really special except between the lines. The book wasn't well received by baseball and Bouton was vilified for revealing the drinking, womanizing and other bad behavior that was part of a ballplayer's life on the road.

Somehow, I've always rooted more the quiet players who really did "just do it." Hank Aaron, Robin Yount, Rod Carew and Ernie Banks were among my favorites. They weren't flashy on the field and acted with dignity off it.

But mainly I think I was raised to think of ballplayers as talented athletes not heroes. My parents never talked put athletes, or anyone really, on any kind of pedestal. I think it's a good thing I absorbed that lesson because there have been chances to be disappointed over the years.

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