There’s a fun post on Bronx Banter about Alex Belth’s recent trip with a few friends to Sunday’s game at the Stadium. One of his buddies took a few photos which Alex posted. The last one is a hilarious shot of two of his friends wearing Ed Whitson and Wayne Tolleson T-shirts.
The photo got me to thinking about a certain type of baseball fan, the one who revels in the humor of a reference to a semi-obscure player. Having never read Nick Hornby’s novels, I might unintentionally be repeating a connection he makes in his work, but I’ll go ahead anyway. This fan is somewhat akin to an indie rock fan boy, or an underground hip-hop aficionado, in that one of the results of their fandom is an impressive storage of useless information and obscure names like 3xDope, The Flaming Groovies, The Perfect Disaster, The Juice Crew (if I weren’t a poseur I’d be able to come up with better examples). Among fans of these types of music, the mention of these names is a way for the speaker and listener to bond over their hard-earned bit of knowledge. Is the utterance of "Whitson" and "Tolleson" not similar? Did Yankees fans, who suffered through the years when these players got serious playing time, earn some loyalty points in rooting for these unheralded Yanks? Was that not hard-earned knowledge? Are they not better fans for it?
Also, are these obscure references a palatable way to remember the difficult past? It’s said that Proust bit into a madeleine, a bland cookie, and four volumes of memories filled his mind. I say "Andy Stankiewicz", my Sox friend says "Spike Owen," and we’re for a second transported to that time when Calvin Schiraldi closed games at Fenway, and Stump Merrill and his belly leaned against dugout railing.
What names do you think of when remembering less glorious Yankees and Sox teams?