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Why I Love Baseball: Old Gator

Fish Stripes’ leading commenter reflects on cherished MLB memories.

J. T. Snow colides with Pudge Rodriguez Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

While we’re all home eagerly awaiting baseball’s return, Fish Stripes invites Marlins fans to step into the spotlight. We may share a common love for the sport, but every backstory is unique. Let’s use them to entertain and uplift one another!

Zack Raab has created “Why I Love Baseball,” an original survey for Marlins fans. Participate for a chance to be featured on Fish Stripes.

What is your Fish Stripes username?

Old Gator.

Who are your favorite baseball players (all-time)?

Tom Seaver—stud of my lifetime; Jeff Conine—never forget his peg to Pudge in the 2003 NLDS; Mickey Mantle—reasons too numerous to mention; Yogi Berra—‘cause nobody don’t like Yogi.

What position(s) did/do you play on the field?

First base and right field (high school) and pitcher (urban stickball).

What was the first baseball autograph that you got in person?

Phil Linz—my uncle took me to a game with the Tigers at the old Borg stadium in 1962; Linz fouled off a pitch from Don Mossi my uncle caught and gave me. He took me downstairs to the security guard by the clubhouse hall entrance, the guard took the ball inside, Linz signed it and the guard brought it back.

What is your favorite baseball stadium that you’ve ever visited?

Hiroshima Municipal Stadium in 2008. It stood right across the road from the Atomic Memorial and you could see the “bomb dome” between the left field stands and the scoreboard. Sobering view, but it seemed to me the most joyous crowd of all the Japanese games I attended. Wrigley Field runs it a distant second.

What is the most memorable game you have ever attended?

This is hard. Toss-up: Reggie Jackson’s 3-homer coup de grace in Game 6 of the ‘77 series; Al Leiter’s no-hitter against the Rocky Mountain Oysters, and Mookie Wilson’s dribbler between Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 WS.

Runner-up: the night the Iron Giant busted the left field scoreboard with a laser home run shot at Macondo Banana Massacre Field.

What is the coolest promotional item you’ve ever gotten at a baseball game?

“Mike” Stanton bobblehead.

Who is your favorite baseball writer, reporter, or broadcaster?

Toss-up: Bart Giamatti, “A Great and Glorious Game,” which contains the classic “It breaks your heart” essay, and “Take Time for Paradise: Americans at their Games.” George Will. Politically, we’re at opposite ends of the expanding universe, but “Men at Work” and “A Nice Little Place on the North Side” are two of my all-time favorite baseball books. Roger Kahn: “The Boys of Summer.” Come on now. Any list of baseball books without this one is a fraud.

If you could have a short Zoom chat with a player (past or present), who would that be?

Moe Berg. I’d like to ask him about his espionage work in Japan in the late 1930s and what that all-star tour to Japan on the cusp of war was like.

What are three words that you’d use to describe the game of baseball?

Applied American mythology.

What is your favorite part about attending a live baseball game?

The spectacle. Sitting in the stands, the expansive geometries of the field and the moving parts of a game underway force your spirit to expand to encompass it all.

Who/What influenced your love of the game of baseball the most?

My paternal grandfather, a rabid Borg fan who barely spoke English but who still managed to translate the sports coverage of the “Yankiss” for me from the Yiddish newspaper “The Forvitz (Forward)” when I was a child. Also my late friend Al Shapiro, a road manager for Hot Tuna and Jan and Dean, former rabid Dodgers fan and later rabid Mets fan. A true scientist of the game. He badgered me into a game at Shea Stadium where John Milner hit a moonshot off the upper part of the scoreboard. Sucker was still climbing when it hit the damned thing.

What is the most impactful life lesson you’ve learned from baseball?

It ain’t over till it’s over (thanks, Yogi).

What does being a Marlins fan mean to you?

In the HBO “Chernobyl” series, Deputy Politburo Secretary Shcherbina talks some understandably reluctant engineers into swimming through contaminated water under the burning reactor to open a sluice gate and prevent a steam explosion. “Each generation must know its own suffering,” he says. “I hate the price I have to pay for this, but I’m making my peace with it. Now you make yours.” I immediately thought about being a Marlins fan as I watched that.

In 1-2 sentences, why is baseball an important and meaningful part of your life?

It’s an alternative world to which I can transport myself, where we can have heroes and moments of exhilaration and the next be humbled by devastating failures. It’s all good for the soul.

Any other Marlins-related memories you want to share?

I’m no big fan of Jeffrey Loria but his other sides have been buried by the disdain he earned for his many mistakes and lies. The evil men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Loria, you know?

Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria waves to fans Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

I was sitting seven or eight rows behind home plate in the platinum encrusted seats at Joeprodolsharkliferock Stadium during Game 4 of the 2003 NLDS when Jeff Conine’s peg to Pudge nailed J.T. Snow at the plate. I hadn’t noticed him before but Loria was sitting in the front row. His reputation in Macondo hadn’t gone sour yet as it would two years later with his first “market correction.” When Pudge’s hand shot up with the baseball and the ump called Snow out, he leaped up and turned around to the crowd with his hands held high over his head and a look of such pure childlike joy on his face that it made my heart pound.

People are complex. Baseball’s great at proving that.