Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Why I Cheer

I was there at the Astrodome with my dad as a kid, yelling, "Jose Cruuuuuuuuuuuuze!" If he hit a home run, the world's largest scoreboard would light up with animated fireworks and a snorting bull. Those Astros teams were never great, but I would read the box score in the paper every day to see how my favorite player, Enos Cabell, did.

I was there sometime around the summer of 1980, when my name appeared on the giant screen at Arlington Stadium. My family drove in from Lubbock to Fort Worth, and we went with Granddad and Grandmother Bridwell to watch the Texas Rangers on my birthday. Up on the screen they listed all the special guests with birthdays that day. I was surprised that the Rangers somehow knew it was my birthday. They also put up the name of Bump Wills, their 2nd baseman.

I was there with my dad about six years later when it was "Free Outfield Bleacher Ticket Night Sponsored By Kroger's." The Rangers were playing the hated Yankees. In the infield bleachers there were about 3,000 Rangers fans & 5,000 Yankees fans, but there were 11,000 rabid Rangers fans in the outfield. It was also "Free Baseball Night" to the first 15,000 fans. When the Rangers started losing late in the game, you can probably guess what the fans with the free tickets did with their free baseballs. I still remember the poor security guard yelling, "Who threw that baseball on the field?" Of course, everyone in the stands (including Dad and me) pointed at each other, saying, "He did it!" As soon as the guard turned his back three more baseballs flew out on the field, and we got to play another round of Whodunit.

I was there a few years later when I went on a double date to a Rangers game. It wasn't really a double date--it was me with two girls. After the third inning, we moved down to the front row, right where George Bush & Nolan Ryan sit would later sit at the new stadium. I was able to grab my first & only foul ball.

I was there in 1996 when the Rangers played their first two playoff games at home. Juan Gonzalez was the only one hitting for the Rangers, belting 5 HR's in 4 games. Game 3 of the series was the Rangers' first home playoff game, and they had one win and one loss against the Yankees. I've never heard a baseball stadium so loud. Everyone was screaming the whole game long. I was sitting on the 3rd base side, and Gonzo was up to bat. He sent a rocket down the left field line into the stands. The stadium exploded into a frenzy. The fireworks went off. And then we realized he wasn't rounding the bases. Foul ball. The game had to wait until the fireworks sequence concluded. When it did and he stepped into the batter's box, the next pitch came. CRACK! Home run over the wall in right-center field. The stadium exploded again.

So why, with the Rangers in the World Series last season, why did I use two vacation days, travel over 550 miles, and spend the money necessary to purchase a World Series ticket? (My plan was to purchase additional tickets & sell some to offset the cost of taking my family, but a painfully slow Internet connection at the church nixed that idea.) Perhaps to relive all those great memories with my family & friends. Perhaps to celebrate the lifetime of waiting for Rangers fans to say, "We're finally here." Perhaps to hear Rangers Stadium Announcer Chuck Morgan say, "Welcome to Texas and welcome to baseball in November." Perhaps to hear the crack of Nelson Cruz's bat when he hit the solo shot to try to rally the Rangers.

Or perhaps just to say that I was there. That's why I cheer.