This column originally appeared on Sept 10, 2010.
It felt downright odd standing there alone in the tiny kitchen on North Hanover Street in Pottstown, hearing the faint sounds of the Phillies’ game coming from the television in the other room, but seeing as though Jamie was letting me stay in his apartment for free while I got settled in southeastern Pennsylvania in September 1980 I figured I had an obligation to go along with his request.
At the time, you see, Jamie was a extremely fanatical Phillies supporter and was desperate to have them get to the National League playoffs, even though the last couple times they had done so his heart had most assuredly been broken, so ordering me to stand in the kitchen did not strike him as anything particularly unreasonable or out of the ordinary. Time has gone by since and things have changed in Jamie’s life, so at this point he is simply an enormously fanatical Phillies supporter and, I suppose, is content to merely suggest to the people he lives with that they go stand in the kitchen at certain junctures of important Phillies games. He’s matured that way.
Because to be an extremely fanatical supporter of the Phillies in September 1980 meant that everything in the known universe circled around making sure they won the National League Eastern Division and from there the National League pennant and from there the World Series. And because everything in the known universe circled around making sure they won, when something positive happened to the team during an important game it became crucial to make certain that whatever circumstances existed at that time be replicated as exactly as possible in the future.
Which is why I found myself standing alone in Jamie’s small kitchen on the third floor of the old house on North Hanover Street, where I had been sleeping on a thin mattress for the past few weeks. I had moved to Pottstown from Cincinnati, Ohio, via Union County, Kentucky, hoping to find fortune if not fame. Growing up in Cincinnati, I was certainly accustomed to baseball success, having followed the Cincinnati Reds during their glory years of the 1970s. But following the Cincinnati Reds as they won two World Series and five National League pennants did not prepare me for having to stand in a kitchen in Pottstown while a baseball game I had no rooting interest in was being played.
In Cincinnati, baseball fandom then tended to be more of a civic obligation than a passionate, overwhelming personal avocation. You went to the Opening Day Parade downtown, checked the standings in the paper every day, and rooted for the Reds come October for the same reason you voted in the November election: you were supposed to, whether you got a lot of enjoyment out of it or not. I recall being at a local amusement park with high school friends on Oct. 14, 1972, when the Reds opened the World Series against the Oakland As. Someone had a transistor radio and, checking the score at some point, noted that the Reds were losing, “OK,” I said. “I’m going to ride the Lost River with Susie Goldberg.”
The Reds lost the game that day and, ultimately, the series, but hey, I got to talk with Susie Goldberg for an afternoon. I did my duty. I knew the game score, felt appropriately aggrieved, and went forth with life knowing that the Reds would still be there when I checked in next April.
Jamie, on the other hand, had newspaper clippings from the Black Friday game the Phillies lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Oct. 7, 1977, posted in his apartment three years after the game was over. Jamie would watch the Phillies play on television, then listen to the rebroadcast of the game on KYM-AM, even though he knew how it ended. Once, when an announcer made the wrong call on a play in the field, during a game, Jamie picked up the telephone and tried to dial the network offices in New York City so he could speak with the broadcaster’s supervisor and request, politely but forcefully, that the man be taken off the air.
So there I was, watching a late season game in September 1980 with Jamie, who I had been living with for only a few weeks, when I got hungry and went to the kitchen to make a sandwich. The Phillies were at bat -- Jamie had a difficult time accepting that I could leave the room – and while I was putting meat on bread Mike Schmidt hit a home run. I went back to the game, finished my sandwich, and the next time that Schmidt came to bat, Jamie looked me straight in the eye and said, “Go to the kitchen. Now."
Which is where I went and stayed until Schmidt struck out and I was no longer responsible for the fate of the Phillies. And that is as I remain today