I am terrible with names. Maybe it's because growing up, I was always self-conscious about my own slightly unusual name in an era before unusual names were usual. I was always to busy preparing for confusion, questions, or repeating myself to get the other person's name out of my short-term memory. Even now it takes me a long time to get people's names locked into my head.
I tell you that to tell you this: I am currently sitting on the couch, with the laptop, watching a baseball game from 25 years ago, and I can tell you every Cleveland starter's name and position. They are replaying a game that is one of my most vivid sports memories of all time.
Growing up a sports fan in Cleveland definitely builds character. My childhood was filled with false hopes, broken dreams, and lost promise. The city has not had a champion in any major sport since 1960. If you follow baseball, you always hear about the poor Cubs fans, or how great it is that the Red Sox finally won a World Series. I have no sympathy. Chicago had the Cubs, but they also had the careers of Michael Jordan, Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, and plenty of non-baseball championships. Boston had Larry Bird and the Celtics dynasty, they had the Bruins, and now they've got the Patriots. Cleveland hasn't seen a champion since my parents were teenagers, and I'm 35 years old.
But as a budding 10-year-old baseball fan, I didn't know any better. I was glued to the TV every night, every year believing this was the team that was going to be great. And for one night, I was right. Twenty five years ago tomorrow, Cleveland Indians pitcher Len Barker pitched a perfect game.
A perfect game, in baseball terms, is a step up from a no-hitter. For any non-baseball people who haven't wandered off for a snack by now, a no-hitter means that one of the two teams didn't get any base hits. That still allows for some baserunners due to errors or walks. I won't bother you with lots of definitions. I'll just say that no-hitters are rare. With 30 teams playing 162 games a year, there might be two no-hitters during a season.
A perfect game is much more rare. A baseball game has nine innings, and an inning has three outs for each team. A perfect game happens when one team gets nothing but outs - 27 straight. No hits, no walks, no errors. In over a century of baseball, with probably over 100,000 Major League Baseball games played, this was only the tenth perfect game ever.
This may be why, despite the steriod scandals, despite the ridiculous financial imbalance, despite the labor disputes, and all the other nonsense, I still like baseball. I don't love it like I once did, but I haven't given up on it completely. It's probably hard to believe if you don't watch baseball, but on any given night watching a baseball game, from Little League to the pros, odds are fairly good that you'll see something that you've never seen before. And there's always a chance that you'll see something amazing.
Speaking of amazing, here's a public thank you to the mother of my children. No matter how often she doubts her abilities, no matter how hard it gets, she just keeps doing a great job. She spends all day, every day with the kids, which is no small feat all by itself. She doesn't just go by gut instict, or follow in the footsteps of others. Instead, she does her homework, and figures out what parenting techniques are most effective while still staying true to our shared values.
I have her to thank for my two wonderful, wonderful children. Despite various challenges, they are confident, happy, affectionate kids, who love to explore and who have never met somebody who couldn't be a friend.