It’s summer 1978 in monochrome, impoverished North East England; a time of power cuts, incessant industrial action and an England football team that had failed to make the World Cup in Argentina. Fast-forward a couple of months, and I’m living in vivid, vibrant Worcester, Massachusetts, USA, settling into life in the land of the free.
As a 12-year-old football fanatic (my new friends called it soccer), I’m initially sceptical of these new American sporting experiences to which I’m exposed. I mean, could anything beat watching the FA Cup Final, England vs. Scotland in the British Home Championship or collecting Panini stickers?
After only a few weeks, it became clear that this town, and indeed the whole area, was literally obsessed by some team called the Red Sox. This was despite the much-loved Celtics and Bruins, both being serial winners. Even the Patriots seemed to be improving; I wonder whatever happened to them?
One of the local news channels even refused to report any sports news on the days when the Red Sox lost to the Yankees.
Of course, we land right in the middle of a season when the Fen-dwelling, stubbornly-cursed Red Sox are in a titanic battle with the hated Yankees for the American League pennant; hint: it didn’t end well.
However, watching Yaz, Rice, Rem-Dog, Dennis Eckersley and other franchise legends, coupled with the growing excitement among my new-found friends, proved irresistible. I even started collecting baseball cards and traded duplicates at school; some habits were harder to shake than others, I suppose.
1978 was a season when the already intense rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees was inflamed by the Boston Massacre (yes, it was that horrific), followed by a rare one-game playoff, and that infamous Bucky Dent moonshot. You could almost hear Babe Ruth laughing from behind home plate.
The day after that playoff loss, a pall of despair hung over New England. However, despite the disappointment, hopes were high that the Red Sox would smash it the following year, break the curse and take their rightful place as a dynastic behemoth loved by all; hint, it didn’t end well.
So, after a momentous year, I returned to dreary old Kansas, aka Newcastle, England. I was eager to watch more American sports, particularly baseball; however, this was late 70’s England where live sport on TV was considered a luxury. Nobody thought anyone would be the least bit interested in those weird sports from over the water.
There were fleeting glimpses of baseball and, of course, NFL coverage popped up on Channel Four. But it wasn’t until the Red Sox reached the World Series in 1986 that I saw some actual clips of Game Seven on a long-forgotten sports programme; hint, it didn’t end well.
Of course, the much loved and sadly missed Baseball on Five changed all that, so by the time 2004 rolled around, a small, but dedicated, UK Baseball community had grown.
Now, what happened in 2004 again? Hint: it ended well! Go Red Sox!
Photo courtesy of Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Carl Taylor is a guest writer for Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @punkytype
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