When Baseball and Love Collide

It was a stereotype in movies and TV when I was growing up: new fathers showed up at the hospital with a tiny baseball glove for their day-old sons, secretly hoping they could play catch out in the hall before they all went home.

Even today, dads still want to play catch with their sons and daughters in the backyard before dinner. They sit in front of the TV with their young children and introduce them to baseball. They haul the entire family to the ballpark, to impart their love of the game, and instill the loyalty of their favorite team.

They buy tiny baby baseball hats and tiny baby baseball jerseys, and the kid grows up loving their dad's team, before they ever really have a chance to exercise their own decision making skills.

As Roger Angell said in his essay, "Three for the Tigers," everything dads do in their lives, they do so their sons will go to ball games with them.

So what do you do if it's mom who loves baseball?

And mom and dad love different teams?

From the same city?

Parents of mixed baseball loyalty in cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles — assuming The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are really from Los Angeles, and not, you know, Anaheim.

Parents of mixed-team marriages face a lot of uphill battles when their loyalties are divided. Either the couples become loud and obnoxious every summer, or an awkward silence settles over the dinner table at game time, especially when both teams are playing at night.

It's worse during interleague games, when the two teams face off against each other. Oftentimes, bragging rights for the household are on the line.

My brother and his wife face this struggle in Chicago as they raise their 1-year-old daughter. He grew up a rabid White Sox fan, while his wife and her family are lifelong Cubs supporters. I can tell you, there were some loud and serious discussions when she first informed her family of who she intended to marry.

(Not really, but I like to imagine there were.)

"How can you do this to us?" they hissed. "He's a. . . White Sox? White Sock? White Sox? What's the singular of Sox? Forget it. He's a damn Southsider! How could you bring that guy into our house?! He's a Veeck-head! Freaking Bill Veeck and his damn rent-a-players!"

"But I love him? We can get past that. We'll make it because we love each other more than baseball!"

"Love? You don't just marry a man for love. You have to know he's dependable. You have to know he'll be a good father to your kids. How are you going to raise the kids, when one follows the true Chicago team, and the other one is a. . . damn Sox? (Sock? Sox? Still doesn't sound right.)"

"We'll let them cheer for both teams, and when they're old enough, they can decide for themselves."

"Let them decide? Oh, that's rich! You can't let them decide. Raise a child up in the way of Ryno Sandberg; even when he is old, he will not depart from it."

"I don't see why we can't teach our children to respect both teams, and love both teams."

"Because there is only one true baseball team! All the others are fakes. As my father used to say, as for me and my family, we will watch the Cubs."

"I can't believe you're being so close-minded about this. I'm going to marry him, and if you keep pushing me like this, I may even become a White Sox fan myself!"

"You wouldn't!"

"I'm an adult! I can cheer for whoever I want!"

"I'm only glad your grandfather's not alive to hear you talk like that."

Meanwhile, on my brother's side, everything was pretty cool. The family was more liberal and open-minded, and even though his father had tried to teach him in the way of the Cincinnati Reds, my brother chose his own path to the White Sox when they all moved to Illinois.

And now their daughter is being taught to respect and love both teams. She has tiny baby caps from both teams, tiny baby jerseys from both teams, although my brother watches more White Sox games on TV with her.

Of course, she also has an uncle whose undying love for the Cincinnati Reds may cause some complications as she grows older.

"Johnny Bench, defend us in the playoffs; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the St. Louis Cardinals."

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