The first pitch of the 2013 World Series is scheduled for this evening at Fenway Park in Boston.
The Red Sox will take on the St. Louis Cardinals. Brewers fans don’t necessarily have a rooting interest in the series – except that the Cardinals are a National League Central Division rival.
But a new book offers a reason why Red Sox Nation matters, even behind the Cheddar Curtain. Milwaukee writer Greg Pearson chronicles why people would choose to root for a seeming star-crossed ball club in Fenway Fanatics: 50 Boston Red Sox Fans Tell Their Stories.
Anyone who has been a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan will tell you there’s a lot of crying in baseball.
Crying at misfortune – a certain error by first baseman Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series and a home run by Aaron Boone in the 2003 American League Championship Series.
And crying at good fortune – the Sox comeback from three games down to the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, and their first World Series win in 86 years about a week later.
"One thing I tried to do is not make it too much of fans talking about, 'Woe is me, the Red Sox are going to blow it,' because I think that gets tired to hear," he says.
Instead, he writes about the special connection the BoSox have with their fans. Not only has the club been around almost as long as baseball has, but many of its fans are concentrated in a six-state region that roots pretty much just for the Sox.
"As a kid growing up, I always was struck by how many folks in New England cared about this team, and I knew that these stories were out there, and I just thought it would be fun to pull them all together," he says.
But Pearson found the Red Sox have a universal appeal that extends across generations - and even across the country. The fan stories he collected are touching, funny and at times poignant.
One such story is that of Jean DeRoche, who died three years ago. While doing research, Pearson stumbled upon her obituary online. It's opening lines? "Wicked big Red Sox fan. Attended 56 consecutive opening days." The obit would even request that those attended DeRoche's wake dress in Red Sox apparel.
Pearson was moved by the story, and contacted DeRoche's daughter for permission to share it in his book.
"Her mom was one of these fans that just never gave up, never lost hope, didn't ever flinch on this team at all, and I thought for someone who followed the team for 65, 70 years before she died in her mid-80s, I think that was remarkable," he says.
Pearson says the Red Sox even offer a lesson for Brewers fans tested by this long season.
"The fans will pass this on from generation to generation – one thing in my book that came up time and again were people getting talked to by their grandfather or their father or their mother – saying, 'Root for this team, but don’t have high expectations. We don’t know what’ll happen, but it probably won’t be good,'" he says.