I acquired a whole new pantheon of heroes — Gil Hodges, Duke Snyder, Maury Wills, Frank Howard, Wally Moon (I know some of you reading this can fill in that roster) — and I would be a loyal, devoted fan for the next ___ years. I leave that blank because I’m not sure just when it was that my unconditional love for professional baseball began to fade.
Maybe it was just getting older that took away some of that early magic. I was once enamored of a team and of players that were true artists in the mind of a young boy who could spend all day catching and throwing and batting a ball and emulating their styles of play.
The boys in blue came into my life and were my obsession from spring training, through long summer days and finally October when playoffs began. I think back to the many hours I spent throwing a ball against a brick wall with a strike zone marked out and a side-arm delivery just like Don Drysdale. There were the thousands of rocks I tossed into the air and batted out of an imaginary ball park after battling Juan Marichal of the Giants to a full count.
I was a Dodger fan for life, and nothing would ever shake my loyalty for the club. Or so I believed. My disillusionment with professional baseball, in general, coincided with a growing trend starting in the ’80s that saw the greed of management and players tainting our beloved pastime.
The salary disputes and free agency, the scandals and drug-induced performances, and the increasing number of players whose loyalty and love of the game was being surpassed by their egos and their astronomical salaries — all of it changing a pure sport into a money-grubbing business.