We received the following e-mail today from Guillermo in Caracas, Venezuela. No, this is not one of Red’s whacky dreams or whipped-cream-and-vodka-induced fantasies, it is legit. It is a great story and well written. Enjoy! Any information to help out a fellow “survivor” would be appreciated.
Dear guys at survivinggrady.com,
Hello! My name is Guillermo, and I’m a lifelong Sox fan, following my father’s steps. He became a Red Sox fan admiring Dom Dimaggio, and because people in Venezuela were mostly fans of the Yankees. He grew fonder of Boston’s team even though there were no Venezuelans playing for Boston until Luis Aparicio (his favorite all-time player) joined the team in 1971. In fact, it is one of the teams were fewer Venezuelans have played: Luis Aparicio, Luis Aponte, Tony Armas, Alex Delgado, Bo Diaz, Rich Garces, Jose Malave, Carlos Quintana and Ugueth Urbina.
I’m only 26 years old, but my love for the Sox came early: images and t-shirts were ubiquitous around the house, and so was their history. But instead of Yaz, Evans or Rice, I was a fan of Boggs and Clemens (and Hurst, and Oil Can Boyd, and Greenwell, and Burks…). Of course, I was next to my dad during the ’86 series tragedy (gasp!), and the ’88, ’90, ’95 and ’99 disappointments. To be perfectly honest, the departure of Boggs embittered me back then, and I was a reluctant and faithless fan. Sure, I admired Pedro, and Lowe, and Manny, and the Tek (but not Nomar, never did), but distance wore me down. But during the 2003 off-season, when I read that Mike Timlin was coming our way, my heart jumped. You’ll think this is silly, I guess. Let me put this in a larger context:
A great part of my love for the Red Sox grew out of the identification I could make between them and my favorite Venezuelan baseball team, the Cardenales de Lara. They were perennial runner-uppers, eternal chokers. Come October, and when I was done with the Sox, the Cardenales would come and hook me again in baseball (oh, it’s good to have baseball all year long), crushing my hopes in February.
I am from Caracas, were we have the Yankees-like Leones del Caracas, the winningest team in Venezuela’s professional league. In terms of rivalries, the Leones-Cardenales games were not like Boston-NY. They were more like Dodgers-Yankees, actually, with a difference: in Caracas, except for a few, there were not many Cardenales fans. We really got harassed in the stadium every time we went to see a game when they came to town. Many of my school friends fervently followed the Leones, and most cherished the Yankees (which, during the ’80s and early ’90s, was bearable enough), almost like an axiom. In any case, the bitter-with-victory Leones’ fans booed and threw beers at the few Cardenales fans who dared to go to a game. We all knew each other back then.
All that changed in 1990-1991. Coming from a back-to-back second place finishes against the Leones during the previous two seasons, the Cardenales won the Championship (defeating the Leones 4-2 in a seven-game series). A former Red Sox player, Luis Aponte, said then he could go on and retire from the Cardenales peacefully. The fans had waited 50 years. Part of the 90-91 magical season was a young middle reliever from the Blue Jays’ system, a born workhorse, Mike Timlin, who threw two scoreless innings in the final victory against the Leones (a 1-0 victory; I have a newspaper clipping with the towering Mr. Timlin celebrating). Since that season, I have followed his career. Hearing he was coming to Boston made me believe the Sox could win it all. Reasonably, the slow changes on the team’s approach had lured me back, but this hooked me.
Needless to say, Grady Little’s non-move crushed me. We had one of the deepest bullpens in Baseball, proving night after night we had the right stuff. In any case, I have followed your blog almost daily since those fateful days, enjoying it heartily. Perhaps we needed that; but I won’t speculate, I’m a happy fan now. A joyous fan, not at all troubled by the fact that, yes, my favorite team won it all. Does that make the Red Sox less endearing? No! Have we lost our pride? Why? Isn’t it enhanced? Don’t we all want our team to win? Some people said that about Cardenales when they finally won the Venezuelan Championship. The franchise has come on to win three more Trophies, and we still agonize with the team and feel very passionately about its fortunes (good or ill). There are more Cardenales’ fans now than there used to be, sure, but they are still the best team to follow, with raucous and yet knowledgeable fans. Some people had spoken about a curse, not onto the team, but onto the Cardenales’ original home city. When the Sox won the World Series, I got a call from a friend: “Congratulations. Mike Timlin broke the plight of the Cardenales, and has done the same for the Sox”.
Curses or not, Mike Timlin has been around for two of my life’s most memorable moments. He rekindled me with my favorite team, and brought me back in ’04, when I realized fun and guts were the backbone of this team. Sure, I admire most of the players of the team: Foulke, Tek, Mueller…my wife even says I care more for “Curtis Montague” [Schilling] than for our house ;), but she loves Bellhorn, Damon and ‘Papi’ Ortiz, so it’s all cool. However, I can only say that Mike Timlin was a champion with my two favorite teams. Hey, that hasn’t happened too often: apart from Aponte, the only other Cardenales’ player who almost won a Championship with the Red Sox was Dwight Evans. As of now, Timlin has become one of my favorite non-star players, giving me such great joy. He was not as dominant as in the ’03 playoffs, grant you that, but his presence was there.
Do you know whether there’s a Mike Timlin “fan club” or an address where I could write to and let him know this? Do players receive mail at Fenway? I am sure there are not many Cardenales fans that are fond of the Red Sox. After all, two of the brightest Cardenales’ stars of all time (Luis Sojo and Miguel Cairo) played in evil-empire pinstripes, so I guess I’ll surprise him.
Many thanks for your great blog and all your help. And, of course, for your time reading this long letter!
All the best,