Thursday, January 5, 2017

Countdown to 2017 Topps #27: 40 Years

Sometimes we find joy in the smallest things, such as one of the gifts I received from my wife this Christmas. It wasn't a total surprise- I had included it on the 'want list' she had asked me to provide for her- but just that she knew how much I wanted it, and then bought it, brought much happiness to this collector. I don't even know what I'll do with this patch; odds are I'll just keep it in its package and display it. But one thing is for sure: it takes me back to my childhood.

I grew up- and have lived my entire life- in the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, to be exact). I was born in 1969 and my interest in professional sports really took off in 1977, when I was only 8 years old (actually before my eighth birthday). I don't recall what really pushed me from being a casual fan to baseball nut, but that year coincided with the debut of our 'local' team, the Seattle Mariners. Is there a direct correlation? I'm not entirely sure; we wouldn't get their local tv broadcasts for a few years- although we did get their radio broadcasts shortly thereafter. All I know is that I became a big Mariner fan that year (even with my limited knowledge of the players and the team itself) and would remain so over the next 40 years. My interest would eventually take a back seat to the Atlanta Braves, whom I would discover on TBS in 1981, but the organization would remain my 'A.L. team', even when ownership and management didn't seem to care about its fans.

My first favorite M's player was Dan Meyer, whom the franchise drafted ninth overall in the 1976 expansion draft. I recently came across an article on Meyer that had written nearly 20 years ago, as the team was celebrating its 20th Anniversary. I often wondered what had become of Dan following his playing career and the piece from the Seattle Times shed some light on the reality many former players face once they call it quits- a desire to coach or manage doesn't materialize and they see their involvement in the game end. In Dan's case, he became a single dad following a divorce, needing to financially support three kids while still having time to be involved in their lives. This led to a number of occupations, with him working in a produce market from 3pm to midnight at the time of the writing.

The article also mentioned an all too well-known fact about the Seattle organization for much of its existence: "As we got into the subsequent years, moves weren't made, we really didn't have much, and it really went downhill. It got to the point where you just knew you were going to end up in the cellar or close to it, because we just hadn't done anything to make ourselves better. Where Toronto kind of stepped up and stopped being an expansion team after four or five years, the Mariners continued with the label of 'we're still an expansion team.'"

Frustration that Mariner fans have felt for a good number of those 40 years.

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