Why all of you horrible savages are wrong for booing ballplayers

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There are two areas in baseball — I think just two, but I’m sure someone will remind me if I’m missing any — in which I will freely own up to being an impossible annoying self-righteous prig:  beanball wars, as we discussed yesterday, and booing ballplayers.

My thing about beanball wars is pretty defensible I think, as guys really can get hurt. I don’t care what you say — even if you’re being rational and otherwise persuasive about it when you take issue with me — I’m never going to abide intentionally throwing a baseball at someone.

The booing thing: eh, I realize I’m out-of-step with most sports fans (with “most” meaning “virtually all”).  I just hate booing. I find it to be unseemly and kind of rude. I never boo anyone sincerely (I’ve ironically booed people before, not that it would make a difference to the target). I prefer to be all passive-aggressive about it and simmer with silence and resentment. Maybe it’s just a repressed Midwesterner thing. It’s our way.

Maybe if someone were truly villainous I’d boo them — like if a player did something decidedly evil in a game but somehow avoided being ejected — but I can’t ever feature myself booing my own team’s player simply because he made a mistake or was slumping. Or another team’s player because he played well against my team. Or any player because of some lame contract dispute years and years ago, a minor hubbub or scandal or what have you.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because the subject of booing was mentioned at a charity event featuring Bobby Valentine last night.  For those who don’t know, Valentine’s father-in-law is legendary Brooklyn Dodgers’ pitcher Ralph Branca.  Branca, as I hope you do know, served up the pitch that became Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” that catapulted the Giants into the 1951 World Series over Branca’s Dodgers.

A goat that cost the Dodgers the pennant? In Brooklyn of all places? Surely that man was booed until Hell wouldn’t have it, right? Wrong! Branca was at the event and spoke thusly:

In a discussion about big markets and small markets and how players respond to being booed, Branca took the microphone and reminded the crowd that he knew a little bit about the topic. Branca gave up one of the most famous homers in baseball history, Bobby Thomson’s three-run shot that gave the New York Giants the 1951 NL pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers.

“Me get booed? Never,” Branca told a few hundred people at Fenway Park on Monday night. “I did lose a few [fans]”

I’m never gonna convince anyone that booing is low-rent. And the next time I write a head-shaking post about fans who, in my view, unjustifiably boo a player, I am absolutely certain you will all call me out for being the impossible and annoying self-righteous prig that I am on this topic.

But do your worst. Boo me, even. I don’t care. If people in Brooklyn in 1952 weren’t booing Ralph Branca, no one deserves to get booed, ever.

Now if you excuse me, I’m going to retire to my fainting couch. I feel a spell of the vapors coming on.

UPDATE:  This man is so, so right. That’s just one guy’s opinion.

Barry Zito rooted against his own team in the 2010 World Series

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Retired big league pitcher Barry Zito has a memoir coming out. Much of it will likely track the usual course of an athlete’s memoir. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and a few fun and/or sad and/or thoughtful anecdotes along the way. One bit of it, though, is not the stuff of the usual athlete memoir.

He writes that he ctually rooted against the San Francisco Giants — his own team —  in the 2010 World Series. He did so because he was left off the postseason roster, felt miserable about it and let his ego consume him. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

“It was really hard to admit . . . I rooted against the team because my ego was in full control and if we lost then I could get out of there . . . It would a) prove they couldn’t do it without me, and b) take me out of the situation because I was so miserable coming to the field every day. I was so deep in shame. I wanted out of that situation so bad.”

Zito at that point was midway through a seven-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Giants after the 2006 season. Almost as soon as he signed it he transformed from one of the better pitchers in the game — he had a 124 ERA+ in eight seasons with the Oakland Athletics and won the 2002 Cy Young Award — to being a liability for the Giants. Indeed, he only had one season in San Francisco where, again, by ERA+, he was a league-average starter or better. In 2010 he went 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA and was way worse than that down the stretch. It made perfect sense for the Giants to leave him off the 2010 postseason roster. And, of course, it worked out for them.

Things would improve. He’d still generally struggle as a Giant, but in 2012 he was a hero of the NLCS, pitching the Giants past the Cardinals in a must-win game. He then got the Game 1 start in the World Series and beat Justin Verlander as the Giants won that game and then swept the Tigers out of the series. As time went on he’d fine more personal happiness as well. When his contract ended following the 2013 season Zito took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle thanking Giants fans for their support. He’d leave the game in 2014 and pitch three more games for the Athletics in 2015 before retiring for good.

Not many baseball memoirs deliver hard truths like Zito’s appears willing to do. That’s pretty damn brave of him. And pretty damn admirable.