Barry Mills on Baseball, Family, and Living With The Enemy

In his weekly column, President Barry Mills makes a stunning confession.

On Sunday night I had the pleasure of going down to Boston and to Fenway for Opening Day. A large group of Bowdoin alumni were invited to watch the game in a box out by the Green Monster. Sadly, I was the only loser in the crowd.

Yes, it’s true. After so many years at Bowdoin, I am finally comfortable admitting to the Bowdoin family that I am a Yankees fan.

How did this happen? After all, I did grow up in Rhode Island. Back then, half the state rooted for the Red Sox and the other half for the Yankees. I was a Red Sox fan. My youth was spent watching the Red Sox on TV, listening to Curt Gowdy, and holding my breath for Ted Williams, Bill Monbouquette, Pete Runnels, and Pumpsie Green. When I came to Bowdoin, we were all Red Sox fans.

Yankees Lineup — Opening Day 2010

But then I crossed over to the “dark side.” I moved to New York City in 1976 to go to Columbia Law School, intending to spend only a few years in New York. It only took me 25 years to leave and come back to Bowdoin. It was over that quarter century that my allegiance changed.

Truth is, it was nearly impossible to follow the Red Sox in New York City—they weren’t on television every night, there was no Boston radio station offering the game on the Internet, and besides, in those days the Red Sox rarely won. That meant you couldn’t follow them in the playoffs and certainly not in the World Series. I suspect some will accuse me of jumping on the bandwagon of a winner, but back then the Yankees weren’t winning either.

My conversion to pinstripes began when my three sons developed an interest in baseball. Karen and I would take the boys to Yankee games and soon they were following the team’s every move. It’s hard to imagine today after nearly a decade in Maine, but our guys played baseball as kids on the shores of the Hudson River under the George Washington Bridge (with current Bowdoin shortstop Adam Marquit, and slugger Dan Hicks). The favorite place for birthday parties was behind first base at Yankee Stadium.

William and Henry Mills as Yankees Bat Boys

In the mid-90s, Karen won the bidding at a school auction for the prize of “bat boy for a day.” It was a cold afternoon in the Bronx when William and Henry served as honorary bat boys for the Yankees, and we still have the game balls signed by the team.

For so many of us, baseball is all about family and tradition. It is a game that connects parents to their children over the generations. My sons will say I rarely threw a baseball with them when they were growing up in the city; they’ll say I wasn’t home enough. But as we have all grown older, we remember our connections around the sport. For me, like so many dads, baseball was about our family connection and one of those connections with my guys is the Yankees.

There were a variety of challenges for our family when we left New York City for Brunswick, but among the most urgent was making sure we had a satellite dish installed so we could follow our team in Red Sox country.

The folks in Maine have tolerated our allegiance. But it hasn’t always been easy. The morning after the Yankees had lost a playoff to the Red Sox, one of my sons didn’t want to go to school. He was afraid the other kids would tease him. I reminded him that Yankees always win in the end, and I urged him to be tolerant.

At Bowdoin, Yankee fans represent diversity. People have been welcoming to me and I have discovered other Yankee fans in our midst—Pete Coviello, I am calling you out! There are also fans of the other faraway teams on campus: Professor of Religion and Asian Studies John Holt and the San Francisco Giants; Associate Professor of Education Nancy Jennings and the Chicago White Sox; and Professor of Economics Deb DeGraff and the Chicago Cubs, to name a few. (Deb, one day your dream will come true!)

There are a number of times that a “New Year” happens for us all. At Bowdoin, the New Year begins in the fall. But for so many of us in such an emotional way, the New Year begins with baseball in April.

Tim Foster, I’ll see you at The Stadium in October.

****

In the coming weeks, I will continue to offer my thoughts on subjects interesting to me or of importance to the College, but I want to hear your ideas too. If there is a subject you’d like me to address, send me an e-mail at mills@bowdoin.edu

Previous Bowdoin Daily Sun columns by President Barry Mills are available on the Bowdoin Web site.

5 comments to Barry Mills on Baseball, Family, and Living With The Enemy

  • Tracy Burlock

    Great piece, Barry. We Red Sox fans appreciated your grace in wearing a Bowdoin cap at the game, rather than the one in your photograph!

  • david

    Wonderful story Barry, THANK YOU

  • Pam Phillips

    I love this piece. It brings back such wonderful memories of going to Memorial Stadium as a kid to watch the Baltimore Orioles. My dad and two brothers were devoted fans, and this was my chance to be part of their circle. We would start the evening with a crab feast at the home of my parents’ good friends; they lived close enough to the stadium that we could then walk to the stadium. This was the era of Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer, Paul Blair, and Dave McNally. I loved shouting “BOOOOOG!” when he came up to bat and filling out the all-star voting card that would be passed out during the game. When I began my working at Princeton in 1984, I went to every opening day with a group of my colleagues. My mom lived on East 33rd St. at the time and we would walk to the game after lunch at her house. When I came to work at Bowdoin, I found a fellow Orioles fan in Bill Torrey (now my husband) who had grown up in Washington, DC and Maryland. We went to opening day at Camden Yards that first year in Maine, meeting the Princeton group at my mom’s. I still cheer for the Orioles, despite calling New England home for more than 21 years. One day they might even have a winning season again.

  • John Currie

    Barry, all is well. The Bowdoin community is made up of tolerant and accepting people. Besides, I don’t think that it was living in New York City that did this to you. I blame it on Columbia Law School.

    I had somewhat the opposite experience with the Yankees and Redsox. As a young lad living in the Texas Panhandle, I was a huge Yankees fan. After all, I was originally from Oklahoma and Mickey Mantle was from Oklahoma. My family moved to Hartford in 1959 and in 1960 we all went to our very first Major League Baseball game at Yankee Stadium. It was a double header, something that has been lost to later generations! Yogi Berra and Elston Howard each caught a game and played in left field for the other game. Mickey Mantle was in center and Roger Maris in right. Bill “Moose” Skowron was on first and I believe that the rest of the infield was Clete Boyer, Bobby Richardson, and Tony Kubek. Whitey Ford started one of the games. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the rest of the pitchers. At any rate, I was crushed when the Pirates beat the Yankees in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series.

    It wasn’t long after the 1960 season that I learned that living in Hartford one had to declare a loyaty to one team or the other. I chose the Redsox and never looked back. Particularly after Carl Yastrzemski picked up the whole team and carried them through the 1967 season and won the Triple Crown. How could I ever root for any other team after whitnessing that! To this day, and I have actually told this to the Astros owner, Drayton McClane, my ideal World Series match up would be the Redsox and Astros and I would be rooting for the Redsox to win.

  • James

    Barry, I share your sense of divided loyalty. My son, born at Presbyterian Hospital with a view across the Harlem of the lights of a Yankee Stadium night game, grew up to be a good third baseman, a devoted Yankee fan, and a Bates graduate. Though I wavered during the great Yankee teams of the late 90′s, my loyalty to the Red Sox of my New England youth, and Bowdoin, has endured. I now prefer to focus on what two teams, and two schools, have in common, rather than their differences.

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