You can tell a three-dimensional baseball fan
From the more rigid, more traditional one
By his or her appreciation for opposing players.
You can be a Yankee fan and have great respect
For the Splendid Splinter when he came to the plate
In the same way that a Red Sox lover can sit
Near the Green Monster and harbor admiration for
Joltin’ Joe. A deep fan can and does respect the
Opposition player who is a consistent star or who
Simply gives it his all day after day, season after season.

I was a Bronx-born total devotee of my Bombers, could
Recite every player’s uniform number and batting or
Pitching statistics. I loved Whitey Ford but on the same
Level admired Herb Score of the Indians, both lefties but
Polar opposites in their technique: Ford lived by his guile,
Control — the epitome of the crafty lefty — while Score
Was a young power pitcher with a burning fastball, a
Swooping curve and a change-up that could freeze any
Batter anticipating one of the other two pitches. Score hit the
American League like a jagged meteor. Once he followed
Teammate Bob Feller’s twenty-first one-hitter by striking
Out nine batters in the first three innings. The tall southpaw
From Queens, scouted by Cy Slapnika, who had two
Decades earlier scouted Feller, had survived childhood
Challenges — his legs having been crushed by a truck
When he was 3, then Rheumatic Fever, a fractured
Ankle, emergency appendectomy — and in his rookie year
He’d led both leagues with 245 strikeouts and was named
Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News. In the year
That followed, 1956, he saw no sophomore jinx: He went 20
And 9 and led the Junior Circuit with 263 strikeouts.

I looked forward every time I had the opportunity to watch
Him pitch; in those days, seeing the Yanks play away games
On TV was as rare as finding an honest politician, so when
Score pitched in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium that day
And was hit between the right eye and the nose by a liner
Smashed by Gil McDougald, I didn’t witness it — and I am
Glad, because I would have felt the stabbing pain of the shot that
Ruined a Hall of Fame career; he recuperated for the next
Three weeks from a broken nose and damaged eye — and
Didn’t pitch again that year . . . and not effectively the rest
Of his career: he was 38 and 20 before the accident, and
17 and 26 after the tragedy. Score loved baseball, and
Because I loved baseball, I loved Score despite his being
An opponent. He was a noble warrior, and when he was
So hurt, baseball suffered and real baseball fans all
Felt the pain! This jagged meteor turned out to be a shooting star.