As baseball fans in the UK we all have that story, the one where we discover baseball. Whether it be from a family member or seeing the game on TV in a moment of insomnia.
My story starts on the 30th March 1997. The news was reporting the aftermath of the mass suicide of the 39 Heaven’s cult, in Ireland in the previous month they had legalised divorce and Tara Lipinski at 14 became the youngest women’s world figure skating champion. However British TV was changing with the launch of Channel 5 but it was not without controversy.
In the run up to the launch they ran newspaper and billboard adverts announcing how “Baseball was the new cricket”. The cricket fans within the UK where up in arms. How dare Channel 5 suggest baseball was a replacement for such a national institution.
In 1997 I was 15 and already a fan of American football. I was taken in by the chance to see more American sport. I had to wait a whole two weeks after launch day for our video to retune but once we had Channel 5 I tuned in the next Sunday to watch live baseball.
At that point it was presented by Tommy Boyd. Maybe it was the nostalgia for seeing Tommy Boyd back on TV (he used to present children’s programmes on ITV) or it could have been the chance to see live American sport other than the NFL. Either way I was hooked into a lifetime of insomnia from watching baseball.
After a few weeks it was clear I was going to need a team to support. It was an easy choice. As an NFL fan before watching baseball I supported the 49ers so I became a Giants fan.
The timing was great for Channel 5 to provide American sport on British TV as the signal for US Armed forces radio was getting weaker and weaker. The times I spent around my parents’ kitchen balancing the radio in dubious positions as it was the only place I could get the signal.
While Channel 5 has grown up into Five TV and has now dropped its American sport coverage the question is how we start encouraging new people to the sport.
The main difference between 1997 and 2010 is the internet. In 1997 there was an average of 1,681,868 websites compared to over 206,675,938 in 2010. People have access to a lot more information and more importantly access to live streaming via the internet. I think younger generations will find out about baseball but not in the way that we have in the past due to using new technologies.
How did you become a fan of baseball?