Lost in the ’80s, again

If we're talking about the '80s Red Sox, we're talking about Kevin Romine's five career home runs.

If we’re talking about the ’80s Red Sox, we’re talking about Kevin Romine’s five career home runs.

Sometimes, I feel that my borderline pathological need for Red Sox trivia might be a problem.

It’s not like I don’t know enough, or that I have any real need to know any more by heart. It’s not as if Baseball Reference is going to disappear.

When I’m at home and bored, absent-mindedly watching TV or listening to some record I’ve listened to a million times and will listen to a million more, I like to jump on Sporcle and take one of the dozens of Red Sox quizzes that I’ve taken a million times. It passes the 15 minutes and it keeps me sharp, in my lifelong effort to keep all of these jersey numbers and batting averages and starting rotations committed to memory for longer than could possibly be considered healthy.

It goes back to elementary school, lugging baseball almanacs around in my bag so that I could remember that George Brett hit .390 in 1980, that Bob Gibson was the MVP in the 1967 World Series that sunk the Impossible Dream Red Sox (he hit a home run in that Game 7 win in Fenway Park, of course), that the Yankees won five consecutive World Series from 1949-53 and that that was probably reason enough to never root for them.

I like knowing all this, for the simple reason that I like baseball history and I always have.

But recently, I fell down the extremely specific spider hole that is quizzes related to the 1980s Red Sox. Obviously, that era has a special place in my heart simply because, being born in the ‘80s, they were essentially my introduction to baseball and the first group of guys I ever felt compelled to root for. And it’s not just Dwight Evans and Jim Rice and Mike Greenwell fueling it, but the guys that are relegated to almanacs and baseball card boxes that are almost as exciting. Seeing names like Danny Heep and Marc Sullivan and Kevin Romine can illicit those same twinges of nostalgia as the All Stars.

Running through these occasional quizzes has triggered that same sense of discovery that I felt digging into the almanacs as a kid. It wasn’t until pouring through some of these mental tests — like naming all of the Red Sox with baseball cards in the 1980s, or the home run hitters for the decade — that I realized that Tony Perez lead the team in homers in 1980 with 25. Or that Joe Rudi got the Opening Day start in ’81 at DH for an injured Carl Yastrzemski. Or just how long Sullivan hung around without ever really playing — 137 games from 1982 to 1987 for the catcher who was indirectly to blame for Carlton Fisk being shown the door.

It’s all just stupid minutiae that fills the useless trivia bank in my brain that’s occasionally a hit at bars but mostly fuel for good-natured ribbing from my terrified friends. But for whatever reason, it feels better to know that Julio Valdez got the Opening Day start at second base in 1983, or that Bruce Hurst spent half of 1982 in the bullpen before taking a his place as the anchor of the rotation.

Basically, it’s dumb. And it’s a time waster. Oh is it a dumb time waster. But it’s a familiar one, and it’s slightly more acceptable than looking back over my old baseball cards.

And if “Second Basemen of the ‘80s” or “Right Fielders Other Than Dwight Evans” are ever categories at a bar trivia night, you can bet Rey Quinones I’ll be ready.


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