…and he’s not named Joe Buck. “”If millionaires and billionaires can’t figure out a way to split their pie,” mused surrogate Joe The Plumber / steamfitter Joseph Barzelli to the Post’s Mike Vaccaro, “then they aren’t worth my time.” To wit, Mr. Barzelli, a lifelong NY (baseball) Giants and Mets fan, bailed on the Grand Old Game following the 1994 lockout.
On Sept. 1, 1994 — 15 years ago this Tuesday — he said goodbye. To all of it. For good. Forever. And has kept his word. He hasn’t followed an inning since.
“Do I miss it?” he asks. “I miss the game I remember. But I don’t think that game has existed for a long time.”
Fans still seethed, swore they would stay away. In 1995, they did, in droves. They trickled back in ’96, and a little more in ’97, and by the summer of 1998 players were knocking down buildings with baseballs, and the Yankees were winning 125 games, and attendance actually shattered pre-strike records. Fifteen years pass in the blink of an eye, and a whole generation of fans has grown up knowing nothing but labor peace in baseball. Maybe everyone learned a lesson. Maybe it’s simply an aberration. Maybe the apocalypse is still out there. There are things nobody knows.
We know this: An awful lot of the people who swore off baseball 15 years ago eventually swore off their swear-off. They came back for more. They come back for more. Joseph Barzelli knows he probably isn’t the only one who held fast to his convictions, though he doesn’t run into many fellow protesters. He lives in Arizona now. In a world of constant news cycles, he knows about baseball what he hears by osmosis. It’s like breathing second-hand smoke. You can’t avoid all of it.
“I don’t think what I did was noble,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to be. But I said if they broke my heart again, I’d break theirs right back. I’d like to think baseball misses me. But I know better than that.”
I recall hearing proclamations similar to Barzelli’s at the time and with all due respect to a guy who probably didn’t ask Vacarro to plaster his name all over the sports section, this is booshit. If you believe the last 15 years of Major League Baseball to be tainted and/or without merit, you’re certainly entitled to your screwy opinion. But there’s much more to the game than The Used Car Salesman’s Unprecedented Era Of
Drug Abuse Prosperity ; that 25 inning classic between Texas and Boston College this past June was hardly a battle between billionaires and millionaires. Has Barzelli’s boycott of baseball extended to other professional sports that have experienced lengthy work stoppages? It might’ve been a worthwhile question, but I can’t for the life of me understand why Vacarro thought this was an interesting way to commemorate the anniversary of one of MLB’s biggest black eyes. Presumably Felipe Alou and Don Mattingly were too busy to return his phone calls.