Mar 12 2012

Prelude to Linear

When I got the idea for writing Linear, I also was kind of referencing another story that I had an idea for, but it has nothing to do with Star Trek or fanfics.  It was a straight-up contemporary story about a semi-professional baseball league in the state of California.  If none of this interests you, then stop reading now.During my formative years growing up in the heart of Silicon Valley, before it was even called Silicon Valley, I was a very young and very impressionable young boy.  The very first baseball game I had ever seen in my life was a San Francisco Giants game at Candlestick Park in 1982.  I fell in love with the game almost instantly and I’ve been following it ever since.  Because San Francisco was quite a drive north, it wasn’t always feasible for us to drive up to games.  Even though there would be some times when my dad would take me to ballgames that ended at like 2am and he would let me stay home from school the next day.

It was always totally worth it.

As I said, driving up to the city wasn’t exactly a good thing during school nights, but my dad and I loved the game and I think he was happy that I fell in love with it, too.  Between 1982 and 1987, I saw a lot of games in San Jose.  Some of them were of the San Jose Bees, the Kansas City Royals’ affiliate in the California League.  I got to see George Brett play on a rehab assignment one time, and see some of the Royals’ minor leaguers play and get promoted year after year.  In 1988, the Bees became affiliated with the Giants and became the San Jose Giants.

Around that time, I also got to see this intercity league of amateur baseball that played at various parks. I had caught a game at a nearby park when I was in middle school and I asked a few of the players about their team and where they were from.  It turned out that they were part of an eight-team amateur league representing the various parts of the city (Alum Rock, Alviso, Almaden, Cambrian, Santa Teresa, etc.) and they play in a structured schedule for fun.

Except these guys didn’t play like it was just for fun.  They were really into it and playing hard.  It was like watching a minor league game, almost, except there were no concessions or tickets, no huge crowds (just an enthusiastic small one).  They said they had just formed the league a year ago with four teams and it caught on.  And this was in the days before the Internet, so they would type up the stats and mail them as part of a newsletter every week since they only played once per week.  I was enthralled with it, but I only got to see the one game because I never saw them come back to that park and play.  Apparently, venues were wherever they decided to play.  I didn’t even get the name of the organization.

That memory has stuck with me for years.  It was just too cool back then and even now, if things were different and had I been a bit older, maybe I could’ve joined them and learned more.  All I have is that one evening in the lit park, watching these guys leave it all out on the field and walk away happy with the result, win or lose.  It was thrilling and passionate, and I didn’t have to pay for it.

Fast-forward to today.  I toyed with the idea of an alternate 1980s and the formation of something similar.  What if in the 80s, in those times when baseball was still king, that a semi-professional league formed by a baseball fan took off and became popular?  You choose the smaller cities like Fresno (which had just lost the Fresno Giants to Phoenix) and Chico (who had wanted a minor league team), and add San Jose (my hometown) and Sacramento.  Something that maybe minor leaguers might find as an alternative to long years languishing in the MLB system.  Sure, they all wanted to play in The Show, but sometimes the years keep on passing you by.

Logo for the Golden State Baseball LeagueI started with a central character named Jacob “Jake” Westphalen, a retired Air Force Colonel who had fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.  A lifelong baseball fan, he was originally from San Francisco where he was only a little boy when he got to see Joe DiMaggio swing a bat for the San Francisco Seals and was an instant fan.  He retired in 1981, and would take in minor league games in San Jose and follow some of the amateur league games at parks and other small venues.  He makes fast friends with one of the team’s managers, Henry Holbeck and they spend a lot of time watching ballgames.  Three years go by, and in the California’s State Lottery, he was the big winner in its inaugural year, 1984, with over 150 million dollars to his name.

Now, he was a fan with means.  With the money to back it and Henry’s connections to the amateur world, they decide to put together a semi-professional independent league for baseball players, choosing to focus on those cities that could use a team to represent them.  They call it the Golden State Baseball League.

I’ll write more on this later, but I’m curious to see if anyone is even interested in having me continue.