Members of the Barre family have very different views on the Boston Red Sox.
The Waterville family of five are all passionate fans of the beloved Boston team, but something differentiates the parents, Sue and Greg, both 47, from their children, Adam, 16, David, 12, and Sarah, 12.
For the children, the Red Sox have always been good.
“Making the World Series is a huge deal to me,” Greg Barre said. “To them, it’s just another World Series for the Red Sox.”
The Sox’ success the last decade is almost unprecedented for one of the most storied franchises in baseball history. The three World Series appearances in the last 10 years match the franchise’s total of the previous 50 years. The only other time the Red Sox made three World Series appearances in a 10-year span was in the 1910s.
It’s this generational disconnect that has created an interesting wrinkle in Red Sox fan families. In addition to the vastly different ways the game is broadcast today compared to the past, parents and grandparents grew up cheering for lackluster Red Sox teams while enduring a slew of agonizing defeats, while children who were born in the mid- to late-1990s already have seen two World Series championships.
“I remember when the Sox won in 2004. It was a sigh of relief,” Adam Barre said. Adam can thank his parents for that memory, too. In 2004, Adam was 6 years old when his parents woke him up to see the end of the clinching game of the 2004 World Series. They thought it might have been Adam’s only chance to see the Red Sox win the World Series.
â€˜Bicycles and baseball’
While the Red Sox’ increasing success in recent years has nurtured a new generation of baseball fans, the sport itself has had difficulty remaining “America’s pastime” throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Interest in baseball had decreased steadily over the decades before a stark increase in 2013, according to sports surveys by Gallup Inc., a research-based company.
In 1960, 34 percent of Americans called baseball their favorite sport, while 21 percent said football was their favorite. In 1972, 24 percent said baseball was their favorite, while 32 percent preferred football. In 2008, football was preferred by 41 percent of Americans, compared to just 10 percent for baseball. In its latest poll, 14 percent of people said baseball was their favorite sport, its highest total since 1998.
“Growing up it was bicycles and baseball — that was our recreation,” said Charlie Gaunce, 76, owner of Central Maine Motors in Waterville. “We’d lay down on blankets in the front yard and listen to the game on the radio. It was the American game back in those days.”
Before the advancement of cable television in the 1980s and the Internet the following decade, most people could only watch or listen to their local teams during baseball season. If you lived in New England, you probably became a Red Sox fan because that was the only team you could hear or see.
“Growing up, my dad was a fan,” said Greg Barre, who grew up in Rumford while his wife grew up in Woburn, Mass. “My dad would tell me stories about listening to the games on the radio, and his mother, who was French-Canadian, didn’t understand anything that was going on. All she would hear on the radio was â€˜Here’s the pitch; here’s the pitch.’”
The explosion of television deals and Internet-streaming capabilities makes it possible to watch two West Coast teams play while at the grocery store. Young fans have far more options and information when it comes to choosing which team to cheer for. Some, such as Gaunce’s grandchildren C.J. Gaunce, 16, and Dan Gaunce, 12, have found other teams to root for. Both of them cheer on the underdog Houston Astros whenever it doesn’t conflict with the Sox. Others, such as David Barre, will be able to follow their favorite players to their new teams — unless that also conflicts with their Red Sox rooting interests.
“I always liked Johnny Damon, and when he went to the Yankees, I kind of liked the Yankees,” David said. “But my brother convinced me to stay a Red Sox fan.”
Baseball cards, backyard games
Although the way baseball can be consumed has changed greatly over the decades, a few byproducts of baseball remain timeless: baseball cards and backyard baseball.
“We played a lot of sandlot baseball while the games were going on when I was younger,” Charlie Gaunce said, adding that when he was growing up, most of the games took place during the day.
Grandsons C.J. and Dan continued the tradition but traded the sandlot for homemade backyard fields, one at their home in Waterville and the other at their cabin in Oakland.
“The kids thought it would be neat to make a field, and I wanted to show them how to do something on a budget,” said Chris Gaunce, the boys’ father.
The field, made for Wiffle ball, is on a vacant lot near Messalonskee Lake. The wall is made from 5-foot sections of blue tarp, and the boys made a wooden scoreboard and a backstop.
“We’ve played a lot of Wiffle ball back there,” C.J. Gaunce said, adding that when that field equipment gets taken down on Labor Day, the boys switch to their backyard field in Waterville until the end of October. “The Oct. 31st game is our World Series.”
â€˜It was like a dream’
The World Series win in 2004 changed everything for Red Sox fans. It stifled eight-plus decades of heartache while simultaneously jump-starting the most successful 10-year stretch any sports town has had.
When the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years, it was something Greg Barre couldn’t really comprehend. Barre was a college student at the University of Maine in 1986 when the Red Sox were one out away from winning the World Series. The following sequence of the New York Mets rallying, Bob Stanley’s wild pitch and an infamous grounder through Bill Buckner’s legs stuck with Barre throughout the years. That’s why when 2004 rolled around, it was hard for him to believe it had happened.
“It’s hard to even describe,” he said. “It was like a dream. It’s something you never thought you’d see, then you see it.”
Yet unlike his father, Adam Barre can’t comprehend what it would be like if the Red Sox weren’t contending most years.
“It’s hard to understand how it was,” Adam said. “Because being a Boston fan when I have has been amazing.”
Jesse Scardina can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:firstname.lastname@example.org