Fran the Fan

Three Rivers–home of Fran’s team

Fran the Fan was the antithesis of Baseball Barb (see just below). She was quiet, brunette, slim, short, almost never raised her voice, and would never, ever, never, ever throw a glass of beer at the bar. Among other things she’d remind you it was a waste of both beer and money. One of the running gags was that Fran would end up a banker and Barb a cocktail waitress.

She was, like Barb, married to one of the guys. In their case Mike, her husband, was the loud one and the one you always knew what he thought about anything. They were regulars at Barb’s Booth and the idea the table was named for Barb rather than Fran explains as much about the difference between them as anything I can write.

She was a stats geek (we didn’t call them that back then) who could tell you what newcomer Johnny Bench hit in July as well as what Bob Gibson had done during the 1964 World Series. She kept it all in her head and didn’t consult a book or anything. We later found out from Mike that she kept notes at home and would look them over before heading off to the NCO Club to join us for the game of the week. Still, remembering the things she did was impressive enough without the Cliff Notes.

In case of a running debate on anything baseball, Fran was the go-to person for the answer. Want to know Carl Hubbell’s ERA in 1936? Fran would have known. I don’t remember that actually ever coming up, but if it had I would have put money on her knowing.

As fate would have it, Fran was a Pirates fan. In 1970, the Pirates won the National League East title and squared off in the playoffs against Cincinnati. They showed the games on the same tape delay system they showed the American League games and Fran hung on every pitch. She died a little when the Reds won game one, even more when they won game two. Which brings this to game three.

Pittsburgh got a run in the first and Fran grabbed her beer and swallowed about half of it. Now we all loved Fran, but we also knew she wasn’t’ real good at holding her liquor. Of course when the Reds took the lead in the bottom of the first more beer went down Fran’s throat (BTW I had to look up the game to get the specifics on score and order of scores–I didn’t remember after all these years).

That got Mike’s attention and the conversation went something like this:

“You’re not going to down half a glass every time someone scores, are you?”

“If I feel like it.”

OK, that was something we worried about. We’d seen Fran with too many beers (this is the stronger German beer that we were served in the Club, not the US version) and it got stupid quick. So Mike informed us no one was to buy more for Fran. That went over well with his wife. We weren’t quite sure what to do. Most of us were more afraid of Fran than of Mike.

So Fran got up, went to the bar, and ordered three more, all for herself. By the time she was finished with all three the Pirates had tied up the game 2-2. That was good enough for her, so she swore “That’s plenty,” and stopped drinking. The fact that she’d downed all three already may have had more to do with her comment than the score.

Of course it couldn’t last. Cincy got a final run in the bottom of the eighth to go ahead 3-2 and Fran started to get up and head to the bar.

“I thought you’d had enough.” This from her husband (the rest of us had enough sense to keep quiet).

She sat down and suffered through the ninth. Two outs, two singles, and Pittsburgh had runners on first and third. A grounder to second finished them off and sent the Reds to the World Series (I had to look all that up). Fran was horrified and grieving already. As you know, baseball grief is its own special kind of sadness and Fran was crying. Fortunately everyone had the sense not to offer her a drink.

All of this made she and Barb buddies. They’d been at the same table for the entire season, but weren’t particularly close. Barb thought Fran “a mouse” and Fran was certain Barb was “a loudmouthed jerk.” But now they had a common enemy, the Cincinnati Reds. The Series was fun to watch with Barb screaming and Fran quietly putting curse after curse on the Reds. By the time it was over and Baltimore had won, they were fast buddies who settled down for the relative quiet of watching football.

All of which is meant to prove that not only do opposites attract, but that baseball can make friends of people who have almost nothing in common. Ain’t it a great game?



4 Responses to “Fran the Fan”

  1. Gary Trujillo Says:

    A great game and terribly unpredictable one. What the hell is wrong with the Dodgers!?

  2. Precious Sanders Says:

    Sounds like a great table to sit at. Sure wish I could find enough baseball fans around me to start something like that.

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