My second book, about life as a secret Yankees fan, is available now
After a year of relentless hard work and tireless dedication, I’m proud to announce the official release of my second published book, available now in paperback and Kindle eBook formats through Amazon.
Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart is my most ambitious project to date, and seeing it through to completion has been a thrilling experience. Writing and publishing my own baseball book has been a dream since I discovered the sport in 2004, and this is therefore a very special day in my life.
What is the book about?
Split into four sections and spanning 443 pages, Conflict is part-memoir, part-historical investigation and part-expose. In the first instance, it tells the complicated story of how I fell in love with baseball despite living in England, 3,000 miles away from the nearest big league ballpark. It also tracks my personal rise from a Wirral council estate to becoming a professional baseball writer, culminating in work for the Guardian and covering the 2016 World Series for BBC Sport.
In the book, I also document the history, culture and traditions of British baseball, ranging from the trailblazing genius of Henry Chadwick through Bobby Thomson’s famous Shot ‘Heard Round the World and onto the 2019 MLB London Series, where my fantasy of attending a big league game finally came true. There is also a special exploration of Baseball on Five, the cult show that defined a generation of baseball on this emerald isle.
More than anything, though, Conflict lifts the lid on my capricious fandom of various MLB teams and charts the struggle of British fans who do not have natural baseball rooting allegiances grounded in family tradition or simple geography. In particular, the book focuses on my explosive oscillation between fandom of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, mortal enemies at the apex of mutual hatred. I’m unaware of a similar book existing anywhere else in the world.
Indeed, not many fans have switched allegiances between those two teams. Such revelations are exceedingly rare in the sprawl of human history, and they are not typically compatible with a peaceful life. However, Conflict examines my defection in painstaking detail, explaining the soccer-related quirk that led me to disown Boston and describing the personalised gifts that made the Yankees so appealing.
“I was born 3,115 miles from Fenway Park. To the east, that is, not even to the west. A great body of water separates my homeland from America’s most beloved ballpark. That body of water is the Atlantic Ocean.” – Ryan Ferguson, Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart
How I became a baseball fan
Like most British baseball fans, I stumbled upon the game rather than actively seeking it out. Football, as in soccer, is ubiquitous on these shores, writhing through every facet of society. Fittingly, it was my gateway drug to serendipitous baseball addiction, fostering the base inquisitiveness needed for transatlantic obsession.
As loyal readers will know, my foremost identity is that as a Tranmere Rovers fan. If you are unfamiliar with Tranmere, it is a third division football club that exists far removed from the sphere of Premier League opulence. Based in Birkenhead on the Wirral peninsula, Tranmere is defined by blue collar grit, steel and cultural cohesion. It stands in stark contrast to Liverpool and Everton, uber clubs that lurk 20 minutes through the Mersey tunnel.
From the cradle, I was raised as a rabid Tranmere Rovers supporter, sharing the sequestered passion with my dad and brother. Loyalty to the club informs my worldview and influences my ethics. No greater force has ever acted upon my soul than allegiance to Tranmere, and the consequences of that infatuation on my life have been suitably far-reaching.
This core British preoccupation with football led directly to my discovery of baseball. As a kid, I used to stay awake watching Dutch and Argentinian football on Five, a low-budget channel in the quagmire of terrestrial television. One night in the winter of 2004, the usual football programming was disrupted by a documentary on the Red Sox’ improbable World Series triumph, and I was hooked.
From 1997 until 2008, Five carried coverage of two live Major League Baseball games from ESPN per week, usually on Wednesday and Sunday evenings – or, more accurately, on Thursday and Monday mornings. With peerless dedication and homespun charm, Baseball on Five developed a cult following across Britain. I became a loyal hardcore viewer, falling in love with baseball and the unique culture it spawned.
“I was frustrated at first, impatiently awaiting the football. Bleary-eyed and sleep deprived, I watched the seconds tick by in numb agitation. Then I began to actually take notice of the programme before my eyes. Soon, I became involved, engrossed and absorbed. There was a magnetism to the film that I could not resist.” - Ryan Ferguson, Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart
The memoirs of a nocturnal British baseball fan
For seven years, I was a Red Sox fan. Of course, my discovery of baseball in 2004 coincided with Boston’s first World Series championship in 86 years, but I was not your typical Red Sox bandwagon jumper. I developed a deep and natural love for The Olde Towne Team, and I made huge sacrifices to follow MLB from afar. Glory barely entered the equation. I just loved the team.
Nevertheless, when the Red Sox won the 2007 World Series, I became a champion for the first time in my life, and that was a wonderful feeling. Tranmere went 27 years between trophies, spanning a vast chunk of my fandom, so basking in sporting success was a novel concept that greatly enriched my existence. That iteration of the Boston ballclub still holds a special place in my heart.
In this regard, Conflict takes readers deep inside the world of bandwagon fandom and reveals truths about front-running that are often disregarded. When the Red Sox lost the 2008 ALCS in seven games, for instance, I was truly heartbroken, watching live in the depths of British night. Contrary to popular wisdom and conventional scorn, bandwagon fans often become hugely invested in the outcome of their adopted teams, and my book sheds a light on that emotional phenomenon.
“Over 4,500 miles away, I collapsed in a heap at 05:10 am, quivering with joy. Watched by the eyes of so many immortals living in photographs around my bedroom, I celebrated the first sporting success of my life. Tranmere had never won anything for as long as I had followed them. They never came close. However, the Red Sox gave me a tangible shot at glory. They delivered when it mattered most, an oxymoron of their own history. They ruthlessly swept the surging Rockies, adding another title to Boston’s growing pantheon.” - Ryan Ferguson, Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart
Why I stopped rooting for the Red Sox
While nostalgic reminiscence seeps through every page, the crux of Conflict is the revelatory arc of my love for various teams, many of which are diametrically opposed in terms of politics and philosophy.
In most instances, our sporting allegiances are non-refundable, passed down like treasured family heirlooms from one generation to the next. However, I was never afforded that traditional infrastructure with regard to baseball, and my affiliations were duly influenced by external factors, unmoored from a central bulwark.
In essence, when Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner purchased Liverpool FC for £300 million in October 2010, I endured an existential crisis of monumental proportions. By dominating the regional market and hoovering up local fans, the exponential growth of Liverpool FC correlates instinctively and inexorably with the demise of Tranmere Rovers, my ultimate guiding star. Therefore, I could not abide any link - no matter how slender - to Liverpool FC, and my Red Sox fandom was instantly curtailed as a result.
In my naïve teenage mind, John Henry betrayed me by purchasing a football club I could not abide. He did not know I even existed, of course, and nor did he care, but I quit being a Red Sox fan just as quickly as the team’s owners jumped in bed with an organisation I strongly dislike.
It may seem illogical, moronic, short-sighted, immature or absurd, but I made a decision that remains true to my soul. I will never apologise for that choice, and writing this book - vocalising a burdensome secret for the first time - has been a cathartic experience.
Accordingly, as with most things I do, Conflict has a strong Tranmere Rovers thread woven through its core. If you purchased my debut book, Planet Prentonia, or if you have followed my Rovers writing over the years, you will certainly enjoy Conflict. Even if the central theme is baseball, this book touches on aspects of Tranmere Rovers fandom - and indeed Wirral life more generally - that I have never explored through any other medium. There is also a minuscule link between Bruce Osterman and the surging popularity of North American sports in Britain that is worth the purchase price alone.
“Merely by existing, and by beckoning people to join its movement, Liverpool FC places Tranmere on the endangered species list. They could wipe us off the planet and few people would notice. We would notice, though, as genuine Rovers fans, and we will never let that happen.” - Ryan Ferguson, Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart
Brief flings with the Dodgers and Cubs
By this point, many of my friends, readers and social media followers will be perplexed, and understandably so. Some salty veterans remember me as a Red Sox fan, while others recall my brief flirtation with the Los Angeles Dodgers between 2011 and 2012. Most people think I’m a Chicago Cubs fan, however, thanks to a public declaration I made to that effect in 2013. Indeed, that is the last time I ever wrote or spoke about my baseball allegiances publicly, so why would people have any reason to think differently?
Here, Conflict gets particularly contentious, delving into uncomfortable territory while dredging the foundations of my years in the baseball wilderness. As detailed in the book, my kneejerk love affair with the Dodgers was based on fleeting aesthetic pleasure as opposed to any sturdy cornerstone. When Guggenheim Baseball Management turned the Dodgers into a plutocratic fallacy - bailing out the Red Sox with a ludicrous trade for Adrián González and a bunch of malcontents - my interest fizzled out. I was disenfranchised, literally and figuratively, and my baseball future lacked clarity.
As articulated in Conflict, during the fallow spell, I attempted to build a spreadsheet that, when fed with data, would spit out the ideal MLB team - Red Sox excluded - for a neurotic British baseball fan to root for. The Cubs were so far ahead at one point that I abandoned the project entirely and wrote that fatal blog nailing my colours to the mast.
Unbeknownst to anyone, however, I privately associated as a Cubs fan for just eight months. My professional interests in the game grew to such an extend where objectivity became a prerequisite. I achieved my dream to write about baseball for a living, but I lost my fanboy instincts in the process.
“For months, I conflated the loss of Red Sox fandom with the end of my enthusiasm for baseball more generally. I was fed up, wandering the sporting wilderness. There was no playbook for how to cope with such unique dissatisfaction. There was no historical precedent devoid of a catastrophic conclusion. There was no guidance on how to act or where to turn. I was lost.” - Ryan Ferguson, Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart
No cheering in the press box
Those who started following my baseball writing in the early-2010s will have noticed a precipitous decline in output as time has moved on. In part, that speaks to the internal chaos of changing favourite teams so frequently, living taboo lives of secrecy, but I have also embarked on a complex personal journey that ate into my enjoyment of the sport at various points.
Lending a certain weight to Conflict, I’m a young baseball blogger with an innate grasp of the game’s minutiae. I won the British Baseball Writing Award in 2013 as my country’s best reporter on the sport, while my baseball journalism has been published by the Guardian, BBC Sport, SABR, FanSided and many other prestigious outlets. I have also been featured by MLB.com and the New York Post, underscoring that credibility. Baseball has always been my favourite topic to write about, and it will always remain so. Now that my real story is out there, I plan to reignite that timeless passion.
Conflict offers a succinct glimpse inside the often unglamorous world of professional sportswriting, revealing the naked anxieties of a strained freelance journalist who reached the mountain top but found it ultimately unrewarding. I share my struggles with self-professed inadequacy as a British writer infiltrating an American game, and I also detail the murky reality of modern monetisation within journalism.
While traditional baseball writers must be unbiased and objective, many people reached out to me when the Cubs won their World Series championship in 2016, offering congratulations. Many of my Cub fan friends even spoke excitedly about the sacrosanct occasion, and I could not find the heart to tell the truth about my faltering allegiance.
You see, by that point, I was no longer a Cubs fan. In fact, I had been a closet Yankees fan - of all things! - for more than two years by then. I just could not admit it to the outside world through fear of personal and professional rejection.
“I was now a writer, not a fan, and the separation dulled my senses. I had a duty to analyse now, not just to shout, and doing so while impaired by childish fanaticism was decidedly unappealing.” - Ryan Ferguson, Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart
Confessions of a secret Yankees fan
In the summer of 2013, Manchester City and the New York Yankees collaborated to launch a Major League Soccer team in the Bronx. The Yankees pitched in at 20%, and as a tireless campaigner for British baseball, I was keen to explore how the arranged marriage of elite institutions could benefit the sport on our shores. I began investigating the relationship for a piece on my own personal blog, and that story changed my life forever.
During the research process, I reached out to the Yankees’ press office, hoping to receive a stock quote about the team’s commitment to growing international baseball through strong community outreach. I did not make progress with that line of enquiry, but my interest in the Yankees did cause a stir in the team’s offices.
Cristina Campana, the Yankees’ senior coordinator of disabled services and guest relations, reached out to me and said as much, asking for my shirt size and address. In February 2014, I received a tailored package of gifts from the Yankees, including caps, shirts, pennants and other trinkets. Cristina even sent me a letter printed on fine paper bearing the Yankees’ evocative letterhead. That gift package took my breath away and turned my world upside down. It opened my eyes to the champagne-scented, velvet-coated, gold-trimmed nirvana of pinstriped greatness, and I have never been able to recover.
I immediately became a New York Yankees fan. After years of struggling to find bonds with big league franchises, lamenting the lack of a spiritual or familial connection, the act of sport’s most illustrious team proactively creating a relationship with me was astounding. All journalistic codes of practice were violated, and I found myself awake until sunrise once again, rooting for the Evil Empire.
My emergence as a Yankees fan coincided with the final season of legendary team captain Derek Jeter. I remember watching his final game and crying after 04:00 am, finally feeling the glorious truth of Yankee mystique. In Conflict, I liken the experience to a religious miracle, and it certainly had all the iconographical trappings thereof.
For years, I rooted for the Yankees in secret. If anybody knew, I would be vilified, ridiculed, lambasted and driven out of the game. I was not prepared to bear the inevitable backlash. I was too emotionally insecure and I was too psychologically immature. And so I watched on in silence, rooting for some of the worst Yankees teams of all-time while biting my tongue. The resultant anxiety added to my deteriorating mental health, and I was entirely too bothered by what other people thought of me.
“On Thursday 13th March 2014, a long brown package arrived in the post. It bore a white label, stamped evocatively with the Yankees’ fabled top hat emblem. The parcel’s origin, labelled tantalisingly, sent a shiver down my spine: Yankee Stadium, One East 161st St, Bronx, N.Y., 10451.” - Ryan Ferguson, Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart
How my book opens a new conversation about baseball and mental health
In February 2017, at the age of 22, I quit freelance journalism to take a permanent role as Media Manager of a local environmental company. Within two years, I rose to become Commercial Manager and then Commercial Director, taking legal responsibility for company performance. It was all too much, too soon, and a toxic office culture torpedoed my self-esteem.
I have written prolifically about my struggles with depression, generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and stress-based cyclic vomiting syndrome. However, in Conflict, I dig deeper than ever before, explaining how mental ill health robs us of the ability to enjoy our greatest passions.
Featuring untold stories from my years in the corporate cesspit, Conflict fills the gaps in my public baseball persona and brings people up to date with my life and how America’s pastime fits into it. Even those closest to me during those murky years will be shocked at the depths of my despair, which culminated in struggles with suicidal ideation.
While my relationship with baseball was hit hard by internal turmoil, Conflict also opens a new conversation about mental health and MLB. I’m proud of that accomplishment. Despite legendary players like Zack Greinke speaking openly about their personal struggles with mental ill health, the topic is still handled clumsily in baseball circles. However, the game also holds a wonderful potential to help people who are suffering, and my book pays tribute to the lyrical tranquillity that baseball can bring to even the most chaotic of minds.
"In my battles with mental ill health, I discovered a new form of treatment: the gentle susurrus of a ballpark crowd, rising with each strike, undulating with every out and peaking in moments of mounting suspense, bowing to the majesty of pinstriped allure.” - Ryan Ferguson, Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart
How the 2019 MLB London Series decided my eternal baseball fandom
Amid a full mental breakdown in 2018, I experienced a vague form of relapse into tolerating the Boston Red Sox. I was certainly not a fan, and my attention span was so zapped as to negate consistent interest, but I felt pangs of nostalgia while watching the 2018 World Series, marooned in bed, sick with depression. The Red Sox embodied the freedom and security of my youth, and I needed a dose of that to stay alive in 2018. I needed that to rekindle any sense of feeling.
While I never reconsidered myself a Red Sox rooter, those paroxysms of something were strong enough to make me an undecided voter at the 2019 MLB London Series. Conflict explains how, ravaged by uncertainty in the hours before first pitch between the Yankees and Red Sox at our Olympic Stadium, I devised a simple formula to decide my future happiness: whichever team won the series would receive my eternal fandom. If the series was tied, the team that scored the most runs would emerge victorious. If they scored the same amount of runs? Well, we would figure something out.
Of course, the Yankees swept Boston in London, winning two nondescript summer games with a barrage of big hits. In the grand scheme of a gruelling regular season, those wins did not mean much to the players or to management, but to me, they were just about the most important thing that had ever happened. I was a Yankees fan for life, and I finally had the internal fortitude to tell the whole world.
“After so much internal strife, harbouring secrets and living a baseball lie, swapping and changing teams like underpants, it was all over. I had reached inner peace. The war for my heart was over. The New York Yankees had won.” - Ryan Ferguson, Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart
Why I wrote this book
On the train back home from the London Series, I began typing a tell-all article about my riotous baseball life. Quickly, that piece spanned thousands of words, just as many previous attempts to explain myself had done. On four or five occasions down the years, I typed out a full blog spilling the beans on my escapades as a baseball chameleon, but I could never hit publish. The repercussions would have been catastrophic. Nobody admits to this shit, man. People would want to kill me.
Alas, following the London Series, where I saw my lifelong dream come true, a sense of peace washed over me. I came to terms with my own reality, and I finally felt comfortable in my baseball skin. With correct medication, adequate therapy and a strong support network, my recovery from mental ill health was going well, and I had grown up a lot. I was ready to come clean, and a book seemed the most conducive format to such an undulating, emotive story.
Therefore, I wrote Conflict not as an instruction manual for revisionist self-appeasement, but rather as a guide to internal peace. I know the reviews will be a shitshow, and I appreciate that people across the sporting spectrum will be irate, but I needed to get these things off my chest. I needed the therapy of piecing this whole thing together – in my mind, and hopefully in yours.
“These things happened to me, for whatever reason, be they right or wrong, and I’m through explaining myself. I no longer wish to conceal the relatively unimportant decisions I have made about sports, which are fundamentally inconsequential in the wider sweep of our existence.” - Ryan Ferguson, Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart
Why you should buy the book
By this point, you likely have so many unanswered questions about my secret baseball life. That is only natural. All the answers can be found inside my book. This announcement post is fraught with danger because it presents a severely diluted overview of an exceedingly complicated situation that has unfurled over more than 16 years. This blog article is 4,500 words long, but the book has more than 143,000 words. Therefore, please do not jump to conclusions before reading Conflict from cover to cover in its proper context. Only then can you make informed judgments on my actions.
While writing this book, I have done some painful soul-searching. At times, it has been a traumatic experience, and Conflict deals with many uncomfortable truths, such as the Red Sox’ historic struggles with racism and the Yankees’ poor record on domestic violence. I have suffered through numerous meltdowns over the past year while stitching together this often-contradictory tale, and I would have deleted the manuscript entirely if not for the visionary coaching of Patrycja, my fiancée.
Ultimately, the finished book is my sharpest work to date. Conflict went through an extensive editing process, during which I reviewed and tweaked six different proof copies, honing the narrative and answering every conceivable question readers may have about my unprecedented story. I play devil’s advocate throughout the book, realising my own hypocrisy in places but offering defences at every turn, explaining my heartfelt journey.
I could have airbrushed certain parts of this story. Believe me, that certainly would have led to a quieter life! But I’m a writer, and Conflict stays true to the craft, holding nothing back in a shockingly honest portrayal of real life and baseball’s place therein. If you are looking for a book that gets your heart thumping, your blood boiling and your mind racing, Conflict will do the trick. I just hope the internet does not melt from the potentially toxic fallout.
“In the broader scheme of life, and in our grander place among the tapestry of human existence, my interest in one baseball team over another has almost no consequence. Most people will raise an eyebrow, shrug insouciantly and sigh uncaringly before worrying about something else - some new thing that seems important but is actually rather meaningless as well.” - Ryan Ferguson, Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart
Where you can buy the book
Conflict is available now in paperback and Kindle eBook formats through Amazon. The paperback costs $18.99, or £14.99, and worldwide shipping is available. The Kindle eBook version costs $7.62, or £5.99, and it can be downloaded to your device today.
I simply adore the art of writing, and the creative process of producing books keeps me alive. If anybody just happens to enjoy the finished result, that is a happy coincidence.
Revealing my ownership of Pinstripe Galaxy
In closing, I would just like to make one further announcement: unveiling myself as the founder, owner and operator behind Pinstripe Galaxy, a hub of Yankees news, history, analysis and culture that has been my anonymous platform of expression through all these years of secret admiration.
I launched Pinstripe Galaxy on Twitter in February 2015 under its original name, @UKYankeeFans. That group was also shrouded in secrecy, and I used a pseudonym when promoting it around the blogsphere. I produced guest pieces for Lohud and other outlets, spreading the gospel, before briefly hibernating the account in 2017.
Following the 2019 MLB London Series, I resuscitated and rebranded @UKYankeeFans as @PinstripeGalaxy, creating a safe outlet for my pent-up frustration that now has more than 500 followers. I’m grateful to everybody who has supported Pinstripe Galaxy thus far, and I intend to develop it even further now, blogging freely and covering the team of my heart.
“All along, I intended to build a community of Yankees fans around the world and eventually reveal my involvement as the founder, in conjunction with the overarching tale of this book. Well, here goes, people. I’m the engine that powers Pinstripe Galaxy. I can only apologise for the uncertainty and anonymity hitherto. I hope you can understand.” - Ryan Ferguson, Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart
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Get the Pinstripe Galaxy book!
Ryan Ferguson is the author of Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart, available now in paperback and Kindle formats through Amazon. Click the link below to get your copy now!