POCATELLO — When it comes to baseball fandom in the Portneuf Valley, Facebook believes it knows what team is predominant.
In fact, a look at the color-filled map released on Monday, opening day of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, shows a swath of black and red throughout Southeast Idaho, noting the Yankees and Red Sox as the predominant fan favorites. Bannock County is entirely black, the color reserved to show Yankee fandom.
But it’s not just Bannock County. The most popular MLB team in most of Southeast Idaho, South Central Idaho and even Southwest Idaho appears to be the Yankees, as most of the counties, with the exception of Franklin County, are colored black. Franklin, as well as Bonneville County, are colored red, noting that the Red Sox are the predominant team, according to the Facebook survey.
But if you take a moment to ask those around you, then it will become clear that even if the Yankees are the team of choice among most in Bannock County, as determined by Facebook’s survey, not everyone is a fan of the pinstripes.
“I am a Cincinnati fan,” said former Pocatello Mayor Roger Chase. “I like Cincinnati, always have.”
Chase said the former presence of a minor league baseball team in the Gate City spawned his enjoyment of the game but touts his love of the Reds to their strength and popularity during the 1960s and 1970s.
“Cincinnati, when they had the Big Red Machine, that was probably when I really started liking them,” he said. “I was a Mets fan too, but when (Tom) Seaver came to Cincinnati, that kind of solidified my being a Reds’ fan.”
Bannock County Commissioner Howard Manwaring says he’s a passive fan of the game, but when he roots, it’s for the San Francisco Giants. The reason, he said, was a friendship forged between a former Giants’ player and his son.
Manwaring’s son, Kurt, reached out to former Giants’ catcher Kirt Manwaring, writing him a letter because of their similar names. Howard says the Giants’ catcher responded, writing his son and even sending him some gifts.
“They became close friends,” Howard said.
Doug Sayer, chief business officer for Blackfoot-based Premier Technology, is also what he would call a passive fan. But there is a team he roots for.
“I had an opportunity to watch the Red Sox in person,” he said. “So, they are my favorite team.”
That was about a decade ago, as they were making their championship run. Although he considers himself a fan of the Red Sox, Sayer said he hasn’t grabbed onto that tradition dislike of the Yankees.
“They are a class act. You have to respect the franchise,” he said, referring to the Yankees. “You have to give credit to the franchise and the way they have been managed. They are good and they have a long history of being good.”
Knowing about the greats is something Judge N. Randy Smith, of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, also believes in.
“They have 40 American League pennants, they have 27 World Series championships,” Smith said, also noting the large number of Yankee players, managers and executives who are in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
But his knowledge of the Yankees is more about his love of the game and a belief in knowing the enemy than it is about fandom. Smith is no Yankees fan, to be certain.
“I am a Giants fan,” he said.
Growing up in the small town of Thatcher in Franklin County, Smith said he was taught how to play baseball and given his love for the game by his father. But his father was a Yankees fan, and Smith said he needed to have a different team to root for.
That team came via the radio.
“When I would come home from working on the farm, I would listen to the radio,” he said. “There was a station coming in from San Francisco and it was the station that broadcast the Giants’ games. Willie Mays became my favorite player and Juan Marichal became my favorite pitcher.”
Smith has not kept that love of the Giants to himself. He said many of his nieces and nephews have become Giants’ fans over the years because he has made sure to give them ample Giants’ memorabilia whenever the chance arises.
While he’s a fan of the Giants, though, Smith does think there are ample Yankees and Red Sox fans in the region, especially among the older generations, who may have passed that loyalty on down.
“In our day, growing up in the 1950s, the Giants, Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers were the teams,” he said.
Later, other teams became powerhouses, he noted. The Kansas City Royals saw an enlarging fan base in this region during their productive years in the late 1970s and 1980s. Before that it was the Braves, first in Milwaukee and then Atlanta, and their slugger, Hank Aaron, who garnered fans in the region.
Smith said the Seattle Mariners have gained a fan base locally during their more than three decades of existence because of their proximity. The Colorado Rockies, based in Denver, also benefited from proximity, gaining fans over the past two decades that they have been playing.
But despite all those changes and additions over the years, Smith says he believes the local fan base for the Yankees and the Red Sox is still relatively strong.