As so often happens twice

Hey, remember this post? Might as well revisit it and look at the actual team standings as of the All-Star break, along with how often we’re going to see each team.

NL East
1. Philadelphia Phillies (1x)
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Florida Marlins
4. New York Mets
5. Montreal Expos (1x)

NL Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals (2x)
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. Milwaukee Brewers (2x)
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates (3x)

NL West
1. L.A. Dodgers (1x)
2. San Francisco Giants
3. San Diego Padres
4. Colorado Rockies
5. Arizona Diamondbacks

AL East
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox (2x)
3. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
4. Toronto Blue Jays (1x)
5. Baltimore Orioles

AL Central
1. Chicago White Sox (2x)
2. Minnesota Twins
3. Cleveland Indians (1x)
4. Detroit Tigers (2x)
5. Kansas City Royals

AL West
1. Texas Rangers
2. Oakland A’s
3. Anaheim Angels
4. Seattle Mariners

That’s right, Sports Illustrated predicted in April that we’d be seeing only one first-place team, but if the standings stay this way for the next five weeks, we’ll be seeing four.

More bites from the Big Apple

One of my stops while I was in New York last week was the New York Transit Museum, which is in an old subway station in Brooklyn. Many of the old subway and elevated cars that are normally parked on the lower level had been moved out to run on fan trips all summer (this being the 100th anniversary of the opening of the first subway line in New York), so instead they brought in some not-so-old cars that have only recently been retired from the system. Including this one:

Yes, there’s a Yankees logo on the other end of the car, but the platform wasn’t wide enough for me to get a picture of the entire car. Besides, I would see plenty of Yankees logos at Yankee Stadium.

When I arrived at the stadium from the subway, wearing my Devil Rays shirt and cap, I ended up walking around the stadium the “wrong” way looking for the ticket booths. At the press/game personnel entrance, one of New York’s finest stopped me and said, “You look like a big fan,” then asked me who Paul Olden was, since he had just come in. I eventually remembered he was their radio play-by-play announcer. He was the TV broadcaster for the Yankees in the mid-1990s, but perhaps the cop was actually a Mets fan in disguise.

At any rate, there were plenty of good seats left for this game, now that the Devil Rays were no longer the hottest team in baseball. Here’s the view I had:

Yes, you can smell the history at Yankee Stadium, or maybe that was just in the men’s room. I completely forgot about going to Monument Park on my way in, so I had to settle for taking pictures from across the field. Also, I guess Adidas has enough money that they can print up a different bullpen awning for every visiting team:

Now, here’s the sacrilegious part: because certain people had to work Thursday night, I was at the game alone; when I’m at a game alone, I try to keep up my scorekeeping skills. At Yankee Stadium, you had to buy the $7.00 magazine to get a scorecard, which I expected because of their evilness. (Surprisingly, though, they serve good and pure Coca-Cola instead of evil Pepsi.) One of the articles, written by Keith Olbermann, was about how no one can remember who the P.A. announcer for Yankees was before Bob Sheppard took over in 1951, not even Bob Sheppard himself. These days, he doesn’t even do the between-inning promotions, just announces the starting lineups and does some of the other announcements at the beginning of the game, and then announces the players during the game. Problem is, I found him a little bit hard to hear and understand, especially his first announcement of each half-inning where he was usually talking over music. It’s probably a combination of the P.A. speakers all being in center field, plus his 136-year-old voice. Vin Scully, who is almost as old, has the benefit of going through radio and/or TV audio engineering.

Also at the game, by the way, were former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms (who got a lot of applause) and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden (who got no applause because they showed him briefly on the Diamond Vision screen but didn’t put his name on the scoreboard, so I may have been the only person who noticed him and recognized him). I saw only two other people wearing Devil Rays merchandise. I was asked a couple of times if I was from Florida. “Originally,” I said both times. The man sitting next to me asked if I knew why Fred McGriff only had two home runs for the season, so I attempted to explain the whole sordid story.

Anyway, here, have some more pictures. Anyone want to translate the orange-and-white ad here, which I assume is for the benefit of people in Japan watching Hideki Matsui?

And anyone want to translate the “F” and “G,” or perhaps “FG,” on the out-of-town scoreboard? It’s hard to see because I didn’t take this picture until after dark, but there is a column of single-digit numbers available under each letter, which weren’t used at any point. Until I hear differently, I’m going to assume it stands for “Faraway Games.”

They still make the groundskeepers do “YMCA”!

The Number 4 wins the subway race!

Speaking of which, this isn’t necessarily a baseball-related story, but people who know me may find it amusing: on the way back from the game, I had to change trains at 59th Street-Columbus Circle. So picture me, wearing a Devil Rays shirt and cap, on a subway platform with dozens of people wearing Yankees shirts and/or caps, so I perhaps looked less like a New Yorker than every other person there. Nevertheless, two people came up to me and asked about getting to Penn Station. I’m beginning to think my reputation is preceding me. (Yes, I did know the right answer, more or less. I didn’t realize it was as late as it was, so I told them they could either take the local C on the outside track or the express A on the inside track, whichever came first, but in the late-night hours, the A runs local instead of the C, so what showed up first was an A on the outside track. The people I had helped had wandered off, so I didn’t see if they managed to figure it out or not. Yes, the New York subway is somewhat more complicated than, for example, the Chicago ‘L’.)

Later, waiting for the light to change at the corner of 48th Street and 8th Avenue, a man asked me if I knew where the strip clubs were. But that’s another story.

The final line, on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard (and note that, although they have enough money to make a “Tampa Bay Devil Rays” awning, they don’t have enough money to put in a scoreboard with enough characters available to allow a space between “Tampa” and “Bay”):

Here’s the headline from the Daily News. Really, the difference in the game was that Victor Zambrano was shaky at the beginning, and Jose Contreras wasn’t.

And the front page. I wonder how many people know what that thing between “Daily” and “News” is supposed to be, now that they’re “New York’s Hometown Newspaper” instead of “New York’s Picture Newspaper.” Why, they don’t even own WPIX-TV anymore. But the good news is that, since both New York teams have baseball-shaped logos, it makes for a nice layout balance.

Later, in Connecticut, I saw The Ballpark at Harbor Yard, home of the Bridgeport Bluefish. You get a very nice long view into the stadium as you’re on a train that’s decelerating into the Bridgeport train station, it turns out, but there wasn’t a game going on as I was preparing to detrain in Bridgeport.

Original comments…

Dan: I believe I read somewhere it’s an ad for a Japanese newspaper (Yomiuri Shimbun?)

Luke: FG = First game?

Levi: I bet the guy who asked you about the strip clubs had been hoping to run into Mo Vaughn, but in Vaughn’s absence, he turned to you.

Steve: I find it hard to believe nobody knew who Jon Gruden was. During the football season they cut over to him on the sidelines more than any other coach.

maura: victor, not carlos, zambrano. but don’t worry, people make that mistake all the time.

Jim: Well, Carlos Zambrano would have been shaky at the beginning, too, if he’d been there.

maura: a handy mnemonic: the ‘v’ in victor stands for ‘get out of the way, because there’s a good chance he’ll hit you.’

DrBear: Yup, FG is for first game. You kids may be too young, but us old-timers remember when teams used to play two games in one day! The old scoreboard at County Stadium in Milwaukee had the same thing as G1, even including it at the end of the linescore for the Braves/Brewers game.

Halfway there

Well, we’re more than halfway there. When I was a kid, the pedant in me (which was, like 75% of me) was regularly annoyed by the demarcation of the All-Star break as the halfway point. Now that I know what it’s like to be an adult and once in a while need some days off, I understand better why three days off in the midst of a long season should be viewed as the halfway point, regardless of its mathematical accuracy.

So at the halfway point, it’s time for a quick list of the best things about the first half for me:

1) The Cardinals, and their position in the standings relative to the Cubs, the Astros, and the rest of the Senior Circuit.

2) Johnny Damon’s first at-bat of the season. Even more than the rest of his season, the spit-out-your-beer surprise of seeing him stand in that first night has made me smile for three months.

3) Scott Rolen

4) The Unit’s perfect game.

5) The Tigers‘ win total, one less than at the end of last season. Do you think they’ll just take the rest of the year off?

I’m sure I’ve missed some. For example, there’s no way that the Tigers’ season has been one of the five best things about baseball this year, even for Tigers fans. But I am impressed with their season, and I’m working, and listing Johnny Damon twice would be wrong.

So you should add your own top five in the comments. ‘Cause yours will probably be better than mine.

Original comments…

Steve: 1) The Cubs are being the Cubs
2) The White Sox are making baseball fun (at least for me)
3) Baseball Related Program Activities
4) The NL East Race
5) Ivan Rodriguez (his stats are crazy when you consider he’s a catcher. He hit .500 for the month of June)

Levi: .500?

That’s insane.

Oh, and if I expanded my list, I might include:
6) The AL looking like it might, just might have a different order of finish for the first time since the birth of the Devil Rays. The teams have all finished in the same spots every season since then.

Dan: 1) Mets finally giving me a reason to enjoy the day-to-day pennant races again.
2) Traditionally shitty teams doing really well, in nearly every division: Tigers, Rays, Brewers, Padres, (erm, Mets), Rangers
3) Jason Marquis establishing himself as the best Jewish pitcher since Steve Stone
4) Mets sweeping the Yankees and winning the season series, both for the first time ever
5) The Astros imploding.
**6) Johnny Damon — indeed, that first game was magic, and I was sitting here watching alone

2nd half wish list:
1) Mets sneak into the playoffs, I don’t care if it’s with an 82-80 record like it was in ’73
2) Someone hits Clemens in the head (or hand)
3) Someone hits Jeter in the groin
4) Rickey Henderson returns
5) Andy Baggarly breaks open the BALCO case

Toby: 1. A Hoosier from Levi’s sister’s town leads the All-Star voting
2. Blue Jays’ new logo/uniforms
3. Astros virtually out of the race
4. The Braves NOT in first place at the break
5. D-Rays’ and PIrates’ long winning streaks

Jason: 1. Finally getting to a Visalia Oaks game.
2. Finding a A&W Restaurant before the Oaks game.
3. Visiting PETCO park for a Padres-Cubs game.
4. Taking a pleasant weekday drive through the San Gabriel mountains before a Rancho Cucamonga Quakes game.
5. Watching Cal State Fullerton win the College World Series, giving me incentive to try to attend a game there next season.

Levi: How could I have forgotten the Braves’ struggles? That really is a top-five event. Go, Mets!

Note from the Big Apple

Yes, I was at Yankee Stadium for last Thursday’s 7-1 loss by the Devil Rays. I’ll post photos and more details tomorrow (or later Monday, given what the time stamp is going to be on this post), including some perhaps sacrilegious observations regarding Yankee P.A. announcer Bob Sheppard and my ability to understand what he was saying.

Actually, here’s an observation I’ll post right now: during the seventh-inning stretch, the Yankees play “God Bless America” (a recording of Kate Smith, in this case) and then “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” A disheartening number of people sat down after “God Bless America.”

Original comments…

Levi: Though I’m with you on the “Only one song should be played during the seventh-inning stretch, and that’s ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ (although I make an exception for Wisconsin, where tradition and history demand following it up with ‘Roll Out the Barrel’), I’m willing to give Yankee fans a pass for a few weeks.

After all, maybe they were worn out from booing Cheney recently.

Dan: Yankee fans, with a handful of exceptions, are bandwagon-jumping pricks. And they have been for the better part of 80 years.

Go Mets, woo!

Dan: Oh, and kids who like the Yankees are even worse.