Get your scorecards ready

As I realized while I was out today getting my watch fixed and playing pinball (not at the same time, unfortunately), we actually had seventeen hangers-on: Luke, Stacey, Tony, Geoff, Clara, Tom, Patti, Matt, Jill, Jay, Maura, Jim, Nancy, Allison, Dan, Dianne, and Bob. Sorry to the one of you who I forgot when I made the post earlier today.

And now, to try to figure out how much money Levi owes me for the rental car and the hotel stays, which were on my credit card…

Original comments…

Luke, hanger-on: It’s OK.

The end of the tour

11 games, 11 cities, 10 days, 3,489 miles, 9 White Sox runs, 5 hot dogs, 1 Schmitter, 1 Primanti sandwich, 16 official hangers-on and who knows how many honorary hangers-on…

It’s been great! Thanks to everyone who followed the trip, in person or in spirit, and thanks to Levi for suggesting it in the first place and then putting up with me the whole way through.

I know it may sound like we’re closing up shop, but this blog is going to stay operational at least through the World Series, and we’ve still got plenty of photos from the trip to post! They should be up within the next week or so, so stay tuned. I’ve also got scores from Alternate Itinerary #4 to post, since that’s going on this week, but the first post of those is going to have to wait until I get back in front of my fast Internet connection at home (because I don’t feel like doing a lot of research on the dialup connection I’m currently using).

Original comments…

sandor: Congratulations, fellas. That beats us by, what, 4 games, 5 cities, 2 days, 1000+ miles, and a dozen or so hangers-on. Touché. Probably the only stat in which we dominated was number of hot dogs. And kisses from the Phillie Phanatic.

It’s been a treat following along. Here’s to doing it again next year. You still have more than half the major league ballparks to go…

stacey: sorry about that slow dialup connection, jim. someday we’ll advance to modern times.

this trip has been a joy. i’m so glad i got to be the bookend hanger-on!

Jim’s mom: How about number of hours of sleep lost, pounds gained, t-shirts purchased? And a commentary on gas prices. Glad you had fun!

Levi: We saw 29 hours and 45 minutes of baseball. The short game in Cleveland (1:56) kept us just under the 30-hour mark. Something to shoot for next time!

Another poem

I’m probably going to be too busy at work today to wrap up yesterday’s two-city doubleheader until tomorrow. But to keep you busy, here’s a limerick Bob wrote about Pirates outfielder Tike Redman. We were at Miller Park watching Redman bat when one of us–I forget who–thought Redman would make a good subject for a limerick. With remarkable quickness, Bob came up with this:

There was an outfielder named Tike
Who took the first pitch for a strike.
But the very next pitch,
The son of a bitch,
And the one after that were alike.

Original comments:

thatbob: The edited-for-improvement version simply inverts the interior couplet, thus:

But, son of a bitch!
The very next pitch
And the one after that were alike!

Levi: The ten-year-old boy in the seats in front of us visibly enjoyed the “son-of-a-bitch” in Bob’s poem.

If only Andrew “Dice” Clay were still popular–this kid wouldn’t know what hit him!

Toby: There once was a boy named Levi
From a magical place called Carmi
We went up to NU, got culture there, too
But he’s “Gideon” still in my eye

Cleveland pictures

The view from our seats…

The “I” logo is cleverly worked into a lot of Indians-related text, from “‘I’ am a true fan” on the tickets to “How may ‘I’ help you?” on buttons being worn by the ushers…

The Indians’ mascot, some sort of purple thing that’s more politically correct than, you know, an Indian would be…

Scott Elarton quickly pitching to Joe Borchard…

Levi keeping score, as always…

The final line (1 hour 56 minutes!)…

Cleveland Rocks, or, The Sox Don’t Rock Yet Again

Sunday morning dawned gray and muggy, help and it looked like maybe our luck would finally run out and leave us rain-delayed on getaway day. Maura used the Internet to find an hour-by-hour forecast for Cleveland, sales and it didn’t look good, alternating between storms, showers, and drizzle all day.

Undeterred, we crossed the bridge, left Pittsburgh, and made our way in the direction of America’s poorest city, Cleveland, where we met Cleveland residents Dan and Dianne. The two MLB employees in our party could get two others of us into the game free, but that left one unaccounted for, so we headed to the ticket window. But our good fortune continued, as a man who was heading a group of 37 people but had 40 tickets gave us ticket 38, gratis.

Jacobs Field, right in downtown Cleveland, is a definite improvement on Municipal Stadium. I liked Municipal the one time I was there, for a fireworks night in 1993, because it was huge and squareish and old, but the odd configuration of the stands, built for multiple sports, meant the sight lines ranged from okay to crick-in-the-neck lousy. The Jake, one of the earliest of the throwback stadiums, is similar to all the new parks we have been to: huge concourses, lots of food stands, comfy seats. But it’s got cozy dimensions, a high left-field wall, and, even for a meaningless game in August, a good, attentive crowd. The field itself seemed extra-pretty and green, though it might have just appeared that way in contrast to the threatening skies.

My search for vegetarian food today took me to the garlic fries booth (The garlic fries were good, but not quite as good as San Francisco’s.), then to a burrito place, where I asked if I could get a burrito without meat. The concessionaire a) looked at me as if he had never heard that question, b) looked at me as if he couldn’t imagine why anyone would ask that question, c) looked at me as if maybe the burritos were just meat wrapped in a tortilla, and he was imagining a tortilla full of air, then d) said he guessed I could. I decided to press on, and press on I did, until I found a sushi booth. The vegetarian sushi combo was better and consisted of more, and more varied, pieces than the one at Skydome. But perhaps I should have kept searching, because later, Maura returned to our seats from a food run with a chocolate-ice-cream-covered crepe that, as Dan said, made everyone around her stare as if she’d just walked by topless.

Having decided, due to our Clevelandite hangers-on, to root for the Indians and reserve our Sox rooting for tomorrow’s game, we settled down in our seats along the first-base line to await what we expected would be a high-scoring affair. Neither the Indians starter, Scott Elarton, nor Jon Garland for the White Sox has been particularly distinguished this season, but apparently the full confidence of the BRPA 2004 team had a powerful effect on Elarton, who pitched brilliantly. He gave up a walk in the third,and a scratch hit on the infield in the fourth, but due to double plays, he faced the minimum all the way through the first eight innings.

Meanwhile, Jon Garland was giving up home run after home run after home run, as the Indians put up nine unanswered runs despite hitting into the best double play we’d ever seen. In the secondd inning,with Ben Broussard at second base, Ronnie Belliard grounded a ball back to Garland on the mound. He whirled and threw to shortstop Jose Valentin, catching Broussard too far off second. Broussard, knowing they had him dead to rights, headed for third, his only thought being to keep in the rundown long enough for Belliard to sneak up to second base safely. But third baseman Joe Crede forced Broussard back towards second, and, seeing that he had to stay alive a moment longer, Broussard headed that way; Crede hesitated a bit too long with the ball, and it looked as if Broussard might just make it back to second.

It was at that point that everyone in the stands and on the field realized that something extremely unusual might be about to happen. Broussard was sliding back into second, while Ronnie Belliard, running at top speed was dropping into his slide on the other side of second base. Shortstop Valentin, crouching on the third-base side of second, took the throw, slapped down a tag on Broussard, then swung his glove around and laid a tag on Belliard. The umpire, appearing to be as surprised as the rest of us, pointed to the left side of the bag and threw up a thumb, then pointed to the right side and threw it up again. The crowd erupted in a mix of surprise, awe, and laughter.

But it didn’t matter. Elarton just kept cruising along in the best start of his career. In the ninth, having faced the minimum, he hit a batter intentionally as payback for a beaning of Ben Broussard the previous inning, then gave up a sharp single, the second hit of the game for the Sox, but then he shut the door. His final line: 9 innings pitched, 2 hits, 1 walk, 1 hit batsman, 0 runs, 6 strikeouts, 101 pitches. And it was all over in 1:56, the fastest game I think I’ve ever seen, and too fast for the promised storms ever to make an appearance.

Oh, and the Cleveland scoreboard needs a quick mention. Between innings early in the game, it showed the shell game with a ball and caps, but rather than show an animated version like at most ballparks, the Indians sent an employee into the stands to play with a kid and real caps and ball. All that was lacking was a shill to lay down $20 and show the kid how easy the game was. Later, they featured a Slurpee-drinking contest among three young girls, each slurping a different flavor. The winner, drinking the red Slurpee, bleary-eyed and staggered from her sudden ice-cream headache, walked away with a DVD set of the Kubrick Collection, or something like that. It was hard to see from far away.

Now we’re on the road back home, about to hit I-94, the first doubling back of the trip. Tomorrow, we put our 9-0 record to the test, first at Comiskey, then at Milwaukee.

Original comments…

Dan: You forgot to mention the seventh-inning vocal chord stretch featuring William Hung.

Levi: And I forgot to mention the scabrous mascot of the Indians, some pink fuzzy nasty thing that looked like it had crawled out of the Cuyahoga back in its fiery days.

Of fountains and squirrels

Levi forgot to mention one of the best features of Saturday’s Pirates-Cardinals game. During an inning break near the end of the game, the scoreboard had a question for us to vote on: what would you like to hear during the next half-inning?

1. “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll.” A Pittsburgh favorite! Cheers and applause.

2. “Bad to the Bone.” Another Pittsburgh favorite! Cheers and applause.

3. Video of a water-skiing squirrel. The crowd went wild!

As advertised, during the next break between half-innings, there was video of Nutty the Water-Skiing Squirrel water-skiing on the scoreboard.

On another note, initially, I had planned our entrance into Pittsburgh on Saturday to be from the south, via state route 88. It’s the way I always drove in when I lived in the town of Library, in the south suburbs, right on 88. It’s a fairly scenic drive that goes through some small western Pennsylvania towns, and I thought Levi and Maura might enjoy it.

That went out the window when Fox ordered the time of the game changed, which meant we had to get into town as quickly as possible, which meant the boring old entrance on I-376.

However, we did get a substitute Western Pennsylvania experience. After the game, for dinner, I suggested we go to Station Square, a development across the river from downtown Pittsburgh, since I knew how to get there via the subway and I knew there was a fairly good selection of restaurants. Levi, Maura, Allison, and I opted not to eat at Hooters, but instead went to a concept restaurant called the Red Star Tavern. Although it was technically a barbecue restaurant, Levi saw beer-cheddar soup on the menu and was happy.

Full of barbecue and $7.00 beers (cost, not value), we wandered out into the courtyard, where there was a fountain that had a bunch of different nozzles spraying in various combinations. Suddenly, the water stopped. Suddenly, the lights went out. And then it started: a synchronized water and light show, featuring various KDKA radio personalities talking about the history of Pittsburgh, interspersed with various Pittsburgh-related songs, including “We Are Family.” Almost as if it had been planned, during the fountain display, two freight trains went by on the tracks between Station Square and the Monongahela River. Levi later said it was the best fountain in the history of fountains, even better than the General Motors Fountain at Comerica Park (which didn’t teach us about the history of the automobile, or about Detroit, or about much of anything). However, there were no squirrels water-skiing in it.

Then we walked over the Smithfield Street bridge and continued for the 12 blocks or so back to the Hilton, some of us marveling at the fact that downtown Pittsburgh doesn’t have anywhere near as many abandoned buildings as downtown Detroit.

Original comments…

Allison: Thanks for adding the fountain story; that definitely was worth the trip over to Station Square. And an odd note. I was back in NYC on Monday night, and ordered a draft 20 oz beer of the same brand that cost seven dollars for a 12 oz bottle in Pittsburgh. The cost? $6.50. Go figure.

Levi: What is the world coming to? Beer more expensive in Pittsburgh than NYC?

Pittsburgh pictures

PNC Park seen from across the Allegheny River…

The Roberto Clemente (6th Street) bridge, ampoule conveniently enough leading straight to the stadium…

A beautiful sight, no rx the tarp being taken off the field…

The Pittsburgh skyline…

A building with an interesting-looking courtyard space…

The Pirate Parrot…

Craig Wilson, clinic in Warhol style…

The eyes of Jason Kendall are upon you…

The final line (washed out by the sun)…

Bonus pictures from the drive across Pennsylvania

What could be sadder than a boarded-up Waffle House?

Fortunately, the non-boarded-up Eat ‘n Park next door is able to lift Levi’s spirits with their Pancake Smile…

Seen on the Pennsylvania Turnpike: “Pay Stop Toll?” What does that mean?

Fort Pitt

The day began inauspiciously, with the Waffle House that had been used as bait to get Maura out of bed at 6:15 turning out to be a boarded-up derelict. But after that, everything looked up. We reset our breakfast sights on an Eat ‘n Park, a Pennsylvania favorite, then hit the road for Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is a beautiful city these days, at the confluence of three rivers and surrounded by high hills. We rolled into the swank Hilton–with wireless Internet in all rooms!–and within minutes, rain was pouring down. But our luck held out, the rain cleared off, and we had another beautiful, sunny day for a ballgame. We met up with Maura’s friend Alison from work, who besides being a Cardinals fan is good company. She had flown out for the series and was staying at our hotel, which seemed to be about half full of Cardinals fans. Being with two MLB employees meant that we got great seats without the hassle of pulling out or opening our wallets.

PNC Park is located just down the street from the old Three Rivers Stadium, but that’s about as close to the old ballpark as this one gets in any way. The old ballpark was the worst of the cookie-cutter dual-use 1960s stadiums, big and impersonal and mostly empty. PNC, like all the new parks we’ve been to on this trip, is very open, with lots of views from the outside of the inside and vice-versa. We were on the third-base side, just past the bag, about thirty-five rows up in the lower deck, and from there we had a view of the Roberto Clemente bridge and a bit of the Pittsburgh skyline. The out-of-town scoreboard is similar to the one in Philly, but in this case, I didn’t much care what was going on out of town, because the Cardinals were busy delivering yet another defeat to the Pirates. Albert Pujols sat out, which led to this conversation one row behind me. As I listened in, I couldn’t decide whether it was an ad for MLB, an ad for, say, “Spend time with your kids. A message from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,” or, “Kids are counting on you. Don’t let them down. A message from the [see above].” You make the call:

Dad: Is that Albert Pujols?
Son: No, dad. That’s Scott Rolen.
Dad: I don’t think Pujols is even playing today.
Son: Yeah, I don’t think he is.
Dad: And he’s the main reason you wanted to come today.
Son: Yeah.
Dad: He was all you could talk about in the car on the way here.
Son: Yeah. . . . . But Scott Rolen’s pretty good, too.
Dad: Yeah. He sure is.

The Pirates scoreboard opened the game with a lengthy animation in which the Pirates’ ship sank the ships of the other NL Central teams. Later, it featured the animated beginning to what turned into an on-field Pierogi race. In this race, the Pittsburgh Parrot mascot, taking his cue from Randall Simon, decked three of the pierogi in order to assist the female pierogi, Hannah Jalapeno, who had fallen at the finish line. The Parrot carried her over, to much applause.

Pierogi without legs or gender were available at the concession stands, and they came in a close second to the Comerica Park veggie pita in the vegetarian ballpark food rankings. The reason they didn’t rank more highly was that, as I think Bob can vouch, you can either eat not enough pierogi–the problem with a serving at PNC–or way too many pierogi–the problem if you eat them at home. There’s no middle ground, and PNC, perhaps sensibly, chose to go with too few rather than have groaning patrons unable to leave their seats at game’s end.

The Cardinals got a three-run homer in the second from Reggie Sanders and a solo homer the next inning from Jim Edmonds, his third of the weekend, to give them a 5-0 lead. In the third inning, Larry Walker threw out Jose Castillo at the plate as he tried to score on a single to right. Yadier Molina took the throw and just had time to turn towards Castillo when Castillo, traveling about 75 mph, knocked him into about the twelfth row. But Yadier held on, got his brain put back in the right direction, and stayed in the game. That was a good thing, because the next inning also ended, following a patented Matt Morris semi-meltdown, with the tying run thrown out at the plate trying to score on a single to Jim Edmonds. Edmonds makes that play several times a year, running in hard to field a single and coming up throwing a strike to the plate. A few times a year, he overruns the ball and looks extremely silly, but the outs at the plate more than make up for that.

The Cardinals held on, matching their win total from all of last year and running us to 8-0 on the trip. Tomorrow, we’re on to Cleveland, where we meet up with Dan (and, presumably, get in for free again) and, I think, root for the Indians. As far as the trip goes, despite the threat of thunderstorms today, we’re into the home stretch; it feels kind of like it’s the 9th, we’re Eric Gagne, and we’re about to face Rey Ordonez, Neifi Perez, and Tom Goodwin. Our perfect record, however, is in more danger than ever: none of the remaining three games presents us with a clear favorite team to root for, and any one seems as likely to win as any other one. I have faith. 11-0, here we come.

Oh, and there are two newspaper notes. First,a demonstration of my political commitment: Despite the lead story–accompanied by a photo–being about how bunnies are thriving in Pittsburgh this year because of the wet weather, I did not buy the right-wing rag the Tribune-Review. And the Post-Gazette, which Jim did buy, included today the phrase “a throbbing mass of roaches.”

Original comments…

Nancy Boland: Glad you saw a great game and advanced to an 8-0 record! Enjoyed having you for your short stay in Philly!

Toby: It was actually Ty Wigginton on the collision.

Did you guys go over the bridge where the opening scene in “Flashdance” was shot? I visited Pittsburgh with Levi’s sister and some other friends in January 2003 and we went over it. How nostalgic…

thatbob: What a feeling!

Hey, I don’t understand why Jim was rooting for the Cardinals over Pittsburgh this game. I’m going to consider his record to be at 7-1 until he explains himself.

thatbob: I imagine it would be very easy, but really, really mean, for a pirate ship to sink a ship full of bear cubs. And it would seem against a pirate’s own interests to sink a ship full of brewers. That doesn’t even make sense.

Toby: Neither do most of the personnel moves the Pirates have made the past 12 years.

Philadelphia pictures

The view from our seats in the upper deck. It’s not that apparent from the photo, but if I had any complaint about Citizens Bank Park, it’s that there was too much stuff to look at during the game, although I guess that has a lot to do with how high up our seats were…

The Philadelphia skyline, due north of the stadium…

The Philly Phanatic…

Maura thought this was a cute sign…

Jim buying The Schmitter…

Jim eating the Schmitter, and his Uncle Jim, who perhaps wisely opted for a hot dog…

Levi eating a salad, and Maura and Jim not eating anything…

Levi, Maura, Jim, and Jim after the game…

The final line…

The “Liberty Bell” ringing to celebrate the Phillies win…