The Motor City, etc.

I don’t think AAA would approve of staying in a hotel that has chunks of plaster all over the floor and pigeons roosting inside. But maybe I’m wrong. Their 2004 Tourbooks come out in April, so I’ll pick up the one for Michigan when I have the Triptik made and see how many “diamonds” they give the ol’ Book Cadillac.

While we’re on the subject of Detroit, just the other night, I watched an HBO documentary called “A City on Fire: The Story of the ’68 Detroit Tigers.” The part about the World Series might make Levi depressed and morose, but I enjoyed it. Our next baseball trip after this one needs to involve time travel.

It actually contained some content relevant to our National Anthem discussion: Mickey Lolich complaining about how long it took Jose Feliciano to get through “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the beginning of Game 5, and several other interviewees, including Ernie Harwell, talking about all the complaints received about this unique take on the anthem. It sounded fine to me, although they didn’t play the whole thing uninterrupted in the documentary, so I couldn’t tell exactly how long it went on for.

The birth of this blog prodded a couple of people to put their names into consideration as official hangers-on. Luke wants to go to Davenport and St. Louis, and Maura wants to join us in Pittsburgh in addition to Philadelphia, so I certainly hope she enjoys the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I have updated the itinerary with details of their attendance.

I may have a new favorite

I may have a new favorite non-Cardinal player.

Last night, we had a couple of people over to watch the opener between the Red Sox and the Orioles. We settled in, started the TiVo, and the first image of the season caused everyone to gasp in sheer, unadulterated awe. Johnny Damon, over the winter, turned into a god. He grew out his already shaggy hair so that it hangs over his shoulders, trailing out of his batting helmet or cap. And he grew a beard. It was hard to concentrate on what he was doing during his first at-bat, because all anyone in the room could look at or think about was all that hair. Then, on his first play in the outfield, he was coming in for a ball, not too fast, and it looked like there was no hope of his cap falling off. Everyone was disappointed. Then, like a silent prayer being answered, the cap popped off his head and his glossy locks floated free. There was much cheering in the Rocketship.

I apologize for not having a link to a photo. I haven’t seen one today, which just tells me, once again, that the majority of sportswriters have been doing their jobs so long that they no longer really love sports. Otherwise, today’s headlines would be along the lines of: Damon’s Hair, Beard Open a Glorious Season.

You know it’s going to be a great year now.

P.S. While looking up links for this post, I discovered that the Baltimore Orioles own neither or The latter hosts a site for the United States Beer Drinking Team, with a link for Beer Radio.

Off to a good start?

I have just added a link to our trip itinerary to the header of this blog.

Since they’re reflected in that itinerary, I might as well discuss some of the recent preparations I’ve made, because if getting there is half the fun, then preparing for the trip is the other half…

Places to stay: With the assistance of the AAA web site, I made reservations at relatively inexpensive hotels in Toronto, Montreal, Boston, and Pittsburgh (and the Canadian dollar better not get any stronger, so that the hotels in Toronto and Montreal stay inexpensive). Yes, the AAA web site doesn’t list every possible place to stay, but I like the assurance that a AAA inspector didn’t have a room infested with bedbugs, or however they decide on their “diamond” ratings. Anyway, the Toronto, Montreal, and Boston hotels seem to be a quick rapid transit ride away from each city’s respective stadium, and the Pittsburgh hotel is within walking distance, thanks to Hilton’s weekend specials. (I assume in this case, the AAA inspector didn’t have a room infested with the Hilton sisters.)

Unfortunately for Levi, the Skydome hotel in Toronto didn’t qualify as “relatively inexpensive,” especially the “field view” rooms. But maybe if I make it onto “Super Millionaire” in May…

Anyway, I haven’t made reservations for the Quad Cities or Detroit yet because I guess we’re not exactly sure how many hangers-on there are going to be. I have a place in mind for Detroit which looks like it’s in walking distance of Comerica Park. There seem to be plenty of choices in the Quad Cities, and I may end up deciding that perhaps we should stay in Galesburg, which is about 45 minutes south (since we have to make it to St. Louis for an afternoon game).

Driving directions: Speaking of making it to St. Louis, it turns out that the AAA web site is ill-equipped for making very complicated requests for their Triptik map packages. Each request can only have one starting point and eight destinations, and this trip is about twice that long. (Also, the request form doesn’t include the town in Pennsylvania where my aunt and uncle live.) Nevertheless, I tried making two separate requests, one starting in Chicago and going until I ran out of destinations in Philadelphia, then one starting in Philadelphia and going back to Chicago. I only ended up getting the second one, probably because the AAA computer wanted to be helpful and cancel one of my Chicago-Philadelphia routings, assuming I had quickly changed my mind about which cities I wanted to pass through on the way.

So one of these days, I’m going to show up in person at the local AAA office to challenge them and their route-highlighting skills.

Rental car: Obviously, it will be important to get unlimited mileage and be sure it’s okay to take the car into Canada. I am under the impression that the lowest car rental rates can be found at airports if you’re coming in on a flight, as I will be…but since Levi, I believe, rents cars more often than I do, perhaps he knows more than I do.

My flight: Right now, the cheapest L.A.-Chicago fare is on Spirit Airlines, but their one flight a day is a red-eye eastbound, and I hate red-eyes because I can’t sleep on planes; more importantly, a flight I took on Spirit in the summer of 1999 left me with no confidence in their ability to run an airline.

(By the way: “AAA” above is a reference to the American Automobile Association, not to minor-league baseball.)

To mark the impending Opening Day, they dug up another baseball movie over there at the Encore channel: “The Slugger’s Wife,” from 1985. This movie has everything, including the Braves’ blue-and-white uniforms, Mark Fidrych and Skip Caray as themselves, and Rebecca DeMornay and Loudon Wainwright III singing rock hits of the late ’70s and early ’80s, including (why not?) Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).” Not to mention the titular slugger having a chance to break Roger Maris’s home run record on the last day of the season while his Braves need to beat the Astros to capture the N.L. East title. (Levi, I’m sure, is bristling at the merest idea that this is what actually happened in 1985.)

While I’m at it, I’ll mention that some parts of the country got a baseball-related TV Guide cover this past week: Detroit got Ivan Rodriguez, Philadelphia got Jim Thome, South Florida got Josh Beckett, Chicago got Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, Houston got Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens, and Southern California got Vladimir Guerrero. Any or all of these people could be the answer to a future trivia question, since this was the first TV Guide issue since 1954 to contain eight days of program listings. (The national cover was “Where Are They Now?”, spotlighting such long-gone television personalities as Eriq LaSalle and Gillian Anderson. The current editorial staff at TV Guide seems to believe that the public’s memory extends no longer than eight days, an opinion they share with the producers of the VH1 show “Best Week Ever.”)

Still, it’s nice to see TV Guide using baseball in an attempt to drive newsstand sales in certain areas, rather than their regular standbys of “Star Trek” or an upcoming movie.