Milwaukee pictures

Hey, we were just at this game!…

Bernie Brewer’s slide into oblivion…

Visible at the lower left of the glass wall is a structure that we’re assuming is Bud Selig’s lair…

Brewers at bat…

Clock with neon bats for hands…

Racing sausages; on this night, the hot dog led wire to wire…

The final line…

Later, back in Chicago, Levi and Jim are still smiling about baseball…

And the last game

Stacey, illegally driving the rental car, met us at the Garfield stop on the Red Line, and within minutes, we were bound for Milwaukee. We had about two-and-a-half hours to make a one-and-a-half-hour drive, and, as they had been all along, the driving fates were with us, as we made Miller Park in plenty of time, navigating through the alluring commingled scents of sausage, beer, and cheese that are the City that Schlitz Made Famous.

To a one, the baseball fans I know–the low-rent, lovers of the run-down and worn that they are–loved Milwaukee’s former ballpark, County Stadium. It was, compared to the new Miller Park, small and homey, and the corrugated iron sheeting that composed its facade gave it a seemingly appropriate resemblance to a factory. Miller Park, on the other hand, is a new-style ballpark through and through. Wide concourses, lots of different stands selling lots of types of sausage, giant parking lots a marathon away from the gate, countless thousands of luxury boxes, and a tower where Bud Selig can sit and stroke his white Persian while sniggering and contemplating whether he should have his contract extended another decade. Even Bernie Brewer moved to a new, upscale home in Miller Park–against his will, I like to assume–his chateau with its front-door slide into the beer stein replaced by a high-end condo and a slide onto . . . a platform. Meanwhile, thee vegetarian food selections at Miller Park, are, as anyone with a passing knowledge of non-Madison Wisconsin would expect, not particularly distinguished or diverse. I had pizza, only discovering as we left that the Gorman Thomas stand would have sold me a Soy Dog, on which I could have put the famous–and mysterious–Stadium Sauce.

At least the sausage race continues, the Brewers still have the feel of a small-town team trying–and, usually, failing–to make good, and with the roof open, I have to admit that Miller Park isn’t that bad. We had great seats on the 8th row down the right field line, from which we had a wonderful view of plays on the infield, and a not-so-wonderful view of Craig Wilson’s shimmering golden locks in the outfield.

But, as Bart Giammatti said, though not meaning it quite so literally as it, sadly, turned out for him, the game is designed to break your heart, and the Brewers–with the able help of Daryle Ward–set about breaking ours with an efficiency any beer factory would envy. Their rookie starter, Ben Hendrickson, threw a good game, but a long home run by Daryle Ward in the second, and a second, longer home run by Ward in the seventh off a reliever gave the Pirates a 5-0 lead that the Brewers’ sadly slumbering offense couldn’t even begin to overcome. In the ninth, the Brewers scored a run off Jose Mesa, the Rungiver, on a triple and a sacrifice fly. The crowd erupted in joy, causing all four of us to look again at the scoreboard to reinforce our suspicions that, yes, that run did leave the Brewers still four back. But no one has ever said Wisconsinites don’t know how to celebrate the finer things in life, and a run is a run is a run, I suppose. I’d have raised it in solidarity, but there wasn’t time, as the Pirates quickly rang down the curtain on BRPA 2004’s winning streak.

But in this life, one savors the little victories, right? So as we drove back to our beloved Chicago, nearly running out of gas on the way, I thought of the ten games we did win, and of the exchange I overheard in the row in front of us. With one out in the Brewer ninth, a man who was at the game with another man and the other man’s ten-year-old son, said to his friend, “You want to go ahead and head out?” The friend replied, “Sure. It doesn’t matter to me.” “What about him?” asked the first man, indicating the child. “I’ll ask him.” Ask he did, and the boy said, “I’d like to stay. But do you want to go?” The man, seeing that he had raised his child in the ways of righteousness, said, “No, let’s stay.”

And stay they did. As I remember once hearing someone say, “See–everything in the world’s not made of toilet.” A fine game and a fine trip, surpassing all expectations. Thanks to everyone who came along, rooted with us, read the blog, or invented baseball all those years ago. And thanks especially to Jim, whose hard work and good company made the whole flawless trip possible. I recommend anyone who is considering any trip anywhere hire him. He’s worth the hefty price I’m sure he’d command.

Original comments…

thatbob: Last year when we went up to Miller Park, the traditional 7th inning stretch version of Beer Barrel Polka was replaced with a vote-by-applause version of some Usher or Nelly song that I couldn’t fathom because I’m some kind of old man. But this year, happily, Beer Barrel Polka was back, and I think overall the blaring, rocking stadium sound system was a little better behaved. (Of course we had spent the day being aurally assaulted at Comiskey, so my perceptions may have been skewed.)

The Brittish Rounders Society: You bloody Yanks didn’t invent anything. You stole the game from us!

The Native American Battagaway Society: You one to talk, paleface with bad teeth.

Jim: By the way, if it had been solely up to me, I would have chosen to root for the Pirates (because of my brief Pittsburgh-area residency). But I was just one out of four attendees at this game, and I didn’t want to press the issue.

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…

“It’s nice to hear the fans in Philly boo the opposing players rather than their own guys.”

Today’s headline is a statement made by Maura as Brewers pitcher Victor Santos issued an intentional walk to Jim Thome, eliciting boos from the 40,000-strong Citizen Bank Ballpark crowd. Maura joined us midafternoon, meeting us at WPRB’s fancy new studios–complete with functional headphones–in a fancy new dorm on the campus of Princeton University. Maura graciously allowed us to take over her weekly radio show for a couple of hours, playing songs and clips from Jim’s baseball playlist and talking about some of the things we’ve seen on the trip. Three different callers who had never before heard Steve Goodman’s “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request” called to find out what it was.

Following the radio show, we met Jim’s aunt and uncle and followed them to the ballpark. Their presence–combined with Maura’s Phillyphilia and everyone’s hatred of Bud Selig–overrode my regional loyalties and caused us to choose to root for the Phillies. It was a good choice, too, because it allowed us to spiritually join the Padilla Flotilla that was out with their banner in deep right. Vicente Padilla did them proud, throwing 8 shutout innings. Victor Santos of the Brewers fared less well, starting strong but absolutely falling apart in a 6-run fifth inning that forced me, for the first time in two years of keeping score, to shift my inning over a column as the Phillies sent twelve men to the plate. Walks will haunt, indeed. The Padilla Flotilla was ecstatic.

Citizens Bank Ballpark was surprisingly pleasant, especially if contrasted with what I’ve heard about Veterans Stadium, recollections of which tend to not be suitable for a family publication like BRPA 2004. It’s a big, new ballpark kind of like all the others, but I like the angularity of its design: the upper decks all have sharp edges and clean breaks between angled sections; the outfield walls run at odd angles to each other rather than curves, and access to the upper decks is via squared-off staircases rather than ramps. Like seemingly all the new parks, the upper deck–where we sat, right behind home–is too far from the plate, but because each of the four decks is only about twenty-five rows high, you’re able to avoid Comiskey-style vertigo.

Citizens Bank Ballpark definitely the biggest footprint of any non-Skydome park we’ve been to, and unlike Skydome, it doesn’t have a hotel inside. Land in way-south Philly must not have been in great demand, because what the team has done (with much, much public money) is build a fairly normal-sized ballpark, then put a large shell around it of wide concourses, staircases, escalators, food stands, a walk of fame, games and such for the easily distracted younger set, and more food stands. Spoiled by Wrigley, I dislike any park where you have to walk a Harold-Washington-library’s-inside-length distance to get to the entrance, but this ballpark didn’t bother me that much, maybe because the concourses felt, perhaps unintentionally, almost separate from the grandstand and field.

There were two other great things in the ballpark that I’d never seen before. On the brick façade just inside the gate, they post the home team’s starting lineup in ten-foot high baseball card photos. And the out of town scoreboard along the low right-field wall was the best I’ve ever seen. It was an old-style (which is the new style) light-bulb scoreboard. The wonderful innovation the Phils feature is to display for each out-of-town game, the current on-base situation (represented by tiny lights on a diamond) and the number of outs in the current inning. For someone like me who spends half the game tracking, say, the Cardinals game, it’s a source of alternating joy and worry.

Following the game, we drove with Maura to a dinky motel off the interstate in Harrisburg to stay the night. Soon after we’d gone to bed, Marvin’s sister-in-law called, twice. First she called and asked for Marvin without identifying herself. Confident that we were Marvin-less, Jim told her she had the wrong number. Minutes later, she called back, at which point Jim politely convinced her that the number Marvin had given her two days ago was the number of a hotel room, and that we, not Marvin, were its rightful occupants. Sleep followed.

We’re 7-0 now and heading to Pittsburgh to see the Cardinals attempt to match last season’s victory total, with 32 games still to go.

Original comments…

Jon Solomon: I was only able to hijack the first 90 minutes of Maura’s show before RealPlayer lost the feed, but I can turn this file into an edited mp3 and upload it somewhere. If FTP codes can be provided, I can even put it on! Let me know. Go Cats.

Skinny, hairy guys in polyester

Two notes on 1980s baseball:

1) In thanks for my participation in his wedding, my brother got me a copy of the October 25, 1982 Sports Illustrated, which featured the Cardinals/Brewers World Series on its cover. The issue went to press after the Brewers took a 3 games to 2 Series lead. Whitey Herzog come across as pretty grouchy, even petty, making excuse for his team’s sloppy play and attempting to lower expectations. Herzog was without a doubt a good manager for that team, but I think I prefer LaRussa’s straightforwardness, combativeness, and arrogance, at least when it comes to talking about losses.

There’s a photo from the end of game 5 in Milwaukee showing County Stadium’s scoreboard reminding fans, “Last week, Ben Oglivie was injured because fans were on the field. Please stay off the field.” The bottom half of the photo is of the field covered with happy fans.

In the article, Gorman Thomas, talking of the Brewers being down two games to one, is quoted, “We were in the same boat in Baltimore at the end of the regular season, the same boat when we went to California in the playoffs, the same boat when we went to St. Louis to play on their rug. We’re still riding the same boat whether it’s PT-109 or the Love Boat or whatever. When the ship is in the harbor, they try to bomb it. And the submarines are always out there waiting for us.” After the Brewers tied up the series at 2, Thomas said, “The submarines have drawn back, submerged. They’ve been struck by our depth charges.”

And one last thing about the article. Sports Illustrated style in 1982, apparently, called for fielding positions to be capitalized. So you get Shortstop Robin Yount and Center Fielder Willie McGee. Might as well hyphenate “base-ball” while you’re at it.

2) At Fenway Park, the scoreboard showed a baseball blooper reel . . . from the late 80s. I assume they’ve been showing the same reel for nearly twenty years. Surprisingly enough, Bill Buckner does not make the blooper reel. I guess the traagedy+time=comedy equation is still a little short on the time side.

I don’t know what I was worried about

A scan of a ticket is worth a thousand words:

Also in the envelope was the promised $20 in concession vouchers, in the convenient form of four $5 vouchers. That should make it easier for the people who want to eat sausages with Secret Stadium Sauce to purchase them, and if anyone wants to search the catacombs of Miller Park for the stand that reluctantly sells veggie dogs, well, Levi can go off by himself and try to find it.

In other news, I discovered that the necessary files to operate an iTrip are freely available for download, so I will have no reason to connect my iPod to Levi’s computer.

And finally, here’s a quote from a Usenet newsgroup that I felt desperately needed to be posted here: “One of the funnier stories on ESPN radio was Rob Dibble talking about how he checked into a hotel and misunderstood the instructions on the TV screen — he thought he was ordering a block of adult films. The only thing more embarrassing than having the adult films show up on your bill is having to call down and ask the nice girl to please take the block off so you can watch some.”

Original comments…

Toby: Just don’t go to the concession stand during the 7th inning stretch while they’re having the sausage race. Randall Simon is back with the Pirates, you know… There could be another incident…

maura: actually, he was released over the weekend, shortly after he found his SUV riddled with bullets.

Levi: Now, I don’t get releasing Simon right now. You don’t save anything on his salary at this point. You don’t really save an important roster space, because in two weeks you can call up everybody and his grandma. And you lose the fun of having Randall Simon on your team.

I could have understood releasing him the minute you signed him–coming to your senses and just getting rid of him so somebody else, anybody else, could play first base for you. But now that you’ve carried him all this way, why not hold onto him the rest of the year?

Toby: What kind of season is his grandma having in A ball, anyway?

thatbob: When I was freeloading with Angie in San Diego for the librarian convention, we made the same mistake with the “Adult Block” feature. Except we weren’t actually trying to order the adult block, we just wanted to look at the funny movie titles. Really!

The baseball team that made Milwaukee slightly more famous

I’m pretty sure that when one has called to order the Mastercard Grand Slam Ticket Pack, which is supposed to only be available for purchase with a Mastercard, the Brewers ticket office should not be asking the question, “American Express, Discover, Mastercard, or Visa?” at any point. I guess Mastercard hasn’t been able to cure them of their Midwestern hospitality.

Something else to worry about, if one is the worrying type: they’re mailing the tickets and concession voucher to me, and they claim they’ll show up “within a week.” Any longer than that, and I won’t get them before I leave for the trip, so I’ll have to leave careful instructions for honorary hanger-on Jason (who has a key to my mailbox) to mail or FedEx them to Chicago.

Original comments…

Levi: It’s Wisconsin. I’m sure that if we show up and explain why we don’t have our tickets, they’ll let us in.

Jim: But it’s Bud Selig’s Wisconsin, which is different than Wisconsin as you or I understand it.

stacey: even bud selig has been unable to corrupt the goodness of the city of lovely leinie’s. we’ve gotten great seats to a sold-out game (“they just opened up a new section,” the ticket man said, while eyeing bob’s county stadium floppy hat) AND had free tickets handed to us by some sweet fellow whose friends couldn’t show up at the last minute.

golly, i love milwaukee!

Jim: I forgot to mention that, when I first tried calling the Brewers’ ticket office 800 number this morning, I got an “all circuits busy” message. Five minutes later, I got right through. Either there was a sudden run on Brewers tickets at about 8:10 Pacific time this morning, or my office is using some crappy long-distance company that doesn’t have enough circuits running between L.A. and the Midwest.

thatbob: I will wear my County Stadium floppy hat AND bring my Miller Park beer bottle cozy. Might even splurge on a Fontini Sausage Race tee, hee hee.

Keep this in mind, potential hangers-on

Monday, August 30th happens to be one of the dates on which Brewers are offering their “Mastercard Grand Slam Ticket Pack,” which is four $28 tickets and a $20 concession voucher for $75 total. So it would be nice, and money-saving, if Levi and I could find two people to join us for the 7:05 game. (It’s a little unclear whether or not you can get that deal at the stadium, or if you have to buy them in advance…”seats are limited,” they say, but how many people are going to show up for a non-pivotal Brewers vs. Pirates battle on a Monday night? Nevertheless, let us know as soon as possible if you want to go.)

If you wanted to also join us for the 1:05 game in Chicago involving the White Sox and Phillies, so much the better, although the Sox don’t seem to have any promotions happening that day to make their tickets cheaper. I think our plan as of now is to head straight to Milwaukee immediately upon the conclusion of that game; however, if you can’t make it to the Sox game but can make the Brewers, we’ll work something out.

Original comments…

Levi: I’m sure my wife, for one, will attend the second game, and a second person (especially at less than $20 for a seat and some food!) will be easy to find. So go for it!

stacey: levi’s right. i Would like to attend the second game. i probably can’t get off work for the day game, sadly.

Jim: Does it ruin the road trip magic if we take the ‘L’ to the Sox game? I guess it shouldn’t, since it’s an “extra” game anyway.

Steve: as far as special promotions, that’s a half price monday.

stacey: if you’re going to take the ‘L’ to the sox game, i could drive the rental car to work (in hyde park) and then pick you guys up after the game at comiskey and we could shoot up to the city that beer made famous. anyone else who wanted to go could either get picked up along the way or meet us at sox park.

Jim: Thanks, Steve! I missed that. Hooray for cheap tickets! Stacey: Sounds like a good plan. I won’t tell Hertz if you won’t.

thatbob: Count me in for both games. BOTH games. Levi will just have to wait a couple more weeks for that money I owe him.

Jim: Yeah, you can give your money to ME instead. I have to say, we got two hangers-on faster than I thought we would. I’ll go ahead and order the Brewers tickets.

Levi: I assume we’ll pick up Sox tickets at the window?

The only caveat is that back before they began their current stretch of Oreck XL-quality sucking, the crowds at the walkup windows were impressive enough to cost those (like me) unprepared for their size a view of the first inning.

Jim: Even for a 1:05 P.M. game on a Monday? If Lee Elia taught us anything, it’s that it’s Cubs fans who don’t go to work, not Sox fans.

Fear not, because I can already predict that one of the themes of this trip is going to be me attempting to get us to games ridiculously early.

Levi: Is that why I’m posting this from the Wireless Intenet kiosk in front of the Davenport Swing ballpark?

Luke, hanger-on: Have you ever had a post get to 12 comments?

Levi: I would leave Jim to answer that, if you hadn’t just done so.

The Golden Years

Despite my crankiness in the comments to Jim’s post about the Sports Illustrated piece about baseball being in good shape right now, I do agree with the general premise. We’re in a great era for baseball.

Over the weekend, which we spent being rained and eaten by John Kruk-sized mosquitoes in Door County, Wisconsin, I was reminded of one example of why it’s a good time to be a baseball fan. I thought of this recently when we were in Lake Tahoe and I was reading the Sacramento Bee, and it came to mind again while I was reading the Green Bay Press-Gazette last weekend.

Both cities, lacking major league baseball teams, cover teams from nearby cities, with the Bee leaning towards Oakland but covering the Giants as well, and the Press-Gazette covering the Brewers. But, their home cities being medium-sized, the papers don’t have extensive sports sections. They run bare-bones box scores. You get the at-bats, runs, hits, RBI. You get basic pitcher stats. You get the time of game and the umpires. And at best, you get a capsule summary of a paragraph or so to go with the box score.

Which brings me to my point. I’m spoiled. Reading a big-city paper or two or three every day, I’m used to getting the bells and whistles on my box scores. I want the pitch count, batters’ walks, batting average, details of the types of errors made.

And that’s just the beginning. When I moved up here in 1992, the expanded box score and the capsule summaries were my only way to follow Cardinals games that I couldn’t pick up on KMOX. Once in a while, I got to see a Post-Dispatch at a newsstand. But most days, I was deprived of a lot of
the fun of following a major league team: I got no rumors, no human-interest stories, no detailed stories of exciting wins. And, lacking cable, I got no replays.

Twelve years later, being away from the Internet and a big-city paper for a few days reminds me of just how much things have changed. I now have more baseball information than I could ever use, from all the stats in baseball history to great Cardinals commentary to the Post-Dispatch. And, though the design sucks (I keep hoping a certain Major League Baseball employee will get it fixed.), is fantastic. The audio portion alone makes it a godsend to people like me rooting for out of town teams. Add in the video highlights (like a bit of thievery by Jim Edmonds that’s currently available on the Cardinals site), and you’ve got the best thing Major League Baseball has done since barring Pete Rose.

Add in all the other reasons already discussed in the earlier post, and it’s sure a good time to be a baseball fan.

Original comments…

maura: oh,, how i coveted you back in the day…

Levi: Yeah, I should probably fix that so it links to, say, your page instead of Hasbro’s.

Ok. Now it does.

Jason: What were you doing in Door County?

Levi: Not making a documentary about Wisconsin. Instead, we were camping. In the rain and a mosquito convention.

It’s not all Cardinals

Lest anyone think I’ve forgotten that this site isn’t supposed to be solely about the Cardinals, how about them Tigers? Or those first-place Brewers?

Oh, and Jim: I have one more song request. When we enter the Quad Cities, we really need to be playing “Big River.” The lady who loves the big river more than she loves Johnny Cash, you might recall, does some cavortin’ in Davenport.