Footnote to the 2004 trip

The Hilton Pittsburgh, where we stayed during the 2004 trip, had its franchise pulled, so it’s no longer a Hilton.

At this hotel, we got to check in at about 11:30 A.M., but were given a room that hadn’t been cleaned yet (understandable), and it took several requests to the front desk before they finally got around to delivering a rollaway bed (slightly less understandable). Also, Levi was surprised to see that they sold porn — okay, Playboy “special editions” — in their gift shop. (I stayed at the Hilton LAX the night before I left for the 2010 trip, but didn’t check their gift shop. Last week, I stayed at a nice new Hilton in Asheville, NC, and they didn’t even have a gift shop.)


I’ve had a bunch of BRPA2004-related items bouncing around my head all week, some new, some forgotten items from our actual trip, but work has been busy. So now, with a free fifteen minutes, a list:

1) Overheard on our way across the Roberto Clemente Bridge to PNC Park, we overheard a kid tell his dad, “We’ll be at the game today, so we won’t have to watch it on TV!”

2) In Pittsburgh, for sale on the street near the ballpark, there was a yellow t-shirt with fake bullet holes on it that read, “Where was Ray Lewis when Joey Porter got shot?” On the back, it read, “Scoring dope for a teammate!”

3) And on a t-shirt I saw outside Comiskey, “Baseball’s not boring. You are.” Luke and I agreed that while the shirt was more or less right, we would neither one wear it.

4) King Kaufman of has been running the Barry Bonds is MVP Stat of the Day for a week or so in his column, running through all the ways in which Bonds is almost lapping the league offensively. It’s been fun–as King Kaufman usually is–so you might check it out. My favorite part of it was a reader’s response to Kaufman’s suggestion that a new term needs to be created to describe second place when it’s as far from first place as is usually the case when you’re looking at Bonds’s stats. A sad Democrat suggested “Mondale.”

5) The Cardinals clinched their fifth division title in nine years Monday while in Milwaukee. According to the Post-Dispatch, several Cardinals after the audience had left climbed to Bernie Brewer’s house, posed for photos, and slid down the slide. I assume Steve Kline was involved.

6) I can’t find the story, but it was also reported that at Monday’s game, Tony LaRussa was nearly taken out by Bratwurst when he came out of the dugout right in the middle of the sausage race. Where’s Randall Simon when you need him?

Original comments…

Jim: It mentions the Tony LaRussa bratwurst incident in the same Post-Dispatch story where it mentions the Bernie Brewer slide incident.

By the way, for those not fortunate enough to be hangers-on: after Levi saw the “where was Ray Lewis when Joey Porter got shot” T-shirt, it was pretty much all he talked about for the rest of the trip. And it’s not even baseball-related, except for the fact that the vendor was attempting to sell it to people attending the Pirates game.

Speaking of which, sad news from Pittsburgh…not baseball-related, but related to a different kind of ball. I know Kevin Martin, subject of the article, from 1998, when I was a member of the Steel City Pinball Association, although I’m not sure if he’d remember me at all. You may note, if you scroll down to the individual standings, that he had a 49-17 record and I was 27-39. He also has enough money to buy warehouses, and a Ferrari.

Levi: The Ray Lewis t-shirt just astounded me with its vitriol and crassness. I mean, it wasn’t even a t-shirt about the team playing that day, or a Pittsburgh team at all–it was a t-shirt about one of the Steelers’ rivals! Talk about unpleasant obsessions.

Toby: You have to understand that the Ravens are actually the original Cleveland Browns. Though the rivalry isn’t as balley-hooed (sp.?) as the Yankees-Sox, there is probably as much animosity between Pittsburghers and Clevelanders.

When I visited Pittsburgh (along with Levi’s sister) a couple of years ago, we left the same day as the first-round playoff game in which the Steelers came back from a huge deficit to beat the “new” Browns.

It was quite evident all across town how Pittsburgh felt about the Browns.

thatbob: “Ballyhooed,” according to Google and

Um, thanks Levi, I had never before seen the sausage race as a metaphor for becoming distracted from our Christian faith by the smaller details of Christian community. That’s because I’m not a batshit crazy Christian looking for a homily metaphor in every moment of modern life! Did you look at It’s jaw-droppingly amazing!

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)…

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.