Notes from the first few days of the season

Expanding on a few tweets I’ve made while watching some games this week…

1. Nice to see Albert Pujols quickly rewarding our faith in calling him a Player to Watch by hitting two home runs on Opening Day. Obviously, he knows a Cardinals-friendly blog when he sees one.

2. When I got home from work Monday, the only game on TV was Giants-Astros. Things were going along unremarkably until an Astros pitcher named Sammy Gervacio came in for the top of the 9th. He had, it turned out, a bizarre pre-pitch ritual, wherein he would briefly stare down the third-base dugout while holding the ball up. I’m not really doing it justice here; suffice to say that Mrs. Levi thought he was a robot. The only videos I can find of it are only halfway decent; here’s someone’s shaky-cam from the stands on Opening Day, and a brief video from spring training.

He was effective on Opening Day, striking out 2 of the 3 batters he faced; however, he ended up taking the loss in the second game, giving up two hits and an earned run in a third of an inning. And then he went on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. But I hereby proclaim him a Player to Watch once he gets back.

3. The Rays should know better than to set off fireworks inside Tropicana Field, as they did before their Opening Day game, which was not on Opening Day, for unexplained reasons. The haze never dissipated during the game, and for me watching on TV, it made Tropicana Field look even darker and dingier inside than it normally is. At one point, Rays announcer DeWayne Staats had to read an ad proclaiming that game was broadcast in “beautiful HD, brought to you by H.H. Gregg.” That HD was not beautiful. If H.H. Gregg had that game on any of the TVs in the store, it would have caused potential buyers to run away screaming, going home to embrace their old standard-definition TVs.

4. Wednesday evening, I discovered that DirecTV was carrying the Rogers SportsNet coverage of the Blue Jays-Rangers game, including the Canadian commercials. Which, it turned out, weren’t all that exciting. In fact, Lowe’s is running the same commercials in Canada that they are in the U.S., just with a different announcer at the end saying “Canada’s new home improvement warehouse.” Also, movie ads in Canada don’t end with the rating, which make them seem incomplete — they just kind of stop.

Don’t expect many more posts like this from me during the season, since I’ll be watching a lot less baseball once DirecTV’s free trial of the MLB Extra Innings package is over. This really should be Levi’s type of post, but he has unfortunately turned his attention to his “I’ve Been Reading Lately” blog, and to other literary activities, in the past couple of years. Just in case you’re wondering where he is…

Hey, White Sox, you could have moved to a dome in 1989, but no…

As I write this, the Sox and Indians are still in a rain delay. Tropicana Field’s not looking so bad right now, is it?

It wouldn’t be Opening Night without a picture of Chessie near my TV. I now have a different TV configuration than I did last year — my cheap Ikea entertainment cabinet got mostly destroyed when I moved last May — so it’s hard for Chessie to get next to the TV. So you’ll have to settle for her under the TV, hiding from Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, as well she should.

Puzzling evidence

From the 1985 Bill James Baseball Abstract, which I know from the sticker inside the back cover that my father purchased at Haslam’s Book Store in St. Petersburg, Florida, which within a few years would be located in the shadow of the Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field (well, the shadow’s not that big, but it’s close enough)…

Fate, or chance? The Cubs in 1945 met the Tigers; the Cubs in 1984 would have met the Tigers if they had won one more game. Chance, or destiny? A new commissioner of baseball, Happy Chandler, was named in April of 1945, but had other commitments that kept him busy until that October; a new commissioner of baseball, Peter Ueberroth, was named in March of 1984, but prevented from beginning the job until October by other commitments. Coincidence, or fortune? Steve Trout pitched a 5-hit, complete-game victory for the Cubs in the 1984 playoffs; his father, Dizzy Trout, pitched a 5-hit, complete-game victory against the Cubs in the 1945 World Series. Luck, or predetermination? The 1945 season was the last hurrah for a popular Cub infielder named Stan Hack; the 1984 season was the last hurrah for a popular Cub infielder named Larry Bowa. “Hack” and “Bowa” each have four letters in their names, even if you spell them backwards. Coincidence, or sheer pap? The 1984 Cubs fired their television broadcaster, Milo Hamilton; the 1945 Cubs released a catcher named Len Rice; it goes against my grain to accept

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that as a mere coincidence. Goodnight.

After that, Bill James goes into a paean to Milo Hamilton’s replacement on the Cubs TV broadcasts, Harry Caray, which I’ll post later.

Even more from "Faithful"

All is forgiven, Stephen King: “The hapless Devil Rays will be more hapless still if Ivan, third and worst hurricane to menace Florida in the last thirty days, blows away their JuiceDome down there in Tampa; like a certain unlucky Jew, they may be doomed to simply wander, dragging their dusty equipment bags behind them, playing everywhere and always batting in the top of the first. ‘We once had a home,’ they’ll tell those who will listen. ‘It wasn’t very full, and most of the folks who showed up were old, many equipped with shunts and pee bags, but by God it was ours.’

At the end of the book, it’s fairly obvious that the day after the Sox won the World Series, the publisher was screaming at Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan on the phone: “Just get us the manuscript now so we can get the book out before Christmas!”

How’s the weather, whether or not we’re together?

Highs in the 60s in Chicago and St. Louis in August? I didn’t think I was going to have to bring a jacket on this trip!

P.S.: I think the Devil Rays should call do-over on their 6-0 loss to the Red Sox today in Boston; clearly, they were distracted by the hurricane approaching their hometown. Actually, I wonder if they’re secretly hoping Tropicana Field suffers damage serious enough that they’ll have to have a new stadium built for them.

Original comments…

Levi: I don’t think FEMA builds stadiums.

I remembered last night that the weather was unseasonably chilly ten years ago this week, when my parents, Pete Bodensteiner, Bob Hanscum, my brother, and I saw what turned out to be the last game of the season at Wrigley Field. The strike started the next day. It was so chilly at Wrigley that everyone wore jackets, but even that wasn’t enough to keep my parents from huddling under the grandstand much of the game.

Man, the strike sure sucked. Fortunately, so did the Cardinals that year. I still feel like apologizing to Expos fans on behalf of human (and corporate) intransigence and greed.

Jim: I have quite a few episodes of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” that I taped in the summer of 1994, with Comedy Central ID bumpers where they’re calling themselves “Official Network of the 1994 Players’ Strike.”

Unfortunately, Tropicana Field is quite a bit further inland than — and probably much more solidly built than — Al Lang Stadium, former spring training home of the Cardinals, and a very nice place to spend a spring afternoon.

Raised on Devil Ray-dio

First and most importantly, I have solved a mystery that has been puzzling Levi ever since last July, regarding the end of a certain White Sox-Devil Rays game, captured by Levi’s TiVo and replayed endlessly. The question was, what was the deal with the Devil Rays mascot, Pansy the Wuss-Wuss Fish Who Can’t Keep It Up (a.k.a. Raymond), when he was jumping around with the players?

The answer is that if the Rays are behind, he spends the bottom of the ninth standing around on top of the visitors’ dugout, dressed in a black shirt and mask, “disguised” as Rally Ray. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a good picture of him as he was unsuccessfully attempting to work his mojo against the Rangers on Tuesday night:

And now, more pictures:

Tropicana Field, as seen from the Interstate. It’s hard to tell, but we were driving through a sudden, very brief cloudburst at this point, approximately 6:40 P.M., and that’s why the city of St. Petersburg built a dome in the late 1980s.

The view from my seat, on the club level. I have to admit that this would be a very nice stadium if not for the permanent roof.

Plenty of good seats available. The official attendance was 10,389, but there were probably fewer than 7,000 people actually at the game. This is what happens when a team has lost its last five games and 12 out of its last 14, and plays a Tuesday night game against a team other than the Yankees or Red Sox, and doesn’t give away some sort of promotional item. They did not play Guess the Attendance on the scoreboard.

Maura’s favorite player!

The final line.

Headline in the Tampa Tribune.

Headline in the Dallas Morning News (it was a coincidence that I was changing planes not too far away from The Ballpark at Arlington…excuse me, Ameriquest Field).

Unfortunately, although the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa has a “please touch” ray pond, since they’re all the rage these days, they haven’t labeled which ones are the devil rays. (Insert your own joke here, or better yet, in the comments.)

Original comments…

maura: haha, i was totally going to ask you where the picture of rocco was!! nice work, my friend, nice work. have you been to other roofed parks ever? i have never seen a baseball game indoors, and man people i know sure hate tropicana field.

maura: i am really sad about the rays this season, too, but i think i’ve mentioned that. sigh

Levi: I’ve been to a game at the Metrodome, with Stacey and Sarah Meisch and Dan Rivkin and Baggarly. We all kind of enjoyed it, although it was weird. The worst part was leaving a 65-degree sunny day to enter a 65-degree fluorescent-lit dome.

Steve: As much as I’m glad Jim was able to enjoy a trip home, (and catch an AL game in a dome) his attention to detail makes a strong case that baseball could use some contraction.

Jim: Nah, I’d have the same attention to detail even if the AL still had only eight teams. But it’ll all be worth it if I get on “Super Millionaire.”

Steve: I hear you on that super millionare. Will you be my phone a friend if I make it? I don’t like the new “jury” lifeline. Even though they should be super brainy, I don’t trust them. They are there at the producers behest no?