At the Old Ball Game

My list of ballparks is somewhat extensive for a few reasons: my broadcasting career netted me occasional press seats; my recent medical software marketing position required travel with many evenings free; and, one of my best friends (whom I met while we were playing baseball) planned annual baseball vacations for us for nearly ten years. I’m hoping he and I can resurrect that tradition soon.

Philadelphia – The Vet (My parents surprised me on my birthday in May with scheduled doubleheader tickets against the Expos. I remember the man sitting in front of us smoking a cigar.) I returned many times. In fact, before our daughter was born, my wife and I enjoyed a weekend ticket plan. We’d fill in the gaps using my press credentials.

When I was even younger, I saw one Sunday game against the Giants at Connie Mack Stadium on a bus trip with relatives.

And, Citizens Bank Park. Much more fan friendly than The Vet.

Baltimore – Memorial Stadium. I recall attending a Monday Night Baseball telecast game where the A’s wore their yellow and green uniforms and the Orioles wore their orange tops.

And, Camden Yards – one of my favorite ballparks. It’s still a fun destination and as close to my home as Philly, without the horrendous traffic.

Washington, DC – Nationals Park is fun with lots of good food options. I recommend taking a bus trip or take the train to a day game. Trains only run until 11 PM, so you may have to miss an exciting ending or get stranded.
And RFK, the Nats’ home before the new park was ready.

Pittsburgh – PNC Park is my current favorite. There’s something very special about the rivers, the Clemente Bridge and the cityscape surrounding this gem.

New York – Yankee Stadium (the former), Shea Stadium and Citi Field. My wife and I enjoyed a burger and a beer across the street from Yankee Stadium. We also saw an Old Timers’ Game there.

Boston – Fenway Park. There’s nothing like it or Yawkey Way and the surrounding pubs before a Sox game.

Toronto – I only saw one game at Rogers Centre, but I experienced both the roof on and off! About the 4th inning during a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon game, I suddenly saw sunshine and shadows on the field. I couldn’t even hear the roof opening to a much brighter day.

Detroit – Comerica Park. There’s even a brick near the Tiger at the entrance with my name on it … in the players’ section, (except I’m not the former major leaguer, Brian Williams) I still got a photo of myself with that brick! Sadly, during that same trip, I visited the remains of Tiger Stadium and actually witnessed a wrecking ball crashing into the press box. I was surprised how close I could get. I still have a small piece of concrete from the site.

Cleveland – I still really like The Jake. It’s the only stadium where I paid for the standard tour. I especially enjoyed standing on the field, sitting in the Indians’ dugout and seeing the broadcast booths. My friend and I would stay at the Holiday Inn Express two blocks away. It was converted from an old bank and still operated the narrow elevators. Rooms featured spacious wood floors, heavy doors and ten-foot ceilings. Large windows provided a view into the outfield seating at the ballpark.

Cincinnati – Great American Ballpark surprised me. The river behind the park with passing riverboats sets off a fine baseball atmosphere.

Chicago – Wrigley Field. ‘Nuff said. Be sure to visit nearby pubs pre-game (and post-game before getting back on your train).

And Southside. The train takes you right there, too. And the original stadium’s home plate is marked in the parking lot. I saw the Yankees there.

Milwaukee – Miller Park, with the roof closed on a stifling Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, we visited a handy brew pub after the game before returning to our Chicago hotel. I also bought my daughter an Alcides Escobar shirt before he was cool. On a baseball vacation, my friend discovered we could hit Wrigley on Saturday, Miller Park on Sunday and the White Sox Monday. I love having friends who are as passionate about baseball as I am.

Minnesota – This is another well-designed ballpark. Although today’s hitters make even this park look small, it’s cavernous and beautiful.

Kansas City – I never realized how close you could get to those fountains in right field at Royals Stadium! Definitely leave time in your itinerary for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Buck O’Neil’s and Satchel Page’s grave sites. And don’t forget to sample authentic KC barbecue.

St. Louis – The latest iteration of Busch leaves a perfect view of The Arch beyond the outfield. For some reason, I had difficulty navigating the place. (Honest, I only had one beer at Mike Shannon’s.) Maybe it still required some finishing touches, but I ran into a couple of dead ends at the bottom of stairwells. The shops/restaurants beyond left field weren’t built yet in 2013. I like that they marked the base line of the former Busch along the third base side outside the current park.

Los Angeles – Dodger Stadium may be old, but it’s fun. (Yes, I had a Dodger Dog.) Unlike some of the locals, I stayed for the entire game and witnessed an inside-the-park homer.

San Francisco – Candlestick Park. I’m showing my age, but I saw a Dodgers’ game here. I got sunburned in my seat, yet was freezing in the stiff winds on the concourse.
I’d love to see a game at the new park, which looks amazing.

I’ve been fortunate enough to eye-witness two no-hitters: Roy Halladay against the Reds in the playoffs at CBP; and, Jordan Zimmermann wrapping up the regular season at Nationals Park when Steven Souza, Jr. made the game-ending, diving grab in left center field.

I think that leaves a dozen current parks that I haven’t visited. My bucket list includes some Arizona Fall League action and the Midnight Sun Game in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Only because a current colleague asked, I compiled a list of 32 minor league parks (including affiliated and independent) where I’ve seen at least one game. I guess that gives me more writing material.

I Vote for Nine-Player Baseball

What’s with the current ridiculous groundswell of support for the DH in both leagues? I guarantee that I can refute any point established by the “home run derby” crowd.

Here are the first three tired, old debate quotes we hear from the pro DH masses:

1 – “Pitchers can’t hit.”

Tell that to Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner and several others who take their professionalism, their craft and their team play seriously. These are conditioned athletes who used to be the best hitters in every league where they played.

When they get to pro ball, their bats are taken away until they reach AA. And then, they only get to swing the bat (or even bunt) if they play for NL affiliates and only against an opponent that’s an NL affiliate.

When they reach the majors, they’re expected to succeed against the top pitchers in the world. They’re set up to fail. I’m sorry, but that’s an organizational issue, not a reason to neuter the integrity of the game.

No player should be given a pass from hitting, fielding or running unless they’re replaced in the lineup. That goes for the one-dimensional DH, too.

2 – “Pitchers can get hurt while hitting or running the bases.”

So can position players, right? Isn’t that called “baseball”?

Isn’t it interesting that no pitcher ever gets hurt on the mound? Shall we wrap them in bubble wrap? (I borrowed that visual from a position player friend.) Or maybe just use a pitching machine. Problem solved.

3 – “Fans love offense.”

Okay, let them play home run derby 162 times a year. Is that what baseball fans want?

The first DH game in MLB history ended up 15-5. The Yankees and Red Sox tallied 28 hits. The combined DH’s went 1-9 with one RBI. Exciting, huh? Mel Stottlemyre and Luis Tiant could have gone 1-9.

I wish I had been old enough to savor the 1968 season. I’ll pay to sit on the edge of my seat at a 1-0 game where every pitch matters. Where each manager struggles with the decision to pinch hit for a hot starter. Where a bunt, every 90 feet and any defensive play could turn the game.

On the other hand, 15-5 where nine hitters follow nine hitters and relievers can be dispensed as from a vending machine with no roster consequence? Just sit back and wait for the bomb, like in football? Call that what you want, but it isn’t “baseball” to me.

Care to offer your opinion? I welcome your comments, pro and con. I may respectfully reply, but that’s how civil discussion works.

By the way, I’m just getting started. More to come in the next post.

Go West

Sunday afternoon, June 2, 2013

Another ballpark where we’ve now enjoyed baseball. Another big home team victory.

Mitch and I leave Target Field to begin our three-hour journey to Fargo, North Dakota. You may be wondering how Fargo made it onto this itinerary.

As much as both of us have traveled, neither of us had ever set foot in either of the Dakotas. The Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks would add another ballpark to our list of “been theres” and we’re excited to see them play.

But there’s also a very important historical baseball reason. More on that in the next post.

The sun remains before us as we drive westward through Minnesota. 30 minutes prior to sunset, we cross the Red River into Fargo.

Paradiso Mexican Restaurant adjoins our hotel parking lot, providing the perfect venue for Red Sox-Yankees Sunday Night Baseball (and rain delays). The tasty food and Dos Equis Amber top off a terrific UBT Day Two.
Brian Williams
From Deep Short