Category Archives: american league

American League ballparks.

Safeco Field

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Safeco Field/T-Mobile Park, Seattle, WA

Number of games: 190
First game:  July 16, 1999 (Padres 2, Mariners 1)
Most recent game:  April 1, 2019 (Mariners 6, Angels 3)

(Click any photo to see in a larger size.)

Safeco Field is my home major league stadium, but my regular visits, rather than leading me to be biased in favor of the ballpark, have led me to be a little more critical of it than I might.  It’s a nice place, but it doesn’t quite pass the “is there any doubt you are in Seattle” test, with three exceptions:  if you’re up on the third deck overlooking the Sound, on the third deck looking out at downtown,

or if you’re enjoying an Ivar’s salmon sandwich (eight bucks, but worth it).  Also, there’s no open pavilion area where people can hang out in the sun while seeing the game in progress, like there is at Camden Yards, Coors Field, or Jacobs Field.  Then there’s the matter of the retractable roof.  I greeted the idea of a retractable roof with palpable ambivalence.  I’m about to betray a major secret to those of you who don’t live here in the Pacific Northwest:  the summers here are drop-dead gorgeous.  It rains nonstop from about October 1 to about May 1, but during the baseball season, it’s usually clear.  In fact, people with way too much time on their hands checked out the number or rainouts an outdoor Mariner team would have (I think this was 1996), and the number compared favorably to New York and Detroit and other Eastern cities.  Nevertheless, we as taxpayers spent an extra hundred-and-something million for this huge eyesore roof.  While I like knowing there will be a game any night that I have tickets, I don’t like the looks of it or its cost.  Oh well–what can you do.

The best part of Safeco Field is the art.  A huge percentage of the cost went to providing art for the stadium.  My favorite parts are the literary quotes on the gates to the ballpark (hard to see if you’re going to a game, but wonderful if you walk by the park while it’s closed).  Included are an awesome montage of major league (and historical Seattle) teams’ logos done in license plates and aluminum from pop cans, a 3-D commemoration of the winning play of the 1995 ALDS, and an archetypal representative of every position on a baseball field.


All of the family and friends I visited the Kingdome with, I also have visited Safeco with.  I saw the second-ever game at Safeco with my brother and his very pregnant wife (it was our job to protect her from foul balls).  My folks’ 30th birthday present to me was taking me to see John Olerud hit a walk-off home run.  (I am so predictable.  This is what I ask for every year.  My birthday brings out the best in the Mariners.  The previous year, Ken Griffey Jr. hit an eighth-inning game-winning grand slam at the Kingdome.)  I enjoyed the loudest stadium I’ve ever been in–and perhaps the best game–when fellow bookish baseball fan David and I saw Edgar Martinez hit an eighth-inning grand slam to beat the Yankees in 2000.

By the time the M’s moved to Safeco, I had a real-live teaching job, and to celebrate, I began what I hope to be an annual tradition:  the Because We Can Game.  It’s the first weekday afternoon game after school ends. 

If you see me and a bunch of teacher friends heading to the ballpark some summer weekday afternoon, thumbing our noses at you poor suckers who have to work, it’s the Because We Can Game celebration.  Every year, I notice an incredible number of people arriving at the last minute or an inning or two late.  You poor people playing hooky!  If only you had my job.  (Of course, you’d be working your butt off, as I do, throughout the rest of the year, and for not nearly enough pay.)

Only my dates have changed since the Kingdome days.  Although it wasn’t technically a date, Erin personifies my absolute favorite kind of female baseball companion.  She’s a brilliant non-fan (now working on a doctorate at Cambridge…that’s right, a real dumbass) who is eager to learn about the game.  She showed (or at least did a really good job faking) interest in every arcane rule, scoring decision, and player story I came up with.  Gabriella was a fun girlfriend I took to a couple of games, but for whatever reason, she wasn’t as outgoing at ballgames as she was at every other moment of the day.  Maybe she thought I was too transfixed by the contest to be bothered with conversation.  Baseball, of course, invites conversation among its participants.  You can talk about anything at all and not lose track of the game situations.  Still, in spite of her ballpark silences, Gabriella goes into my Ballpark Hall Of Fame for her skill at drawing low ticket lottery numbers.  There were 500 people lined up at her local drugstore waiting to pick numbers for 2000 ALCS tickets.  I drew #436.  She drew #16.  As such, I got to go to my

first Championship Series game.

In August of 2001, I had my first baseball date with a woman who is actually more hard-core a fan than I am.  It’s a scary thought, but it was certainly a wonderful experience.  Now, you might ask–did I rush this relationship by going to a Mariner game too early?  The answer:  absolutely not.  We worked our way up through the minor leagues.  Our first date was a single-A Everett AquaSox game.  Then, about a month later, when we knew each other better, we headed down to a triple-A Tacoma Rainiers game.  We needed to get our cuts in, maybe have some scouts get a look at us, before we headed to the majors.  It was an excellent choice:  we were ready when we finally made the show.  We subsequently worked our way through the Division Series (traveling to Jacobs Field to do it, no less!) to the ALCS together (amazingly, she duplicated Gabriella’s ticket-lottery mojo).  Some relationships head straight to the major leagues, then flame out too quickly.  Mine–well, it started at about the All-Star break and ended a few minutes before Game 7 of the World Series.  ‘Twas fun, but ’twas not permanent.  Like the M’s run that year, I guess.

In any event, I’m finding it’s actually harder to write about my home stadium than about any other stadiums–in good part because I feel like my impressions of the stadium–and the self and others I take there–are obviously very much in flux.  So, I guess if you want to know my current feelings about the Safe, and cool stuff and people I’m seeing there, you can either wait ten years or send me an email.  Sorry to cop out, but hey.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

After Andy Pettitte takes a no-hitter to

the sixth inning, Seattle comes back and wins on a grand slam by my favorite Mariner, Edgar Martinez.

Game 4 of the 2000 ALCS: New York 5, Seattle 0.  Roger Clemens one-hits the Mariners and strikes out 15, tying the LCS record.    The hit was nearly caught by Tino Martinez…it was very close to a no-hitter.  Derek Jeter hits a 3-run homer; Dave Justice hits a 2-run homer.

I saw the historic 2001 team play a total of ten games at Safeco–and the 116-46 team went 5-5 in my presence (one loss was on a three-hitter, eight innings of which were pitched by Pedro Martinez).  Clearly I was bad for the team.

Best Mariner pitching performance:  Jamie Moyer.  A two-hit shutout (with relievers Rhodes and Sasaki) against the Orioles in 2001.  Honorable mention:  Joel Pineiro pitches a complete-game three-hit shutout against the Rangers in 2003.

9-9-2001:  Cal Ripken’s last game in Seattle.  He received some nice gifts and spoke eloquently before the game.  He then went 0-3 against Moyer, his former teammate.

9-18-2001:  The first game after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Quite emotional…it was interesting getting back into the cheering.  I didn’t like looking up at planes going overhead.

I attended the final game of that regular season for the M’s; they had a chance to win a record 117th game.  They lost.  But I still can say I’ve been to one of only two regular-season games in MLB history that featured a 116-game winning team.  (The other:  the 116-36 Chicago Cubs ended their season with a 3-3 tie against the Cardinals in St. Louis on October 7, 1906.  I missed that one.)

Game 2 of the 2001 ALCS:  New York 3, Seattle 2.  Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera are too damn much to beat.  I hate the Yankees.  I find it unjust how they can afford to buy the best teams year in and year out.

If I give props for Edgar’s game-winning grand slam against the Yankees, I have to give props to a visitor who does the same thing.  San Diego’s Rondell White hit a ninth-inning game-tying grand slam as the Mariner bullpen melted down in an 8-6 Padre win on June 29, 2003.

The final game of the lamentable M’s 63-99 2004 season, a 3-0 loss to Texas, was memorable for two reasons.  First, Ichiro Suzuki extended the record for most hits in a season by getting base knocks #261 (a single to center off of Chan Ho Park) and #262 (a single to center off of Ben Shouse).  Second, it was the last game in the majors for Edgar Martinez, who (alas) went 0-for-4, grounding into two double plays.  Still, he received standing ovations for every at bat and several curtain calls.  What a stud.

Oakland clinched the 2006 AL West crown here while I watched jealously.  They jumped up and down on the field after a 12-3 victory on September 26, 2006.

A 2009 gem by Zack Grienke against an injury-depleted Mariners lineup.  He gives up only one hit–a Kenji Johjima single in the second inning.  With a man on first and no score, Royals center fielder Mitch Maier plays it safe and lets the ball drop in front of him to protect the team from a run.  If it’s the 8th inning, though, he dives for that ball and might get it.  That’s how close I was to seeing a no-hitter.

2011:  Jason Vargas shuts down the Phillies on Father’s Day with a 3-hit shutout.  At that moment, the Mariners looked like they had it together: then the wheels totally cameo ff.

2011: A bizarre situation:  The Florida Marlins came to town as the home team: Land Shark Stadium was unavailable for the series due to a U2 concert.  Seattle bat first and wore grey.  I sort of hoped that the Mariners would put Marlins’ stuff on the scoreboard, invited Billy Marlin…but no dice.  In fact, the Mariners taunted the Marlins as they ran out, playing “Beautiful Day” as their taking the field moment.  In fact, the Marlins taking the field was the weird moment.  Instead of shouting “Ladies and Gentlemen, your SEATTLE MARINERS!!!”, Tom Hutyler, the PA man, simply said “Ladies and gentlemen, the Florida Marlins.”  Which sort of led to polite Pacific Northwest golf claps.  I’m just glad that the Marlins didn’t have a walk-off hit…that would have been horrible.  But Felix Hernandez wouldn’t let that happen.  He and Brandon League combined on a 2-hitter as the Mariners won 2-1.

Kauffman Stadium

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Image from www.baseballparks.com, all rights reserved. Used by permission.

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO

Number of games: 3
First game:  May 24, 1997 (Royals 11, Mariners 5)
Most recent game: June 16, 2016 (Royals 10, Tigers 3)

I seldom hear Kauffman Stadium listed as one of the best or classic stadiums, and I don’t know why.  I think it’s a matter of age:  it’s a tweener.  Since it was built in the early 1970s, it’s not old enough to be old, and not new enough to be new.  I also think that the original decision to use Astroturf may have negatively impacted people’s perception on Kauffman as a “classic.”  Its location away from the coasts also doesn’t help matters.  But in my view Kauffman is one of the best ballparks out there.

Let’s start with the name.  Originally “Royals Stadium,” its name was changed to honor a dying owner of the team.  That’s much nicer than the corporate naming that has since become commonplace.  Funny how naming a place after a multimillionaire owner has actually become quaint.  Then come the views.  Just beyond the outfield walls, you’ve got grassy areas all around–not just as a hitters’ backdrop, but nearly from foul pole to foul pole.  That’s nice to see.  Beyond the park, you’ve got a fairly good look at some brown Midwestern prairies and trees.  One of my main stipulations differentiating between a good ballpark and a great one is that, when sitting in the ballpark, there should be no question about what part of the country you’re in.  Those prairies mark the place as Kansas City and the Midwest.  I admit I have a soft spot in my heart for the Midwest, and those prairies certainly are a bonus in my book.  I hope suburban sprawl doesn’t ruin that view, but I imagine it’s inevitable if the Kansas City area grows much more.

My Mariners were in Kansas City while I was visiting family in Missouri.  That provided a great excuse to do a little father/son ballpark bonding.  By the way–those of you who are out there trying to make it to all the stadiums, as I am–how many stadiums have you been to with your fathers or with your sons?  Dad and I have been to 8 different major league ballparks in 6 cities (plus a rainout at Camden Yards)  That’s a lot of coast-to-coast father/son bonding over my lifetime, and that certainly beats the hell out of a lot of other father/son combinations…especially considering we’ve not been trying to build up to a high number.  We’ve just lived in enough different places and traveled enough together to be in ballparks from Baltimore to Seattle, Detroit to Arlington.  At times like the time I was going through when I paid this visit to Missouri, when my days were cursed with stupid temp work, when I was going from feeling unjustly unappreciated to feeling justly unappreciated, when I was suffering from a general feeling that life was falling into an endless period of transition, it’s nice to know that I’ve got family that will take me in and take care of me, including a Dad who will drive two hours to pick me up at the airport and take me to a ballgame. Yeah, that’s Field of Dreams-level saccharine.  But it’s true, so deal.  Besides, you’re just jealous that you haven’t been to so many ballparks with your Dad.

This is the only baseball game I’ve ever been to where I’ve openly rooted for the visiting team.  Now I wouldn’t be stupid enough to wear Mariner gear to, say, Yankee Stadium, and I chose to remain silent even during the M’s playoff games I watched at Jacobs Field, but I figured that I’d be safe wearing an M’s cap to Kauffman for a weeknight game in May, and possibly even doing some limited vocal rooting.  Dad and I parked ourselves about 25 rows behind home plate and watched Jamie Moyer gamely fight for several innings before the terrible M’s bullpen blew it.  Yes, I rooted for the Mariners throughout a game that was close and exciting until the bullpen got involved.  But in spite of my enemy status, I was surrounded by some of the nicest people out there.  The guy next to me identified the Royals’ retired #10 that stumped me (Dick Howser).  He asked me some questions about living in Seattle and seemed genuinely interested in my answers.  He asked me questions about Mariner players (i.e. “Does that guy have any speed?”) and reciprocated by answering my questions about Royal players.  It wasn’t like we were engaged in constant conversation, but it’s nice to be in the Midwest where people are kind to you and assume that you will be kind to them in return.

There is a backlash to this kindness, of course…the fans aren’t nearly rowdy enough.  A good portion of the time is spent sitting very quietly, waiting to be impressed so they can clap politely.  It’s a good bet that this was the quietest major league ballpark I’ve ever been in, at least on a per-fan basis.  Only the pivotal grand slam got them shouting at any level of excitement–nothing in the close first 6 innings got them making any noise in joy or in anger.  You’re really nice people, Kansas City–but you can be both nice and raucous.

After the M’s bullpen let me down, after three hours of talking baseball and whatever else popped up with Dad, I drove him home, and, for the first time in my life, felt responsible for him.  He fell asleep in the passenger seat, and I had two hours of Interstate 70 to negotiate on the trip home–which would take us well past midnight.  For some reason, I felt like he looked older and more helpless than I’d ever seen.  Maybe it was just that he was asleep and I had to take care of him.  I turned up the stereo just a tiny bit, popped in a tape I liked, and quietly, intently sang every word to every song, making sure to stay awake, focusing every part of me on getting my sleeping Dad back home safely to Mom.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Craig Paquette hits two home runs, including a grand slam that gives the Royals the lead for good, 5-3, in the 6th inning.  Jamie Moyer pitched well until then–he was tired. Chili Davis was lucky to draw a walk on him before Paquette came to the plate, but nobody worth a dime was in that awful Mariner bullpen to replace him to face Paquette.  I nominate the 1997 Mariners as the worst pitching staff ever to win a division.  This in spite of some solid starters–Johnson, Moyer, Fassero.  The bullpen was absolutely cringe-worthy, and I have this game’s scoresheet to prove it.

(Written August 2001.  Updated October 2001.)

Kingdome

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From King County website, www.metrokc.gov/stadium.

Kingdome, Seattle, WA

Number of games: 28
First game:  March 31, 1996 (Mariners 3, White Sox 2, 12 innings)
Last game:  May 30, 1999 (Devil Rays 15, Mariners 7)

The Kingdome was imploded in March of 2000.

The place was a dump, and in spite of the fact I went to so many games there, and that one might think this might breed some affection, I will never miss it.  The day they blew the damn thing up, I remember they interviewed some guy in his 30s wearing a Seahawks jersey.  He was close to tears, and they asked him for his opinions about the loss of the Kingdome, and he said it just made him sad, thinking of “watching Jim Zorn take snaps there, watching Dave Kreig take snaps there, watching Griffey, Buhner, Randy…”  Wow.  This is a man who did not cry at his own wedding (although I’d lay money that he’s never had and never will have said wedding).  I tend to be a weepy-sensitive-poet sort, and I tend to be an our-place-in-history lover of sports, but I refuse to mix the two.  I mean, every time I went into that place on a gorgeous summer night in the Pacific Northwest, no matter who I was with or how excited I was to see the game, going indoors made me think, just for a split second:  “I’m wasting my life.”  I don’t think that when I enter an outdoor stadium.  Additionally, even as indoor stadiums go, this was disgusting…grey everywhere.  In short, the ballpark itself is not worth another word here.

My first game there remains the only Opening Night I’ve ever attended.  It was two weeks after I’d moved to Seattle.  I had just moved into a scary rooming-house–didn’t yet have any kind of temp work, didn’t yet have a chance to make friends beyond my brother’s friends.  Not the best life situation, but I was still optimistic against all odds, though, which is a perfect state of mind for opening night. It was quite an opener, too:  a sold-out Kingdome the first game after the amazing ’95 playoffs.

A good balance of family and friends were always on hand to go to the Kingdome with me…I went on my own just twice, once to see David Wells get shelled but still win (final score:  16-10…ugh), and once near the end of the Kingdome’s existence, when I sat right behind Griffey in center field, to watch my last game there, where Jose Canseco and just about everybody else homered off of just about every Mariner reliever.  Went with my parents whenever they were in town…Mom’s not a huge fan, but likes “to be with my boys.”  Went with my brother and his friends. Did several games every year with David, an exceedingly kind and bookish actor/director and New Yorker who liked to watch the Yankees (but is not a Yankee fan).  Celebrated my 29th birthday with about a dozen friends watching Griffey hit a game-winning grand-slam so dramatic and perfect that friend Darcy thought it looked suspicious–she thought the whole game might have been rigged.

DeAnn was a terrible blind date I went to a game with…I hated her name (which wasn’t really DeAnn), hated her lack of intelligence, hated her not-so-hot morals, and still went out with her for as long as I could because I was new in town.   Michelle was a major winner who thought it cute when I talked about the infield fly rule.  I’ve heard she got married to the guy she dated right after me.  I’ve also heard she then got very, very sick…I certainly hope that’s not true, and that she’s out there somewhere and doing well.

***October 2004:  I wrote the above, about Michelle, in July of 2001, literally a few days before I got a letter from her reestablishing contact after 4 years apart.  She was not married and not dead. In fact, we resumed contact, became friends, started dating again…and I will marry her in July of 2005.  Yippee!  I am proud to report that she is still a “major winner” and a total babe.

Maria let me take her to a game during her week visiting me in spite of her lack of love of sports.  It still comes up every now and then, and I still explain to her that a love of sports and a love of stories are the same thing.  “I understand that,” she says–skeptically, I think.

A standout Kingdome baseball date was Kerry.  For one thing, Kerry flew all the way from Boston to go to a pair of games with me.  She counted down to her visit in criminally cute emails:  “In only five weeks you’ll be teaching me how to score.”  “Score” puns aside, that ain’t too shabby…what more could a baseball nerd want than to teach a brilliant woman how to mark a scorecard?  At one of our games, Kerry began a fixation on then-rookie Mike Sweeney, simply because she liked the sound of the name “Kerry Sweeney.”  When she pointed her binoculars at his butt, she liked him even more.  So what happens?  Sweeney clearly feels the love, and hits his first major-league home run.  Kerry’s passion for Sweeney has not waned, and in the five years since, under her good karmic graces, he’s become an all-star.  (Mike, if you read this, drop me an email…you clearly owe Kerry at least an autographed baseball.)  We laughed a lot, leaning in, very close to each other, joking quietly, especially at the expense of the stupid children next to us who kept repeating everything I yelled, causing me to shout stupider and stupider things to see exactly what I could get them to say.  These were wonderful dates.  Three years later, I would return the favor of her visit, and she would take me to two games at her home stadium, Fenway Park.

On the whole–some good baseball, a fair share of bad baseball, lots and lots of memories, all good.  I live 10 miles from the Kingdome, and I could feel the earth shake when they blew it up.  Had a lot of fun there.  Glad the place is gone.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN THERE:

Favorite player:  Randy Johnson.  I was a fan since his Montreal days, as I liked the idea of a gangly guy throwing the ball at great velocity and with unpredictable results.  I first got to see him in the opening night game, 1996.  He was long gone when the new rookie Alex Rodriguez, hitting ninth, drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 12th with his only hit in a 1-for-6 night. About a year and a half later, I saw my favorite game of Randy’s, where he gutted out a 5-4 win over Kansas City when he didn’t seem to have his stuff–still, everyone chanted his name, begging Lou Piniella not to take him out.  He struck out 16 that night.

I’ll be talking about seeing Hall-of-Famers like Johnson and Rodriguez  and Ken Griffey Jr. years down the line, I guess, saying I saw them play.  I saw Griffey hit 3 homers and score 5 runs, driving in 6, on a 4-for-4 night against the Yankees.  On the other hand, I twice saw him fail to take a step towards either left or right field on plays where his neighboring outfielder either misjudged a fly or missed making a tough catch against the wall.  Only when the ball hit the carpet did Griffey consider running to back up his teammate.  Inexcusable, just standing there like that. I’ve had people tell me that a major-league outfielder can’t be expected to run to back up every fly ball of the whole year.  My response:  yes he can.

All of these pale in comparison to The Greatest Play In Baseball History, which took place at the Kingdome in my presence on April 8, 1997.  I was way down the left-field line with my partner-in-crime Rob (with whom I have enjoyed 3 games in two stadiums, plus one spring training) when the Mariners’ bullpen was getting shelled again.  This time it was Josias Manzanillo.  Now, Josias was sprinting in from the bullpen full-speed before any of us had ever heard of John Rocker.  So he comes sprinting in and works himself into trouble:  men on second and third, one out. Manny Ramirez is up.  Ramirez absolutely crushes a scary screaming line drive up the middle, 100+ miles an hour right off of Manzanillo.  Manzanillo falls down with the impact, gets up, and throws the ball home to force Jim Thome out at the plate…then goes back down.  Quite an impact…It was only the next day that we learned that Mr. Manzanillo was not wearing a cup.  I don’t want to make light of his injury, which was serious–it ultimately cost him a testicle.  Look it up in Baseball Weekly from early that season:  “Mariner reliever Josias Manzanillo (testicles) is on the DL…”  Still, considering how hard a shot he took, and the fact that he wasn’t wearing a cup, it is indeed amazing that he got up and made the play! But wait, there’s more…once it became clear to the Mariners’ infield that Josias wasn’t mortally wounded (the seriousness of the injury wasn’t known for some time), his teammates started teasing him…”Hey, let’s see you sprint off the field now!”  The best part of the play:  he did.

(Written August 2001.  Revised July 2009.)

Oakland County Coliseum/McAfee Coliseum/O.co Coliseum

Oakland/Alameda County Coliseum/McAfee Coliseum, Oakland, CA

Number of Games:  3
First game:  September 16, 1995 (A’s 6, Twins 1)
Most recent game:  July 4, 2011 (Mariners 2, A’s 1)

Oakland County Coliseum was temporarily renamed Network Associates Coliseum.  As of the 2005 season (and for my second visit in 2006), it was called McAfee Coliseum.  In 2011, as of my third visit, the name had changed to the o.co Coliseum.

(Click on any image to see a full-sized version.)

They were in the midst of remodeling Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum when I was there, so my concerns may have been alleviated, but I still have a couple of complaints about the stadium.  First–and this is a problem in quite a few two-sport stadiums–there is so much foul territory that, no matter where you’re sitting, you’re about a mile and a half from the play.  I thought the grade in the lower deck was so gradual that I felt even farther back than the foul territory originally made it seem.  The place was more or less charmless–again, the construction dust may have added to that.  And maybe there was a problem with me watching two teams that were out of the playoff hunt in mid-September.  But I don’t have too much of a positive impression of this stadium.  I wasn’t able to go back there on my 2000 West Coast Swing.  Maybe sometime down the road, when I next visit friends in the Bay Area, I’ll get a chance to return and will

find it more to my liking.

Good old Kristina, longtime friend and sometime crush (I never told her so…until now, of course) lugged me around the Bay Area for an entire wedding weekend, and accompanied me to the ballgame on top of everything else. She was a trooper.  At the ballgame, she scored for me while I bought her a hot dog…but there was something bad in the hot dog, and Kristina got sick.  Damn that Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum!  They made Kristina sick!  Anyhow, she has since married, and she, her husband, and their new baby daughter live in Sacramento.  We remain in sporadic touch…she and her husband even volunteered to host me on my last baseball trip.  So that’s what I remember Oakland for–we were far away from the game, I was hanging out with a good friend, and she got sick from a hot dog.  Not the greatest ballpark experience in history.

I missed Oakland on my West Coast Tour 2000…I was due to stay with Kristina and her husband, but an sudden, severe illness in her family prevented that, and I truncated the trip instead of spending many dollars I didn’t have on a stadium hotel.  Bless her heart, Kristina still offered to let me to stay with her.  “I’ll be at the hospital a lot, but my husband and I really want to see you…”  Next time, Kristina.  The three of us will go to the ballpark together.  I’ll even sneak in our own food.

REVISIT 2006: I made it back to Oakland’s ballpark with my wife and my buddy Rob in 2006.  When I wrote the above, I wrote it in 2001, recalling a 1995 game.  I now can give a better review–the construction was finished and the ballpark is fresh in my mind.  The ballpark has the same problems as most dual-purpose stadiums…massive expanses of unused

seats and large amounts of foul ground.  My recollection that the stands’ slope felt gradual was reinforced on this visit:  even in the front row of the second deck, I felt very, very far away from the action.  The players looked smaller than they do at most other ballparks.  The team made the wise decision to close off the third deck in 2006, which enables them to cover it with decorations, retired numbers, and World Series title commemorations.  This closure makes the concourses a hotbed of activity, since literally all of the spectators are shoe-horned into one concourse, which winds about 270 degrees around the ballpark.

The funny thing is that these old, unfortunate characteristics–the concrete slabs above the concourses, the vacant upper decks, the possibility of a lousy seat–have become the new retro in stadiums.

The good aspects of old ballparks (Tiger Stadium, Wrigley Field, and even Fenway Park) have been imitated in the new wave ballparks (more or less anything built in the 1990s).  There aren’t many of the 1970s multipurpose ballparks still in use:  this one, Shea, Skydome/Rogers Centre (to an extent), and the Metrodome (for a few more years, anyway).  None of these are great ballparks, but none of them are modern carnival/theme parks, either…baseball is central here.  The old crappy and dull has become the new retro, and it’s fun to get to a ballpark like this while we still can, to enjoy a lousy seat, less-frequent horrible promotions, and even the kitschy-retro dot races instead of the whatever-can-be-sponsored-locally races on the ballpark screens at so many other ballparks.  It’s not a great ballpark, but I’m glad I went back, and I’ll do it again if I have the chance.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Mark McGwire homered in the 1995 game.

In 2006, I saw one of the most dramatic pitching performances I’ve ever seen.  The Diamondbacks’ Miguel Batista threw 6 2/3 innings of a perfect game.  The game remained scoreless through 6 before Arizona blew it open with 6 runs in the top of the seventh.  This meant there was no doubt as to the outcome of the game, but that there was a lot of drama as to whether Batista could get nine more outs consecutively.  He retired the Jason Kendall to lead off the seventh.  Then, second baseman Orlando Hudson made an absolutely incredible stop on a grounder up the middle to retire Mark Kotsay for the second out.  I whooped with glee.  About 50% of the Oakland fans–they’re hard-core, remember–were cheering, but I got a few major glares from A’s fans.  Would that great play propel Batista the rest of the way?  No.  He walked the next batter on four pitches, and then surrendered a huge home run to Frank Thomas to surrender the no-hitter and the shutout.  Batista finished with a three-hitter, and in the process gave me one of my biggest ballpark thrills…the deepest a player has ever taken a no-hitter in my presence, just beating out Roger Clemens’s one-hit gem in the ALCS at Safeco Field in 2000.

Another big pitching duel highlighted my family’s July 4th visit to the newly-named O.co Coliseum in 2012.  Mariner Michael Pineda got the best of Oakland’s Brandon McCarthy, combining with two relievers on a 3-hitter.  Josh Bard’s 6th-inning homer tied it and Justin Smoak’s 7th-inning double won it.  (Smoak is pictured up in the body of the entry, fouling off a second-inning pitch from McCarthy). The highlight of the day might be this photo of my elder son, which might be the greatest image in recorded history:

(Written August 2001.  Most recently updated March 2012.)

Anaheim Stadium/Edison Field

anaheimview

From the Great Major League Baseball Trip 2000 Website. Used by permission.

Anaheim Stadium/Edison Field, Anaheim, CA

Number of Games: 2
First game:  July 30, 1993 (Angels 4, Twins 2)
Most Recent Game:  August 2, 2000 (Tigers 4, Twins 3)

Stadium was called Anaheim Stadium for my first visit, Edison Field for the second.  As of the 2004 season, the stadium is called Angels Stadium of Anaheim.

There is hope for multipurpose cookie-cutter stadiums!  Both Edison and Busch were once boring combination football/baseball facilities.  Both had their football teams high-tail it out of town, and both reorganized into baseball-only facilities.  And at least Anaheim always had the sense to have natural grass.  It is now a fairly nice place to watch a baseball game on the West Coast.

If you’re really lucky, like my friend Chris and I were on my first visit, you might even get in for free.  You just have to time your visit perfectly and arrive in the midst of a marital spat.  Chris and I fought god-awful traffic for about a million miles on our way down, and had circumnavigated the stadium on foot in our effort to find the ticket booth.  As we were finally approaching, some exasperated man came up to us.  “Are you guys looking for two tickets?”  We barely had a chance to nod.  “Here are two.  Just TAKE them.  I don’t care.  Just take the damn things.”  Before we could thank him, he’d thrusted them into Chris’s hands and was walking away to harangue his wife.  We hadn’t even figured out what was going on enough to offer to buy him a beer or whatever.  He was long gone (like his marriage, I bet).  That’s how Chris and I wound up sitting about 15 rows behind first base for free.  Try it sometime…just walk near married couples having awful fights outside the ticket booth.

Seats that close can be dangerous, though.  It was at that game I saw the worst injury I’ve ever seen at a baseball game–and it was to a spectator.  It was the ninth inning, and a woman, 50-60-ish, was getting her stuff to leave (always a bad mistake…NEVER leave early, I say).  Just then, some Twin smacked a wicked line drive up the first base line.  As the ball came, she was leaning over to pick up her purse, and the ball, surely traveling at least 80 miles an hour, got her right on top of the head.  I’m sure it knocked her unconscious.  Stadium security worked on her for most of the inning…at which point the poor, barely-revived woman had to be walked up the aisle past everybody so we could get a good look at her.  We applauded as she passed.  I wonder if that made her head hurt more.

Anyway, the stadium was decent, nothing special in 1993…and by the time I got back there for its baseball-only incarnation in 2000, it was a bit better.  Not as nice as Coors or Pacific Bell, to be sure, but nicer than it was.  It doesn’t quite pass my test of true ballpark greatness, which is to say that it should be obvious, just from sitting inside the park, where in the United States or Canada you are.  The Disney/Angels folks put in those red rocks out past center field.  They’re pretty, sure, but what do they have to do with Southern California?  How about a beach volleyball pit out there?  That way, the L.A. people who go to the game to see and be seen don’t have to take up any space in their seats, and bored spectators can aim their binoculars at the gorgeous people in swimsuits out past center field.  They could also have tables with umbrellas where you could get sit with your drink.  Now, to me, that would be something to look at.  On SportsCenter…somebody hits a home run…and past center field, you see sand and umbrellas, abs and bikinis?  Where else could it be but Southern California?

If you’re looking for a batting-practice home run, park yourself in the right field corner.  It was a hot day game when I was there, but if you have a glove, you can catch one on the fly or clamber for one in the seats.  I just don’t have the killer instinct, I guess…I was second man in for three home run balls.  Plus, nice pitchers will toss balls to kids in the front row.  Or, better, hand them to them.  Like Doug Brocail of the Detroit Tigers…he walked right up to the kids screaming for baseballs, plopped one right it a kid’s glove, took his pen, and signed it.  Then he signed autographs for about 10-15 minutes in the 90+ degree heat when he could have been cooling off in the clubhouse.  I will cheer for Doug Brocail anytime I see him anywhere from now on…he made some random kids in L.A. happy.

Not that everyone was happy. The elderly lady on a trip from her senior center was fun to talk to because she was so damn angry at her Angels and Ken Hill, but nice to me (although I didn’t tell her I was a Mariner fan eager to see another Angels fold in progress).

So, the ballpark isn’t terribly special, but I enjoyed going there and appreciated the efforts at change.  It is, after all, a ballpark, and I’ll take that over Disneyland every day of the week.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Nothing too great.  Bobby Higginson homered.  Kirby Puckett scored a couple of times and stole a base.

(Written August 2001.  Updated July 2005.)

Milwaukee County Stadium

milco

From the -Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-.

Milwaukee County Stadium, Milwaukee, WI

Number of games:  1
First and last game:  July 5, 1993 (Rangers 5, Brewers 4)

County Stadium was destroyed in 2001.

With the opening of Miller Park, Milwaukee may finally feel like it has made the big leagues, stadium-wise.  County Stadium’s small-town, not-quite-big-league feel was the source of its charm, however, and I can’t help but feel that something has been lost.

I attended the game with engaged friends Chris and Rebecca.  Rebecca is very Wisconsin, right down to the weird pronunciation of short “a” (as in “class”; those of you who know folks from between Chicago and Green Bay know exactly the sound I’m talking about).  Both are baseball fans–Rebecca talked about joining Safety Patrol during her childhood in Wauwatosa just so she could get the free Brewer tickets that were the major perk of the job, and Chris ably manned the scorebook duties when I went for a walk around the park.  We sat underneath the overhang, a little bit behind first base, to watch a bad Brewer team get beat in a close game.

Rebecca showed a little alarm at the kinds of things I would yell…back in my youth, when I was with friends, I sometimes would yell things at my least favorite ballplayers (anybody who doesn’t hustle or any power hitter hitting under .200, like, in this game, Tom Brunansky).  “I HAVE VERY LITTLE FAITH IN YOU,” I shouted when Bruno came to bat with the bases loaded…Texas had walked Greg Vaughn to get to him, and wouldn’t you too?  In the years since, I have decided that the price of admission does not give me license to verbally abuse people.  Even a .179-hitting cleanup hitter.  They’re people too.  Rebecca would give me a shocked look when I shouted, then laugh in spite of herself.

But then, I’ve spent most of my life saying inappropriate things to Rebecca.  It’s a nice arrangement:  I say something astonishingly inappropriate to Rebecca, and in exchange, Rebecca laughs very hard for a long, long time, often punctuating it with “Oh, man!”  I swear she’ll laugh at things I say that, if somebody else were saying them, she’d make a citizens’ arrest on them.  That, and Chris’s bemused looks at our behavior, form the basis for a pair of incredibly valued 10-year friendships.

I missed an inning to look for a guy who I think was named Wayne or Ray Zumwalt.  I was feeling all smug about what a stud I was for going to 11 ballparks that summer, when Wayne or Ray, who clearly has a whole lot of money, a month off, and a personal assistant, decided to go to all 30 ballparks…in thirty days.  We crossed paths in Milwaukee.  I know because they put his name on the scoreboard…but when I went out to look for him (asking ushers, mostly), I had no success.  Ray or Wayne…way to go.  If I ever find I have more money than I know what to do with, or if I can find a sponsor, and an understanding date to get on all those planes with me, I may follow in your footsteps.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Juan Gonzalez hits a game-winning eighth-inning home run off of James Austin.

Tom Brunansky pops out to short with two out and the bases loaded.

No Brewer home runs, so I didn’t get to see Bernie Brewer slide into the suds.

(Written August 2001.  Updated July 2005.)

[New] Comiskey Park

[New] Comiskey Park, Chicago, IL

Number of Games:  2
First Game:  July 1, 1993 (Orioles 1, White Sox 0)
Most Recent Game:  April 19, 2002 (Tigers 8, White Sox 2)

Comiskey Park was renamed US Cellular Field in February 2003.

I got off the train for my weekend in Chicago, leaving my Subaru to rest a week or two at Shelly’s house in Ohio, and followed my main rule the whole week:  I always chat with

cabdrivers. After buying Chris and Rebecca’s wedding gift (which I would give them before accompanying them to Milwaukee County Stadium), I enjoyed the company of Innocent Okele, who talked about life with his five wives.  He looked at my uncertain expression in the rear-view mirror and laughed a high-pitched, gleeful, semi-evil mischievous laugh.  “I’m just keeding.  I don’t have five wives.”  Pause.  “I have TWO wives.”  I decide to play his straight man, asking for their names (Josephine and Aisha), what they do with their time (both are very good cooks) and even the sleeping arrangements (Innocent’s room is between the rooms of the two wives, who visit his bed based on a pre-set schedule.)  We laughed very hard, so much that I shook his hand at the end of the ride.  “Good and Innocent, that me,” he said.  “You must visit Lagos.  A young man like you, you could have fifty wives.”  Quite the ride. I heard his laughter echoing through the hotel parking garage as he drove away.

Staying in Chicago alone…well, I was stood up by the family who had promised me a floor.  I was bumped for Oliver Stone, who (I guess) was going to be in their house at some unannounced point that weekend.  No word on whether he would be sleeping on the floor.  So I stayed alone at the Quality Inn for two nights, going way over budget and into credit card debt, getting lonely enough to call the ex-girlfriend whose breakup had caused me to flee to all of these stadiums in the first place.  Clearly the time with Shelly wasn’t quite the tonic I would have liked.  Man, was I ever a mess. The ex-girlfriend told me about her new cat;  she had named him a name clearly inspired or suggested by her new boyfriend.  This may sound weird, but that damn cat’s name was as hard to handle as anything in the breakup.  Made a new rule–if one wishes to call an ex-girlfriend, do not do it alone in hotel rooms in strange cities.  I blame all of this on Oliver Stone.  Indeed, I cursed him that day.  It was effective–he hasn’t made a good film since.

Back to a cabdriver going to Comiskey.  I’ve heard stories about cabbies taking fares deep into Scaryville, then demanding extra money or else they’ll throw the passenger out there with no clue where they are.  But the

cabbie going down to the ballpark was a nice, nice guy…named Amanbir, I think, a bit of a baseball fan.

The park itself, located in downtown Scaryville, isn’t so bad.  It gets a bad rap as the worst new stadium, but I actually quite liked it.  An uncool statement, I know, but I like the blue seats (too many of which are empty), and the exterior is quite nice-looking.  I think, in retrospect, it appeared better than it is–it was the first new stadium I’d ever visited, and it was a relief to be in a place with at least trace elements of character after seeing four losers in a row:  Busch, Three Rivers, Veterans, and Cleveland Municipal. Plus, the game I saw was easily the best of the 12-game Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tour.

By the way, since interleague play, there are one or two weekends a year when the Sox and Cubs are at home simultaneously, so it’s possible to attend ballgames in two different major league parks in the same day.  It was quite an experience, and seeing Wrigley and Comiskey back to back gave me an opportunity to make some comparisons.  Read about the two-Chicago-parks-in-one-day saga here.

So Comiskey gets a bad rap, I think.  It surely isn’t as nice as the other new parks I’ve since visited, but it ain’t bad.  I even got a cab to take me safely home in the middle of the night.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Jack McDowell pitches a 3-hitter for the Sox, retiring the last 20 batters he faces.  He loses! Jamie Moyer and Gregg Olson combine for a 5-hitter.  The Sox get a guy on first in the bottom of the ninth, and pinch-hitter Robin Ventura absolutely RIPS a ball down the first base line…would have tied the score, but David Segui catches it and the game ends.

I saw the first home game for Chicago after Carlton Fisk’s unceremonious release.  A few lonely fans shout out his name.  Fans are unkind to his replacement, Rick Wrona, who still manages to throw the bat at the ball for a weak base hit.  The Baseball Encyclopedia informs me it’s his only hit of 1993.

(Written August 2001.  Updated April 2003.)

Cleveland Municipal Stadium

Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, OH

Number of Games:  1
First and Last Game: June 24, 1993 (Brewers 5, Indians 3)

Municipal Stadium was vacated by the Indians in 1994 and demolished in 1996.

Out of principle, I feel like I need to put a domed stadium at the bottom of my rankings list, but this cavernous, horrible, termite-infested abomination tempts me to rank it even below the Kingdome, Metrodome, and Astrodome.  Even on the fourth day of summer, it felt cold and grey and miserable, and with 13,225 elbowing their way into a stadium that seats nearly 80,000, it also felt lonely.  My visit was during the Tribe’s last year in this place, which, not surprisingly, coincided with their last year of 40 years of doormathood.  My scorecard has the names of the people who would turn it around (the batting order begins with Lofton, Kirby, Baerga, and Belle.)  But June of 1993 was still a sorry time for the Indians, and I got to see a little chunk of that.

I was with the largest entourage to accompany me to any game on the Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tour.  Shelly and her friend Jane accompanied me and my good friend Chris (who would later join me in Milwaukee County Stadium, making Chris and Shelly the only people to join me in two cities on the ELABST).  There were plenty of good seats to be had (imagine!), so I was excited to wander into our spots about even with first base (with plenty of empty wooden bleachers all around us).  Just as I’m settling into starting my scorecard, I hear an inimitable voice behind me:

“What’s a guy wearing a Colorado Rockies cap doing here?

And I’ll be damned, it was Perry, my favorite college professor, one of those larger-than-life figures that college students are terrified by, but whom I had grown to know well as my honors advisor.  He told me that he goes to one game in Cleveland every year, and as this would be the only game I would ever see in Municipal Stadium, the odds of us meeting by happenstance were awfully remote.  Of course, I didn’t want to disappoint the tough English professor by stammering and stumbling through an answer, so I held up my scorebook and showed him the games I’d seen, the cities I’d been to, the places I was about to go.  It was completely unexpected, and therefore surreal in the way seeing anyone or anything out of an accustomed context is bizarre.  He and his wife invited me to their place for grilled steaks whenever I could make it the two hours down, and sure enough, I was hanging out by the grill with the two of them a few days later.  Perry and I remain in cordial and sporadic touch to this day, and I’m not sure we would were it not for the coincidental meeting to see the bottom two teams in the AL East slug it out at Municipal Stadium.

I’m convinced that it wasn’t just the teams or the game that were awful, it was the atmosphere.  It was so bad that, although the game didn’t even last two and a half hours, it felt interminable.  Shelly, who had enjoyed the game at Veterans Stadium so much, joined Jane in cheering every out–because each out brought us closer to leaving.  (Shelly and Jane spent a good deal of time mulling over Shelly’s dad’s massive collection of historic baseball hats to find the perfect fashion statement.  Too bad, this being Municipal Stadium, that nobody was there to see it.)  The Indians’ ballpark staff tried to make the best of it:  when the Indians were rallying, a figure would appear on the

scoreboard grabbing an empty wooden seat on either side of him and repeatedly opening and shutting it, encouraging the fans to do the same.  It made quite a racket…way more than the 13,225 fans could do.  The message:  “Hey, we may be so bad and have such a lousy stadium that we can’t get people to come to our games, but unlike your popular teams in nice stadiums, we can use our empty seats to make noise.”  I found it pathetic.

One other scoreboard gaffe involved the Indians’ shortstop, Felix Fermin.  The following informational graphic appeared on the scoreboard during one of his at-bats:  “Felix already has more at-bats than he had last season, and has almost as many hits.”  Surely it would have been more effective simply to tell the home crowd:  “Felix isn’t hitting as well as he did last season.”  Why didn’t somebody catch that?  I know I did.

The fans of Clevleand deserve the beautiful Jacobs Field.  One of the reasons it is so popular, I am sure, is because the fans were freed from this decaying piece of garbage called Municipal Stadium.  I hope that the real fans–season-ticket holders who huddled under blankets, protecting themselves from Lake Erie, night after night, year after year, seeing so many terrible teams–remain in the front few rows at the Jake, finally getting the pleasure they’ve earned.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Robin Yount hits a home run.

Ricky Bones combines with two relievers on a three-hitter.

(Written August 2001.)

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Number of Games:  1
First Game:  June 13, 1993 (A’s 7, Twins 6)

(The Metrodome is no longer used for baseball as of the end of the 2010 season.)

The Metrodome is the best among all of the domed stadiums I’ve seen, which is a little like being the tallest mountain in Rhode Island.  I like its location settled in so close to downtown Minneapolis, and I’m sure that Vikings fans (and, for that matter, Vikings) appreciate the protection from subzero weather in December and January, but I certainly wish that I could have been out in the sun on the Sunday afternoon I began my 1993 Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tour.  I drove the sixty minutes up from my sister’s college graduation from Carleton and settled into a month of crashing on friends’ floors.  (Which means, on Jennifer’s poster, the Tour begins with my sister’s name.  Sick, I know, but I didn’t know any other women in Minnesota, so my sister will have to do.)

First, a pleasant surprise:  my seat was in the second row, just a bit to the third-base side of home plate, about even with the edge of the foul ball netting.  Not too shabby…I had spoiled myself with the best seat of

the trip on the first game.  I was close enough to the action that I noticed some things I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed:  Dave Winfield is an exceptionally large and athletic man…way more impressive in person.  Also, Kirby Puckett’s chubbiness is just as evident from up close.

A couple of the Twins, including Winfield, were chatting with a sixty-ish woman in the front row, best seat in the house.  A season-ticket-holding married couple nearby told me what her story was.  She was an 81-game season-ticket holder who never, ever missed a game.  She worked as a nanny over the winters, but was finished by the spring so she could devote her summers to the Twins.  She was the most knowledgeable woman the about the Twins out there.  “She knew Hrbek was going on the DL before the media did,” they told me, amazed.  I was fairly amazed too.  Working six months out of the year to spend the other six in a dome?  I mean, Fenway, sure, but a dome?

Which leads me to a fairly obvious question, and the first thing I thought of when I saw the artificial turf.  If you had a room in your house that was as big as an indoor stadium, would this be the color of the carpet you choose?  Green grass, well, that’s pleasant.  Green carpet–that’s annoying.  Is there a rule that says the carpet in an indoor stadium has to be green?  Can we select some other color?  I suggest black–it’d be easy to pick up the ball and the foul lines, and teams could save money by cleaning and vacuuming it less often–but that might take away too much light.  Boise State University’s football stadium has blue astroturf. 

While blue is a fine color, on the rare occasions I see highlights on ESPN, I don’t think “gee, how different and daring,” I think “man, I need to adjust the tint on my TV.”  A dull red might work, but would blend in with the dirt cutouts around the bases.  Does anyone have a more attractive color than green for the few remaining astroturf fields?

One other lesson I learned…always pay attention.  I had my glove, needless to say, as I was in prime foul ball territory (and on an aisle, allowing for greater maneuverability).  Between innings, though, there was a pitching change, and I was focused on my scorepad to close the book on the previous pitcher, when–WHACK!–the side of my seat was hit by an errant throw from, I believe, the third baseman trying to get the ball back to the dugout, or maybe a left fielder. I’m proud to have been focused on the scorebook, but if I’d been looking at warmups, I surely would have seen the ball coming in, and for goodness sakes, I was wearing my glove–I should have led off the trip with a souvenir.  But I wasn’t, and I didn’t.  Buzzard’s luck…but I try to stay more focused now.

The game itself was quite fun…the first six players for Minnesota reached base, four scored, and they had a 4-1 lead after one inning before losing the lead in the top of the 6th, tying it up in the bottom, then giving up two runs in the top of the ninth and only responding with one.  Shane Mack hit two home runs.  I believe that a home run, especially a long one, looks most dramatic from behind home plate…you can really see the trajectory and respect the distance more from as close as possible to where the ball was hit.  I also have some kind of sense that, as much as I hate domes, home runs may look more dramatic indoors than out.  Something about the ball going almost all the way to the other end of a huge building is impressive…outdoors, the ball is really competing against the size of the world, or maybe against infinity.

Oh–this was the second game I ever tried to score…and the last I ever tried to score in pen.  I got a notion that it would be cool to score the whole trip with the same Minnesota Twins pen I bought at the Metrodome…but my scorepad is such a mess that I’ve used a pencil on all 100+ games since.  (Except one where I couldn’t find a pencil to buy.  Safeco Field let me down.)

I got on a plane that night…I had a game in St. Louis, where I’d left my car with relatives, the very next day.

***May 2005:  There is now a taller mountain in Rhode Island.  I like Tropicana Field more than the Metrodome.  Barely.

BASEBALL STUFF I SAW HERE:

Shane Mack hit two home runs.  This is especially impressive since he only hit 10 during the entire year.

Eddie Guardado starts in his first major league appearance of what is, to date, an 11-year major league career.  Lasts 3 1/3 innings in a no-decision.

Goose Gossage pitches a scoreless 1 1/3 for Oakland.  I am surprised to see him still alive and well with a 2.53 ERA (that will balloon to nearly five by the end of the season).

Dennis Eckersley gives up Mack’s second homer, deep to straightaway center, but still gets a save.

(Written August 2001.  Updated July 2005.)

Arlington Stadium

arlington
Frank Albanese.  From Frank’s Ballpark Page.  Used by permission.

Arlington Stadium, Arlington, TX

Number of Games:  1
First and Last Game:  August 4, 1992 (A’s 9, Rangers 0)

Arlington Stadium was demolished in 1994.

Arlington Stadium was the one big-city stop for Dad and I on my way to start teaching in rural Louisiana.  We had about a week to get from Denver to Baton Rouge, so Dad and I made a few rules for the trip.

Rule 1:  Avoid the interstate at all costs.  When possible, we would even take roads that were not on our map.  For instance, if there was one town in eastern Colorado or western Kansas, and another town 12-20 miles away, and no road between them on our map, we knew–just knew–that if we went to the first town and drove out of it in the direction of the second, we would be on a county road between them.  And we often were.  That is an incredibly fun way to travel.

Rule 2:  We would choose destinations based on the names of towns we liked.  Our first destination was Punkin Center, Colorado.  It ain’t much–just a couple of buildings–but I’ve been there, and you haven’t.  Then we headed down through southeastern Colorado, through some alienatingly flat (but still somehow beautiful) grasslands in southwestern Kansas, on our way to the place we both wanted to spend the night–Hooker, Oklahoma.  How could Dad and I travel across the country without visiting a Hooker?  We made it there about sunset and looked for a hotel, but the one we found, to be honest, looked like a small-h hooker motel, so we retreated to Kansas for the night.  We did pass Hooker High School, however, which boasted Hooker Pride.  The Oklahoma Panhandle…well, it once was no-man’s-land, belonging not to the Native Americans, European Americans or the Mexicans, but to nobody.  I now know why.  Nobody wanted it.  It’s flat, boring, bleak, and depressing.  Hooker is 15 miles from Guymon, Oklahoma, and from Hooker, you could not only see Guymon, but you could see where the dead-straight road you were on cut through Guymon.  Very, very dull, bleak, and hot.  But I’ve been there, and for that alone, it’s worth going.

Rule 3:  Avoid Texas if we could.  I was raised in an exceedingly tolerant and loving household, where we were taught to be kind and respectful to everyone regardless of race, nationality, gender, creed, or sexual orientation.  The only real exception to this rule was Texans.  Don’t get me wrong, some of our best friends are Texans, and we certainly wish them well.  But I think Dad saw a few too many wads of used chew on otherwise white ski slopes (I once even heard a few folks shouting “yee-haw” on the chair lift) to extend his tolerance to Texans.  But when I suggested we do a little father-son bonding at a major-league baseball game, A’s versus Rangers, he decided to set foot in Texas to bond with me.  That was quite a sacrifice, Dad, and I thank you for it.

There was nothing terribly wrong with the stadium, although it had more a minor-league feel than anything else.  Dad and I sat down the right-field line and watched Ranger pitching absolutely make a mockery of the game.  But we focused our binoculars on Rickey Henderson’s stance, marveled at how patriotic the Texas folk were (everyone boisterously singing the national anthem), and talked about whatever we thought about, since the game was so bad it wasn’t a distraction.  You know–we bonded.  You don’t need a Hooker for that.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Jose Canseco walked 5 times in 5 plate appearances.  The next day, he walked in his first 2 plate appearances, which set a major league record for consecutive walks by a batter–seven.

Terry Steinbach comes to the plate with the bases loaded in each of his first three at-bats.

Dave Stewart and a reliever combine for a 4-hit shutout.

(Originally written August 2001.)