Category Archives: demolished

Ballparks that have since been on the business end of either the wrecking ball or demolitions explosives.

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.)

Mile High Stadium

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From “Ballparks of Baseball” website.  Used by permission.

Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO

Number of minor league games:  A dozen or so (no stats or results survive–just a few memories)
First minor league game:  Probably late summer 1978 (Denver Bears 8, Wichita Aeroes 5)
Last minor league game:  Probably August 1991 (Denver Zephyrs vs. Iowa Cubs)

Number of Major League Games:  4
First Major League Game:  June 5, 1994 (Pirates 4, Rockies 3)
Last Major League Game:  June 28, 1994 (Padres 11, Rockies 3, 11 innings, 2nd game of doubleheader)

Mile High Stadium was demolished in 1999.

It has been destroyed along with so many other multipurpose stadiums, but I’d have to say Mile High Stadium is probably the best multipurpose stadium I’ve ever seen.  It’s because of those awesome movable East Stands, which actually glided on water to move from a cozy football position to a more distant baseball position.  And for a time, after Coors Field opened, there were a few people bemoaning the loss of Mile High, which averaged more in attendance than Coors could seat.  But those third-deck seats in Mile High were really, really up there–quite far away, especially if you were down the lines.  And those seats in center field…my, but they were a million miles away (although I liked that they sold them for a buck).  So Coors is a definite improvement, but I don’t think there was too much wrong with Mile High.  It was wonderfully quirky, in fact…homers to left were insanely easy, but homers to right were very difficult (I think it was something like 370 feet down the right field line, and the wall quite high.)

My very first pro baseball experiences were here.  The first pro game I ever attended would have been in the late summer of my 2nd or 3rd grade year…likely 1977 or 1978.  My T-ball team headed there one night to see the Montreal-affiliated Denver Bears beat the Wichita Aeroes 8-5.  I’m 99% sure that’s the score because I remember the linescore:

Wichita 050 000 000
Denver   111  111   02X

There was a bell to signify how many runs the Bears scored in each inning, so we kept hearing “The toll for the inning…[ding!]…one run.”  All else I remember from that night was missing a home run while in the bathroom, being uncomfortably near a foul ball, and being amazed that I was out at the ungodly hour of 10PM.

I recall snippets from the next 16-17 years of American Association baseball, through Expos, White Sox, Reds, and Brewers affiliations: a ceremony to honor Tim Raines’ record 77 stolen bases in a year (1980), Lloyd McClendon hitting for the cycle, several “let’s impress the major league teams and show that we love baseball by having a bunch of people show up at the park” nights, and singing the national anthem with my high school show choir.  Darryl Hamilton was signing autographs before the game on that anthem night, and I remember how game he was, signing whatever words we asked (I had him write “thanks for the tips!”, fellow HS singer Sheila had him write an elaborate love note along the lines of “you are my life…”) and how gracefully he handled it when Sheila asked him to prom.

Those minor league memories set the table for my major league experiences at Mile High, which were exclusively during the 1994 season.

I enjoyed one of these games with friends Michelle and Robby.  Robby scores the games too, but he uses wacky hieroglyphics only decipherable to him.  Archeologists could unearth my scorebook in ten thousand years, and would have no trouble whatsoever determining exactly what Eric Young did in the eighth inning that June day.  If they unearth Robby’s scorecard…well…they’ll probably think it’s some failed architectural plan.

Mile High was also host to my only-ever scheduled doubleheader.  I figured, hey, how could it get any better than this?  A doubleheader with dad.  That there is some father-son bonding.  But there’s a problem…Rockies pitching.  The doubleheader lasted absolutely forever.  It resulted in one of only two times in my life I’ve been compelled to leave a game early…the damn 11th inning of the damn second game was positively–and unprecedentedly (see below)–endless.  So I took pity on my Dad sometime during the eighteenth pitching change of the eleventh inning and let him take me home.

As much as I like the idea of the doubleheader, and as much as I laud suggestions that scheduled doubleheaders should be made more commonplace (this will never happen, however, as owners need each of the 81 games of revenue), I have a suggestion:  schedule no doubleheaders between teams whose earned run averages, when added together, are higher than 9.  We can’t handle that many walks and hits.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

In the first game of the June 28 doubleheader, the Rockies come back from an 8-run deficit to win, a Rockies record at the time (over the year and a half they’d existed).

The Padres set a record in the second game for most runs scored in an 11th inning (since 1900), lighting the Rockies up for nine.  It’s the only 11-3 pitchers’ duel I’ll ever see.

(Written July 2001.  Last updated July 2009.)

Astrodome

From astrosconnection.com.

Astrodome, Houston, TX

Number of games:  3
First game:  July 26, 1993 (Reds 6, Astros 1)
Last game:  May 18, 1994 (Astros 4, Giants 2)

The Astrodome is no longer in use as of the end of the 1999 season.

The Astrodome might be the eighth wonder of the world, but it’s the worst of all the baseball stadiums I’ve been to.  I’ll grant that, by the time I saw the Astrodome, it was 30 years old, and the original ooohs and aaahs (look!  they’re playing baseball indoors!  how cool!  and look!  the scoreboard explodes!) were passe’ and even quaint.  And I’ll grant you that, even for baseball, air-conditioning might be better than sitting in a muggy Texas afternoon or night.  But here’s what I remember about the Astrodome–it smelled like mold.  All three times I walked into the place, I thought the same thing.  I never was in a crowd that reached even 20,000, so it always felt terribly cavernous, even more so than other multi-purpose stadiums.

All three visits were during my two years living and teaching sixth graders in the sticks of west central Louisiana, which is another memoir entirely.  Loved the teaching, hated west central Louisiana.  Me and my fellow young visiting-teacher friends would drive the three hours down to see whatever ballgame was on–once, even on a school night.  We were that desperate to escape.

My first trip, however, was solo…heading down from my place during the summer to make the Astrodome the tenth stadium in the original Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium tour…the only stop without a connection to any woman.  Well, a guy needs a break sometimes.  I remember three things from this game–a suddenly-not-hot Darryl Kile getting shelled, but nevertheless getting a standing ovation when he was pulled; a very impressive Chris Sabo home run, and my second encounter in a week with Kevin Wickander.

As I told you back in the Riverfront game, Wickander lost his good buddies Steve Olin and Tim Crews in a boat accident that March at Cleveland’s spring training, and had been traded to Cincinnati in the hope that new surroundings would get him back on track.  And I felt for the guy.  His public struggle with grief was breaking my heart, especially after I saw him throw eight pitches without a strike at Riverfront.  So, for my second consecutive game, I shouted wild support when Wickander entered the game, this time with a 6-1 lead to close it out in the ninth.  “All right, WICK!!!” I shouted, as the few Astros fans who were left wondered why I was hollering in support of the enemy.  If they’d asked, I’d have told them, and we’d have seen what kind of empathy they had.  Anyway, at least Wick got an out in this one, getting Ken Caminiti to fly to center.  Indeed, at least he threw a strike in this one.  But after Caminiti’s fly out, Wickander walked the next two batters and was pulled.  It was awful.  Again, I was stuck watching a guy go through horrendous personal grief in a public venue.  He had an awful year; his ERA was close to 7.  But, giving baseball-reference.com a look, it looks like there may be a happier ending to this story…he wasn’t in the majors in 1994 (minors?  mental health?) but came back to have a strong year (ERA under 2) for Detroit and Milwaukee in 1995.  He struggled a bit more for the Brewers in 1996, and doesn’t appear to have been in the majors since, but by then, I’d hope it was due to mechanics or injuries and not due to the broken heart that was so clearly dogging him when I watched him pitch the summer of 1993.

**April 2003…I have received two separate emails about Kevin Wickander’s life since his retirement from baseball, one from a college and minor-league teammate of Wick’s and another from a distant relative.  I’m afraid his life hasn’t developed as positively as I thought/hoped…it appears he developed a drug problem, has endured a divorce, and is now in prison for drug-related offenses.  I appreciate the people who sent me the update, although in some ways, I wish I didn’t know the sad truth.

My choice to drive to that game alone left me driving the three hours home all alone until 2 in the morning, very tired, picking up distant sports talk stations, even stopping and looking for rural payphones considering a call in.  The topic was low morals among athletes.  I don’t remember what jerk du jour the guy was worked up about, but I wanted to point out that there are good guys even in New York sports, like Jim Abbott and Anthony Young.  But then it occurred to me…I was choosing two guys in the middle of bad seasons, and Young was in the middle of a record-setting losing streak.  I might unintentionally have made the point that you have to be a jerk to win.  When it occurred to me–maybe you do.  Which made me depressed as well as tired on the trip.  Kids–don’t try this drive at home.  If I had to do it again, no matter how broke I was at the end of my tour, I would have stopped for accommodation in Livingston or Woodville.

At another game, I went with two friends, one of whom, blessed with magazine-cover looks, said “Well, I don’t like baseball, but I once dated a Montreal Expo, so this game (against Montreal) will be especially appropriate.”  We watched Mark Portugal warm up just a few feet away from us, and when I stepped away for some food, buddy Dan got Astros’ pitching coach Bob Cluck to autograph my program.  “Hey, this’ll be great, can you sign this for my friend???”  Thanks, Dan and Bob.  And I remember Mark Portugal failing to lay down a sacrifice in the fifth inning, and just as he was running by us down the first-base line, he shouted out the loudest f-word I’ve ever heard.  Mark!  There are kids here!

Was it worth making the six-hour round trip on a school night to sit at this terrible indoor stadium?  Yes.  But I’m glad they finally opened the new place.  It’s not my favorite, but it’s far better than this was.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Darryl Kile has a nine-game winning streak snapped.

Mark Portugal, in one of his last starts for the Astros, sets personal career high with his 14th win and 8th in a row.

Mark Portugal, in his first start in Houston against the Astros, loses to Doug Drabek.

(Written August 2001.  Revised July 2005.)

Riverfront Stadium

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Don Turner. Used by permission.

Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, OH

Number of Games:  1
First and Last Game:  July 19, 1993 (Cubs 6, Reds 4)

Riverfront Stadium was imploded on December 29, 2002.

First the stadium:  see Busch, Three Rivers, the Vet.  A circle.  Turf.  Boring.  There.  That’s all I have to say about the stadium.

I was in the front row at Riverfront for a good game against the Cubs.  I was down the right field line.  You know that point where the seats jut out, where doubles down the line hit and sometimes ricochet back towards the infield, or suddenly turn left and zip in front of the right fielder, forcing him to change direction, making a double into a triple?  I was right at that point.  First thing I did was called my folks in Colorado and asked them to tape the game on WGN so that there would be hard evidence of (a) my presence at the game and of (b) any foul balls I would be able to grab.  As it turns out, (b) didn’t happen.  I came close (about 5 feet away) on a Rick Wilkins smash foul in the 9th inning.  I forced my poor family to watch the foul ball repeatedly, repeatedly seeing me reach out from my seat to miss the ball by, well, a lot.  But I made the effort, and I was on TV trying.

This will go down in my memory as the Larry Luebbers game.  Larry Luebbers was making his third major league start, and his first start at home in Cinicnnati, where he grew up.  I was sitting with every friend, relative, and neighbor of Larry’s (they all called him “Chip”) from Cincinnati, except for Larry’s dad, who had a different (and, I assume, better) seat.  I habitually root for the home team at every game that doesn’t involve my Mariners, and at this game, it was more intense than usual.  My seat was very near the Reds’ bullpen, and I was just a few feet away from Larry as he paced before warm-ups.  I remember thinking he looked nervous and was trying to cover it with a look of intense concentration…and failing.  Well, still, he had won his first two starts on the road, so I figured he had something going.

I cheered for Chip with his friends and family.  Some of them might have even figured I grew up in the area…I was Chip’s high school buddy or some neighbor they didn’t recognize who’d faced Chip in Little League.  Alas, a Chip Luebbers victory was not to be…I think Chip’s nerves got to him a little bit.  He gave up five runs and walked 6 in less than 5 innings.  One of the Luebbers’ neighbors went away for a couple of innings to find Larry’s dad and congratulate him for his son’s making the majors.  “I told him that no matter what happens from here, Larry’s made it way further than anybody else.”  Very true, but probably very unsatisfying for Larry that night.

Now that I think about it, I may have been the turning point for Larry’s career–for the worse.  He was 2-0 before I sat with his family and friends–and he finished the season 2-5.  He then went back to the minors, and I lost track of him and figured he was finished.  Not so…six years later, in 1999, he was back in the majors with the Cardinals, for whom he went 3-3.  He returned to the Reds as a reliever in 2000, but I could not find him on a major league roster as of July 2001.  Isn’t that admirable?  To get a taste of the majors, then toil for six more years to make it back up again?  Way to go, Larry.  Sorry I couldn’t see you win in front of your buddies.

This game also was my first of two consecutive opportunities to root for Kevin Wickander.  Wickander started 1993 with the Indians, when his good friends, Indians pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews, were killed in a boating accident that March in Cleveland’s spring training.  He was devastated, and suddenly couldn’t pitch.  Mike Hargrove and the Indians’ brass thought that Wickander needed a change of scenery…you can’t pitch while everyone and everything you see reminds you of the death of your good friends.  So they traded him to Cincinnati for future considerations…this, entirely a mental-health move on Wickander’s behalf.  Just a little while before seeing him pitch, I had read a touching Sports Illustrated article about the tragedy and the Indians’ (and particularly Wickander’s) recovery from it…and then, that night, there he was, warming up a few feet away from me.  He ran out to the pitchers’ mound, and I shouted as loud as I could…”All right, WICK!  Go get ’em, WICK!”  Here’s a guy who needs something good to happen to him.  The subtext behind his appearance…well, it made it one of those moments that transcends baseball, at least to me.  Ryne Sandberg was on second after a leadoff double, and Wickander was to face the lefties that followed in the Cubs’ lineup.  He threw 8 pitches.  All 8 were balls, and one was a wild pitch. He wouldn’t do much better a week later in the Astrodome.

It was one of the most poignant and tragic things I’ve ever seen.  It was like watching somebody at work trying to do his/her job after a personal tragedy, doing a terrible job, but with nobody having the guts–yet–to say that he/she probably should take some time off.  Except this guy was going through it in front of 31,587 people.  Fortunately, nobody scored that inning, but Wickander didn’t throw a single strike.

Possibly more than any game I’ve ever been to, this one demonstrated that the guys out there are, in fact, human beings, like Chip and Wick–blessed with friends and families and facing their own demons just like the rest of us.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Reds almost pull off a comeback win, cutting an early deficit to 5-4 with nobody out in the 6th and a man on second.  Then Reggie Sanders hits a fly ball to right-center, where Sammy Sosa, playing center, waves off rookie Kevin Roberson.  He guns down Hal Morris trying to tag up to third, and the Reds never recover.

Kevin Roberson hits his second career home run.

Larry Luebbers is tagged with his first major league loss.

(Written August 2001.  Updated July 2005.)

Milwaukee County Stadium

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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.)

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.)

Veterans Stadium

Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, PA

Number of Games:  1
First and Last Game:  June 22, 1993 (Phillies 5, Braves 3)

Veterans Stadium was demolished on March 21, 2004.

First the stadium:  see Busch, Three Rivers, and Riverfront.  A circle.  Turf.  Boring.  The Phillies have since moved out of here, and that’s good.  No reaction whatsoever to this cookie-cutter ballpark.  That’s it for the stadium.

The Vet, however, marks the first time I ever took a date to a baseball game.  When you’re as much of a glove-wearing, game-scoring nerd as I am, the first game is a little bit of a worry.  The general rule for me is, unless the woman spontaneously indicates an affinity for baseball, to wait until I know her at least a month before letting her see me in this context.  Shelly met this standard.  I’d known her for a couple of years.  She was a close friend of the woman with whom I was to be living in sin that summer–the one whose breakup with me sent me fleeing to the stadiums in the first place.  Shelly did the absolute best thing possible for a man in my situation…she seduced me (or let me seduce her–the line is awfully blurry).  This love connection, I believe, was very good for me and probably not so good for her in the long run.  She volunteered herself to be the primary stop on the Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tour.  She flew down to Pittsburgh from her place outside of Cleveland, drove with me across the state to Reading, where we house-sat for friends of hers, then drove with me back to Cleveland.

This would be the only week I would ever spend with her one-on-one.  We spent one day of touristing in Philadelphia.  Me and the tall redhead.  We looked good.  We looked happy.  We must have been stopped ten

times by horse-and-carriage-ride offers. We saw everything there was to see.  We tried to get to the stadium and accidentally wound up in New Jersey.  She put up with my reaction to the stress of being lost in a strange town.  We righted ourselves and put ourselves in the left-field bleachers.  She did the Kids’ Page in the program…every maze, every fill-in-the-blank crossword.  She said the Phillie Phanatic was sexy.  She took me back to Reading.  She took me to bed.  She drove with me to Cleveland–even went with me to another game there.  She listened to me rant.  I was a mess.  She took me for a weekend at a condo by Lake Erie (actually very beautiful in the summer).  She took me to back to bed.  She kept my car at her place while I took the train across the country to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Montana.  She picked me up at the train station at 2:30 AM when I returned.  I was still a mess. She took me back to the lake, back to the condo, back to bed.

How does this all turn out even?  This relationship where I whine about my ex nonstop, and this brilliant, gorgeous woman not only puts up with it, but also repeatedly seduces me (or is seduced)?  Maybe she intentionally did this to set up her life so that she was owed so much relationship karma by the time we were through that she would be due a fantastic permanent Prince Charming.   Our inevitable ugly falling out came a few months later, and she went on to become a minister at an inner-city church.  Maybe this betrays that she has a thing for the needy, because that’s sure what I was that summer of 1993.

I don’t want to make Shelly out to be a saint–she had some significant problems that were especially evident in the ugly falling out.  And now that I gather my thoughts on my time with Shelly to write this, it all looks terribly messed up, but it surely didn’t feel that way at the time, perhaps because of our youth.

They’ve since knocked down that worthless hunk of cookie-cutter concrete, and good riddance to it.  But I’m not going to remember it for its obvious flaws.  I’m going to remember a tremendous game.  I’m going to remember one or two specific moments in time–which is, in the end, what we all remember from any place or any person.  That’s how I’ll force myself to remember Veterans Stadium, and that’s how I’ll force myself to remember Shelly, the center of the Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tour.  Shelly, my first baseball date.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Braves/Phillies matchup turned out to be a preview of that year’s NLCS, and the Phillies’ victory anticipated the result.

Pete Incaviglia hits the difference-making three-run homer in the fifth inning.  My fellow left-field fans cheer him passionately when he runs out for the following inning.

Francisco Cabrera hits an absolute monster homer into the upper-deck above me.

Mitch Williams gets the save.

(Written August 2001.  Updated April 2004.)

Three Rivers Stadium

From 3riversstadium.com.

Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA

Number of Games:  2
First Game:  June 19, 1993 (Pirates 8, Mets 3)
Last Game:  July 1, 1994 (Reds 4, Pirates 2)

Three Rivers Stadium was destroyed in 2001.

I’ve been to over 100 major league games, and these two are not among the most memorable.  Not even the box score jogs my memory much about what happened on the field.  The stadium itself was cookie cutter, carpeted, and bland–identical to Riverfront,, the Vet,,and Busch. Nothing to remember there.  But, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t remember much about the games anyway because I attended them with my college buddy Rob, and we tend to screw around to the point where the games, especially bad ones like these, become nothing more than background fodder for our jokes.

Thankfully, at the Mets game, we sat a couple of rows away from any other people, and nobody could get annoyed at our strange rituals.  We looked like a couple of major nerds, each wearing team T-shirts, caps, and gloves (although we turned out to be so far down the right-field line and in the second deck that even Barry Bonds would have had trouble reaching us, that is, if he’d still been a Pirate).  Rob and I have one of those senses of humor where, if it’s funny once, it’s way funnier on the 19th time.  I think we get it from David Letterman.  Anyway, Frank Tanana was starting for the Mets that day and getting shelled (this was his last major league season, and, as of when we saw him, he would only win three more games in his career–but lose 11).  So, as he was warming up, I started singing the introduction to Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes.”  “Sing Ta-na-na…Ta-na-na-na…Frank Tanana’s pitching tonight.”  Rob, of course, would jump in with harmony every time.  So, eight years later, this is what I remember of the Mets game:  Frank Tanana getting shelled, and Rob and I singing Ta-na-na every time Frank did something, culminating in “Sing Ta-na-na-na…Tanana’s in a world of shit.”  He was yanked soon after.  Quite funny.  Maybe you had to be there.  Thankfully nobody else was.

Oh–and somebody hit a SCREAMING line foul to the lower deck beneath us, which a studly linebacker guy caught with one bare hand.  I still remember that slapping noise.  “PSHH!”  After everyone roared their approval, Rob actually shouted to the guy:  “Give it to your girlfriend!”  The guy turned around to Rob…maybe not hearing what he said…and shook his arm at his side, mouthing the word “Ow!!!!” beneath a giant grimace. Good to see a studly linebacker guy admit to pain. But that’s it.  That’s all I’ve got besides the box score.

After the game…oh my.  Rob and I wanted to catch SportsCenter before we went back to the hotel.  So we looked in the program for a sports bar, and picked Hooters because it had an address we knew we could find.  God as our witness, we had no idea that it was an establishment centered on tight, low-cut T-shirts.  We’d never heard of it (remember, this is 1993).  We didn’t even clue in on the name. So the only trip to Hooters I’ve made in my life was quite the experience.  To reiterate, Rob and I looked like complete nerds.  We’d taken off the gloves, but we still had the hats, and I still had my scorepad and pencil, and, well, we probably look like nerds every day of our lives, even without the accoutrements.  And maybe I’m being paranoid, but I swear when our waitress saw us, her face fell, as if to say:  “You mean I’ve got to serve these guys?”  Then–and this is the absolute truth–they seated us on the opposite end of the restaurant, as far away as possible from from all the drunken idiot boys, with countless empty tables between us…and even farther from the bachelor party.

Rob and I had gone there to watch SportsCenter, but they had beach volleyball on the screen by our table.  We wanted them to switch our set to SportsCenter, but not if it would switch every TV in the joint.  Beach volleyball…if we wanted to see breasts, there were plenty of the live version walking past carrying potato skins; why bother with the TV?  But we didn’t want to ask our server who was so disappointed to have us.  We picked out another server who I’ll call Siobhan.  We decided, based on her carriage and attitude, that she was a college woman making her tuition money by wearing low-cut T-shirts here.  We figured we’d have a better shot getting her to listen to us than our supercilious waitress.  We flagged her down and asked her if she could switch just our TV without changing all the others…and got the most inarticulate drivel in response.  I swear she could barely talk.  I said:  “So much for the college theory,” and Rob and I laughed a fairly mean and spiteful laugh at Siobhan’s expense.  But she got our TV switched.  Our server, who seemed to hold us in such contempt, surprised us at the end of the night.  She sat down and chatted with us a while when we paid the bill, asking us if we liked Pittsburgh, telling us about her Budweiser modeling gigs, talking about the etymology of Siobhan’s name.

It was quite a bizarre social experiment, dropping a couple of nerdy boys and a scorepad in the middle of Hooters.  Rob and I had so many questions on our ride home:  did they intentionally segregate us from the less-nerdy crowd?  why did our server sit down to talk to us?  was she required to do that?  did she believe us to be safe?  better and nicer than, for instance, the drunken boys at the bachelor party?  had we somehow grown on her?  what exactly was her attitude towards us, anyway?  were we just nerdy enough to get lucky?  We almost talked ourselves into going back for lunch the next day to solve the mystery of why the large-breasted Budweiser model who seemed to dislike us so much would sit down and chat with us.  I was 23 then. I’m 31 as I write this, and sometime in those 8 years, I have realized that that (the return trip) was exactly their goal, and surely the premeditated purpose of the conversation at our (and, no doubt, every other) table.  I have not been back to a similar establishment since.

As little as I remember from the Mets game, I remember even less from the Reds game.  I was there with Rob and a friend of his the weekend I was looking for an apartment in Pittsburgh (where I did a year towards an MFA in poetry…so the writing you see here is, in fact, the result of a little training.  Can’t you tell?).  The only detail I remember from this game is missing a scoring decision on a wild pitch/passed ball by Lance Parrish, whom I was surprised to see was still alive and hitting .284.  Rob and his friend missed the scoring decision too.  The high school kid sitting to our right said he thought it was a wild pitch.  I told him that I’d write it down that way, and if he was wrong, I swore I would find him and kick his butt.  His response:  “You’ll have to get in line behind my father.”  Come to think of it, I never did check to see if he was right or wrong.  Let me look at the box score…it was a passed ball.  Hmmm.  It’s been 7 years, and this kid is no doubt a productive member of society by now, and he’s forgotten me.  Perhaps he thinks he’s safe, but nothing matches the wrath of a scorer given bad information.  He will certainly be surprised when I break down his door and beat the living hell out of him.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Precious little. Every team was bad.

Fred Toliver’s last major league win…he threw three pitches, got Darren Jackson to pop out, then was pinch hit for in an inning where the Bucs scored 5 runs.

Lance Parrish allows two passed balls to get by him in the 1994 game.  He is, I believe, the last player I saw in my 1980 Major League debut that I see in action in a later Major League game.

(Written August 2001.  Updated December 2001.)

[Old] Busch Stadium


[Old] Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO

Number of Games:  2
First game:  June 14, 1993 (Cardinals 8, Pirates 3)
Last game:  May 30, 1997 (Cardinals 2, Dodgers 1)

Busch Stadium was demolished after the 2005 season.

Busch Stadium is an argument for stadium improvements.  Between my first visit in 1993 and my most recent visit in 1997, they’d made some changes that made Busch less cookie-cutter and more interesting.  In 1993, Busch was more or less an exact copy of Riverfront, Three Rivers, and The Vet, except that Busch had those nice little arches around the rim.  Now, although it doesn’t have the charm of a baseball-only stadium, it feels a lot nicer…real grass, mostly, and the removal of a section of seats to put in retired players’ pennants.  (At least I think that was done since 1993.  And I like the idea of a player having his own pennant.  Feels right.)  And there are an awful lot of pennants up there, which reminds you of the rich baseball history in St. Louis.

Which is a lot of the point.  St. Louis has a reputation as a great baseball town.  As I recall, in the heat of the Mark McGwire business in 1998, Sports Illustrated called it the best baseball town in America (which, I assume, means in the world).  And my experience in St. Louis backs that up.  I like the feeling of a crowd getting riled up late in the count in a crucial situation, all the while maintaining that Midwestern politeness I like so much (St. Louis has figured it out–at a baseball game, you can be polite and loud at the same time).  I like the way the ballpark is hard by downtown and that you can see the Gateway Arch rising above the ballpark–it therefore passes the “is there any question what city you’re in” test.  I would be happy to call Busch my home park, and I hope there doesn’t come a day when the Cardinals’ brass decides to abandon Busch Stadium for something more cutting-edge that produces more revenue.  (2005:  Alas, that day has come since I wrote those words four years ago.)

Also, Busch Stadium seems to understand the “less is more” idea of ballgame entertainment.  I don’t remember being ordered to cheer so often as I have been at other ballparks.  And my favorite part of each game was the immediate aftermath…no PA guy saying “thank you for coming,” at least not

immediately, but right away–DiamondVision highlights with Jack Buck’s call.  No “We win!” foolishness on the scoreboard…just the plays you want to get a look at in case you don’t catch SportsCenter.  It’s obviously run by somebody who understands that baseball is the entertainment instead of some excuse to make a theme park.

It was there that I saw Tim Wakefield at the nadir of his career, which came exactly one season after his huge 1992 debut.  He had been moved to the bullpen because he was suddenly losing.  He came on in relief in a blowout loss.  His knuckleball wasn’t finding the plate, so hitters would wait on that 2-0 or 3-0 70-mile-an-hour fastball, and they’d hit it.  Still, even when they’re not doing well, I love watching knuckleballers.  You expect to see this Pedro Martinez-style delivery–WHOOSH!!–and instead you get…whush.  The ball seems to flutter even from a distance.  I also like knuckleballers because, for a non-athlete like me (the fastest I’ve ever thrown a baseball is about 58 miles an hour), the knuckleball would be my only chance to make the major leagues.  I don’t care how much I work out, my genetics will not allow me to hurl a baseball the 88 miles an hour it would take to be even a borderline major leaguer.  But a knuckler–well, it’s a non-athletic move that beats athletes.  I remember Steve Sparks saying in an interview how he would slow down his pitches, then slow them down again, to make a huge guy like Chili Davis look ridiculous.  He said something like:  “Chili gets frustrated because he knows he’s a way better athlete than I am, and he still can’t hit me.”  Which is a fantasy I’ve had since elementary school…the idea that brains could beat brawn on the playing field.  It can’t…brains-with-brawn beats just-brawn.  Except for knuckleballers like Sparks or Wakefield striking out massive weight-room-enhanced power hitters.

So, on the whole, I was sad to see this ballpark fade away after the 2005 season.  It was somewhat charmless, sure, but now that the four worst of the cookie-cutters (Busch, Three Rivers, Riverfront, and Veterans) have all gone the way of the dodo, I do miss the dullness of them somehow.  In many ways, it’s preferable to the theme parks, especially in a baseball town like St. Louis.  I bet I’ll like the new place, but since the multi-purpose cookie-cutters were the rule of my youth, with all their problems, I’ll miss them a little.  Sentimental and foolish?  Sure.  But true.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Andy Van Slyke, then a Pirate, broke his collarbone jumping for a catch at the center field wall.  The ball ricocheted off his glove and over the fence for a home run, and Van Slyke was out for most of the rest of the season.

I saw an awesome, awesome game–one of the best I’ve seen–in 1997.  Ramon Martinez and Andy Benes were in a pitchers’ duel, but each delivered the key hit for his team…Benes a drive to the wall for an RBI double, Martinez a lucky roller down the third-base line for a leadoff double…he eventually scored.  It was 1-1 on those plays until the bottom of the ninth, when Gary Gaetti almost hit a homer to win it…caught at the wall.  Then St. Louis loaded the bases, Los Angeles brought on Mark Guthrie to face Delino DeShields, and he walked him on four pitches to end the game.  A little bit of a letdown, but that actually only added to the game’s charm somehow.

(Written August 2001.  Updated December 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.)