Tag Archives: ohio ballparks

Cooper Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

Cooper Stadium, Columbus, OHIO

Number of states:  17
States to go:  33

First and last game:  July 25, 2006 (Columbus Clippers 9, Durham Bulls 1)

(Cooper Stadium is no longer in use for baseball as of the 2009 season.)

(Click on any image to view a larger version.)

To be sure, there were quite a number of issues with Cooper Stadium.  Its age shows, and not gracefully.  I dislike the ancient PA system, the charmless pavilion, and the less-than-understated Carmina Burana playing

as the team takes the field.  However, this July evening turned into a marvelously fun evening with loads of friends–an evening I was pleased to have.

Rob, Yolonda, Michelle and I made it to Cooper Stadium after a day at South Point, Ohio (near the tri-point of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia).  Buddies Joe and Alison gathered loads of friends and led us to the tenth row behind the third-base dugout.  As happens so many times when I get together with buddies for a ballgame, there were many bizarre and memorable events to pass along.

For starters, the whole bunch of us nearly died in the second inning.  The Clippers’ Jeff Karstens pitched to the Bulls’ Elijah Dukes.  He must have fooled him very badly on a pitch, because as Dukes missed for strike two, he released his bat and it went flying behind him.

And right towards us.

Right the hell towards us.

Even if I had wanted the bat and been foolish enough to reach up for the bat, it likely would have just hit my forearms.  So I joined all of my friends in ducking down very low.  I did not want to get hit by a flying bat. 

As buddy Joe (wearing the Orioles hat in the photo) put it, “I’d prefer to go the rest of my life without the little voice in my head saying ‘you’re not ducking deep enough’ ever again.”

As we dusted ourselves off and made sure all of our appendages remained, and as we confirmed that the people a couple of rows behind us were also unhurt, we missed Dukes grounding out to third.  We also missed Dukes being ejected by the home plate umpire.  This ejection led the Devil Rays to finally get so fed up with Dukes (in part because he had earlier said that “the major leaguers shower in Perrier while we get sewer water”) that they suspended him for the rest of the season.  I appreciate the D-Rays’ priorities.  Only AFTER he threw a bat at me did they toss him.  Indeed, perhaps

the D-Rays knew that I was a sports official–in the year when Delmon Young chucked a bat at the home plate umpire, I would merely be the latest official a Durham Bull threw a bat at in 2006.

When I wasn’t in danger of dying, there were a few things I liked about Cooper Stadium.  They did a fine job respecting the Clippers’ history, which, as of 2006, meant New York

Yankees’ history.  I love ballparks that have lineups from past years on display, and Cooper Stadium had artists’ renditions of lineups from every year from the Clippers’ history as a Yankees’ affiliate.  The mixture of all-time greats with who-the-heck-is-thats is one of my favorite parts of being at a ballpark, and Cooper Stadium does it well.  As of the end of the 2006 season, the Yankees ended their relationship with the Clippers.  I do hope that they keep the old Yankees’ pictures up; when I’m at a minor league ballpark, I want to see the local minor league team’s history, not the history of the major league team.  Wichita, Tulsa, and High Desert all celebrate past minor leaguers from who played at that park even after affiliate shifts.  We’ll see if the Clippers have that same sense of history, or if their new parent club orders the relics of recent Yankee history taken down.

No other aspects of the ballpark blew me away.  I was a little taken aback by the fact that a cemetery is visible beyond the outfield fence.  When my mind and eyes wander during a Clippers’ game, they wander to headstones. A particularly massive home run at Cooper Stadium would not impress the fans so much as remind them of their mortality.  The pavilion is typically dank and dull.  They try to make it up with a miniature golf course.  I’m not a big fan of such unnecessary distractions from the baseball–any fan who’d prefer golf to

baseball isn’t a fan at all–and on top of that, the mini-golf course is so poorly and hastily assembled that it’s actually worse than it could be.

This is also my second visit to a Yankees’ affiliate, and the second time that the team played “New York, New York” after a victory.  I hated that just as much here as I did in Battle Creek.  We’re not in New York, and these aren’t the Yankees.  Let’s keep that music special for Yankee Stadium.

Occasionally, it’s a close race to actually be a charming old ballpark–the old, covered seating with beams obstructing views is a blast from the past–but I’m afraid that there are just too many negatives.  Nevertheless, I’ll probably be back. With so many friends so close by, I’ll certainly be back to see if they do any upgrades–and if those upgrades will maintain the current sense of history.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  7/10
The ballpark’s strong sense of Clippers’ history earns points here.

Charm:  2/5
Not much.  Old in and of itself does not mean charming, and Cooper Stadium demonstrates this.

Spectacle:  3.5/5
Not bad for the triple-A level, although the promotions they had were occasionally annoying.

Team mascot/name:  3/5

Joe, me, and Krash the First Mate.  Not pictured:  Lou Seal.  Nothing offensive or impressive about any mascot-related matters.

Aesthetics:  2.5/5
Sort of old and dusty–and the view is of a cemetery, which is creepy.

Pavilion area:  1.5/5

Scoreability:  3/5

Fans:  5/5
Great friends.  I look forward to going to the new place with them.

Intangibles:  2.5/5
I had a fun night, but in the end, this place didn’t leave me with a positive impression.

TOTAL:  29.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Clippers rough up the Bulls’ Doug Waechter for four first-inning runs.

Columbus’s nine runs include five unearned runs off of four Bull errors, including a pair by B.J. Upton.

B.J. Upton and Bronson Sardinha homer.

Jeff Karstens pitches 7 innings of 1-run ball.

(Written August 2006.)

Fifth Third Field, Toledo, Ohio

Fifth Third Field, Toledo, OHIO

Number of states:  still 5 (rainout)
States to go:  45
Number of games: 0 (rainout, July 16, 2004)

(Click on any picture to see a larger version.)

I led off my 2004 summer ELABST trip in Toledo, where college buddy Kristin lived.  Kristin expressed enthusiasm not only to host me and join me at Fifth Third Field, but to join me for the lion’s share of the tour.  We showed up at Fifth Third Field.  Alas, the game never began…the rain stopped a few times, just to tantalize us all,

and they even took off the tarp, announced lineups, and sang the anthem…but it was not meant to be.

Even though I spent three hours at the ballpark, I didn’t see a game here in Toledo, and I therefore cannot count Ohio in my state total, nor do I feel right giving the ballpark a score.  I’m certain it would be a very high score–the ballpark is beautiful, nicely integrated into the warehouses of the neighborhood (in the picture at left, the stadium is the shorter building on the left).  It also has local charm, including Toledo native Jamie Farr, wearing Corporal Klinger’s Mud Hens’ hat, making announcements on the scoreboard.

Question:  Are the Mud Hens the only men’s pro team with a female nickname?  They do have mascots of each gender…Muddy and–ready?–Muddonna.  I took the time to pose with Muddonna.  After all, I bought her namesake’s albums in junior high.  The “Lucky Star” video…critical to my development as a heterosexual.  You remember what those dancers on either side of her looked like?  Me either.  But I digress.  I

like the idea of two genders for the mascot.  It’s a bit of an affirmative action program for the furry.

In any event, in spite of the lack of score, I thought I’d throw in a few pictures to show what it’s like to be at a rainout at Fifth Third Field.  See the tarp come off…hopes were high!…then see the tarp go back on.  Oh well.

no images were found



(Written August 2004.)

Great American Ball Park

Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH

Number of games:  1
First game:  August 1, 2006 (Dodgers 10, Reds 4)

(Click on any image to view a larger version.)

Man, does I ever love me a baseball museum, especially one that is local in scope and attached to a stadium.  I love

getting prepped for a night of baseball by immersing myself in baseball history, as one is able to do in Texas and in Atlanta.  If you’re like me, when you visit Great American Ball Park, you’re going to want to get there early.  The Reds museum is worth a couple of hours of your time.

I’m not really a Reds fan, but you can’t argue against their history.  Pro baseball began in Cincinnati, after all, in 1869–and the museum accounts for pretty much all of the key moments since then.  While I was there, the highlighted exhibit focused on the World Championship team of 1919…yeah, the other team in that World Series.  How much would it suck to win a championship and always be

remembered for having the other team lose it?  I’d never really thought of that until seeing the story from the Reds’ perspective in the museum. Speaking of gamblers, the museum has a fine way of commemorating Pete Rose’s 4,256 hits:  they have 4,256 baseballs displayed against a wall…about 10-15 yards across and four stories high, behind a staircase and a glass wall.  Quite lovely.  Tributes to past ballparks, past teams, and the best moments in Reds history are there.  My favorite highlights are reproduced here:  a scorecard from Tom Browning’s perfect game, lots of statues, including this one of Sparky Anderson, the pennant from the 1981 team which was denied the postseason during the strike-interrupted year, and the Reds Hall of Fame, where they honor pretty-good-but-not-really-great players from the team’s past.  Every team should have a place to honor its Mario Sotos.

The ballpark itself, I’m afraid, doesn’t live up to the experience of the museum. I do like its location right on the river and the fact that, unlike at Riverfront Stadium (on which GABP, for all its faults, is still an improvement), one can actually see the river from the upper deck. And the history I so enjoyed in the museum appears in the ballpark proper as well,

with sculptures, murals, and even a scoreboard feature of “past Reds to wear this number.”  (Ed Armbrister got a ballpark mention this way.)  But in the final analysis, there was just too much kitsch and too many stinking amenities.  The ballpark simply tries too hard.

I mean, the notion that the ballpark looks like a steamboat from the outside is sort of cute, I guess, but is entirely unnecessary.  Seriously:  isn’t a ballpark beautiful because it is a ballpark?  Why bother trying to make it impressive looking with this sort of extra effort?  It’s like too much makeup on a beautiful woman–it leaves

me wanting less. Also, from my seat, I looked down into a spot sponsored by a furniture store where the mucky-mucks could sit on cushy furniture and not watch the game.  I wanted to mark up that leather sofa with cotton candy.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the baseball is secondary at GABP: it certainly beats abominations like Detroit (with its amusement park rides) and Houston (with its damn stock quotes).  Still, I felt there was too much effort to distract.  All the distraction I need is in the river, with the barges and speedboats passing by.  I didn’t need more.  Even what the ballpark did well–like have lineups displayed on the concourse, minor-league style–had flaws (like the misspelling of Wilson Betemit’s name).

Longtime friends and fantasy baseball rivals Joe and Alison joined me for the game.  The live in rural Central Ohio…about a 3-hour haul from

Cincinnati.  Alison is a lifelong Tribe fan; Joe is partial to the Nationals.  But both did me the honor of joining me for this one, and even headed across to PNC Park the next night.  Add to that the playoff ballgame in Cleveland in ’01, and you have among the league leaders in Seeing Major League Ballparks With Paul.  (First place is still my dad, but my wife is catching up fast!)  Needless to say, a fine time was had by all of us.  We headed up high into the upper deck…the better to have silly conversations without worrying about being overheard.  The topics of those silly conversations?  Well, they’re lost to history–I seem to remember trying to figure out what industries still use barges along the Ohio–but I do know I’m grateful to have friends that are willing and able to decimate a week driving all over Ohio to hang at ballgames with me, and also willing to lug me back to their place for lodging.  Appreciated as always, folks.  I’d love to return the favor for you and your family whenever you get to the West Coast.

So, in the end, the ballpark is somewhere in the middle–or a hair below it–when compared with its contemporaries.  Nonetheless, the quality hardly mattered to me.  The museum was fantastic, and the friends even better.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Dodgers win a key wildcard matchup.  Wilson Betemit channels his obvious anger at his misspelled name into a 2-run homer, and Rafael Furcal knocks in four runs.

Adam Dunn and David Ross homer for the Reds.

In the first game after the 2006 trade deadline, I see Julio Lugo make his debut for the Dodgers, and Rheal Cormier and Kyle Lohse for the Reds.

(Written August 2006.)

Jacobs Field

jacobs1

Sarah Cox. Used by permission.

Jacobs Field, Cleveland, OH

Number of games:  2
First game:  October 13, 2001 (Game 3, ALDS:  Indians 17, Mariners 2)
Most recent game:  October 14, 2001 (Game 4, ALDS:  Mariners 6, Indians 2)

Jacobs Field changed its name to Progressive Field for the 2008 season.

First, the stadium.  Just gorgeous! Right up there at the very top of the list with Camden Yards and Coors Field.  I love the way that the outer concourses look out at the city.  This isn’t true in Baltimore or Colorado or even San Francisco, and only true part of the way around the stadium in Seattle.  I love the big scoreboard (and the fact that it says “Indians” on it instead of showing the awful visage of Chief Wahoo).  I love the sense of tradition the team has (even if it’s mostly a tradition of bad baseball).  On its own, Jacobs Field is worth a trip to Cleveland.  In fact, Jacobs Field and baseball are the only reasons I went to Cleveland in October 2001.

I had only been dating Sarah for about two months.  Sarah remains the only woman I have ever dated whose passion for baseball exceeds mine, and that’s a bit scary.  We were an item during the amazing 2001 Seattle Mariners season, and had worked our way up to our trip to Safeco Field by first seeing a single-A game and then a triple-A game.  Clearly, we had earned a trip to the playoffs.  When we struck out on Safeco Field tickets and found them too expensive on Ebay, we took what I thought would be a whimsical, one-in-a-million look at how expensive they would be in Cleveland.  They were surprisingly reasonable.  The next thing I know, we were cashing in some frequent flyer miles, getting great (post-September 11) deals on hotels, and heading out to see two playoff games.

See that score for the first game?  Can you imagine taking a day off and flying 2,500 miles to see that?  It was astonishing.  My college buddies Alison (a lifelong Tribe fan) and Joe drove up to see it with us and to show us a good time in the Land of Cleve.  Two images I won’t soon forget from that first game:

–A problem with standing ovations.  We spent more or less the entire game standing up to see over cheering Tribe fans, then sitting down to put entries in our scorebook while everyone else stayed standing and cheering.  I hope people didn’t feel that I was participating in the standing O–I just needed to see.

–A wild, wild walk back to the hotel.  After the 17-2 Tribe win, I found myself a part of the only massive sports celebration I’ve ever experienced.  People were honking their horns, screaming, and dancing for the entire eight blocks back to the hotel.  It was bizarre.  One driver was angry because so many pedestrians were walking in front of him, and he couldn’t get into the intersection to get home.  So he honked his horn repeatedly, but passing fans thought he was just celebrating like everyone else.  This made for a funny scene:  an angry driver gesticulating at pedestrians who would turn to him and respond with a joyous dance.  I called friends and family from the celebration.  It is a very, very strange sensation being the only person with nothing to celebrate in the midst of passionate partying.  I suppose this is what it feels like to be a Chinese person or a devout orthodox Jew on New Year’s Eve.

The Tribe fans’ celebration was premature, of course…the Mariners won games 4 and 5 to take the series. Game 4 was obviously quite a different experience from Game 3.  We actually sat next to a Mariners fan from Buffalo (how the heck does that happen?).  And we got to enjoy the Terrace Club.  We got to the ballpark over two hours early to get a table and partake of the very nice food at the Terrace Club before the game.  We got a table.  It turned out to be a fantastic idea on our part, as about a half hour after we arrived, it started to rain.  I mean, really rain.  The flag was both sopping wet and straight-out stiff.  A boy near me got scared enough to call his mom and ask if there was a tornado warning.  Everybody in the stadium with a Terrace Club Pass decided to head into the club to seek refuge from the storm.  It was to the point where people were sitting on the floor everywhere with their froofy dinners and their linen napkins.  And Sarah and I had a table!  We kept it.  We ordered our perfect sandwiches.  We had dessert.  We had more drinks.  We had appetizers.  We had even more drinks.  We watched football.  We stayed dry!  We looked down with pity on the Clevelanders huddling in their ponchos, staving off pneumonia, while we debated the merits of the key lime pie or the five-layer chocolate cake, pita chips and warm spinach-and-artichoke dip.  It’s not that I felt I was better than the folks down there…I just pitied them.

And speaking of pity, I’m developing a theory that Clevelanders want it.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I like Cleveland.  I have a lot of good memories of Cleveland during my college days.  The people of Cleveland were absolutely wonderful to Sarah and I during our trip.  I was expecting some hostility, but got none (perhaps in part because I was with Alison).  But after Game 4, Sarah and I walked past a remote broadcast from a local sports-talk guy.  He was saying that the series wasn’t over, and that the Tribe could still win Game 5 back in Seattle.  He said something like:  “Did you expect this to be easy?  What city do you live in?  Is it ever easy for us?”  The self-pity felt strange to me, maybe because I’m from the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps West.  Clevelanders, help me out with this theory.  Am I accurate?  Is there self-pity and self-loathing associated with living in what seems to be a fine city?  You’re good people with a great stadium.  Is this about 25-years-obsolete river-on-fire jokes?  Is it about John Elway or Jose Mesa?  What’s the deal?

Again–awesome playoff games at a fantastic ballpark.  I can’t help but think of Municipal Stadium and what a big step forward this is.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS (which the Mariners won in game 5 back in Seattle).  The first game’s offensive explosion (and to this Mariner fan, it most certainly was offensive) by the Indians surely merited several spots in the playoff record book.  Second game:  one of my favorite ballplayers of all time, Edgar Martinez, hits the longest homer of his career:  458 feet off the walkway above the home run porch in left field.

(Written October 2001.)

Riverfront Stadium

red2

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.)

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.)