Friday, May 27, 2005

The Bronx Zoo

Here's a crazy story about my visit to Yankee Stadium back in '86, where I was by myself in the bleachers for a night game in the Bronx with my luggage. While traveling to Montreal to visit a friend at a business conference (the Expos were home, of course. That's the whole point!), I had a choice of a layover in Dallas, where the A's were playing the Rangers, or New York where the Yankees were home vs. the Blue Jays. Direct flights to Canadian cities were just about non-existent from San Fran. What a choice....well, duh! I picked the 16 hour NY layover, landing in NY late in the afternoon and to catch the early morning flight to Montreal.

The next day's flight was so early that I decided to skip lodging and catch a few winks in the lounge at LaGuardia. So I went to place my bags in those airport lockers and catch a cab to the big stadium. Not so fast... There was that international terrorist bomb scare in '86, and LaGuardia decided to shut down their lockers until things cooled down. This meant having to take my luggage to Yankee Stadium. Arrrrgh! Okay, so I get in a cab and go to the yard. Upon arriving, I asked the cabbie where they picked up after the game. "Uhhhhm, we don't." "What!?" "Oh, Yellows don't run the Bronx after dark. You'll have to take the subway." Yeah, right!

Now, I was wearing an A's hat and shirt (I wore A's stuff to visit AL parks and Giants stuff in NL parks back then), carrying my own luggage, completely alone, never visited NY before, and I was pretty scared. The cabbie told me I could catch a gypsy cab, which didn't run on meters, so I had better negotiate before I got in, otherwise he'd tell the judge that he drove me all over Jersey and would win the case.

So I got to the park and was immediately hit with a tidal wave of scalpers, full of bull. I told them I was going to sit in the bleachers. Sold out, they said. Bull, I knew. I got in and took the sights in. I was in the house that Ruth built! I took my seat and had a beer. After a while I had to go to the restroom. So I took my luggage, and once in the door, there were about six mean looking characters standing right in the middle of the room smoking dope. If there ever was a time to choose a stall over a urinal, this was it. Once inside the stall with my luggage, these guys started yakking about Canseco sucks this, Oakland sucks that.... If there ever was a time to choose not to wash one's hands after going, this was it. Terrified, I decided to run by them. But they had me blocked in pretty good. They cornered me and started asking questions.

"Are you from Oakland?" "Well, uhm, yes." "Do you go to a lot of games?" "Well, uhm, yes." "Where do you sit?" "I sit in the bleachers." Six hands were immediately stretched out to shake mine. It was unwashed, but I didn't care. Bleacher bums have a large family, and these guys were no longer going to bury me next to Jimmy Hoffa. I love New York.

I also got to talk to Rickey Henderson between innings out in centerfield. Rickey will talk to anybody that will give him attention. I knew an A's fan from the bleachers in Oakland who knew Rickey personally, so I relayed greetings. And since I was in A's garb from head to toe, he ate it up. Also, I got to hear Bob Sheppard "Number thirty-one-one-one, Dave-ave-ave Winfield-field-field. Number thirty-one-one-one." Wow. In person. And a fight. Some 75 year old guy stole a boom box, so its owner beat up the 75 year old guy, cops everywhere. A guy with a Walkman full blast stared into space for 9 innings, drooling and occasionally laughing out loud for 10 seconds. The guy who promised to help me find a cab after the game split in the 8th inning. And a close call at first that went against the Yanks resulted in an instant, collective leap of every fan on the whole 1st base side of the stadium about 5 feet in the air with fists frantically flying in all directions. I mean in a fraction of a second.

Once outside, nobody, even the police, would help me find a gypsy cab. But I finally found one and $20 to the Nigerian soccer player driver got me a lift to LaGuardia. A few hours sleep in a lounge chair with my limbs locked through my baggage straps and I was good to go to see baseball in Montreal. My regret was not getting to see the great monuments in centerfield.
(Box Score)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Owner's Box in Section 8

The richest of the very richest living in government housing?

Billionaire owners, employing multi-millionaire players, lining up huge corporations for stadium naming revenue, advertising, corporate luxury boxes, millions coming in from TV and radio revenue, souvenirs and marketing, consessions, parking, and ticket sales, are so horribly entrenched in abject poverty that new stadiums must be paid for by the taxpayers. Right?

Here's a little lesson in economics. The last two privately financed ballparks, Dodger Stadium and Pac Bell/SBC Park have been known as the best parks of their construction eras. Dodger Stadium, in the "modern" park era (50's to 80's) was known as the Taj Mahal of baseball. SBC Park is widely viewed as the best of the new "retro" era parks. Coincidence?

Owners would rather resort to extortion of their fans (and even more non-fans, i.e. taxpayers) than put their money where their mouth is.

Monday, May 23, 2005

"This Time it Counts"

So the All-Star game finally counts for something after all these years. It determines which league's team has home field advantage in the World Series. Novel concept, but too bad the All-Star game's managers can't do what they can to win. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes, because it's all a game of politics.

They've got huge rosters, with the expectation that every player will play. If they don't, fire is called down from heaven. Their management of other teams' pitchers is under a microscope, and any arm problems will be blamed on them. The stupid rule, IMHO, that requires one All-Star from each team should be done away with. If that team Royally sucks (pun intended), then maybe they don't deserve a player there. If their best is batting .270 with 12 homers, then he can go fishing with his buddies. The late innings of an ASG are filled with substitutions every few outs. Pinch hitters that get on base have a pinch runner. Defensive replacements every inning. A new pitcher every batter. Why not just pick the best nine and have a nine inning game? Play it like a normal game, which is to win!

The managers aren't allowed to try to win. The tie game a few years back proved this. I can't blame Bud Selig for his decision to call the game. There are too many ideals that contradict themselves for a perfect ending to always happen. Leave the World Series out of it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Thinking Outside the (Batter's) Box

Some conventional wisdom in baseball is based on subjective rather than objective logic, resulting in skewed ideas. One area of subjective thinking is to view many things within the game in terms of batting (offense) instead of the thing in view itself. This is understandable to a degree because we Americans love the home run and the thrill of the crack of the bat.

An example is the conventional wisdom that says that the way the DH is used in the World Series gives the National League team an advantage. Actually, it gives the AL team an advantage. It's just that so many people look at it in terms of hitting that they don't see the whole picture. I'll write a commentary sometime here that will prove my point.

Another example is the SF Giants' history of focusing on hitting, and not pitching. The Dodgers, meanwhile, have taken the opposite approach. The Giants have produced the most exciting sluggers in the history of the game, yet the LA Dodgers have won 5 World Series to the SF Giants' none.

I'll also tackle divisional play, balanced/unbalanced shcedules, tiebreaking schemes, home field advantage (both from best record and All-Star game victory), the wild card, All-Star game managerial strategy, expansion, tradition, changes in the game, rivalries, foreign players and baseball's future. Oh, boy, that's a lot to write. Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Bleacher Bummer

When the Raiders returned to Oakland in the mid 90's, the construction project that added permanent football seats to the Coliseum outfield, known as Mt. Davis after the Raider owner, not only added the most monstrous, hideous and obnoxious eye sore in any major league ballpark, and not only blocked a beautiful view of the East Bay hills, it did something far worse. It destroyed what were just about the best seats in all of baseball.

The Coliseum bleachers with their wood benches, steel floor for great foot stomping, great view of the game, good weather, very knowledgeable fans, sense of community, cool security guards, non-reserved seating, fans' involvement in the game, made for just about the best place to sit in the majors... with maybe, maybe the exception of the bleachers at Wrigley Field.

They were one of my baseball's homes. They are sorely missed. They were the only place I'd sit for an A's game, and as a result, I'm no longer a die hard A's fan. I catch maybe one game every year, and I still cheer for them, but the team is no longer as dear to my heart. Maybe they'll get a new ballpark some day with real bleachers again. I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, May 16, 2005

A Double Header the Hard Way

We all know what a double header is: two games in one day. But a double header "the hard way" is two games in one day - in two different ballparks. I've had the fortune to do it this way a number of times. Here's a list of ballparks with the day game listed first:

Oakland Coliseum - Candlestick Park (several times)
Candlestick Park - Oakland Coliseum (several times)
Wrigley Field - "Old" Comiskey Park (twice on consecutive days)
Dodger Stadium - Jack Murphy Stadium (San Diego)
Jack Murphy Stadium - Anaheim Stadium
Pacific Bell Park - Oakland Coliseum

Ballpark Visits

Here's a list of all the Major League ballparks I've visited, in chronological order of first visit. There are 18 total to date, and I hope to add to it in the near future. I'll use the name of the park at the time of visit or it's most common name. If I know the exact date, I'll show it, maybe with a link to the box score. You might notice me visiting two new parks in the same day. Yes, what an experience! [Update 11-26-09: Ballparks no longer used for baseball are highlighted in yellow]
1970 - Oakland Coliseum, Oakland
1974 - Candlestick Park, San Francisco
1985 - Aug. 17 - Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim
1985 - Aug 18 - Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego
1986 - Apr 18 - Kingdome, Seattle
1986 - May 5 - County Stadium, Milwaukee
1986 - May 6 (day) - Wrigley Field, Chicago (box score)
1986 - May 6 (night) - "Old" Comiskey Park, Chicago (box score)
1986 - Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
1986 - Sept 29 - Yankee Stadium, New York
1986 - Olympic Stadium, Montreal
1987 - Royals Stadium, Kansas City
1987 - Busch Stadium, St. Louis
1993 - Mile High Stadium, Denver
1998 - Pro Player Stadium, Miami
2000 - Pacific Bell Park (SBC Park, AT&T Park), San Francisco
2001 - Bank One Ballpark, Phoenix
2004 - Petco Park, San Diego

More About Me

[Updated 06-07-09]

I've been a baseball fan my whole life. I grew up with the Oakland A's and San Francisco Giants, and until the Raiders return to Oakland, when my bleachers were torn down to make way for Mt. Davis, I was a fairly equal fan of both teams. While a bleacher bum in Oakland, I've had season tickets with the Giants for 25 years. Bleachers and box seats. Not a bad combo.

I'm 45ish, married to a great wife (baseball fan, thank the Lord), and have three beautiful boys who I hope will like baseball.

As many games as I've attended in person, I've watched more games by far on the radio. It will always be the perfect background noise for so many activities.


My new baseball blog. I've always loved the game, and I've always loved talking baseball. Hope you enjoy it.