Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cast and Crew: Clara

Moving the cast and crew scene to Candlestick, a little old Filippino lady in her 70's named Clara with season tickets sat directly behind me for 13 years. She was very small, frail, even more frail of a voice, moderately thick accent. But she knew her baseball and was very vocal at the game. She had coke bottle glasses, couldn't read the scoreboard, but she could see every pitch to within a millimeter of the black of the plate. "Dat ball was looooow! Dey are cheating the Giants!" She could only be heard for a few rows, but she loved to yell. She attended at least 70 games per year and never complained about the cold weather.

She was a widow and her husband set her up well. She lived in a good neighborhood and always took the bus with a friend. Her nephew set her up with tickets, and with her husband gone, she always had a very interesting character sit next to her. No matter how badly the Giants played, she managed to scalp her extra ticket (we were 7 and 8 rows behind home plate, respectively). What cop would harass an elderly Filippino lady scalping tickets outside the park? It happened on occasion, but they mostly left her alone.

Clara was a sweet lady and with the new ballpark, I miss her.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Missing Piazza Trade

Back in May of 1998, I spent a week in the Caribbean with no access to baseball news. I flew through West Palm Beach (very close to Miami) and my return flight into Florida required an overnight stay. Obviously, I scheduled a Marlins game for that night. The Dodgers had just traded Mike Piazza to the Marlins before my trip. I was looking forward to seeing him play for his new team against the Mets.

I arrived back in Florida and was the only passenger on the shuttle from the airport to the car rental agency. The driver asked about my trip and I said I was going to the Marlins game. He said, "Oh, you'll get to see Piazza on his first trip back into town" after the trade. I replied that I knew about the trade, but what did he mean by "back" into town. I agreed that I knew that Piazza was traded, but what I didn't figure out for a few minutes - and what I had missed while in the Caribbean - was that Piazza had been traded a second time, to the New York Mets. The wild scenario in this case was that the Mets' first series after getting Piazza was a road series - back into Florida! He basically remained there, just changing uni's. I was shocked to discover this trade from the shuttle driver.

I made it to then Pro-Player Stadium. The Marlins had that infamous fire sale after winning the Series in '97, so the fans re-named the stadium "Semi-Pro Player Stadium" after the talentless team. This was hilarious. There were only 14,000 fans there that night, 10,000 of them Mets fans. They were rude and, well, New Yorkers. They owned the call-in show that night and spoke of the game as if it were a home game for the Mets. After a week in poverty stricken Haiti, I never felt so good to drink a Bud and have a sausage.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hearing Yourself On The Radio

Back in the mid-80's in the A's bleachers, we discovered a fun little pastime. One day, one of the bleacher bums brought a walkman to listen to the game. One of us yelled, and the bum with the walkman said he could hear the voice over the radio. Each of us took a turn to listen. The distance from the bleachers to the crowd mike behind home plate used by the radio station was great enough to cause a delay in the sound. So, we could yell loud, then hear ourselves a second later on the radio.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Longest Drive Home

One of the greatest pennant races in my life took place during the 1993 season. The Giants and Braves were hot that year, the Giants' first year with Bonds, both winning over 100 games and entered the last game of the year tied for first place with records of 103-58. The Giants closed out their season with a four game series in Los Angeles against the hated Dodgers. The Giants won the first three and the Braves won the first two of their three against the Rockies.

I drove the nearly 400 miles down to LA to witness that fateful last game of the year and bought tickets from a scalper. I stayed with some friends - not big Dodger fans but they cheered for them nonetheless. The first three games of the series were amazing in that there were more Giants fans in attendance than Dodger fans. The last game, however, was fan appreciation day and Dodger fans had bought tickets to that game all year long. Still, there were at least 15,000 Giants fans there. Dusty Baker made a controversial decision to start young head-case Salomon Torres instead of veteran Dave Burba. The Giants were nuked, 12-1. Meanwhile the Braves completed a season sweep of the Rockies, winning all 13 games and the division on the last day. The Giants won 103 games and watched the playoffs on TV.

The long drive home was painful. There were thousands of Giants fans on I-5 for hundreds of miles. I stopped at a gas station and a rest stop and both places were packed with fans.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ballpark Ages

Here's a list of all the major league parks and the year(s) they were either built or introduced to the majors.

Fenway Park, Boston (1912)
Wrigley Field, Chicago (1916 - built in 1914 for the Federal League)
Yankee Stadium, New York (1923, remodeled 1976)
RFK Stadium, Washington D.C. (1962)
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles (1962)
Shea Stadium, New York (1964)
Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim, or whatever it's called right now (1966)
Oakland Coliseum, Oakland (1968)
Kaufmann Stadium, Kansas City (1973)
Metrodome, Minneapolis (1982)
Skydome, Toronto, or whatever it's called now (1989)
Comiskey Park/US Cellular Field, Chicago (1991)
Camden Yards, Baltimore (1992)
Dolphins Stadium, Miami (1993, built in 1987)
Jacobs Field, Cleveland (1994)
The Ballpark at Arlington, or whatever it's called now (1994)
Coors Field, Denver (1995)
Turner Field, Atlanta (1996)
Tropicana Field/whatever dome or whatever, Tampa (1998, built in the 80's)
Bank One Ballpark/Chase Field, Phoenix (1998)
Safeco Field, Seattle (1999)
Pacific Bell/SBC/AT&T Park, San Francisco (2000)
Enron/Minutemaid Field, Houston (2000)
Comerica Park, Detroit (2000)
Miller Park, Milwaukee (2001)
PNC Park, Pittsburgh (2001)
Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati (2003)
Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia (2004)
Petco Park, San Diego (2004)
Busch Stadium III, St. Louis (2006)

Coming very soon:
Nationals Park, Washington, D.C. (2008)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Congratulations Goose

Congratulations to Goose Gossage on making the Hall of Fame. I remember him as being one badass pitcher. He claims that his trademark mustache wasn't to scare hitters, it was to tick Yankees owner George Steinbrenner off. But it scared hitters too.

Andre Dawson and Jim Rice came close, but didn't make it. I tend to be a "small-hall" type of guy with stricter standards for the Hall. Or so I tell myself. I'm not sure whether I think these guys should be in, but if the existing standard(s) is an indication, then Goose is borderline in, and I think Jim Rice should be borderline in as well.

Last year I heard one talk show host make an interesting point on qualifications for the Hall. He said that he just knows a hall-of-famer when he sees one. It's just obvious if somebody belongs in the Hall. Ruth, Mays, Cobb, Walter Johnson, Koufax. These guys are obvious. Rafael Palmero, despite the number of homers, just doesn't feel like a Hall kind of guy.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Candlestick Wind Tunnel

I recently wrote about how the wind used to swirl at Candlestick. It vaulted over the hill behind the park, landed in center field, slammed into the center field stands, split in two, and rotated around the park in each direction. On more than one occasion, the two flag poles just beyond the center field fence, which were about 25 feet apart, could be seen blowing full force in opposite directions. A mind blowing sight.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Swish This

Today the Oakland A's traded Nick Swisher to the White Sox for a handful of prospects. Swisher was a fan favorite in Oakland and I really enjoyed watching him play. I heard a description of him on the sports talk show tonight, calling him the blue collar player that went all out. This is the player that grew his hair long only to shave it off and donate it toward cancer patient wigs. He was a spark plug with a certain infectious charisma. He'll be missed, but I'm not going to jump harshly on Billy Beane because he's pulled off quite a few good ones before. Beane admitted the A's are rebuilding and they can't afford to play status quo. Are you listening Brian Sabean?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Baseball 2008

Happy New Year. It's now 2008 and that means that pitchers and catchers will be reporting next month. This should be an interesting season for fans. It's now the post-Bonds era for Giants fans, and the baseball world has yet to know what will happen with all the steroids crap that we've been hearing so much about. This will be Yankee Stadium's last year. The House That Ruth Built will be no more. It's fitting that the All-Star game will be played there. A new Evil Empire has risen in Boston and will surely be the target of the rest of baseball. They've now won two Series since the Yankees last time. We'll surely be hearing more about instant replay. Five new ballparks will open in the next three years, leaving Skydome as sixth in seniority in the bigs. A new park in Washington will open this year. Opening Day is three months away!