Seeing Red…

Sunday, May 22, 2016–Reds 4, Mariners 5

As I cross the last ballpark off my list, I am glad to report that I chose the right ballpark to end my tour with. Cincinnati offers fans the opportunity to have a certificate printed—free of charge, no less—for a number of special events, such as a birthday or anniversary or attending your first Reds game. The list of events doesn’t include visiting every Major League team at home, but as I pointed out, this was my first Reds game, and the lady at the printer was happy to customize this little keepsake for me:


But I suppose you want to hear about the game. I know I shouldn’t be surprised to see something new, even after several dozen games. So, rather than simply rehashing all the action, I thought it would be fun to share all the things that happened today that I had never seen before in person.

Sea-Cin I saw an American League pitcher (in this case Mariners starter Wade Miley) get a hit, and that after two pitches spent looking like he was lost. I saw more than one occasion where the catcher threw the ball over the 3rd baseman’s head throwing it around the horn after a strikeout. Another thing I haven’t seen at the big league level is both starting pitchers getting base hits, because Cincinnati starter Alfredo Simon got one too. Or the ephus thrown for a strike (don’t know what that means? You could look it up). I also haven’t seen this much sun in any of the day games I’ve been to, so I fear my arms will be quite the appropriate color for the home team before too long.

Other game action to note, the Reds built up a 3 run lead in the 1st keyed by Brandon Phillips’s bases-loaded double, then padded the lead when Adam Duvall came just short of the second deck with his mammoth home run. But Seattle’s three-run rally in the fifth built on bunting, sacrifices and some clutch singles made the difference, as the bullpen kept Cincy quiet the rest of the way.

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Snakes alive (even when the fans aren’t)

Saturday, May 6, 2006–Diamondbacks 8, Reds 9

Dad and I went on an Arizona roadtrip in May of 2006. It’s a trip we wouldn’t be making this year. We went to a D’backs game, Flagstaff, el Cañon Grande, Meteor Crater and Walnut Canyon. Many of the places we visited (except the ballpark) had a bit of an astronomical flavor to them, the planetarium show at the science museum in Phoenix, Lowell Observatory and the Meteor Crater visitor center. This made me want to get out into a truly dark Arizona sky and do some serious stargazing. This was especially true as we were hearing a docent giving a sundown talk about how Flagstaff was the first “dark sky” city, with lighting fixtures to minimize light pollution. “But we can’t do anything about the biggest source of light pollution… The moon.” We were gone while the moon was waxing, so we’d’ve had to stay up way too late to get any dark skies. Drat.

I’ve been a bit surprised at how much my memory differs from what actually happened, and how arbitrary it seems which games I remember well and refer to the scorecard simply to check for accuracy, and which games I couldn’t tell you the starting pitchers of without the card. Common sense would say that the more exciting and entertaining games would be the ones to remember, and for the most part, that’s true. So why has my memory so spectacularly dropped the ball on this one?

Do you remember Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez spent some time with the D’backs in ’06? I sure don’t, which is remarkable, considering he was their starter that day. Memory doesn’t serve very well for the Reds’ starter either. Until I saw on the card that Dave Williams took the bump for Cincy, I could have sworn it was Aaron Harang again. The way the mind puts objects into categories seems to have failed me here. Looking at the scorecard, I see a high-scoring slugfest, with several lead changes, and a bottom-of-the-ninth comeback that came–literally–within inches of being a walk-off win for the D’backs, and yet I remember this game as being fairly dull and listless. What gives? I think it was the fans. The attendance is listed as 27,707, and it seems like there were more there, and yet for all the noise and enthusiasm they were generating, it may as well have been half that.

I remember vividly a discussion about patterns with my father. The Reds scored 4 in the third and the D’backs answered with 5 in the bottom half. When the Reds scored 4 in the sixth, Dad  proclaimed that the snakes would score 5 more, and then went on to say the 4-5 pattern would be repeated in the ninth, and the final score would be 12-15, D’backs. I disagreed, feeling that while such a score line would be very attractive and symmetrical:

004 004 004
005 005 005

this isn’t how baseball works. “Patterns rule the Universe, dude,” was his answer. I’m sure I must have been gloating when the first two Arizona batters were retired, and I guess he might have been ribbing me as they put together a rally for two runs, but the pattern did indeed break there to make it 8-7 Reds.

The only play I remember is the final play of the game. Arizona had the bases loaded with one out, and I was trying to get the fans in my section to make some noise. Just this in itself should tell me something’s funky about my memory, I must have thought the game was exciting at the time.  Nonetheless, the crowd’s apparent apathy–for a 1-out, bases-loaded, winning-run-in-scoring-position situation–had me back in my seat and sitting on my hands for the final pitch. Johnny Estrada hit a screaming line drive, right into the glove of Reds first basemen Scott Hatteberg, who then trotted over to first for the game-ending double play. Had it been hit a few inches to either side of Hatteberg, it would’ve scored two and delivered a win for the home team.

Here’s the scorecard.

Blue flag day at Wrigley

Tuesday, August 9, 2005–Cubs 3, Reds 8

This day started with us meeting a friend for the Architectural Foundation’s boat tour of the Chicago River. If you’re ever in Chicago and only have time to do one thing… That’s it. (Don’t hold your breath about getting Cubs tickets at the last minute.) The whole tour was fascinating, but what I really remember was when the pilot was telling us about how Chicagoans changed the course of the river (which was where they had been dumping all their sewage) to flow to the Mississippi rather than Lake Michigan. “And so,” the driver was telling us, “contrary to popular belief, the first Taste of Chicago was not in 1980, it was in 1900… in Saint Louis.” That got a lot of groans. “And Saint Louis has gotten their revenge, they host a baseball team that plays in the National League.” That got louder groans from all the Cub fans on the boat. “I know, that’s cold, right?”

It was August in Chicago, so it was actually quite hot. I knew we had to get a day game at Wrigley or else things just wouldn’t be right. To get Cubs tickets without a markup, you have to be online first thing in the morning some day in February, wait online for nearly an hour and find that the game you really wanted to see (against the Cardinals, of course) has already sold out. Once we’d scheduled our vacation around which Cubs game we could get tickets to, I ordered my one White Sox ticket three weeks before we left.

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I must point out that while the Sox were on their way to a 99 win season and World Series title, the Cubs were coming off game 6 of a losing streak and were already in “wait till next year” mode.  I mention this in case it makes any difference for the following statement: I really enjoyed the White Sox game more. Don’t get me wrong, the whole Wrigleyville experience is amazing–the hole-in-the-wall souvenir stands, the street performers who dance to drumming on plastic pails and the ambiance of the club scene there. (I’m not much of a clubber, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the ambiance, right?) The stadium is beautiful and the character of the place, and the rooftop stands across the street are exactly as advertised. The fans, on the other hand… well, maybe I shouldn’t talk–after all, it was a long losing streak.

The Reds beat the Cubbies 8-3 to make it a seven game skid (the streak would end at eight two nights later when the Cardinals arrived in town, but nobody knew this at the time). Mark Prior and Aaron Harang had almost identical lines: 7 innings, 8 hits, 3 earned runs and no walks. The only difference was the strikeouts: Prior held the edge 11-3. So, it goes without saying that the Cubs bullpen dropped the ball on this one. What’s most notable about this game is that Nomar Garciaparra (in a down year) hit his first homer of the season for the Cubbies. 

Cubs fans put out a fantastic parody newspaper, The Heckler, in which they lambast players from the teams that the Cubs will be playing, as well as Cubs players who are seen as underperforming. The Heckler as well as the hecklers were being especially unkind to Cory Patterson, who had just (that very day) been recalled from Triple-A Iowa. It was deemed that Patterson was the sort who would swing at a pickoff attempt, and that’s why he was sent down (and also why he apparently deserved to be booed as soon as he was announced and subjected to a large number of catcalls and personal epithets). In this game, he had a bunt single, two flyouts and he was struck out once… looking.

Just the nature of the scorecard is that good pitching shows up as nice, clean rows, while big offensive outbursts lead to messy scribbling and traffic jams on the page. My own personal convention is to chart the starting pitcher’s performance in black, and then alternate between red and blue for each reliever. Perhaps because we took the train to Chicago, the best way to describe this scorecard would be a nice set of tracks going straight down the page for 7 innings with only a few turns, and then a derailment in the eighth, with red and blue boxcars strewn about every way you look.

Here is that derailment, if you wanna see for yourself.