A Phestival in Philly

Friday, July 23, 2010–Phillies 6, Rockies 0

After my visit to Yankee Stadium, I took off for 2½ weeks in London. I have written extensively (and perhaps exhaustively) about that experience elsewhere, but since there was no baseball in the UK (I didn’t even get a chance to check out a cricket match), I’m just going to skip to when I got back to the states and continued on down the coast. All that really needs to be said about my trip to London for the purposes of this blog is that by this point, I was worn out from traveling–physically, emotionally and mentally drained.

That means I didn’t get to do the kind of wandering around in Philadelphia that I wanted to. So, I guess I’m going to have to talk about the last time I was in Philly, way back in ’92. At that time, I was collecting mints. As in United States Mints. A trip to the Denver mint that my parents probably thought was something to do with their 9-year-old to kill an afternoon sparked a numismatic fever that lasted a good 10 years (and which I still suffer the occasional relapse). Of course, after seeing one mint, I had to see them all. Fortunately, there were (and still are) only four of them, and only two were open to the public. So, on a trip to Washington and New York, we stopped for a day in Philadelphia to see the mint and Independence Hall. I’m sorry to say it was so long ago, I don’t really remember much more than impressions of the city, it felt like the block that both those buildings fronted on was very long and there were a lot of neat old brick buildings around there.

So, when I go rolling into town 18 years later, I decide that after I’m settled into my hotel (within walking distance of the stadium), I might just go back and see what else downtown Philadelphia has to offer, and what other insights–besides “neat”–can be gleaned. I got to my room around 2pm, and promptly crashed. I woke up about 45 minutes before first pitch. I decided to do the exploration of downtown the next morning, so I set the alarm for 7:30 am and headed for the ballpark.

So, that ballpark… It’s a party zone. The crowd got there pretty late, but by first pitch the place was rocking. In terms of buzz, this place was comparable to Boston, but unlike Fenway, I suspect the baseball game was just an excuse to party, and for hard partying people to be seen partying by as many other people as possible. There was a very loud bachelorette and her bachelorette party the next section over that had a large banner printed for the occasion, “phinal phling before the ring.”

Meanwhile, an army of “Phanstormers”–Phillies employees, paid to spread cheer–roamed the stands looking for phans who were celebrating a birthday. The young man two seats over (who had just reached the big 1-5) was one such victim. Between the 2nd and 3rd, a Phanstormer came right to his seat and asked “are you Justin?” Upon confirming that she had the right person, she proceeded to bellow to the entire seating section “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Justin, and it’s his 15th birthday today, so let’s all give him a phantastic Phillies welcome and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him!” and, as we all did so, she proceeded to throw confetti on him from a Phillies batting helmet. By the time it was over, Justin had turned as red as the Phillies cap he was wearing.

Roy Halladay wasn’t perfect, just very good, shutting out the Rockies for eight innings on five hits. None of the Rox made it to third. Meanwhile, Aaron Cook was playing with fire the first 4 innings, getting out of jams in the 2nd and 4th. The first 4 batters got on and eventually scored in the 5th, and Cook was given his walking orders after Ross Gload’s 3-run homer. The only other excitement was I had a birds-eye view of some of Philadelphia’s finest removing three fans from the section in the lower deck. I hesitate to call them “unruly,” because–how could anyone tell?

The next morning, around 7:30, the alarm went off, and I got up, got dressed, and promptly crashed again–just barely making the 11:00 checkout time or my 11:30 train to Baltimore. So, my impressions of Philly are still that it’s “neat.”

Here’s the scorecard.

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Thinking blue OR The madness begins

Sunday, August 11, 2002–Dodgers 3, Phillies 6

I don’t really remember much about this game. What I do know is that it was sometime, either heading out to California or maybe even during the game itself that I decided I was going to try to see every ballpark in the majors, hence the alternate title to this post. It was August of 2002. I went with my parents on the train out to SoCal. The game was the same evening we arrived, and we only had two tickets, so Mom visited with grandma while Dad and I went to the yard.

Dodger Stadium is amazing, I remember that well enough. The organ, the Dodger Dogs, that groovy scoreboard. There really is something about an organ at a ballpark, and so many of the ones I’ve visited seem like they want to be hosting a rock concert between innings. I’ve been to 20 ballparks over the years, and there isn’t a one that brings me back to my childhood and the Albuquerque Sports Stadium–home of the departed and lamented Albuquerque Dukes–quite like Dodger Stadium.

My dad and I went with one of his library school chums, who had a season ticket in the front row and bleeds Dodger blue. She was able to buy off two of her neigbors’ seats for us. As a way of introducing the stadium to me, dad printed out an e-mail she’d sent with pictures of the time she’d gotten to throw out the first pitch at a game. She says the schedule for pregame festivities is scripted to the minute. We found her to be quite the multitasker. She had her Walkman and a scorebook, and was able to manage keeping score of the game while keeping up conversations with us and at least two of the other season ticket regulars, all without leaving anyone feeling left out. One thing I picked up from her was that I noticed that she changed pens to a different color every time a pitching change was made. It’s a practice I keep up to this day (except when I get forgetful and leave my colored pens at home).

Unfortunately, this was before I started scoring ballgames myself, so I can’t offer much by way of game information. The Dodgers lost to the Phillies and the pitching matchup was Randy Wolf (back before he became a Dodger) vs. Odalis Perez. Please don’t ask me how I remember that detail, ’cause I really have no idea. I seem to remember that the Dodgers had an early lead and let it get away. I remember Dad asking our hostess “Where’s this Eric Gagne fellow we’ve been hearing so much about?”
     And because the Dodgers were behind, there was just a hint of bitterness in the answer, “He only pitches if it’s a save situation.”

Here’s the scorecard (completed and added to post on September 18, 2011, so it’s only 9 years tardy).