Raise the Jolly Roger

Wednesday, August 24, 2011–Pirates 2, Brewers 0

Allegedly, the train gets to Pittsburgh right around midnight most of the time. I guess the occasional earthquake plays havoc with train schedules just like everything else. I did not get settled in until 5 a.m. yesterday for a game with a 12:30 first pitch.

When I made the plans for this trip, the Pirates were right in the middle of the race, and I was very excited to be a part—no matter how small—of a season that might see the Bucks’ playoff drought come to an end. Since then, the Pirates have taken a nosedive and now need a miracle to get back into the race. Nonetheless, it is still an attainable goal for the team to be the first Pittsburgh squad to finish a season with a winning record in 19 years. They’d need to go 9 games over .500 for the final 5 weeks of the season, which would be quite a feat, but doable for a team that plays well. Especially if they can put together a few more games like the one they played yesterday.

Aaron Thompson got his first Major League start, and—after giving up a leadoff single to Cory Hart, the first batter he faced—effectively cooled off the white-hot Brewers, (who had been knocking the ball all around the park the past two days) allowing only four hits in 4⅓ innings. Thompson was on a pitch count and did not qualify for the win, but still got a very nice hand for his efforts. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh scored a run in the 1st and another in the 4th, both scoring on sacrifice flies. That score held to the 9th. When the Pirates’ outstanding closer Joel Hanrahan—who has his own scoreboard entrance video, “Hammer Time”—allowed the first two Milwaukee batters to reach in the 9th, there was some unrest in the stands. Hanrahan then slammed the door, striking out the next three batters.

Something the Pirates do that I haven’t seen anywhere else is the “Kids Starting Lineup.” Before the game, nine members of the Pirates’ kids club are brought out onto the field and introduced and then take the field as if they were the home team. The “catcher” stole the show, he was 4 or 5 and needed a little help finding his way to the plate—help which was provided by the Green Parrot mascot picking him up and flying him over. The other noteworthy event: I nearly got brained by a hot dog. One of the between-inning promotions is the hot dog cannon. There are two of them, and I was watching the flights of the dogs on the right field line when I became aware that fans in my vicinity were bracing for impact from an edible missile from the left flank. I looked up but couldn’t see anything, so then I ducked. It landed two feet behind me.

Here’s the scorecard.


By the bay

Tuesday, August 5, 2003–Giants 3, Pirates 0

What I’m going to be writing about is not so much details about this specific game as much as just how big a memory aid a scorecard really is. The act of keeping a scorecard has made this game more vivid in my memory than either of the Los Angeles area games I’d gone to the previous year, and I find this is the case even if I try to remember the game without referring to the scorecard. For this trip, my parents flew out to San Francisco while I took a more leisurely path. It started with an overnight Greyhound to Denver (a seed for an idea that was to bear great fruit a few years later…) and caught the California Zephyr through the Rockies, across Utah and Nevada, and then up and down again the Sierra Nevadas. I also got to learn a number of ways Amtrak trains get delayed, but that’s another story.

I start with some little tidbits from memory: Barry Bonds didn’t do the pregame stretches, making me wonder if he was even going to be in the game (he was, with a strikeout and single). The pregame music wasn’t the standard mishmash of hard and pop rock that I hear at most ballparks, this was the same “Best of Lynyrd Skynyrd” CD my dad occasionally subjects me to, played straight through without even mixing up the tracks. It took me a while to try the famous garlic fries, but I can safely say they taste a lot better than they smell (and this from someone who likes the smell of garlic.) 

I went with my parents and an aunt who lives in San Fran. I was discussing strategy with my aunt, and had one of those “I told him to do that” moments in the 4th inning. Starting pitcher Jason Schmidt came up to bat with two on and one out and squared up to bunt. I explained the advantages of the bunt, getting runners into scoring position, etc, etc, until he had two strikes on him “With two strikes, he probably won’t bunt…” Then I took a look at the average (a sluggish sub-.100) and corrected myself “well, in his case he might as well try it,” after which he promptly laid down a beauty.

I then had to explain what I meant by scoring position, “that put runners at second and third. You’re much more likely to score from second on a single than you are from first, especially with two outs. After that bunt, they can score two with a base hit…” here I was interrupted by Jose Cruz Jr.’s two run single to put the G-men up 3-0. That wound up being the final score.

Here’s the scorecard, if you’re curious.

A beautiful day for a ballgame

Monday, June 10, 2002–Angels 4, Pirates 3

In 2002, Burqueños had been without baseball for two years, the Albuquerque Dukes had left for Portland and the Isotopes had yet to take their place. So, when my dad and I went out to Southern California to attend a wedding and visit my grandma, I was quite anxious to get to a ballgame. One beautiful evening–beautiful even by SoCal standards because it wasn’t even all that humid–when we had nothing planned, there were no interesting movies at the theaters, and we’d already gotten in our day at the beach, I suggested that we go see the Angels. I have to be honest and say I was looking in the newspaper to see if there was a Dodger game, and decided to “settle” for the Angels, because the Dodgers were in Tampa at the time. It turned out to be very lucky for me, 2002 turned out to be a banner (or should I say “pennent”?) year for Angels baseball.

My grandma (who recently passed away) was a saint, but her complete consienciousness about everything did lead to an odd moment. The game was listed in the Orange County Register as “Today, 7:05 pm.” Despite this, she insisted that I call up the Angels “just to be sure there really is a game.” Fortunately, there was, so we all hopped into her car and up the 5 to Anaheim. 

So, about the game itself. I’m sorry to say that this was before I began keeping score of ballgames I attended, so I don’t remember much about specifics. Some of what I do remember: it was the first game of an interleague series against the Pirates, everybody was making a fuss over a little guy I’d never heard of before (David Eckstien) hitting a grand slam the night before, and the Angels won. Oh yes, and I know somebody hit a home run, because I got a bit of a shock from not expecting the fireworks they shoot off there. Let’s see, what else? One of the Angels pitchers got called for a balk and the fans heckled the umpires the rest of the game by shouting “balk!” after every pitch, even when there weren’t runners on base. You may find it odd I’d remember where the Dodgers were that day, and yet need to look up who hit the home run. I know I find it odd, but there you have it.

The Angels started that season 6-14, but by the time we went, they had turned things around, and the chatter I was hearing around the ballpark was that there was a feeling this could be a special year. It was the year they won their first (and to this point, only) world championship.

Here’s the scorecard (not original, I filled this out September 18, 2011).