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.


Winning ugly

Monday, August 14, 2006–Athletics 5, Mariners 4

You get a sense of this when they show an A’s home game on TV, but to see just how monstrously ugly the stadium really is, you really have to go there and see it from the bridge leading to the BART station. And then there are those team colors. I guess if you’ve been rooting for the A’s your whole life, there isn’t a combination that looks better than kelly green and yellow (unless you were an A’s fan in the 70’s and have those colors in the opposite order). The rest of us (um… how to put this gently) find that combo hideous.

What I’m finding as I’m working on this blog is that I am writing as much about memory as I am about the ballgames themselves. With the game in Oakland, I’m finding some really strange associations. To begin with, when I wrote my first draft of this “capsule” last September, my game program was missing, and here’s what I wrote about what I remembered at the time:

We were visiting family in the bay area again, some time in July of ’06. Oakland beat Seattle by one run, the pitching matchup was Zito vs. Washburn, and the game ended with Ichiro getting picked off of first base. That’s it. Oh yes, somebody fouled out, and that gave me the opportunity to explain to Mom about how the Coliseum’s unique baseball layout generally shaves about 30 points off a batter’s average. “Because that guy might have gotten a hit if that ball had gone into the stands?” she asked, getting it exactly right.

So what’s the first thing that popped to mind when the program turned up a month later? I suddenly remembered that we had been sitting next to a very nice couple from Seattle who had come down the coast, as they do once a year, to cheer on their team. Why should seeing a program bring that little detail to the fore so quickly, and why had I forgotten it in the first place? It goes with my “ballpark impressions” category of memory, and these tend to be the more lasting ones for me.

Something I need no help to remember is that we found the fan base to be quite fan-tastic. There were only 21,859 in attendance, but the ones who showed up were some of the best and loudest fans I’ve encountered away from our very own Pit (the semi-legandary college basketball venue here in ‘Burque). The most perfect wave I’ve ever encountered took place during this game, even though the stadium was 2/3 empty. The A’s turned a nifty double play, and the fans gave it a standing ovation, but this killed the wave.

Another thing I’d forgotten was that the Mariners actually had the lead for most of the game. Nick Swisher changed that with a two-run homer in the 8th giving the A’s the 5-4 final. A little note in an insert to the program says that 13 of his 24 taters that season either tied the game or gave the A’s the lead. Make that 14 of 25. Mark Kotsay came into the game as a defensive substitution in the top of the ninth and immediately made a diving catch in the gap to rob Willie Bloomquist of a double–at least.

Getting back to the BART, leaving that dingy old concrete shell behind and inching along the dingy concrete bridge which was packed with people, most of them in kelly green and yellow, all sharing in the camaraderie of a come-from-behind win over a division foe, and not living up or even attempting to live up to Oakland’s reputation for rough sports fans–it was a beautiful thing.

Here is the scorecard.

Hitless wonders redux

Sunday, August 7, 2005–White Sox 3, Mariners 1

We went out to Chicago on a family outing in August of ’05. We’d been on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief out to California many times before, so we decided to see the other end of the trip and take it out to Chicago. Once you get past Trinidad, Colorado, there isn’t even the slightest hint of a mountain. We learned how Amtrak makes up the time for the invariably late trains leaving New Mexico–they go bombing through Kansas in the middle of the night at something like 95 mph.

I went to see the White Sox by myself. They were, I have to say, a bit of an afterthought. We had to see the Cubs, and I figured since I was in Chicago anyways, I might as well kill two birds with one stone. The day before, we’d all gone to the Art Institute of Chicago. The only display that really stuck out to me was the installation of paper and candy. For some reason that escapes me now, there was a particular weight that was important to an artist, and so, in the middle of a room was a pile of paper in 2 foot squares and a pile of hard candies that had both been weighed out to this amount, and viewers were encouraged to take a little of each–the viewer participation was important for some reason. I took one sheet and tore it into the shapes of letters, leaving them (I’m sure to be swept up almost immediately) to say “so this is art then?” The next day, I went to the Sox game while Mom and Dad went back to the Art Institute.

The game was preceded by a lengthy tribute to Carlton Fisk, in which a bronze statue was unveiled. His son gave a very moving speech, Ozzie Guillen said something only mildly stupid, and Fisk had one good line in his speech, referring to his move from Boston to Chicago as “changing my Sox.” Sometime as I was listening to the game on the radio, the discussion was about different strategies for catchers when they go out to the mound. Some coddle their pitchers, some offer advice, some provide therapy, while others (like Fisk) will be more inclined to say something like “what the #%*@ do you think you’re doing out there?” After the game, I went and looked at the statue. It shows Fisk, standing up with his pads on, holding his mask on his hip and waiting for an answer to exactly that question.

Ok, what else? Oh, yes, the game itself. Jon Garland won his sixteenth game of the season, Paul Konerko (a former Duke) and Joe Crede had home runs, and the Sox beat Seattle 3-1. They did it on five hits. At the time, the Sox had the best record in the majors, and there was starting to be some very serious talk about the World Series. That talk turned out to be quite well justified, it was the year Chicago swept the Astros to win its first championship since 1917.

Aaron Rowand was the cover boy for the program, and the article about him talks a lot about his hard-headedness and the insane risks he takes to make nearly impossible catches. This was before he made a name for himself for breaking his nose going after a fly ball in Philadelphia. On this day, he robbed Richie Sexson of a double, driving head first and still accelerating into the deepest part of the center field wall for the final out of the 8th. It certainly saved two runs, and the lead. I remember thinking that Guillen should probably bench him during their annual series at Wrigley, as he could very easily get himself killed running into the bricks that way.

Here’s the scorecard.

Hardly a gem in the Emerald City

Wednesday, August 25, 2004–Mariners 0, Devil Rays 9

The real story here was the trip to get to Seattle. Even a precies will be quite wordy. As with the trip to San Francisco the year before, my parents flew out to Seattle ahead of me and I took the train. First leg of the trip was to LA, and we hit our first snag when flash flooding in–of all places–Needles CA washed out some rails. That made me too late to catch the connecting train and so rather than going up the coast, I was put on a bus to Bakersfield, a train to Stockton and another bus to Oakland. Then, after a three-day visit with my family in the Bay Area (a story in itself which includes damn near breaking my foot), I was back on the train up to Seattle. Or rather Klamath Falls, OR. A fire in a tunnel had shut down another part of the line. So, I bussed to Eugene, then pulled into Seattle 4 hours late.

After that, the game was bound to be a bit of a letdown, even if it had been a good game. It wasn’t. Hardly notable at all, really, except that it happened to be the Major League debut of future All-Star Scott Kazmir for the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays. With the ’04 Mariners being what they were, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that it would also be his first Major League win, which it was, a 9-0 Devil Rays victory. It should have been 9-1: in the third, Edgar Martinez hit a fly ball to dead center that hit something right above the yellow line and bounced back into the field of play, a home run–but the umps didn’t see it that way.

The game was scoreless through the first five innings, with the M’s getting early opportunities and squandering good scoring chances in the 1st and 3rd, and a great chance in the 2nd. Ichiro lead off the 4th with a single, but was promptly caught stealing, and that seemed to deflate the home team, and when the Rays scored 4 in the sixth, it was all over.

The blow that deflated the crowd was a monster homer by Jose Cruz Jr. If that name sounds familiar, here’s why: he’d had the big hit for the Giants in the game at Pac Bell the year before, and had somehow gone from being program-cover boy for the Giants to exiled to Tampa. (If memory serves, he made a big error in the playoff series against Florida, but don’t quote me on that.)

The most enduring image of this game? As much as I enjoyed the guy in the skin-tight superhero outfit with a recycling emblem on his chest who collected the plastic bottles, I’d have to give the title to the roof. It started drizzling in the 9th. As soon as the game was over, they closed the roof and turned on the sprinklers.

Here’s the scorecard.