Friday, June 23, 2000

Got a (J.) Jones

Yankee Stadium

Originally posted on in 2000.

New Yorkers live in their own world where everything they need, except perhaps peace and quiet, is within shouting distance. Since the start of interleague play a few years ago they don't even need to leave the city for a baseball rivalry. This year's first series between the Mets and Yankees was on the second weekend of June at Yankee Stadium.

The result was a blowout by each team and a rainout, and I saw the Saturday 13-5 win by the Yankees from the centerfield bleachers. Andy Pettitte was just good enough for the win, supported by homers from Paul O'Neill, Derek Jeter, and especially a three-run blast from Jorge Posada. By the way, that rainout has taken on bizarre proportions as it has been rescheduled as part of a home-and-home doubleheader on July 8. There is a game at Shea Stadium that afternoon so the makeup game will be at Yankee Stadium that night.

So what's it like in the bleachers during a Yankees-Mets game? First of all, it must be noted that the Yankees discontinued beer sales in the bleachers several weeks ago. Although there were a number of inebriated fans in attendance, they didn't have an opportunity to become more inebriated during the game. So while the byplay between the two sides was often intense while the game was still in doubt, it didn't descend into chaos. Then once the Yankees built the big lead, the Mets fans seemed to melt away.

The matchup was marketed as a "Subway Series," including commemorative subway passes with player pictures, so of course we took the subway to and from the game. The New York City subway may not have the best reputation, but compared to the two other cities where I've taken public transportation to games this year, New Yorkers have it best. In Atlanta, the subway stop is nowhere near the ballpark and you have to jam onto a bus. In Boston, the quaint Green Line is more of a trolley than a subway, and the old cars get packed to the roof as people desperately try to get in.

The Mets organization has cornered the market on pitchers named Bobby Jones. As with the presidential candidate W. you have to provide a middle initial to figure out which is which. M. is a relief pitcher acquired this year from the Rockies, while J. was the starting pitcher not only against the Yankees but also against the Pawtucket Red Sox in a game I saw on the 18th. He survived a rough start to get a no-decision as the AAA Norfolk Tides lost at Pawtucket 5-4 in 12 innings. J. gave up three runs in the first inning but threw an impressive assortment of junkballs during the remainder of his stint to keep the Pawsox off balance. He has since been recalled to the big league team.

I also saw J. pitch against the Cubs at Wrigley Field last year. Is he the only starting pitcher the Mets have?

Monday, May 29, 2000

Old Fenway

(Originally posted on in 2000. It turns out Old Fenway is still there five years later.)

Fenway Park on

The ballpark may not be there five years from now, so every visit to Fenway Park is another chance to soak it all in one more time before the wrecking ball comes. Much of a Fenway visit, from the ride on the packed Green Line trolley to the odd way your seat is situated, can be viewed as either horrible or charming. The new ballpark is supposed to be built adjoining the current property so the Green Line ride probably isn't going to change, but the seating areas will be more logical.

I caught the Red Sox on consecutive weekend days recently, two bad days as it turned out. Nomar Garciaparra was on the disabled list, Pedro Martinez wasn't scheduled to pitch, it was cold and cloudy, and the home team managed to lose twice in a row (to the Tigers) at Fenway for the first time this season. I didn't do much camera work at these games but did try out a new wide angle zoom lens (17-35mm for those who care about such things), so that's what you see on this page.

On the first day, our seats were in the centerfield bleachers. This offers an excellent view of the field, much better than the somewhat more expensive seats down the right field line. Despite stern posted warnings about ejections, beach balls were flying around in abundance. Along with "The Wave" and all forms of arena rock ("We will we will rock you....") one can only hope that some day this idiotic activity will pass into history.

Given that the primary activity of many bleacher denizens was trooping down the stairs to fetch two beers every inning or so, it was ironic that the following day my seat was down the left field line in the beer-free seating area. There is no ramp to Section 33, so fans either have to go up and around, or climb over the fans in Row 1 of Section 32. This gets old in a hurry, so it's obvious why these sections were chosen to be the "family" area – no beer traffic. The view from this area is unique as you are looking almost directly down the foul line and the Green Monster looms just over your left shoulder. You can also get up and roam around the rest of Fenway Park, an opportunity you don't have with a bleacher seat.

I also managed a trip to Turner Field in Atlanta last month, but can't prove it with any photos. I tried the $5 seats in the right field upper deck for a Dodgers-Braves game and can only say the view of downtown Atlanta from this area is very good. They even sell a few $1 tickets to each game, an idea I'm guessing the Braves stole from the Diamondbacks.

Subtlety is rarely an attribute of anything with "Turner" attached to it. Considering that the Braves have spring training at Walt Disney World, it's not too surprising that Turner Field resembles an amusement park. You can decide for yourself whether that's a good thing.

Andres Galarraga seems to be a shoo-in for Comeback Player of the Year. On this night he hit a homer (as did Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones) to lead the Braves to victory during the middle of their 15-game winning streak. The Dodgers looked pretty hapless, but as of this writing the Dodgers are only five games behind Arizona and 1/2 game out of the Wild Card.

Coming up next month is a trip to the Big Ballpark in the Bronx for a Yankees-Mets matchup. That will be great, but I'm also looking forward to the start of the Cape Cod League season. To me it's usually more fun to get good photos of top college prospects than to get distant bleacher views of Mike Piazza and Derek Jeter. Speaking of beer, the Yankees just banned beer in their bleacher section, so once again it looks like a beer-free day.

Sunday, March 19, 2000

St. Pat

Originally posted on in 2000, back when we didn't know that Sammy Sosa and the A's lineup were chemically enhanced.

There was a St. Patrick's Day party at Phoenix Municipal Stadium March 17 and a baseball game broke out. More than 9,500 packed into the old stadium nominally to see the Green and Gold Oakland A's attempt to extend their nine-game winning streak.

The fact that Seattle prevailed 9-5 didn't seem to cause any great concern. Since the seating capacity of the the stadium is less than 8,800 and there is no lawn seating, 700 or more fans had to cluster along the rails and in many cases seemed more interested in the St. Pat's festivities than the game.

So my Cactus League odyssey that began in rain-soaked Municipal Stadium March 5 ended in green beer-soaked Municipal Stadium 12 days later. In between I managed to see all 10 Cactus League teams at least once, and seven of the eight stadiums (missing Tucson Hi Corbett this time around). Here are some of my conclusions about this year's experience:

MVP: Sammy Sosa. Duh!

Cy Young: There are no Cy Youngs at this stage of the season.

Gold Glove: Center fielder Marquis Grissom of the Brewers for his March 15 game against the Cubs, running down a number of long flies. Honorable mention, Mike Cameron of the Mariners March 17.

Idiot of the Month: Cameron made several fine catches against the A's but he couldn't quite reach one long drive (right), prompting one bozo to say, "Griffey would have had that." Such a comment makes as much sense as criticizing Giants center fielder Marvin Bernard for missing a play that Willie Mays would have made. Griffey is 2,500 miles away in Florida and he's not coming back, so GET OVER IT!

Most disappointing: I saw the Mariners twice but Alex Rodriguez didn't play in either game.

Best overall experience: Mesa's HoHoKam Park, home of the Cubs. Fans turns out in droves, which is good because it's the biggest spring training park. There is comfortable seating, and a large lawn for those so inclined. The major downside seems to be parking and traffic, which I didn't have to deal with because I was within walking distance.

Most comfortable seating: In addition to HoHoKam, Maryvale Park.

Worst stadium: All of the facilities are good but they are not equal, and the St. Patrick's Day overflow crowd accentuated the shortcomings of Phoenix Municipal. There is no lawn, so people were packed 3-4 deep along the rails behind the stands. A large proportion of the seating is benches instead of chairs. The parking is relatively expensive at $5. However, it's still worth going there because....

Best team: Oakland Athletics. You get the feeling every guy in the lineup is about to line one off or over the wall.

Worst team: Sorry, Milwaukee Brewers. The Giants have a worse record, but in the games I saw the Brewers had a feeling of futility about them.

Best food: Additional research is still required, which is difficult to do since price-gouging is as prevalent in the Cactus League as at probably every other sports venue in the country. Some of the sponsoring organizations justify the prices by saying that the proceeds support community organizations. Why that makes a dinky cup of Pepsi worth $2.75, I don't know. Anyway, try the excellent burritos at the restaurant stands in Tucson Electric Park.

Free stuff: The Angels, desperately trying to give fans a reason to show up at Tempe Diablo, gave away batting gloves at one game and duffel bags at another. Since my luggage mysteriously increased in mass by 20% during the two weeks, I really appreciated getting that duffel bag. The Diamondbacks gave away baseballs.

The only advance tickets I bought were for the Cubs home games. For all the rest of the teams except the Giants, you can probably get decent seats for most games without ordering months ahead of time. Next year I'll probably order both Cubs and Giants tickets in advance, which is made slightly more difficult because they use different ticket agencies.

If you are still trying to get a handle of the Cactus League experience, it might be useful to go back and review my comments from last year's trip. Most of them still apply, with the following exceptions: (1) The vacant lot near Scottsdale Stadium is being built on; (2) I had a little better luck with the traffic around Maryvale this year, but I was only there once so it's impossible to generalize.