baseball 2002 august & september
by dan r. with jamie paquette
8/1 Thursday night, Turner Field
Braves 4 Brewers 0 In attendance- Jamie and Bryan
We arrive late (for some reason we thought that Atlanta was a 6 hour drive from Grammieís but it was really 7 hours) and upon arrival, Jamie has his hat checked for the third time on the trip.* Post 9/11 security makes absolutely no sense and that is why our country is so damn great, huh?
Sunday afternoonís game was so hot that I didnít fully appreciate Turner Field. It is no Pac Bell, Camden Yards, Coors, or PNC, but it is damn nice. It has a comfortable feel to it. Nice bar overlooking the field in the outfield. Nice sight lines everywhere in the park, a huge Coca Cola cannon, and overall a nice park. Better than Safeco, better than Miller, better than the Ballpark in Arlington and comparable to Jacobs Field.
We drank giant Icehouses which made Greg Madduxís victory easier to stomach. Maddux, of course, only went 6 or 7 innings because he is the biggest wuss in all of baseball.
* The security people also had a hard-on for cell phones which had to be turned on so they could make sure you werenít bringing a fake cell-phone bomb in with you. You could have had bin Laden on speed dial, just so long as it was a real phone. I wonder what would have happened if Iíd tried to bring one of those cell phones full of candy through. Under my hat.
8/2 Friday night, Richmond
Richmond Braves vs. Columbus Clippers In attendance- Jamie
Again, the theme of this trip rears its ugly head. We arrive to the game an hour late (give us a break, the Southlands are damn big!) and it is already the bottom of the 3rd. We park the car behind the outfield wall. We walk up to the wooden fence and peer through a hole to see the Clippers centerfielder about 75 feet or so directly in front of our line of view. We end up getting two tickets for 5 bucks outside the park.
The ballpark in Richmond is wonderful. Iím guessing it was built in the 60ís. You can see it from 95 when you drive through the city and Iíve always wanted to see a game here. The Upper deck is huge and it is sloped pretty steeply. The last row of the Upper Deck is an excellent seat. The lower deck is pretty damn small.
We settled into our seats with our Icehouses. Jamie notes that I got really drunk on only two of them (Me drunk on 2 beers? No way!) and he lists three facts to prove his theory 1. Danís fingers covered in Cracker Jacks. 2. Dan keeps spilling beer on himself. 3. Dan drunkenly keeps singing the Kit Kat song very loudly.
When a Sam Cooke song is played between innings, Jamie proclaims, "Iíll only listen to two oldies artists - Sam Cooke and anything by Donovan."
We moved down to right behind third base for the late innings to hear some prime Drew Henson heckling - "Drew, you suck - you are a son of a hen!" and "Drew, you gave up the Rose Bowl for this?"*1
After the game, we head to the car with happy thoughts in our head of another baseball trip coming to an end when we are accosted by a weird dude in the parking lot. Mid 40ís, glasses way too big for his head, neon green ballcap on with huge headphones over his hat. He comes up to us excitedly to point out a ball caught in the chain link fence*2 behind the scoreboard right behind the outfield fence. He tells us that the ball up there is A.J. Zappís first homerun ball of the year. He tells us that he has been trying to get the ball down for weeks. Jamie says, "Oh yeah?" He picks up a rock, aims and with his first throw (HIS FIRST THROW!!) knocks the ball loose. It lands with a plunk at Jamieís feet. The weird dude flips out and an 8 year old boy descends on us sensing like all 8 year olds do weakness and an opportunity to get a baseball. Jamie feels the urge to tell the weirdo and the conniving kid to bugger off - that it was HIS deadly aim and it was HIS ball to go with his Gulf Coast League ball, but he suppresses the urge. I take a picture of him with the ball and he gives it to the kid.*3 At the least, he made some weird dudeís year.*4
*1 Unfortunately, I think these came from me. Apparently the Icehouse had impaired any humorous ability I might have had. That and Dan constantly with the "Give me a break / Give meÖbreak / ÖÖÖKit Kat Bar!".
*2 Really more of a net.
*3 The damn kid waited patiently, knowing I was struggling with the question of whether to give him the ball or not. Then he didnít even say thank you, he just grabbed it and ran. The little shit.
*4 I have to mention that there was another ball twisted up in the net (its relationship to A.J. Zapp could not be determined), but which wasnít going anywhere no matter what size rock you threw at it. Feeling emboldened by my previous success, however, I threw a few rocks at it, scoring a direct hit with the third one. The ball stayed entangled, but the Devil Rays are pestering me for a tryout a la Jim Morris.
8/3 Saturday night, Newark
Newark Bears vs. Atlantic City Surf In attendance- Me
After unsuccessfully trying to go to an inning or two of an Aberdeen Ironbirds game on the way back to New York (although I was allowed to go into the game right before the first pitch to take a picture) I headed to Newark, NJ to catch the last three innings of an independent league game.
As I entered Newark, there were fireworks exploding over the city. I felt like the grandfather in "Avalon" when he arrived in Baltimore on the 4th of July and thought that they shot off fireworks every night. Newark! What a city! I pulled into a spot right by the park. Upon exiting the car, I heard this amazing player announcement from the Bearsí announcer- "Now batting for the Surf- Pete Incaviglia." What? Have I entered Baseball Heaven? I mean this question literally not figuratively. Had I died and ended up in Baseball Heaven - a place where the non-stars end up playing in Newark as part of an independent league with fireworks being shot off in front of only a few hundred remaining fans at the tail end of a long doubleheader? Could Joe Charbonneau be far? I hurried to the park where I was waved in for free.
The fireworks kept exploding over the right field wall distracting the players. During the grand finale of the fireworks, the players stopped playing for a couple of minutes, turned, and watched.
I learned that the Surf are managed by none other than Mitch Williams. I watched Garry Maddox Jr., Incaviglia, and Ryan Minor play some ball. I heard some mullet sporting guy heckle a player with very loose fitting pants, "Hey droopy pants!" Immediately following the game, the Bears shot off some more fireworks. Newark! What a city!
8/4 Sunday afternoon, Shea Stadium
Diamondbacks 12 Mets 7 In attendance- Dave N.
What better way to end a baseball trip than to go to another game! I dropped off the rental car at LaGuardia so hell, I might as well go to a Mets game since Iím already in the neighborhood.
The game is tied 7-7 after 6 innings when Luis Gonzalez hit a 3 run homer. The crowd was deflated. Ty Wigginton did go 4 for 5 with a 3 run homer for the Mets.
I rail on Tony Larussa again - you know the old standbys: he has ruined modern baseball with his pioneering overuse of relief pitchers, he isnít nearly as smart as he thinks he is, and he is a racist. Big deal that he likes animals, he hates black men. Just ask Ray Lankford, Brian Jordan, or Ozzie Smith.
Dave rails on the NYTimes - "It is a good national newspaper, but if it involves anything with a ball, New York, or the working class, you arenít going to find it in the Times." Wow, I think that would be a great ad campaign for the N.Y. Post or the Daily News.
Dave tells me about an Orioles game he was at in Boston with his parents. After the 6th inning, Daveís mom stood up to stretch. Dave asked her what she was doing and she said, "Iím standing for the 7th inning stretch." Dave told her that the stretch occurred in the middle of the 7th, not at the beginning. She was used to always standing for the stretch in Baltimore before the Orioles hit in the 7th so she just assumed you stood and stretched before the team you were rooting for hit in the 7th inning. She refused to listen to Dave and stood for the entire break between innings. During the stretch, she stubbornly remained seated. Arenít Moms the best as a general rule?
Overheard at the game - a fan behind us tells his friend about a recent Mets story he had heard involving Dave Weathers warming up in the bullpen before coming into to pitch:
DW - "Iíve got such good control today that you can close your eyes and Iíll still hit your glove."
Bullpen catcher - "Oh come on, give me a break. That is ridiculous."
DW - "No, seriously, trust me."
After some more convincing, the catcher closes his eyes and puts his glove up to catch the pitch. Weathers throws the pitch, misses the glove, and hits the catcher right in the chest.
Catcher - "Ow! I canít believe you hit me in the chest!"
DW - "I canít believe you closed your eyes!"
With this loss, the Mets fell to 55-55. Before the game, Mo Vaughn had called this game a must win. After the game, Bobby Valentine said, "Mo is not a weatherman and heís not a prognosticator either."
8/5 Monday afternoon, Shea Stadium
Diamondbacks 2 Mets 0 In attendance- Sarah
A day for streaks. My 11th straight day at a game. The Mets fifth straight loss to the Diamondbacks in 4 days. Randy Johnson struck out the first six Mets.
Johnson threw a 2 hit shutout, the Mets fell to a game below .500 and it felt like the final nail in the 2002 season for the Mets. Sarah tries to rile me up by saying that baseball players arenít athletes. She kept calling Mo Vaughn "Big Daddy" through the entire game.
8/15 Thursday afternoon, Shea Stadium
Padres 5 Mets 3 In attendance- Me
The Padres complete the three game sweep. The Mets field the most atrocious lineup I have ever seen. It was almost like Valentine was daring Wilpon to fire him with this lineup. Either that, or he was trying to show that Phillips is the problem for giving him such a crappy team. Rey Ordonez hit second in this game, Timo Perez hit third, and Ty Wigginton hit fifth.
It was one of those 1988 Orioles kind of days. The fans had given up on the team and were out to enjoy themselves where they could. They had fun booing Burnitz. They cheered for big man Mo Vaughn as he legged out a double. The Mets made four errors. The ugliest play was on a pop up that the third baseman Wigginton clearly did not see. Everyone in Shea knew that he had lost the ball in sun. What did the closest Met Rey Ordonez do about the situation? He stood there without saying a word with his hands on his hips and let Wigginton fend for himself. The ball dropped, another Padre run scored, and the Mets miseries continued.
In the 8th , the Mets were down by two runs with two outs. Piazza came up to pinch hit as the tying run. Finally, some excitement! However, Piazzaís meek groundball sums up the 2002 Mets. Lifeless.
Highlight of the game - The Onion article I read about the writer being curious about what Yodaís penis looks like and trying to convince the reader that he/she was also obsessed with knowing what it looked like.
8/18 Sunday afternoon, Camden Yards
Tigers 7 Orioles 4 In attendance- Bill
It was close to 100 degrees in Baltimore for the game. Bill and I parked the car and ended up running into his dad and his dadís wife, Angie. We shared the short bus ride over to the park and we discussed the dayís inductions into the Orioles Hall of Fame. When I was told that Dennis Martinez was being inducted, I got a little annoyed. Why was El Drunko being inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame? As far as I was concerned, he could be inducted into the Expos Hall of Fame, not the Orioles. Didnít he do most of his good pitching for Montreal after he cleaned up his act? What did he do with the Birds other than win a few games early in his career, polish off many cases of El Presidente, hurt his shoulder, and tell an 8 year old Daniel that he had better things to do with his time than give brats baseballs before a game? My anti-Martinez rant did not endear me to the huge Orioles fan Angie. Oh well, you canít win them all, can you?
Before entering the park, I gave MasterCard false info to pick up a free Oriole Bird bobble head doll. No problem. Upon entering the park, I decided to pick up another one for my dead old dad*. But, when I gave the exact same false social security number, they were on to me. It popped up in their little computer and I was had. The bobble head was taken from me and it was a sad moment. I blame the whole thing on Peter Angelos.
Nick Mantzouris and Angie snuck us into the club seats. The AC was perfect for the 45 minutes before the game. And I saw my chance - another MasterCard booth. I chatted up the lovely old woman worker about the Redskins as I blatantly lied to her about all my personal information. But, I came out ahead (materially if not morally) with my second bobble head of the day.
Bill and I argued about baseball economics (this was right before a possible strike) and I couldnít get over his opinion that greedy ballplayers are ruining baseball yet he loves Alex Rodriguez. HmmmÖ. However, I did love that he proclaimed that Pedro Martinez is on steroids and that he insisted that I go back to Brooklyn and share that bit of info with Mr. Jamie Christian Paquette.*
*Duly noted. For the record, Pedro Martinez is 5í11" and weighs 170 lbs. Not exactly Dolph Lundgren there. Also, Dennis Martinez was very good for the Orioles up until (surprisingly) the World Series year of 1983 (he was 82-57 up to that point). He sucked until 1987, when I guess he cleaned himself up because he churned out one great year after another until 1996.
Dan responds- Bill was going on about how pitchers use it to aid the healing, process not to get bigger.
As far as Dennis Martinez goes, if he had finished his career at 82-57 without ever pitching for the Expos, he would never ever have been inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame.
8/24 Saturday afternoon, Fenway Park
Angels 2 Red Sox 0 In attendance- Marc, Jamie, Carly, Sean, Emily
The eventual world champion Angels took it to the punchless Red Sox. Could this be the last baseball game of the year because of the strike? Jamie insisted no and he was proven right.*1
Our seats were literally flush against the foul portion of the Green Monster. A couple of the seats had major obstructed view with a pole completely blocking home plate.*2 A Doug Mirabelli foul ball sailed right over our heads at one point. Kevin Appier went 6 shutout innings for Anaheim.
There is much talk of dueling Hot 97 DJís. For some odd reason, Dave and Busterís is discussed. I describe it as an adult Chuck E. Cheeseís to which we all get a good chuckle about the possibility of the existence of an erotic Chuck E. Cheeseís. Jamie explains to Emily the art of keeping score as well as the system of how umpires are rotated throughout the league.
After the game, Red Sox first baseman Brian Daubach sums up the Boston fanís fragile psyche when he discusses the remaining two games of the Angels series after losing the first two, "It would be nice to win the next two, but the Tobin Bridge doesnít need to be full if we donít."
Highlight of the game - Emily looks at my old school Orioles hat* - the one with the smiling caricature of the Oriole bird - and asks me, "Is that a penguin on your hat?"
*1 The way the Red Sox played in this one, I almost wish it had been. We might as well not have driven the 250 miles and just watched the Mets play. Mirabelliís foul ball was literally the most excited Sox fans could get. The stadium was like a mausoleum the rest of the time.
*2 Many people mistake features such as this for "character", when in fact it really just poor design.
8/31 Saturday afternoon, Shea Stadium
Phillies 1 Mets 0 In attendance- Shawn, Jeremy
The Mets finish the worst ever month at home in National League history. Thatís right- over one hundred years of history ends at Shea. The Mets lose all 13 games at home in August. Pitiful. Randy Wolf pitched a complete game shutout for the Phillies and Jimmy Rollinsí rbi single in the 8th is all that the Phillies needed.
The topics of conversation at this game were pretty much leftovers from the heated arguments the night before at OíConnorís. Should Jeremy have his baby circumcised? And do people across American congratulate themselves for seeing an "art" film after seeing "Big Fat Greek Wedding"?*
Highlight of the game - Receiving the tasty and free new product "Squeeze n Go" after the game. For the busy person who loves pudding but just doesnít have enough time in this work a day world to actually eat pudding with a spoon. Look for it at your nearest grocery store.
* The editor admits to not being the worldís most open-minded person when it comes to arguments. It is possible that the words "Go fuck yourself" were uttered in all seriousness during said previous eveningís debates and that the volume and severity of the arguments resulted in numerous other bar patrons relocating themselves to quieter environs.
9/22 Sunday afternoon, Shea Stadium
Expos 5 Mets 1 In attendance- Former students Evan and Andrew, and Andrewís dad Nick.
The only thing that took away the sting of yet another ugly loss was the amazing 60 dollar seats and the fun crew with me. On the day that Sarah and I later broke up, the couple next to us at the game got engaged - you know the bit - it was on the scoreboard and everything.
Nick talked about how much of a struggle it is to get his son to read at home. He keeps telling him that if nothing else he should read the sports page - "Come on Andrew, youíve got to read about all the pot the Mets have been smoking!" The Mets score their only run on a 3 base error followed by a groundball. Truly pitiful.
So another season in the books. Only 6 weeks or so until Opening Day!