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Baseball has a long season.  Getting longer all the time, in fact.  It is hard to remember that not long ago, when a pitcher named Jim Brosnan wrote a pretty good book called The Long Season about the 1959 season, they played a mere 154 games instead of 162.  And now the World Series is scheduled to go into November!  By the way, you can get a big chuckle by reading about those who criticized Brosnan’s book for breaking the clubhouse code.  It is sort of like criticizing the contemporaneous Father Knows Best for blowing the lid off the American family.

Part of the problem is the playoffs.  I’ll admit it was pretty difficult to come out on top after expansion, like in 1967 when you had to beat nine other teams.  Now you only have to come out on top of 4, 5, or 6, depending on where you are.  Does that make any sense?  And of course you don’t have to come out on top because you can be the Wild Card.  I still have trouble with this concept, though I’ll admit as a Boston fan I have been the beneficiary of it, for it just doesn’t seem the same to root for your team to squeak into second.  At least it is not like basketball, where they play they entire season to eliminate three teams and then the rest start all over again with the real season.  And while I am whining about the alignment, how about 14 teams in one league and 16 in the other?  It offends one’s sense of symmetry.  I suppose if there were 15 and 15 it would make scheduling games problematic, but you could always have an interleague game for the odd teams.  And speaking of interleague, can we please get rid of the Designated Hitter rule in the American League?

Enough ranting, and what does this have to do with Milwaukee, the alleged subject of this post?  Well, the Baseball Commissioner is the owner of the Milwaukee team (I have to pause to think what they are called – I believe the Brewers) and I think he bears responsibility for some of this.  Consider for a moment what I just said – the Baseball Commissioner is the owner of a team!  Excuse me?  Maybe I heard too much propaganda when I was a kid about Kenesaw Mountain Landis (is that a cool name or what!) and how the Commissioner was going to be above the fray, with an interest only in what was good for baseball.  You can imagine that being the view of broad-minded men like Peter Ueberroth, Bart Giamatti, and Fay Vincent.  (Admittedly, there were some earlier losers, like Ford Frick, who put the asterisk next to Maris’ record.  I know Billy Crystal is a Yankee Fan, but I respect those who get it right, and he definitely got it right in 61*, which is an excellent baseball movie.  He also went to NYU’s Tisch school, where my daughter is.)  But is this the perspective of Bud Selig, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers?  Let us return to the days when there were giants in the earth.

Because it is a long season, the game that you watch has significance not only as the game per se, but in how it will affect the standings.  This is most significant later in the season, when you can calculate who has to win what in order to make the playoffs.  I remember in the fatal year of 1978, at a time when the Red Sox enjoyed a huge advantage over the Yankees in the standings, I was discussing this with a friend.  I had worked out the math, and I said, “In order to win, the Yankees will have to play .750 ball while the Red Sox play .500.”  My implication was that this was unlikely, but of course, it happened, culminating in the infamous playoff game.  Speaking of which, most Red Sox fans blame Bucky F. Dent for the outcome.  But as far as I was concerned, it was all over when the starting pitcher for the Red Sox was announced: “Ex-Yankee Mike Torrez.”  Do you see the fallacy there?  Once a Yankee, always a Yankee in my book.

The game I saw in Milwaukee is illustrative of these ups and downs.  Here is how the Wikipedia entry on the Brewers describes the end of the 2008 regular season:

The Brewers came off the sweep from the Cubs with an amazing August, winning 20 of 28 games in the month. Sabathia made history by becoming the first pitcher in over 90 years to win his first 9 games after being traded mid-season. With a steady 5 game lead for the Wild Card, the hope of a playoff spot seemed secured, but the Brewers struggled in September, first getting swept by the New York Mets, and then just over a week later, getting swept in 4 games by the Philadelphia Phillies, losing their lead in the Wild Card. Feeling a change was needed, the Brewers fired manager Ned Yost with just 12 games left in the season, replacing him with Brewers third base coach Dale Sveum. Sveum named Garth Iorg as his replacement as third base coach, and made Robin Yount the new bench coach, replacing Ted Simmons. With the final 6 games at home, the Brewers were still in the hunt for the Wild Card behind the New York Mets. They first swept the Pittsburgh Pirates, thanks to walk-off home runs by Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, tying the New York Mets for the Wild Card lead with 3 games to go against the NL Central division champion Chicago Cubs.

 

Against that dramatic backdrop, we had our bar meeting in nearby Madison the weekend of that series against the Cubs.  I had checked for tickets, but thought I would be out of luck because the game started at noon on Saturday, just as we were scheduled to finish our meeting.  However, our meeting broke up early, around 11, and when I checked the game, it was now scheduled for 2:00.  John Kidwell, who lives in Madison, agreed to go with me, and drive us in, so I snagged a couple of tickets on Stub Hub.  I didn’t think they were going to be good seats, as they were in the uppermost deck, but the decks rise very steeply behind the plate, and even though we were high, we were not that far beck from the field and I thought we got a very good view.  Here’s a picture of Miller Park that shows how vertical those stands are:

Miller Park

I googled the game, and found the box score for Saturday, September 27,2008, at this site: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIL/MIL200809270.shtml

As you can see, the Makers of Beer lost to the Cubs that day after having won five in a row.  But the Mets lost, too, so they remained knotted with one game to go.  For that final game, the Brewmakers brought out Sabathia for the third time in a week, and he rose to the occasion, pitching a complete game victory while the Mets lost, putting the Milwaukees in the postseason for the first time in a quarter century.  Alas, they only remained in the hunt for the minimum four games, and then the vultures picked over the team, and it never recovered.

It was fun being part of that excitement, which was experienced by a sellout crowd.  I don’t remember much else about the park, except that some sort of scene involving beer in center field came to life when a home run was hit.  I don’t even remember if there was beer available other than the eponymous Miller, though there probably was.  In any event, I count it a good day at the ball park.

I realize that my patient readers do not find many descriptions of baseball games in my posts, and you certainly won’t find any in this one.  I know I went to an Angels game, but I don’t even know when.  I think I will research what they were called in those days – I suspect the California Angels – and I will also check whether they have changed parks, but my guess is that they have not.  Hypothesis confirmed – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_Angels_of_Anaheim reports that they were the California Angels from 1965 until purchased in 1997 by Disney, which renovated both the name and the stadium.

Terry and I got married in 1983, when her parents were living in LA, so it is likely that we went to a game while we were visiting them – it is even possible that her dad came with us.  In the summer of 1984, we made a gigantic trip around the country.  In the spring of 1983, when we decided to get married, Terry had already committed to a job with the US Justice Department (“The World’s Largest Law Firm”) in Dallas.  We got married when I went down there for Christmas vacation in 1983.  I then came back for spring break, and I came down again for the somewhat warm Dallas summer in 1984.  I had a research grant and was able to spend a lot of time indoors at the SMU library.  At that time, Sally Wise, who is now at Miami and works with me on the CALI Board of Directors, was working there.  We went to a couple of Rangers games then, but that will be the subject of another post.

The great dean at Montana, Jack Mudd, had worked out a scam called the Rocky Mountain Consortium of Law Schools.  Every summer faculty from those law schools would get together at some great resort along the Rocky Mountain spine, from Banff to Taos.  I recall that Nebraska asked if they could join us, and Jack’s response was, “Yes, if you promise not to host the meeting.”  Actually, we crossed Nebraska during at least one of our cross country trips, and I thought it was pretty neat.  But you won’t hear much more about that, as Nebraska is not famous for its baseball.

The first of our great road trips took place in the summer of 1984.  The first stop was Taos, New Mexico, where the Consortium met.  A weird thing happened at that meeting.  Terry and I had been discussing possible names for children.  When the Dean of the law school at Edmonton, Alberta was introduced as Trevor Anderson, Terry and I looked at each other because we both thought Trevor would be a cool name for a boy.  The irony is that, although we did not know it, Terry was then pregnant with Trevor, who was born the next March.  We thought the name would be unusual, but something must have been in the air, because there were many Trevors born at the same time – he even had one in his elementary school class!

We then drove north to Oregon for the wedding of Terry’s law school roommate Cathy.  Then we dropped down through northern California, where many of Terry’s relatives on her father’s side lived, and finally ended up in LA, where the Olympics were taking place.  We got to see two days of track and field, and a day of rowing.  It was very cool.  The events take place all over the field, but we happened to be seated right in front of the spot where Carl Lewis was trying for his second gold medal in an attempt to get four gold medals, this one in the long jump.  I remember the kid behind us wanted to leave for a hot dog, and his father tried to persuade him that this was not the best time.  I don’t recall if the father got the best of that one, but Carl did.

Anyway, it was either on that trip or a slightly later trip that we went to see the Angels.  They have proven to be an interesting team to follow, as they have often contended with the Red Sox in the Division and League Series, and even now are contending with the Yankees

The 1994 Remake

As a footnote, a couple of weeks ago, Terry recorded the movie Angels in the Outfield.  I told her I was not going to watch it because I had seen it and it was pretty weak and not worth seeing again.  I’m glad we had this conversation, because she pointed out that this recording was not the 1994 remake, which unimaginatively featured the eponymous California Angels, but the 1951 original, which featured the Pittsburgh Pirates.  It turned out to be pretty charming, featuring an extremely young Janet Leigh.  I rather liked that one never actually sees the angels.  A cynic might say that this was a function of better special effects in the remake, but I thought it was a function of a better moral lesson, for the results in the original might have been achieved by the change in the protagonist’s behavior rather than by divine intervention. 

The 1951 Original Movie

 

The Pittsburghs were then playing at Forbes Field, and the long shots of the stadium with the University of Pittsburgh (a/k/a The Learning Tower of Pisa-burgh) in the background were very cool.  Of course, things have changed as that was two stadiums (stadia for the purists) ago, and the Bucs now play in The Park Where Pittsburgh Plays, which, in spite of its name, is a cool park, as we saw in the blog on Pittsburgh.  But some things have not changed, as the Pittsburghs were favored this year with neither a change in behavior nor divine intervention.  But there is still hope for the Angels (go Whoever Is Playing the Yankees).

I may be the first person in history to make a trip to Washington just to see the baseball team play!  I am in New York City for the month of July, and it seems an opportune time to cross the Nationals off my list (I’m sure many others, including denizens of Washington, have also crossed them off their list).  They are playing at home twice while I am in NY, and each time there is a Sunday game at 1:30.  So I figured I might as well do it at the first opportunity, which comes up tomorrow.  The Greyhound bus takes forever, and I don(t want to get up at the crack of dawn, so I am springing for the Amtrak train to get down.  I can leave at 9:00 and get there at 12:30.  That should give me time to get to the park.  I figure the crowds that might usually attend will be diminished by the fact that the World Cup final will be played at the same time.  Then I will take a Vamoose bus back at 5:30.  So I should have plenty of time to get to the bus after a 3-hour game.  Back to NY at 10.  We will have a further report soon on whether this all worked out.

Well, it wasn’t quite to be the perfect trip, though Starbucks did well by it.  I thought I had done a great job of figuring out the alarm clock on my cell phone, which I set for 8:00 since my train left at 9:05.  I was terrified when I woke up and saw that it was 8:58.  But a closer look indicated that my bleary and aging eyes could not distinguish a 6 from an 8 (or one could charitably call it a design defect) and it was really 6:58.  I dozed off again until about 7:50, got up, had a shower, and took off. 

I got to Penn Station about 8:30 and wanted to pick up some breakfast.  I surveyed all the latte places around the waiting room, and none looked promising until I spotted Tim Horton, a favorite of Terry’s.  As I was looking at their donut display and trying to figure out what to have with my coffee, a young woman approached the donuts and put her Starbucks cup on the counter.  “Where did you find Starbucks?”  I asked.  She gave me a big smile and said, “I axed someone the same question.”  She then told me about the secret passageway that led to Starbucks.  I found it, and nursed a latte and cinnamon roll over the Times, which I had acquired for $5.00. 

The night before, I was debating what reading to take with me, and as my choices cumulated to two – the Sunday Times and a book on Payment Systems for light relief when the Times got too serious.  I then realized I was going to have to think about a container for them.  I did not bring a backpack to New York with me, and realized that I would have to take my briefcase.  This is an odd thing to bring to the park, but I figured if they let backpacks in they would also let briefcases in.  I deduced that they let backpacks in from the fact that this was backpack giveaway day – woo hoo!  For a fleeting moment I thought I could carry the stuff in a plastic bag and then switch to the backpack after I got mine, but the fine print indicated that this giveaway was only for children 12 and under.  It was also only for the first 12,000, but I didn’t think that was going to be an issue, which it was not.

I did have a flashback to a night at Yankee Stadium just after 9/11.  The Yankees would not let briefcases in.  I can’t say this was a bad idea, not because I thought some terrorist would find Yankee Stadium an attractive target, but because in my experience from the 70’s, Yankees fans were prone to take whatever objects were at hand and throw them at Red Sox fans or, in the absence of any perceptible enemy, at each other.  Yankee fans were doubtless the inspiration for the opening scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Anyway, did they have someone to inspect and pass the briefcases?  No.  Did they have somewhere you could check them?  No.  They did not let them in.  So these Wall Street types were standing outside the entrance trying to decide whether it was worth abandoning their $200 briefcases in order to see the Yankees.  Incredibly, many decided it was, and the stack of beautiful leather trash grew high. I figured times had changed, and the Nationals are not the Yankees, and I was right.  They took a quick look into my briefcase and let me in.  But I get ahead of myself.

At about 8:50 I wandered back to the waiting room and they announced the train shortly after that.  It was not crowded and I got a seat to myself.  It was also on time, arriving about 12:25.  I spotted the sign for the Metro and ventured down there.  I had checked the Metro web site the night before for directions and calculated that my two trips would cost $4.35, so I purchased a farecard with $4.35 on it.  I thought I might have a problem finding the park, but spotted other fans on the platform and figured I could follow them.  It was a short trip from Union Station to Gallery Place, and then a slightly longer one from Gallery Place to Navy Yard.  I had checked the map on the Nationals web site to see how to get from the Metro to the stadium, but I had not brought it with me.  This indeed was not necessary, for at least three reasons.  First, I could follow the crowd.  Second, there was good signage with a big arrow at the top of the escalator pointing to Nationals Stadium.  Third, when I got to the street, I could see it.

This was a pleasant introduction to what turned out to be a pleasant park.  The street was closed to vehicles, and led directly to the stadium, maybe 150 yards away.  Also, the stadium was mostly built into a depression, so the street turned into a large outfield apron from which you could see the whole panorama of the stadium.  You initially walked into a vendor area where they took your tickets and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful – in fact, a number of people carried flags indicating that the only reason for their existence was to answer your questions.  There were also sculptures in this area, though all the sculptures attempted to capture bat swinging and arm pitching motions, which I think is better left to the imagination.  There was a copyright case where the plaintiff claimed that his performance rights to a ballet were infringed by still pictures and the defendant claimed that no one could perform the ballet based on those pictures.  But the judge said that if you see a photo of a ballet dancer in the air, your mind fills in her leap to that position as well as her descent to the ground, so you do not just have a still image.  I think the same works with the swing of a bat or the throw of a pitch. 

Howard's Swing

In addition, there were lots of mascots in this area, and they were making themselves available to the crowd, unlike, for example, Mr. Baseball (or, as my nephew’s son called him “Hey, Baseball Head”) in Cincinnati, whose sightings were rare.  I saw George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt and others I’m afraid I couldn’t identify.  This welcome, plus the fact that it was a perfect summer afternoon, led me to conclude that this was a very friendly place for baseball.  From this perch, and the nearby signage, I could orient myself very easily, figuring just where to go to find my seat.  I liked that a lot.

Teddy Roosevelt on the Outfield Apron

I stopped writing to check my emails.  I got one from the Nationals called “Game Recap and Thank You from the Nationals.”  They must have read my mind, because I was going to fact check this blog after I wrote it by going to a recap of the game, and they have now provided me with one!  And thanking me for attending is a nice gesture.  I like this experience!

I stayed on the “ground level” for a while as I worked my way toward third base, and then took a flight of stairs up to the clubhouse level.  Shortly my entrance ticket was checked and I found myself in air-conditioned comfort.  There were large comfortable rooms with people clustered around the bar or sitting and watching the game on tv.  From the back windows you could see the city, though not much was visible from here.  I thought maybe this was like the clubhouse seats in Cincinnati, where you could get food for free, but alas, that was not the case.  I did get a Pilsner Urquell on draft for $7, which I thought was a good deal.  I then went to one of the food windows, and found that each has rather limited choices.  This one specialized in Chicken Parmagiana sandwiches, which sounded good at the time, so I got one.  I then headed for my seat and got to the aisle just as the National Anthem was being played.  Right after that, some Brownies took the field.  I have seen this at other parks, and it is a nice gesture.  The players then come out and greet the kids who have stood in their places, tell them to buzz off, and it is time to Play Ball!

I had a great seat in the middle of the 4th row of the first deck, right behind home plate.  It was also in the shade, which wasn’t a big deal then, but would prove to be later on as the day got a lot warmer.  And it was padded!  I munched on my food and worked on my scorecard.  I noticed that everyone in my area was white, and thought this might have been because of the $65 seat, but on my stroll around later, I also saw few nonwhite faces.  This is not good.  After about three innings (during which the Giants roughed up the Nationals starter), I decided it was time for some circumnavigation.

I headed out in the opposite direction, toward first base, but stayed on the upper level.  This led to an outfield area called the Scoreboard Walk that was very open and airy.  You could watch the game or also look out at the river.  I don’t know why I still had a hole in my stomach, but I picked up a bratwurst and an MGD there, and had a portable feast as I continued my way back, first to that outfield viewing area, and then to my seats.  I have to admit this food was not great, but the beer was good.  By this time, the fans were lining up more for ice cream than for beer, as it was getting pretty warm.  I must also mention that while I found this an extremely friendly stadium, the club did not feel obligated to entertain the fans at every moment, and particularly between innings.  While it did have the usual stuff like the race around the park with colorful characters, by and large we were left to ourselves between innings.  Thank you, Nationals, for recognizing that the primary entertainment is the game!

When I got back to my seat, the Nationals (I saw a t-shirt that said “Los Nacionales,” and while there were a few Giants fans there, no t-shirt said “Los Giganticos”) staged a bit of a rally in the 6th.  They started out with a strikeout, but then Zimmerman slashed one to third and the third baseman made a weak throw.  The umpire called the runner out at first, but I think it was a bad call – he may have beaten it out, but in any event the throw seemed to pull the first baseman off the bag.  They then got three hits in a row with two outs, but alas did not score.  That bad call seemed to kill the rally before it got started.  They then rallied again in the 7th, scoring two runs this time, but it was, as they say, too little, too late.

It was 4:30 by the time the Nats got their last ups in the 9th and I had decided to give myself an hour to catch my 5:30 bus at Rosslyn, so I decided to miss the big comeback.  As I was leaving the stadium, I saw the first out.  When I descended into the Metro station, I thought it was my good luck that a train was waiting, but this turned out to be the beginning of my misfortune.  They held the train until it filled up with fans, maybe 15 minutes.  Then when I went to make my transfer at L’Enfant Plaza, the sign said the train would not be coming for 12 minutes.  I might still have made it, but as we approached Foggy Bottom at 5:20, the conductor told us we were going to have to wait because they were doing construction and all trains had to share one track.  We sat there for 15 minutes.  I tried calling my bus operator, but couldn’t reach them from underground.  So a big Boo to the Washington Metro for being so unreliable.

I did have the map printed of where the bus stop was in relation to Rosslyn Metro station.  I thought I was going to have walk around a couple of blocks, but when I got to the open air, I could see that one block was mostly landscaping and I could walk directly across it to the bus stop.  Alas, when I got there, it was 5:45.  I called them then and got put on another one at 7:30.  To kill the time, even though the bus stop was in front of a Cosi, I had spotted a Starbucks down the street, so I went there.  Even though I was thirsty, and it was still a bit hot, I do like my hot lattes, so I got that, and nursed it over my Times and book until 7:15, when I saw that the bus was there and got on it.  It was an express, and made really good time to NYC, pulling up to Penn Station before 11:30.  I took the 7th Avenue subway down, walked across to 5th, and was in the apartment by 11:50.  Getting home a couple of hours late was the only downside to the experience, which was no big deal.

So a big Thumbs Up to the Nationals Stadium (and thank God it has a fine name as well, though the Nats probably wish they had the big bucks that come from corporate sponsorship).  May you soon have a team worthy of the stadium!

The Burnham Baseball Project rolled into Atlanta on Sunday, October 4, the last day of the 2009 baseball season. As mentioned in my column on Scams, our committee had met in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta seemed not far away. Indeed, it was not, as we set out from Charlotte at a reasonable hour and reached the Holiday Inn two blocks from Turner Field at noon. They kindly let us check in at that time, so we strolled over at about 12:30 to catch the game at 1:30.

Me and Hank Aaron

Me and Hank Aaron

One cool thing about the park is that they maintain their connection to the past, and claim they are the oldest franchise in baseball. I knew them in my childhood as the Boston Braves, but since they left Boston for Milwaukee when I was seven, and I doubt my Dad saw much point in taking very young children to games to which he had to buy tickets (recall from my post on Fenway Park that his business had tickets to the Red Sox), I suspect that I never went to a game. But the Turner Field statuary and murals nicely celebrate players from earlier eras.

This was also a pleasant gathering of friends. On a recent visit to Missoula, I had had dinner with Sally Weaver, who is taking my place this year (and doing so well that I fear I am not missed) and her husband, George Maxwell, who has remained in Atlanta and was visiting for the weekend. George expressed some interest in joining us, but I was skeptical that he would be able to, as he has recently become a rector in the Episcopal Church, and Sunday is not exactly an easy day for him to get away. But not only did he come, but he came up with some tickets! They were great seats, just a bit up the first base line from home and about 20 rows back. In fact, from my seat I could look straight down the third base line.

Me, John, and George (where's the 4th Beatle?)

Me, John, and George (where's the 4th Beatle?)

We were also joined by John Mastin, a student of mine who graduated three years ago. John took a job with a high-powered Atlanta firm and earned more money his first year than I earn after 25 years. But he admittedly also works a bit harder. He reported that he is billing 3000 hours a year and recently took his first time off in three years. John assisted me in my circumnavigation of the park and search for unusual beer. He spotted one with which I was not familiar – Sweetwater 420, a local product. I returned for one later. Now this is indeed an unusual beer. It is to ordinary beer as Earl Gray tea is to ordinary tea. I suppose those are hops that provide its aroma, but it does taste like someone dumped in an overdose of perfume.

While I got the beer, Terry got the hot dogs, since we hadn’t spotted any more interesting food. She came back with my dog covered in mustard and reported that ketchup and mustard were the only available condiments. This is not right, and I have to put Turner Field at the bottom of my culinary scale for its absence of variety in foods, and especially for its absence of condiments. You have to have relish on your dog, even if it comes in those tiny packets that are impossible to open. Sauerkraut would not be asking too much, and onions are much appreciated. So I washed down my undercondimentized hot dog with my overperfumized beer. I got a bit hungry later in the game, but by that time they were no longer serving alcohol and the food stands pretty much closed up. This turned out to be a big mistake as the game lasted 15 innings.

The Atlantas had made a surge in the final week of the campaign, but it had petered out and they were statistically finished by this game. Their opponents, the hapless Washington Nationals, had the worst record in baseball. The Nationals had put together a seven game win streak to close the season, however, which was not too shabby. So other than honor and better stats to bargain with, I don’t think much was at stake this final day. Which must have frustrated the players as the innings began to pile on. And waiting in the wings was Creedence Clearwater Revisited who were giving a post-game concert. I will have to research their connection to the famous band of the 60’s (I found a website at http://www.creedence-revisited.com/ but it is a pretty unreadable imitation of the psychedelic style).

I will also have to research an interesting baseball rule question. Rain threatened throughout this game. If it had been called because of rain, I doubt it would have been made up. So if called after more than 5 innings, would it go into the books as a tie, or would it not count? And if it did not count, what about the individual statistics? It seems to me you can’t have it both ways. The books have to balance, so if it counts as statistics it would also have to count as a game, but I don’t see any room in the won-lost column for ties. I would therefore guess it would not count as a game, and because it did not count as a game, it would not count for statistics. That is my guess.

In any event, the Nats got a run in the top of the 15th and I’m not sure how hard the Bravos tried to win in the bottom half of that inning, but they did not succeed. John had left before the first nine were finished (probably to rack up a few more billable hours) and George left after a few of the extras, but Terry and I were enjoying ourselves. We even stayed for a couple of CCR songs before leaving at about 6:30. We then had trouble finding any food within a three-mile radius of the park and ended up taking food from the Holiday Inn restaurant up to our room.

The next day we ventured out in the morning to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. Last January I had gone to Austin to visit my brother Clarke just before he died and we had visited the LBJ library. There I got a list of Presidential Libraries. It was not that long a list – not as long as the list of baseball parks – and I realized I had gone to a number of them, so I thought I might undertake the Burnham Presidential Library Project. This does not have the priority of the Burnham Baseball Project, however, and will not be reported here in depth. It was a pretty cool library, however. I learned a number of things about Jimmy and Rosalynn and also enjoyed the pretty grounds.

We then headed “home” from Atlanta, stopping for the night in Corbin, Kentucky, where Colonel Sanders started his first fried chicken restaurant. We then met up with my nephew Ralph for lunch in Cincinnati; well, technically across the river in Newport, Kentucky. From there we could see the ball park, to which we will return in April with a view toward putting The Park Where the Reds Play in the Parks Visited column.

A preview of parks to come

A preview of parks to come

What wonderful cooperation the Burnham Baseball Project has had from the weather! On Saturday we drove to Wheeling, West Virginia through torrential rains. Why Wheeling, you may ask (but even if you don’t, I will tell you). [That last sentence was hard to punctuate, as “Why Wheeling” cries out for a question mark, but a question mark would appear to be sentence-ending. But the sentence itself is not interrogatory and would be confusing if it ended with a question mark. Suggestions for a good solution to this problem would be appreciated.]

The long-awaited answer is that when I planned this weekend trip to Pittsburgh, I first determined that the Pirates were in town. I next searched for hotels near the ball park, and was shocked to discover that the first ones I tried were sold out. I don’t recall what I then clicked on, maybe something about Events in Pittsburgh, but I then discovered that the G-20 summit was taking place in Pittsburgh at the end of that week. This was not a good time to go to the game, because even if we could get a hotel room, I do not enjoy the smell of tear gas while watching a game.

In thinking it would be best to stay outside of Pittsburgh, Wheeling somehow leapt to mind, as I has seen ads for the Wheeling Island Casino when we drove through on our way to Columbus, and the availability of this casino was also reinforced by reading about how World Series of Poker chip leader Darvin Moon got his entry there. When I checked and found that there was a tournament at 3 on Saturday, that sealed the deal. So the plan was to drive the two hours to Wheeling on Saturday, play the tournament and spend the night there, then drive the one hour to Pittsburgh Sunday morning for the 1:30 game, and drive the three hours back on Sunday after the game.

All seemed to go well except for the weather. We arrived at the casino at about noon. I discovered that I had to have a players card to play in the tournament, so we got in the long line for that. Terry was reluctant to get one, but I pointed out that they gave you $10 in free play, which is the only time I invest in a slot machine. We finally got our cards at about 12:30. Signup wasn’t until 1:00, so we had lunch at the casino. The food was pretty good at the sitdown restaurant there, and the service was excellent. I had second breakfast of omelette and Terry had the special, which was cabbage rolls and mashed potato.

She ordered an “Arnold Palmer” off the menu. This was something I had never heard of. In response to my inquiries, she did a google search on her cell phone and found that Palmer (who was from nearby Latrobe, Pennsylvania) was fond of mixing at home a drink of half lemonade and half iced tea. The story is that when a woman overheard him ordering it in a Palm Beach clubhouse, she then asked the server for one of those “Arnold Palmer drinks” and it soon spread across the country. The entry said that it is now licensed to Arizona. I mention this because it raises an interesting trademark question. It seems to me that if it had started life as a bottled beverage, then you could not put it on your menu without infringing the trademark of that company. But since it started life as the drink that Arnold Palmer drinks, you are not infringing a trademark. However, you may be interfering with his right of publicity, as you are using his name for commercial gain. When the very helpful waitress brought the check, I asked her whether they were serving a commercial product or mixing it themselves, and she said they were mixing it themselves.

After lunch I did the tournament signup and then we drove to our motel, which was about two miles away. The drive through Wheeling reminded me of Wallace, Idaho, the city where the last construction of 1-90 took place. You used to have to get off the highway and drive through town, and then get on again. The narrow valley made for tricky construction, but they finally got it done. I guess the similarity shouldn’t surprise me, for West Virginia is The Mountain State and Montana means the mountainous place. Both also have a resource-based economy. It was also cool to drive on The National Road, which was the first interstate, taking settlers to what was then the West in the 1830s. There is a very cool suspension bridge over the river at Wheeling, much like a miniature Brooklyn Bridge.

After we got settled, I made my way back to the casino and did very badly in the tournament. I then set out to find a slot machine I understood. Actually, the only one I understand (in addition to the ones with oranges and cherries, which are hard to find these days) is video poker. Of course, in Montana they claim that video poker is not a slot machine since we allow video poker and not slot machines. This is a carryover from the idea that video poker is merely poker, which is a game of skill, played on a machine, while a slot machine is a game of chance. Nice theory, but the video poker machine, which plays draw poker, has default settings so you don’t have to use your skill to decide which cards to hold. It is also programmed to retain a certain percentage of the money, sometimes in Montana approaching a whopping 17%, so even with perfect play you cannot come out ahead. To my mind, this makes it a game of chance. In a game of skill, if you are a better than average player, in the long run you will come out ahead.

Anyway, the attendant finally took me to a machine that I had not realized was a poker machine because the face of it was a menu of different games and you had to choose video poker. There were about four of them, but since she had indicated one of them, I decided that had to be my lucky machine. I put in my card and downloaded my credits. I have to admit I am not quite sure what happened after that. I tried to remember to push the maximum credits button before I played each time, but I think I forgot sometimes. It seemed I won every hand I played. But I couldn’t figure out from the machine what I had won, since it just recorded a bunch of credits. I also knew that I wanted to play down the credits on my card without using up my winnings, but I wasn’t sure how to do that. So I decided to cash out, thinking I might have earned a dollar or two, and was surprised when the credit slip said I had $35! I then did the same with Terry’s card, and while I thought I had won less than when I used my card, when I cashed that one out I found I had another $55! I do not, however, conclude from this that video poker is either profitable or interesting, but I do conclude, as we say in Montana, that winning $90 is better than a kick in the face! I then played a little poker, without much success, and left the casino, driving back to the hotel in the rain.

I would make a good poster boy for Proposition 3, the Ohio constitutional amendment that would bring gambling to Ohio. They are running a very subtle campaign. Most of the ads just say something like “Keep jobs in Ohio – vote for Prop 3” and show the map of Ohio with money flowing out in all directions, without telling you exactly what the proposition is all about. Since I have made visits to Greektown Casino in Detroit and Wheeling Island in West Virginia, I guess I exemplify those who are taking Ohio money out of the state. But while I don’t expect to regularly leave the state for that purpose, I would frequent a poker room if they built one in Columbus.

PNC-Park-from-bridge

PNC Park from Roberto Clemente Bridge

The next morning we drove in more rain to Pittsburgh. We drove on the expressway (we call them that in Boston) past the park and got off on back streets and made our way to the park. There was parking for $20 right in a lot right in front of the stadium, but I thought that was a lot of money, plus it might be hard to make a getaway. So we drove another couple of blocks and found a parking structure where parking was $12. This turned out to be great, as we were able to back into a spot right on the first level not far from the exit, and the exit led right to the entrance to the freeway (we call them that in Los Angeles). We donned our rain gear and headed out to the park. It was now about 11:30, two hours before game time. A number of park personnel were also making their way to the game. We went past the stadium, pausing to check out some of the many statues – Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Stargell were all so honored – continuing to the river and found (as I had read somewhere) that there was a nice riverwalk. We walked west on that to the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which got some award as the most beautiful bridge of 1928, but I thought it was pretty ugly. It did, however, afford wonderful views of the city and, looking back, of the park. While the park is fortress-like on the street side, on the river side it is very open, which is obviously why it is celebrated for the views of the city you get when you are in it. We then walked back across, took in some of the artwork, and entered the park in left field with about an hour to go. We were seated behind home plate, so we started our circumnavigation toward left field. We walked past Manny’s Barbeque and made a note that this was a likely candidate for food. You can look right in at the pitchers warming up in the bullpen. At the little-used right field entrance, we saw a small crowd and discovered fans getting their pictures taken with players. I got mine taken with Andrew McCutchen (as I found out later) who ended up being one of the batting heroes of the game.

Scott-and-22

Me and Andrew McCutchen (I'm on the right)

We found our seats, which were just a little bit up the first base line from home plate and about 20 feet back. We were just under the overhanging seats above us, so we would probably stay dry if it started to rain again, which it did a little bit. We then made our way the rest of the way around and back to Manny’s. This little nook is operated by Manny Sanguillen. I must say I have a hard time following the career of a lot of players, especially National League players, but I remembered him as the Pirates catcher in the 1970’s. Terry was sucked in by the burgers that were actually being barbecued, while I got sliders of half pork and half beef. Along with baked beans and cole slaw, I thought this was a pretty good deal for $8. We then made our way back to a draft beer stand we had seen. I got a William Penn Dark, which I thought was a pretty good stout. This meal confirmed my view that beer goes with barbecue. We were really stuffed after polishing off that grub, and I was still burping it up two days later. We forewent (if that is a word) any other food at the park, even though we had spotted some pretty good looking caramel corn in our tour, and we made a meal out of Starbucks beverages that night.

The game was probably the best I have seen this season. But I think this is the point at which I have to confess to my marital infidelity. You will recall that in my post “On Rooting” I said that in a contest between the Dodgers and the Pirates playing at home, then I would root for the Dodgers. Terry even says this is part of our marriage vows, but I doubt that, and even if it were true, that is not like a contract, right? Well, as the game progressed, I began to get a warm feeling for the Pirates. Here they are the last place team in their division with a budget of about $100,000 (the guy in the stands behind us who was a font of statistical data that he didn’t mind sharing with all around him would be pleased to confirm the exact amount) while the Dodgers are guaranteed a playoff spot and have a budget of about $200 million (admittedly a lot but less than a certain team that thinks it can spend its way to a world series victory). Plus my man Willie McCutcheon was tearing up the field, going 4 for 5. Plus the Pirates got behind in the top of the ninth and staged a rally to come back, aided by some bonehead plays by the Trolley Dodgers. So this is all leading to a confession that I slowly succumbed to their charms and began rooting for the Pirates, quietly at first, but in the bottom of the ninth, actively standing up and cheering as they rallied for a victory.

I am now finishing this post a couple of weeks later. I have been faithfully rooting for the Dodgers, who just beat St Louis in the division series, but nevertheless I am constantly reminded of my infidelity.

We had an easy trip home after the game, stopping, as mentioned, for the Starbucks that became our dinner. I like going to Pittsburgh. Maybe we will have to go again to see some of the city (and possibly to pause at Wheeling on the way).

Cleveland was okay, but everything seemed just a little bit off. It is no Detroit, that is for sure. We had an easy drive and as we headed for our hotel, we went by the ballpark. It was about a half mile from our hotel and seemed an okay neighborhood except for a lot of financial stuff that would be closed at night. cleveland

Our hotel was a Hampton Inn, chosen because we had to stay at a Hilton property or I would lose my Hilton points. It was a very modest structure tacked on to the building behind it, making it look cramped. It felt cramped inside as well. In looking for a place to find lunch in the area (not very successfully), we wandered around the mall, which was a pretty incredible public space. I had to laugh when I saw the skyscraper that was the butt of jokes in the 30 Rock Cleveland episode. I am eager to see that episode again now that I have been there.

We walked down to the lake and picked up some food from vendors there. There is an airport on the lake, and we saw them practicing for the air show, which was pretty cool. We came back and, not finding a Starbucks, picked up lattes at Phoenix Coffee, which was just past our hotel. They were was pretty good.

We walked down to the ballpark, getting there about an hour early. It is one that is easy to navigate. In fact, unlike our hotel, it seems characterized by lots of open spaces, like lots of places where you could stand behind the seats and watch the game. It is also a park that can be circumnavigated, which is another of my criteria. Recall that part of circumnavigation is to spot the good food and the unusual beer; like Detroit, both are scarce, and I ended up with the inevitable bratwurst, which was pretty good with onion and peppers. I then spotted a Lienenkugel stand. I had not had a Lienenkugel for about 40 years, literally, when I was in Wisconsin in the summer of 1967. They had a wheat ale, and I pronounced it very satisfactory. It had a nice body, which is what is mostly lacking in those wimpy beers.

During the circumnavigation we found an area that honored past Cleveland players. I thought this was cool, as one of the great things about baseball is relating to its history. And this one was open to everyone all the time, unlike the monument areas in a certain stadium where they say they are open an hour before the game but then when you get there you can’t get in.

I was surprised to see a plaque honoring Cy Young, as I associate him with the Red Sox. It turned out his first team was the Cleveland Spiders of the National League, and after his great success with the Red Sox, he rejoined the Cleveland Naps, who became the Indians. Over 21 seasons, he won 511 and lost 316. Hard to believe those numbers – any of them, though I am hopeful that Joba Chamberlain will give him a run for the money with the 316 losses.

Speaking of the Naps, I was especially pleased to find a plaque honoring Nap Lajoie, who was featured in a great Contracts case. Nap was playing for the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League, which was the only Scott-with-Napleague in Major League Baseball. Some upstarts then started the American League in 1901 and, like most upstart leagues today, they raided the existing teams for their players. Lajoie broke his contract with the Phillies to play with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American League, and the Phillies sued.

While there is no doubt that Nap was a dirty contract-breaker, the issue concerned the remedy. The general remedy for breach of contract, called the remedy at law, is money damages, based on what it costs the injured party to repair the damage caused by the breach. So if the Phillies paid Lajoie $10,000, and they had to hire a replacement second basemen for $11,000, then they would be entitled to $1,000.

But the Phillies claimed that Lajoie was irreplaceable because he was a unique talent. He was not just another run of the mill infielder like Alex Rodriguez that you can go out and replace. When the remedy at law is inadequate, because money won’t make you whole, then you can claim a remedy in equity. One remedy in equity is specific performance, where the court orders the party to perform. This is pretty unworkable in personal services situations, however, for an unhappy ballplayer is unlikely to perform well when ordered by the court, and the court does not want to get involved in constant supervision (though if I were the judge, I would agree to go to all the games to make sure he was living up to his obligations). But the team can get an injunction, where the court orders the person not to play for anyone else.

In concluding that Lajoie was a special player, the court put it pretty nicely: “He may not be the sun in the baseball firmament, but he is certainly a bright particular star.” (When the court said he was bright, they were not talking about intelligence, as they would have said the same thing about Alex Rodriguez.) The Phillies got the injunction, which was good only in Pennsylvania, but it would be a problem for the Athletics if he couldn’t play any of his home games, so Nap was traded to the Indians, and when they played the Athletics, he hung out in Atlantic City, which might have been worthwhile if they had had poker then. Part of the legacy of the case is that today athletes are considered unique per se (even Nick Swisher) and injunctive relief is always available if they break their contract.

This guy did not fool around, by the way. His lifetime batting average was .338. He is 7th all time in doubles, just edging out Carl Yastrzemski. From 1902 to 1914 Cleveland was known as the Naps in his honor.

We had interesting seats, complete with headrests. They were right behind the plate, but all the way back to the cement wall. But we got a pretty good view. Unfortunately, the best view was of the scoreboard, which Cleveland-scoreboarddrove me crazy. You need to get some simple information, like the count and the number of outs. The stats on the current batter are useful, too, but they showed off their statistical bent a little too much with observations like “Hitting .257 against right-handed Polish pitchers at home on days that end with a ‘y.’” There were stationary ads all around it, and then it was divided into sections that conveyed way too much information. It was so ugly and busy you didn’t want to look at it. I have seen pictures of the scoreboard when the field was known as Jacobs Park instead of (ugh) Progressive Field, and it looked pretty nice.

Anyway, it was a decent game and the Clevelands beat the Minnesotas. I used to keep score on a scorecard (How many years has it been since you have heard a vendor shouting, “Hey scorecard”?), but I don’t now for reasons that will be explained later, so I am lucky to remember this much.

The next day we took a boat tour of Cleveland’s waterways. Unfortunately, the best part was the Cuyahoga river (of catching fire fame), but that didn’t last long, maybe because of the size of the boat compared to the diminishing size of the river. The narrator went to great lengths to explain how Cleveland was a thriving port, but at the long row of piers I counted a total of 0 ships. Cleveland has much more going for it than Detroit, but I got the feeling that shipping is to Cleveland as automaking is to Detroit. Then we went out on the lake, which probably isn’t all that interesting on any occasion, but on this occasion the captain just made circles so we could watch the air show. Some of it was cool, like the Memphis Belle taking off and circling around the lakefront. Curiously, the last time I saw the legendary bomber, it was under a protective bubble on Mud Island in Memphis. It must have been quite an effort to make it airworthy, as it looked very sad on that previous occasion. Hats off to guys like my Uncle Donald and my Montana neighbor George McGovern who flew the B-17. On the way home, we were desirous of lattes, but Phoenix was closed so we went out of our way to find a Starbucks. Not only was the latte VT (standing for Very Tasty), but I also got a large mug as my Cleveland souvenir, so now I have a coffee mug for the office.

That night Terry took me to dinner at a Hard Rock for the first time. I had thought they existed only to sell Hard Rock souvenirs, but the food wasn’t bad. We walked through pretty empty streets to get there, and were surprised to find that it was packed. This was pretty early, like around 6:00. Possible it was a postgame crowd as the Tribe had played at 2:00 that day. Speaking of the Tribe, here is an example of a stupid promotion. It seems they will give you all sorts of junk to get you to the park. Well, after I bought the tickets, I got an email saying that since I had bought the tickets during a certain period I was entitled to a free t-shirt. Now, as a person having some knowledge of Offer and Acceptance, I would opine that I was not entitled to the t-shirt because I didn’t know about the offer when I accepted, so that can’t form a contract. But I got it anyway, and it is pretty weak. It has a stupid slogan on it: Are You IN the Tribe? Speaking even more of the Tribe, if you haven’t seen it, you have to check out Major League, which is probably the funniest baseball movie ever (and I have seen Rhubarb). Note to self – write a post about baseball movies.

The next day we checked out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. I should note here that I had heard that there were a lot of hotels that offered packages for fans like us that included a room and baseball tickets, but I am yet to find one. The Hampton Inn had a deal where you could get boat tour tickets with your room, and Rock and Roll tickets with your room, so I got one of each. It wouldn’t be that much of a deal except that when you get the package your parking is free. Anyway, I am not all that into Rock and Roll, but the museum was pretty interesting, and a great building designed by I.M. Pei. In fact, there are lots of interesting buildings in Cleveland. We were right next to the Federal Reserve, but the exhibits inside were closed, so we didn’t go in. I think our grandchildren will have to go to see what money was.

And so ends our trip to Cleveland.

I have a number of professional opportunities that are enabling me to complete the Burnham Baseball Project. These include being a visiting professor, being on the Board of Directors of CALI, being on the committee that writes questions for the Multistate Bar Exam, and being a good friend of Tina, who organizes programs for the American Bar Association. The evidence of how these contribute to the project is illustrated by the fact that at the beginning of this baseball season I had 15 teams on my Teams Not Visited list (at the time, this was a bunch of pencil scrawls on a piece of paper, not a neato web site), which, if my math is correct, represents exactly half of the Major League teams. In early September, I am now down to 10, and in a couple of weeks, after a planned visit to Pittsburgh, I will be down to 9. Seeing six new teams in a year (it would be seven if I was going by parks rather than teams, because I also got to the new Yankee Stadium, but my faithful reader will recall the rule I established early on) makes for a pretty impressive year. Note to self – create a graphic showing the year and the number of parks visited in that year. I suspect any other year would peak at two.

These professional opportunities contributed to the Project long before I was conscious that there was a project. Let me explain visiting for those who are not familiar with it. It is like Musical Chairs for law professors. You let it be known that you wish to visit another law school. If you get an offer that you accept, then your school has to scramble to find a visitor, and so the circle widens. It is a great opportunity for seeing how things are done at other law schools and for getting to know other parts of the country (not to mention foreign visiting opportunities, of which I have had several, but since they don’t involve baseball, they will not be further mentioned here).

My first visiting opportunity was in 1988-89, when I visited Santa Clara, which is just outside San Jose, which is at the bottom of the San Francisco Bay, equidistant between San Francisco up the west side and Oakland up the east side. We went to those parks a lot. I especially enjoyed Oakland, which had a better stadium (San Francisco, you will recall, had Candlestick Park at the time) and a better team (Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley,  for example, were a pleasure to watch). Although I visited many times after that, none of the other visits furthered the Project until this year’s visit to Columbus, which is conveniently located within a 3-hour radius of four parks I had not previously been to. Not that my principal purpose in visiting Ohio State was to further the Project, but it is certainly a dividend. I am also probably the first person in history who enjoys being at The Ohio State for the baseball rather than the football. We have been in cities with pretty good minor league ball (Knoxville Blue Jays, Memphis Redbirds, Las Vegas 51s), but I never got into that. Columbus has the Clippers. I had heard they were a Yankee club, so I thought it might be fun to go and root against them, but then I learned that they have changed their affiliation to the Indians, so all the air went out of that balloon.

CALI is the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction. We meet twice a year, once in conjunction with the law professors annual meeting, which is in January – not prime baseball viewing time – and the other in June, at various law schools around the country. In 2006, the meeting was in Ft. Lauderdale, and I was able to get to the Florida Marlins. In fact, after the CALI meeting I was scheduled to teach in New York City for the summer, so I took a train up and got off at Philadelphia and watched the Phillies. This summer the meeting was in Denver, so I got see the Rockies. Next year, Rutgers-Camden, outside Philadelphia. Let’s see, I could take the train down to Washington, D.C….

Another professional opportunity is serving on the committee that writes questions for the bar exam. This is a very cool committee. There are only six of us, we get along well, and we meet twice a year in interesting places, in the spring and the fall just as the baseball season is beginning and ending. And we get to sit around for a couple of days talking about contract law, which is even better than talking about baseball. A couple of years ago, our chair decided that we should rotate deciding where to meet. When it came my turn, I picked Detroit, much to the surprise of most of the committee members who did not know about the Project. But before we held that meeting, I was asked to speak the same weekend at another conference in Dallas. In order to accommodate my doing that, we moved the meeting to Fort Worth. I used the opportunity to see a Texas game, and if I were counting parks, I could check off The Park Where the Rangers Play, but since I am counting teams, I had already seen the Rangers when Terry and I were living in Dallas early in our marriage (long story, to be told in my post about the Rangers). I did get to go to a Red Sox game when Juliet Kostritsky picked Cambridge for the meeting (though I went with Carol Sanger and not Juliet), and last April, John Kidwell picked Madison, and he and I went to Miller Field (The Park Where the Brewers Play) in nearby Milwaukee. So it should be evident that I am planning to use my selection to pick one of my remaining out-of-the-way parks. Toronto, anyone?

Here is something weird. While I was writing this post, admittedly at work, a colleague came by and introduced herself. I was telling her about the Baseball Project and also about my committee work. I mentioned the happy confluence of the two, and the bad news for purposes of baseball that this fall the meeting is in Charlotte, North Carolina. She concurred that it was not near anything. “Except maybe Atlanta,” I noted somewhat meaninglessly. But after she left, I googled the Braves schedule and discovered that they are at home that weekend, playing their last game on Sunday, October 4. I then google mapped (if google is a verb, then so is google map) the driving directions from Charlotte to Atlanta and found that it is 4 hours. We were planning to drive from Columbus to Charlotte, so we will have the car. If we leave early Sunday morning from Charlotte, we could easily make it to the 1:30 game! Tickets should not be a problem, as I suspect Atlanta v. Washington will not be a sellout, as little is likely to hinge on the outcome. [note to fact-checker. Check this out – can Atlanta get the wild card?] Now I just have to sell this scheme to my wife. The amazing thing is that she is pretty game (no pun intended) for these plans, so if I were a betting man, I predict she would say Yes. I am now writing the next day and can confirm that she said Yes! So, on to Atlanta.

Finally, Tina Stark has, like me, developed a specialty in drafting contracts. She is often asked to present seminars to teach young lawyers these skills, and to host conferences. She has kindly invited me to work with her on a number of occasions, and many of the sites have been cool. A year ago, she invited me to a conference in Atlanta, but alas, not when the Bravos were in town. Bad scheduling, Tina. This summer, she invited me to Chicago. I quickly checked the White Sox schedule (I have seen the Cubs) and discovered that not only were they in town, but they were playing the Yankees, and I got seats – woo hoo! Meanwhile I discovered that Tina is a Yankee fan. Note to self – later discourse on how otherwise intelligent and reasonable people can go over to The Dark Side. She kindly invited me to a game at Yankee Stadium, and I reciprocated by inviting her to go to The Park Where the White Sox Play (for a million dollars, I couldn’t name it). To cap it off, the Yankees lost both games!

So as you read through my posts, you now understand the professional opportunity that may have gotten me to the park.

How sad it is to drive into the heart of Detroit on a Friday morning and find no one there. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express about a half mile from the stadium. When we checked in, the woman at the desk asked if we were there for the game. She told me that is the reason most people come, which is also sad.

We left the hotel in the early afternoon with the idea that we would go to the Art Institute, which was a couple of miles away. Thinking the system worked like New York City, I thought we could hail a cab, but I was wrong, as there are no cabs prowling the street. We finally caught a bus, which worked out great, as it dropped us off right in front of the museum. On top of that, the dollar bill taker was apparently broken, and we rode for free! On the way we went by Comerica Park (the stupid name for The Park Where the Tigers Play) so we got our bearings for later on.

Anyway, the museum was great, and we enjoyed a good latte when taking a break from the viewing. We took the bus back down Woodward Ave and got off at the Park. This is a very attractive park outside, decorated with fierce tiger heads like wall mounts, each with a ball in its mouth like a dog would retrieve it. I like the tiger head scheme, and when we got out in the dark after the game was over, I found that the balls in the mouths of the tigers are lights. A park should have a nice outside to wander around in, like they have at Camden Yards, and now at Yawkey Way. I also liked the cool carousel where every animal you ride on is a tiger. 

One of the qualities I think a park shouTiger-Carouselld have is a way to circumnavigate it on the inside. That way you can check out all the stuff they have, including the different food and beverages, which is to say, beer. You have to work very hard to find a beer that is not a Bud Light (or the equivalent). Most stadiums seem to have a “Beers of the World” stand carefully hidden somewhere, or a place that will sell you a local beer, but as I said, it takes an effort. You can also see if there is any food besides hot dogs. These are also hard to find, so my circumnavigation has the principal purpose of looking for unusual food and quality beer.

But you find other good stuff along the way. Like in Detroit, they honor ballplayers of the past with a series of sculptures. These are pretty good. I especially wanted to admire Hank Greenberg, because I have a Hank Greenberg story. A few years ago, I went to a game at Yankee Stadium. As I made my way to my seat, I recognized a familiar face. It was Norman Redlich, who had been the dean at NYU Law School when I got my LL.M. in 1981. Scott-ComericaIn fact, it was his efforts to get NYU to place more graduates in the teaching profession that caught my attention and led me down this path. Anyway, I was able to sit with Norman and swap stories; well, mostly hear his stories. He has had a distinguished career. Norman is about 20 years older than me, which figures in this story. He told me he grew up in Queens. As you know, at that time the Yankees were in the Bronx, the Giants in Manhattan, and the Dodgers in Brooklyn, so Queens was the only borough that did not have a team (except Staten Island, which doesn’t count). So I asked him which team he followed. Without batting an eye, he replied, “The Detroit Tigers, of course!” He didn’t have to explain that to me, as Hank Greenberg was a hero to Jewish kids all over the country in the 30’s. There is a really good documentary about him called The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg. It is clear that he was not just a good ballplayer, but a good man. 

There wasn’t much exciting food, so I settled for a bratwurst, which was served with a generous dose of onions. Terry was going to have a hot dog, but I persuaded her to have something more Scott and Hankinteresting, so she had an Italian sausage, but she said it wasn’t very good (of course, having had one in Boston considerably elevates your standards). At a different stand, I did find a beer that wasn’t a Bud Light, but to be honest, I don’t remember what it was (and I only had two!). [As I reread to edit, I remember – it was a LaBatt, which I purchased in honor of our Canadian neighbors.]

We made our way to our seats, which were pretty good seats, about a third of the way along the first base line from home plate, but not quite enough rows back as it was raining and the roof stopped just above the row behind us. But Mother Nature cooperated, and the rain stopped so the game could start about 10 minutes late. I couldn’t help but notice that the crowd at the park was overwhelmingly white, even though the city is overwhelmingly black. I have not looked into the sociology of baseball, but I wonder if while a lot of younger fans have been drawn to other sports, perhaps younger black fans have done so disproportionately. I will have more to say about the integration of baseball later, mostly to criticize the racist ownership of one team that was the last to integrate and did not acquire an African-American player until 1959, which was pretty pathetic. Can you name the team and player? But the Tigers were not much better, as they were the next to last, acquiring Ozzie Virgil in 1958.

Of the game, I remember little, except that the Tigers played the Rays and won rather handily. Except that they couldn’t get the last damn out, and we stood there (literally – it seems like a Detroit tradition, and not a bad one, to stand for the final out) for what should have been the final out, and then the skies opened up and it started pouring again, and we retreated to under the roof, from where we watched them finally get that last out after a pitching change.

Note to self. I will try to include among my criteria for judging parks whether there is interesting stuff outside the park, whether you can circumnavigate the park on the inside, whether there is unusual (especially local) food available, and whether there is beer other than Bud Light. I think one of the vendors said it all, when he cried, “Hey cold beer! Hey Bud Light!” which I took to mean that he had beer and he also had Bud Light.

Kauffman Stadium

This promises to be a short entry, as I remember very little about our visit to see the Royals play. I moved to Montana in 1981, and after Trevor was born in 1985, we pretty much criss-crossed the country every summer for the next 20 years, going east to visit my parents in Boston and southwest to visit Terry’s parents first in LA, and then in Reno (I think the latter was chosen after their retirement because it was as far north as they were willing to go, and they thought that being in a town with poker would attract their son-in-law. In this they were not mistaken). The kids were incredibly good long-distance travelers. I don’t recall a single “How many more miles” query. If only they had been as good at sitting for the duration of a ball game, about which we will have more to say later.

Most of our cross-country road trips did not take us as far south as Kansas City, but we spent the 1991-92 school year visiting at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and that trip to and from Montana would have brought us through that area. I recall that on leaving Tennessee, I wanted to go through Arkansas, which was then the last of the 48 continental states that I had not visited, so we took a slightly more western route than the crow would have flown, and cut through the Ozarks. We would have emerged in southern Missouri, heading northwest, so that was probably the path that led us through Kansas City. If I were a betting man, I would wager that we saw a game around August of 1992.

That might also explain the lack of crowds, another memory of the visit, for the Royals had some success before that time, and some after, but the early 90s were not a good time for this team. I remember a lot of spaciousness and informality. We stopped there during the day, and we were able to drive right up to the park and check it out. It makes me wonder how we determined to go to a game, for in those pre-internet days, it wasn’t all that easy to get information about who was playing when. It might have been a pretty spontaneous decision.

I remember we had a couple of kids with us (if I am right about the date, probably three) and I distinctly remember measuring one of them to see if she could get in for free. It was probably Grace, who would have been just turning five at that time. My recollection is that we had to pay for her, but Faith, who would have been two and a half, probably passed. I also remember the cool waterfall in the middle of the outfield.

The mention of kids and the shortness of this post leads me to think this might be the time to rant about the cross I have to bear. We have the three kids mentioned variously in this post and not one of them has the slightest interest in baseball. Not the slightest. In fact, not one has the slightest interest in any sport. To complete the picture of rebellion, not one has the slightest interest in poker. Nevertheless, they are great kids.

It was always a struggle to take them with us to a ball game, however, as it is pretty hard to sit there for three hours when you are totally bored. I will probably rant elsewhere about the constant entertainment that most parks think they have to provide for the fans, but sometimes it does provide interest for the kids. I can remember taking them to see a game in Seattle, and the only time they came to life was between innings when the mascot came out to perform. Imagine putting up with watching a game in order to enjoy the time between innings!

Speaking of mascots, Monte, the mascot of the Montana Grizzlies, is a very cool mascot. His official site isn’t very interesting, but search “monte grizzlies” at Google Images. I understand that one of the guys who performed him, and helped bring him to national fame, is now performing as Benny the Bull of the Chicago Bulls. Nevertheless, I think that baseball mascots are kind of stupid, and I was disappointed when the Red Sox decided they had to have one. But if they contribute nothing to my appreciation of the game, at least they do no harm, so I can’t complain too much. Terry, feel free to consume your beverages out of the Slider cup you brought home from Cleveland without any comment from me.

With that rant completed, we bid farewell to Kansas City.

When you are in a particular ball park for no reason other than the fact that it is on your “Ballparks Yet to See” list, and the visiting team you are watching was dictated by the fact that this was a convenient date to visit that particular ball park, who do you root for? Like most of the rules we study in law school, the rule for this situation initially appears to be fairly simple, but as we apply the rule to different factual hypotheticals spun by the professor, we see that it is rather complex.

Back when I lived in New York in the 70’s I had a friend who said that he liked to watch baseball because it was a beautiful game, but he did not care who won. I suppose that kind of aesthetic approach could work for art. You can admire a Picasso and a Pollock and say they are both aesthetically pleasing without having to think about who would win if they were to duke it out (my money is on Pollock). But as far as baseball is concerned, he is full of shit. You have to have a rooting interest in the game.

So what do you do when Cleveland is playing Minnesota, as was the case when I watched a game at Progressive Field (just testing whether you have learned the stupid names for parks. In case you have not, and I don’t blame you, that is The Park Where Cleveland Plays) last Friday night. I don’t particularly care about the Clevelands, and it seems kind of mean to have anything against poor Minnesota, but the default rule is simple: You root for the home team. This is dictated both by common courtesy and by the song:

Root root root for the home team

If they don’t win it’s a shame.

Footnote (I can’t figure out how to make this program create a footnote, so you will have to pretend that when I write “Footnote” you are reading a footnote). At Cleveland when the song was appropriately sung before the bottom half of the seventh inning, the aesthetically unpleasing scoreboard (more about which you will read in another post) commanded something like “Sing on Key.” This command was supposed to be a plug for Key Bank, but it was offensive to those of us who feel we are entitled to belt out the song even if we are incapable of singing on key. The fact that the Indians have a politically incorrect name should make them more sensitive to those who are differently abled, and proud of it. I recommend that Cleveland adopt a policy of inclusiveness, which might lead them to say something more like, “Key encourages all to sing, irrespective of their sex, race, creed, color, sexual preference, or singing ability.”

Back to the rule. The obvious exception to the rule is if the team is playing the Red Sox, or if you happen to be at a game at Yankee Stadium. This corollary to the rule is dictated by the moral imperative, which holds that:

Red Sox = good

and

Yankees = bad (make that evil)

Since good is better than evil, the default rule must give way when the outcome dictated by the default rule would either lessen the amount of good in the world or increase the amount of evil.

Now here is where we play law professor, and spin hypotheticals that test your ability to apply the rules. In a couple of weeks we will be visiting The Park Where Pittsburgh Plays and they will be playing the Dodgers. We have no rooting interest in the Dodgers (except that Orel Hershiser was a Dodger and I have had the Me and Orelpleasure of playing poker with him), but my wife does, since she was born in Los Angeles. I am not sure this counts, because she was born in 1955, and the Dodgers didn’t arrive for a few more years, but I suppose what matters is not that the team was there when you were born, but that it was there when biology says you are ready for imprinting with loyalty to a baseball team (I will check this with the Human Genome Project and report back as to where that particular allele is located), and that probably came a bit later. So do we root for the Pittsburghs or the Dodgers? If this were an SAT exam, we could create an analogy question like:

Red Sox is to Scott as

Dodgers is to Terry

Although it isn’t quite the same, because nothing is like loyalty to the Red Sox, in the interest of humoring the wife, we will say that it is. So the Preserving the Marriage Rule trumps the Home Team rule, and we will root for the Dodgers.

Here is a more difficult hypothetical. Assume that you are at The Stadium Where Texas Plays and the Yankees are visiting. This appears to be a simple situation where our default rule, root for the home team, is further supplemented by our corollary, root against evil. But further assume that the Red Sox are in a battle for the Wild Card with the Rangers and a Yankee victory over the Rangers would help the Red Sox secure the Wild Card. Do you then root for the Yankees? You are right if you thought that this is a trick question, for there is no dilemma at all. If you are going to support the triumph of evil to achieve a short-term worldly goal, you have lost all moral perspective and there is no longer any hope for humanity. Go Rangers!

Having established the Rooting Rules, we bring this post to an end.

What is the Burnham Baseball Project?

The Burnham Baseball Project records my attempt to attend baseball games at all the Major League Parks, and provides me with an excuse to discourse on whatever strikes my fancy in connection therewith. New readers may want to read my first post, Pre-game Warm-up, to get an introduction to the Project. From there feel free to read chronologically or by Team by clicking on the list below.

Ballparks Visited

American League Teams:

* Baltimore (Oriole Park)

* Boston (Fenway Park)

* Chicago (U.S. Cellular Field)

* Cincinnati (Great American Ball Park)

* Cleveland (Progressive Field)

* Detroit (Comerica Park)

* Kansas City (Kauffman Stadium)

* Los Angeles (Angel Stadium)

* Minnesota (The Metrodome)

* New York (Yankee Stadium)

* Oakland (Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum)

* Seattle (Safeco Field)

* Tampa Bay (Tropicana Field)

National League Stadiums:

* Atlanta (Turner Field)

* Chicago (Wrigley Field)

* Colorado (Coors Field)

* Florida (Land Shark Stadium)

* Milwaukee (Miller Park)

* New York (Citi Field)

* Philadelphia (Citizens Bank Park)

* Pittsburgh (PNC Park)

* San Diego (PETCO Park)

* San Francisco (AT&T Park)

* Washington (Nationals Park)

Ballparks Yet to See

American League Teams:

* Toronto (Rogers Centre)

National League Stadiums:

* Arizona (Chase Field)

* Houston (Minute Maid Park)

* Los Angeles (Dodger Stadium)

* St. Louis (Busch Stadium)

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