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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

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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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