JULY 15, PITTSBURGH PIRATES @ CHICAGO CUBS, WRIGLEY FIELD
Things went so bad for the Pirates that even Jerry Hairston Jr. contributed to the onslaught with a grand slam (albeit off the foul pole), and then got into a heated, bench-clearing exchange with Pirate reliever Jose Mesa after his next at-bat. Of course, 39,000 suburban frat guys home for the summer left happy after the Cubs’ 11-1 win, many of them singing the world’s most annoying tune. I’d appreciate the song much more if the lyrics “Go Cubs go! Go Cubs go!” were a command relating to the franchise’s geographic location. Chicagoans: There’s only room for one playoff team in this town, and we all know who it is in 2005.
One ball hit into the gap in left-centerfield became lodged in the thick foliage growing in the field of play, in what continues to be the most ridiculous excuse for outfield wall padding in the major leagues. The 21st century is no place for balls hit into fair territory to become lost.
JULY 16, WASHINGTON NATIONALS @ MILWAUKEE BREWERS, MILLER PARK
After 12 consecutive losing seasons, the Brewers are in striking distance of .500. Yet, I doubt that the 45,000 attendees were drawn so much by the quality of baseball as the Rollie Fingers bobblehead giveaway and because they were seeking to maintain their buzzes from the afternoon’s lakefront air show.
Bernie Brewer’s slide no longer leads him to a giant barrel of beer, but it appeared most fans in the leftfield bleachers did not forgo their own pregame headfirst dives into large vats of alcohol. As a regular of games at both Chicago stadiums, where North Siders are known to imbibe rather heavily and South Siders have—on occasion—mixed substance abuse with questionable behavior, I must declare that I haven’t seen drunken hooliganism like this at a baseball game, ever.
One morbidly obese redneck (but, let’s face it, they were all rednecks and many are morbidly obese) was berating a college student for the better part two innings over—yes, you guessed it—an allegation that the kid had broken his Rollie Fingers doll in half. At one point, this beast admitted to his similarly intoxicated friends that he was only continuing this line of argument to get into a fight or have security forcibly remove him, or both. Which makes sense, because being ejected from events due to violent behavior makes for a great story upon return to the trailer park post-game. One tends not to garner the respect of his cohorts by whining at work about how “someone bwoke my wittle dolly.”
The game did feature a matchup between former Chicago White Sox stars Esteban Loaiza and Carlos Lee. Think those guys are happy they were traded?
JULY 17, KANSAS CITY ROYALS @ DETROIT TIGERS, COMERICA PARK
Detroit is one of several cities that built a fabulous new baseball park in the downtown area in an attempt to revitalize the urban core—which is fine, but try convincing the white guy from Grosse Pointe to park on the street alongside the burned-out-and-vandalized church a block from the stadium.
Comerica Park has everything you’d want to distract you from sub-.500 baseball: a carousel, a ferris wheel, historic statues and museum-quality displays. I guess, when you’re a Tigers fan, you’d prefer to look to the past.
For a few innings, it appeared these somnambulant teams were simply playing out the remainder of another miserable season—but then Tiger shortstop Carlos Guillen was beaned in the helmet, and former favorite of The Heckler Kyle Farnsworth continued his audition for a pro wrestling gig by tearing in from the bullpen and tackling a Royals player after the initial brawl had subsided. Several from both teams were ejected, and the Tigers stranded the bases loaded in the ninth to lose.
JULY 18, KANSAS CITY ROYALS @ CLEVELAND INDIANS, JACOBS FIELD
This game featured two rain delays, the second of which resulted in a premature end to the game, with the Indians beating the Royals in the sixth inning. The second rain delay afforded us the opportunity to engage in conversation with an odd man who claimed to have been asked to be the organist at Jacobs Field, but refused due to the paltry $35 per game wage. He had no shortage of stories about his life and the state of the modern (overpaid, illiterate) professional athlete, however.
Cleveland’s downtown features a better quantity and quality of restaurants and bars around the Jacobs Field/Gund Arena area than Wrigleyville, and Cleveland offers the added benefit of having access to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where for the entry fee of $20 you can see (firsthand!) a skirt worn by Britney Spears, or a roach clip from a Doors concert, or some child pornography downloaded by Michael Jackson, which I believe was Exhibit D in his recent trial.
JULY 19, HOUSTON ASTROS @ PITTSBURGH PIRATES, PNC PARK
The new PNC Park may be baseball’s most picturesque setting. Imagine if the White Sox, back in 1988, had built Comiskey Park II at Harrison and Canal, with the view from behind home plate overlooking the river with the skyline in the background. As nice as the stadium is, however, the Pirates are drawing fewer people than a hair restoration infomercial.
After 12 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates are like a canary in a mine shaft. The only significance of their existence is to highlight the survival of others. Without realizing it until we passed by the stadium several hours before game time, a doubleheader was to be played, so we soaked up twice as much of Lloyd McClendon’s revolving door of minor league pitchers as the Astros swept.
If gratuitous and inappropriate photographs of male genitals are your thing, I highly recommend the Andy Warhol Museum, only two blocks from the ballpark, and only one block from Pittsburgh’s HiTops sports bar.
JULY 20, CHICAGO CUBS @ CINCINNATI REDS, GREAT AMERICAN BALLPARK
The Millennium Hotel Cincinnati looked like a Cubs convention this afternoon, which is to be expected when you consider the entire slate of games at Wrigley Field is sold out, nearby Indiana has no major league baseball team and WGN’s nationwide airing of Cub games turned every bumpkin in the Midwest into a Cub fan in the 1980s.
Erin was loudly cheering on her beloved Cubbies, which sparked a rivalry with those around us. But even Derrek Lee’s home run couldn’t provide as much satisfaction as a loaded Skyline Chili dog, a fast-food staple in southwestern Ohio. Kerry Wood gave up a home run in each of the first three innings and then claimed to have “stiffness in his right shoulder” —which we all know is code for “totally sucking ass”—and took the loss in his early departure.
There were an unusual number of couples begging for change around the stadium after the game. What kind James Bond-esque charm do you have to possess to be homeless and yet still be scoring chicks? “Oh honey, I don’t care that you’re not rich. You just look so hot shielding us from the rain with that piece of cardboard.”
JULY 21, MILWAUKEE BREWERS @ ST. LOUIS CARDINALS, BUSCH STADIUM
This season is the last for Busch Stadium, and we could see the forthcoming edition (conspicuously named “Busch Stadium”) being constructed almost right on top of the current version. Today’s game maintained Busch’s reputation as a veritable convection oven, and the 40,000 in attendance longed for the day when an actual breeze might be felt in a St. Louis baseball park. Despite its relative youth (39), this old dog needs to be put down. A Cardinals promotion—$5 upper deck seats for weekday afternoon games—brought 10,000 kids out to the park today, 9,998 of whom were unaware that a baseball game was taking place nearby.
Our hotel was hosting a conference of the End-Time Handmaidens, an organization of religious freaks of all ages who either fear, incite or attempt to prevent (we were unsure) the apocalypse. It did not appear that the conventioneers were predicting the end of the world solely as a result of the Cardinals’ loss to the fourth-place Brewers that afternoon, although others in St. Louis may have been doing so.
JULY 22, BOSTON RED SOX @ CHICAGO WHITE SOX, U.S. CELLULAR FIELD
What better way to conclude the eight-day immersion into the national pastime than with a visit to the south side of Chicago to see baseball’s best team take on the defending champs?
Red Sox Nation was out in full force at U.S. Cellular, much like they were earlier in the year during the club’s visit to Wrigley Field. However, the Boston faithful went home disappointed today, as Jon Garland shut down the dynamic duo of Ramirez and Ortiz and two three-run homers, both with two outs in the same inning, did in Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox.
Pre-game rumors that Johnny Damon had terminated the use of Rogaine on his face after his Queer Eye appearance did not deter many young ladies in the centerfield bleachers from showering him with their undergarments and hotel room keys during mid-inning warm-ups.
I’ll spare you the Mastercard commercial rip-off about how much everything cost but how the experience was priceless. Suffice it to say that we should consider ourselves lucky to be living in Chicago, and no city within 1,000 miles does baseball better than the Windy City.