Saturday, April 02, 2005

Baseball

So much for light blogging, eh?

Well, spring training has broken and the teams are heading to their home towns to begin the baseball season. I have written thousands of words about how dumb the owners are, how juiced up the players are and how bad my beloved Milwaukee Brewers are. But I still love baseball. It is like crack to me - I just have to keep going back.

I didn't play organized baseball when I was little. I did play lots of pickup games around my house with the neighbor kids, however. Whenever I go home to see my parents I look at the field I used to play in and remember how huge the field used to look. I think I could literally throw a baseball across the field now, when back then it took everything I had to hit one out of the field.

When I was around 7 or 8 I went to old Comiskey Park on a trip with the church I used to attend. When I was young my family didn't really have much so a trip was a big deal, much less a trip to a major league ballpark. I had never been to a major league game of any kind, although I watched a lot of sports on TV when young. Anyone who has attended a pro baseball game will agree that being there is a much better experience than watching the game on TV. I will never forget what I felt when I came out of the concourse and through the walkway that finally released me to that huge field of green. I just said to myself "wow".

Most of the other kids had taken many trips and had much more stuff than me but weren't as smart (nor as happy, in my opinion). Those kids definitely took this trip for granted. They goofed around a lot, threw stuff and were yelling and basically being - kids. But not me. I just sat in my seat and said to myself "wow".

One of the teachers came over to me and asked me what was wrong. I said nothing. I just wanted to sit there and look at everything. I was in some sort of trance. The field is so big. There are so many people here. Look at the scoreboard. Those men throw the ball so far. I wonder if I will catch a foul ball. This hot dog is so good.

And so it began. I was a Sox fan. I followed them (and hated the Cubs) for many years, until the White Flag Trade where the owner of the Sox basically gave up on the season with two months left and only being 3.5 games out of first. That day I decided to give up on the Sox and go with a new team. The Cubs weren't an option so the next closest team (geographically) has been my team ever since - the lowly Milwaukee Brewers.

I moved here to Madison in 1994 so that makes it only an hour drive to Miller Park - and what a beautiful park it is. Miller Park doesn't have the ambiance of classics like Wrigley or Fenway, but it is roomy, with great food, amenities and a huge tailgating lot. It also has a retractable roof so no rainouts. If you don't have tickets, no problem! The Brewers have stunk so long that tickets are always available - and for $12 ea! You just buy the nosebleeds and sit wherever you want. Last year they averaged 25,461 per game and sold out only when they played the Cubs. Realize that they always count the season ticket holders in attendance even if they aren't physically there so, realistically, they average about 18,000 to 20,000 per game. I have gone to some games and bought nosebleeds and moved down to within three rows of the first base line. They have not had a .500 season since 1992! If you want to go to a game at Wrigley you better have tickets or bring at least $100 to get one from a scalper - for any game. For crap seats. And there are a lot of crap seats at Wrigley behind poles and such. Every game is sold out before the season starts and demand keeps getting tighter as they keep having more winning seasons.

I have no sons and my first daughter doesn't like sports too much - except baseball. She loves going to the game with good ol' dad and tailgating (never too young to start them on this), going to see Bernie Brewer and watch the Sausage Races. Now that's a good time. I not only love baseball for the relaxation - food and beer - but the numbers. There is an endless mountain of stats you can read and look at with the new modern scoreboards and online if you are at home.

Someday when I get time I want to go on a tour of all of the baseball parks in one summer - that will be one for the books. Until then, I can read articles like this one and dream. For now, I can listen to Bob Uecker do the Brewer play-by-play while I do my yardwork, take my kids to games once in a while and remember that first day at old Comiskey - the day I got addicted to baseball.

UPDATE: I was trying to remember how many different baseball stadiums I have been to in my life and here they are:
Wrigley Field (Cubs)
County Stadium (Milwaukee before Miller Park)
Miller Park (Brewers)
Comiskey Park (Chicago White Sox before US Cellular Field)
US Cellular Field (White Sox)
Camden Yards (Orioles)
HHH Metrodome (Twins)
Busch Stadium (Cardinals)
Municipal Stadium (Cleveland before Jacobs Field)

1 comment:

Carl from Chicago said...

This post reminds me of when Dan and I went to Camden Yards in Baltimore, a beautiful park. There was a very, very long rain delay and we went down into the concourse to get a beer. No one was drinking, when there wasn't even a game to watch. I can't really explain how odd this is to someone from Chicago, where the taps at Wrigley or US Cellular are almost "taped on" and they just put different cups under the beer as fast as the beer flows. The beer vendor in Baltimore kind of shuffled off and came back a bit later with beers. If he moved that slowly in Chicago there would have been a riot!