Saturday, June 28, 2008

Deathtour~!: Wrigley Field, Chicago

Wrigley Field is an experience unlike any other in baseball. Over 90 years old, Wrigley is a living relic among the spate of modern ballparks cropping up around the country. It is the gold standard. It is the park by which all other parks are judged. It is the closest you can come to traversing space and time to watch a game in 1925 without the aid of a Delorian. Only a few modern amenities have been added through the years. Lights were not installed until 1989. There are a few luxury boxes that almost hide between the first and second levels. The out of town scoreboard is still hand operated and there is no big screen scoreboard with flashing lights. There is only a modest digital panel under the centerfield scoreboard that displays the batter’s name and few statistics. Most of the music is played on the stadium organ and the PA announcer comes over on a speaker that doesn’t sound like it’s been replaced since 1914. No park blends together with its neighborhood like Wrigley. The surrounding streets are tethered to the game and the team. Cubs gear line the sidewalks. The Church of the Cubs, firm believers for over 100 years, is a few blocks away. And it takes strong faith to continue to believe in something that’s proven to fail for the last 100 years.

Ernie Banks

This is not my first trip to Wrigley. I’ve been twice before, once as a kid and once a couple summers back. Despite my previous trips, or perhaps because of them, I’m looking forward to this game more than any other on my tour. And this time I’m being joined by two lifelong Cubs fans, my buddies Jon Dye and Brewtown Andy. Jon hadn’t been to Wrigley before this season and Brewtown, who as his nickname suggests, lives in Milwuakee and hadn’t been down in over 10 years. Both jumped at the chance to participate on the Deathtour.

Haray Caray

Jon and I took the CTA to the game from Rosemont, a city built on the last of Al Capone’s money, and whose only attraction is a giant convention center. Jon and I were halfway there when I realized I’d forgotten my camera in the hotel lobby. After I didn’t get pictures in Detroit, Andy had joked that this better not happen in Chicago. I sheepishly called him and asked if he had his camera. He had his iPhone. Crisis averted, and with surprisingly no grief thrown at me.

We met up with Andy by the famed Wrigley sign. Once inside I walked around the concessions which have no view of the field and are completely cut off from the bleacher section. Like most older facilities Wrigley seems cramped and more crowded than a modern park. We’re getting bigger as a country and this is the proof. Before walking up to our seats that I overpaid for by an obscene margin we got in line for food and a drink, in my case mostly for a drink. As used to the temperate climate as I am, I can hardly take this 85 degree weather for long. As it turns out Wrigley sells Pepsi products, not Coke, so no buys. Instead I settled for soft serve ice cream.

We find our seats, right on the aisle. I dig into my quickly melting ice cream. “How’s your soup,” Brewtown quips.

They’re announcing the lineups but I can’t hear a thing.

Game time. I still don’t have a scorecard filled out. Brewtown’s also keeping score. This is good news for me as it will give me a chance to walk around without fear of missing anything.

Orioles go up 5 nothing in the 3rd. I’m calling the game right here. I also begin to think about the home team’s record in games I’ve been too. It’s not very good.

7-0 now. We’re shocked Pinella kept Marquis in the game. He had two guys ready to go in the ‘pen and kept him in after a double scored the two runs.

The Cubs look pretty terrible. Aside from the second when they had the bases loaded, they haven’t had any runners past first base.

Pinella brings in Scott Eyre, former Giant, in the sixth. He’s the third pitcher for the Cubs. The move strikes me as odd in a game where you want a middle reliever to eat up 2 or three innings and Eyre is a lefty specialist.

And just like that Eyre gets hurt which must royally suck for the Cubs. Another pitching change and they’re going to lose their lefty for a while.

Still top of the 6th and it’s 11-0. Brewtown decides to head to the Cubs shop to pick up a few things for his kids.

Cubs score 3 in the bottom of the 6th, so at least the fans have something to cheer about. By now I’m about to fall asleep. The week is catching up to me.

Brewtown gets back and I go for a walk. Hopefully it will wake me up. I think some more soft serve ice cream might help.

Wrigley has a tradition of having a celebrity, usually someone local, sing 'Take me out to the ballgame". It's a tradition that dates back to Haray Caray's era when he would lead the crowd during every game. Today, Yosh Kowano, the Cubs version of the Giants' Mike Murphy, led the crowd. Except that I'm not entirely sure he knows a word of the song, or speaks any english at all.

I’m back for the last two innings of this blowout. Brewtown and Jon have turned on me. I’m taking the blame for this loss apparently. Brewtown has banned me from future Wrigley games. Jon wants to go a step further and strangle me.

Deathtour~!: Jacobs Field, Cleveland

2:30pm - I got in to Cleveland on time after 2 short flights but had to wait forever for my luggage. What’s more it looked like it was beginning to rain on my way in to downtown. With a 4am wake up call the next morning I’m pleading for the weather to hold up for tonight. When I got to my hotel, another Comfort Inn, I was forced to wait in the lobby a few extra minutes while they made sure my room was ready. As I waited around two Giants fans from New York, on a little baseball tour of their own, checked in. It’s always a pleasure to run into Giants fans around the country. After a quick stop and chat I went up to my room.

3:30pm - I take back every negative thought I had about Comfort Inn. What a fine establishment this company is. After suffering through last night they’ve put in a virtual penthouse. I’m heartbroken that I’m only here for one night. A full Jacuzzi and two bedrooms~! What use do I, a single person, have with two rooms? I don’t know, but I’m going to do my best to take full advantage of both of them.

5:45pm – It’s just a quick walk over to Progressive “We Still Call It the Jake” Field. And the weather looks like it’s going to hold. This series with the Giants marks the return to Cleveland for future Hall of Famer Omar Vizqual, several years removed from an Indians jersey yet still enormously popular here. About one in every five jerseys donned by the fans bares his name. A few Tribe fans even have Vizqual’s current jersey which, as a fan, doesn’t seem right to me. I’ll have to consult the Sports Fandom Rulebook to see if that’s allowed.

6:00pm – I have my ticket and I’m through the gate. Just inside are today’s lineup cards posted on the wall, handwritten on a giant scorecard. Brilliant. Every stadium should have this. First on the agenda is locating my seat. First level, thirteenth row, and right next to the left field foul pole. I can practically touch the field from here.

6:12pm – One rotation around and I haven’t seen much of interest. There’s got to be something here, I’m just missing it.

6:19pm – Found it! Heritage Park, behind center field, is the center for all Indians history. A bit out the way, even after I saw the sign for it, it took me a few minutes to figure out how to get there. The team has their own Hall of Fame in a beautifully designed brick courtyard with plaques dedicated to each Indian great. Between the fan purchased bricks are great moments in Indian history. To my delight, Omar has a moment to his credit, and to my surprise, it’s not for his numerous gold gloves.

6:23 - Ray Chapman has a dedication in the Indians Hall. Chapman was a big leaguer in the 1910s. In 1920 he was killed when he was hit by a pitch.

6:29pm – A short flight of stairs away from the Hall is a commemoration of the 100 greatest Indian players over the last 100 years. As expected, Omar’s name is right there. I scan further until another name, one that is completely unexpected, catches my drifting eyes. Duane Kuiper. As I’m laughing with glee on the inside at something that I’m sure amuses only myself, a father standing next to me tells his young kid, “That’s the guy who hit the foul ball I caught when I was twelve.” Nothing illustrates the power of baseball more than moments like this. A kid catches a ball and twenty years later he’s teaching his own kid about a player most fans (outside of Cleveland and San Francisco) don’t even remember. And with that a bit of baseball history is passed down to the next generation.

6:37pm – I go back to my seat, but not before grabbing a hot dog and smothering it with the stadium’s own brand of mustard. I’ve scoured the stadium but nowhere can I find this brand for sale. It must be around in local supermarkets but I don’t have the time to investigate.

6:40pm – Across the field Omar is signing for fans. I’m tempted to join them. I don’t, and I know I’m going to regret that.

6:50pm – Omar’s just wrapping up. He must have signed close to 500 signatures. I hope his wrist is okay for the game.

6:58pm – We have some high school choir out to sing the anthem and if you’ve ever heard a high school choir before you can imagine what this sounded like.

7:15pm – My boys jump out to a quick 2-0 lead. With Zito on the mound we’re going to need every run we can get.

7:20pm – Zito strikes out the first two batters as part of a 1-2-3 inning in the opening frame. Consider me slightly amazed.

7:30pm – Visqual comes up for the first time to a standing ovation. I love watching Omar every day and I couldn’t be happier to have him on the Giants, but after seeing this I know that when he goes to Cooperstown he won’t be wearing the interlocking SF.

7:46pm – “The Anchor” Bengie Molina gets thrown out at second. I know he’s slow, but geez…

7:52pm – Zito’s breezed through the Indians lineup with 3 Ks and only 1 hit allowed.

8:23pm – We’re in the middle of the fifth which means this game is official. Clevelan is the 10th park I’ve attended which is a 1/3 of the way through. I’m sure that seems more impressive to me than it really is.

8:30pm – Rowand makes a highlight reel catch in center (I refuse to call it a web gem). That out brings Zito’s ERA for the season under 6.00. Let’s see if it stays that way.

8:34pm – End of 5 and we have a hot dog race between people dressed as condiments. Does everyone get their own race now? Is that the new ‘It’ thing? Anyway, one of the condiments (don’t ask which) wins when the other two ‘trip’ over each other. Another worked race. Are any of these legit? Brewtown Andy swears the sausage race in Milwaukee is on the level. We’ll see.

8:48pm – Who’s this guy pitching for the Giants and what has he done with Barry Zito? Through 6 innings the Indians have zero runs and only three hits. This has to be Barry’s best performance as a Giant. It’s certainly in the top 3. The pitch count is going to get him soon though.

9:08pm – Zito gives up a double after getting the first two batters in the 7th. I hate when Bochy takes out his starters mid-inning after just one hit. Nothing positive ever happens. Yabu is coming in.

9:12pm – Yabu is going out. He faced one batter and gave up one hit and one run (which is charged to Zito after he pitched wonderfully). Brilliant move Boch. I’m of the firm belief that if inherited runners score, they should be charged to the guy who gave up the hit. Let’s hope the rest of the bullpen doesn’t blow it.

9:25pm – We got out of it. Not only that but Bowker got the run back with a blast in the eighth. And almost on cue it’s beginning to rain. A few start to leave. I head for cover to protect the scorecard.

9:32pm – Here’s something you don’t see every day. According to American League rules, if the DH is substituted into the field the pitcher must hit. In a move that completely baffles me, Bochy takes Bowker out at first base and move Aurilia from DH to first. This means that the pitcher is now in the Giants line up in the eighth spot. I’m so caught off guard that I look around to see if anyone else is scratching their head.

9:45pm - Now that's how you stay dry. Right above me is the terrace club, reserved for the uber wealthy.

10:00pm – Brian Wilson comes in to save it. Sadly we never got to see the pitcher hit but a win is a win. By now the rain is coming down pretty heavy. It’s going to be a short night of sleep before catching an early flight for a day game at Wrigley on Thursday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Deathtour~!: Comerica Park, Detroit (Now with 100% less pictures)

Despite assurances that Detroit was a wretched hive of scum and villainy, I was not shot, stabbed, beaten, mugged, assaulted, accosted, jostled, burned or dismembered. In fact, I suffered no flesh wounds of any kind, although that is not to say I will reflect on my short stay in Detroit with fondness. I’m not going to go into the details but let’s just say that I will avoid Comfort Inn on future trips.

My time here also suffered from the death of my camera’s battery. I was particularly upset about this since this isn’t the first time it’s happened at a game and I should be more prepared for this. I’d actually checked the battery in the hotel room and it seemed okay so I didn’t bother to recharge it. As soon as I turned it on to take that first picture, nothing. No picture. So, new policy. That thing gets recharged every two days. I a guarantee I’ll be taking plenty of pictures of the Giants game in Cleveland on Wednesday to make up for it.

It’s unfortunate that I don’t have photographs of Comerica Park, the Tigers home field. It’s a visually spectacular facility with a plethora of historical treasures, memorabilia, attractions and a panoramic view of the downtown area. And it’s a popular destination for a week night. This opening game against the Cardinals drew the 3rd largest crowd in the 9 year history of the ballpark. And boy was it a large crowd, both in volume and girth. By my completely unscientific estimation, Detroit fans are the second heaviest group of fans behind St. Louis (and I know Shane is attempting to single-handedly lower the Cardinals fan weight average). How fitting that those two teams were playing tonight.

I arrived an hour before game time and it was already packed. I had to squeeze my way past the Tiger faithful in their 1968 replica road unis, which took some time. Comerica pays tribute to Tiger history beginning with a series of pillars on the lower level promenade, each dedicated to a particular decade. Tiger greats like Ty Cobb and Mickey Cocherane are spotlighted in pictures and with their equipment on display. Statues line the left-field bleachers, each representing the players who have been bestowed the honor of having their number retired.

The name, Comerica Park, conjures up the image of an amusement park, and, in fact, houses an attraction you’d likely find at such a place. Comerica Park is the only baseball stadium to hold a carousal, fittingly with nothing but Tigers. The centerfield hitters backdrop is lined with ivy and topped with a fountain that you can walk under. Despite being constructed in the era of luxury and club level seating, Comerica has only 2 decks with a small luxury level in-between and the upper level seating is very family friendly in economic terms.

I took my seat shortly before game time, still bummed about not having my camera and I didn’t take any notes during the game. After last night’s 2:12 minute affair, this game seemed like a marathon session. Kenny Rogers took about a minute just to throw the first pitch. The game plodded along for over three hours from there. The crowd was surprisingly subdued for such a large crowd, only coming alive for a couple of early home runs, of which one was highly controversial, sparking an argument between Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and the unpires. Disappointingly for Tiger fans, he was not tossed. Once the Cardinals took over in the middle stages of the game, it was a slow migration towards the exits with many departing after the Redbirds scored 3 in the 7th to make it an 8-2 game. Detroit scored 2 in the bottom of the inning and had runners on in the ninth but never caught up.

After the game I quickly made my way back to the hotel to prepare for an early wakeup call. Next it’s on to Cleveland. Go Gigantes!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Deathtour~!: Nationals Park, Washington DC

I’m switching things up for my report on tonight’s game. Instead of writing up a summery and throwing all the pictures at the end I’m going for a running commentary of the game and putting the pictures throughout the post.

I got to DC at around 11am and hopped on the metro, heading over to the Navy Yard. I was able to check into my hotel early thankfully as it gave me time to shower, change, send out some mail and take a nap before the game. If there’s one thing I’m not getting enough of on this trip it’s sleep so I’m taking what I can, even at the expense of losing out on sightseeing in one of the most attraction rich cities in the country if only for a few hours. The Navy Yard isn’t exactly near anything as it is, except the stadium which was only 3 blocks from my hotel.

6:00pm - The weather report has been calling for thunderstorms up and down the east coast for the past few days but there was no trace of rain clouds all day. Of course, no sooner than when I head over to the yard does it start to drizzle. By the time I make it to the ticket booth I’m wondering if I’m going to be the victim of a rain out. I try not to think about whether going through the turnstile constitutes a successful stadium visit. I’m without a jacket or sweatshirt. It’s still 80 degrees despite the rain (the fact that that’s possible blows my mind). All I want is a seat with a roof over it so I end up with $65 club level seats.

6:05pm – Once inside the gate I headed for the bleachers to get a look at the field. The tarp was on and there was no sign of a grounds crew which means we could be here all night. As a side note, I’ve never been to a rained out game or a rain delayed game at all that I can recall. At this point I’m just hoping I get to see them remove the tarp from the field. It could be my only entertainment for the night.

6:10pm – I make my customary pass around the lower level concession area. The area behind home plate has a picture mural of the history of Baseball in Washington, DC. Everything from the Negro Leagues to the first two Washington Senator teams is covered.

6:12pm – They also have a series of paintings of many Hall of Famers with no connection to DC at all that are scattered around. My hero Willie is among them.

6:19pm – I made my first food purchase. The New York Times travel section wrote an article about ballpark food. This map lists their best and worst at each stadium. Just to humor the article I tried out the ‘best’ Nationals Park has to offer; a pretzel in the shape of a ‘W’. It’s not bad, but at $6 I was expecting better. And I certainly don’t think it’s the best DC has to offer. I decide to try something else later.

6:24pm - Just to kill time I made a second pass around, this time on the club level. It’s pretty swanky though over crowded at the moment. No one is allowed in their seats right now. As a result everyone is congregating by the bar. From this level I can see the tops of the concession stands in the outfield. I did a double take before realizing that, yes, those are plants on the roof of the concessions. Nationals Park is a green facility.

6:36pm – Still not in my seat and still no announcement as to when or if the game is going to start. I’ve made two circles around the stadium.

7:02pm – Finally in my seat and they’ve announced that the game will start at 8:30pm. That’s an hour and 30 minutes from now. I’m glad I have a program to read. I don’t know what I’d do for 90 minutes otherwise.

7:34pm – About an hour before the new game time and they’re removing the tarp. I was hoping it would come flying up in their faces but no such luck. Hey, maybe they’ll get this thing started early.

8:05pm – The Washington DC gay men’s chorus signs a great version of the National Anthem. Almost as good as the one their SF counterparts performed at a game a couple weeks back. Maybe the anthem only sounds decent when performed by gay chorus groups. Further research needs to be done.

8:21pm – First pitch. I could be here past 11:30. On the bright side the weather is still warm. The events of San Diego will not be repeated.

8:47pm – Willie Harris, batting well below the Mendoza line, hits a bomb to right field to put the Nats up 1-0 in the bottom of the third. We’ve been cruising along at a rapid pace.

9:00pm – Middle of the 4th already. It’s time for the Presidents Race. Yeah, it’s a complete rip off of Milwaukee’s sausage race but who cares.

9:01pm – The Presidents Race is FIXED~! Boo! About 5 seconds in Washington and Teddy trip Lincoln and give him a beatdown on the warning track allowing Jefferson to run away with the race. In storyline mode Lincoln was undefeated this homestand and the other Presidents weren’t going to allow that to continue. I can’t believe this thing was a work. If I had wanted to watch two dudes dress up in costumes and pretend to fight I’d have stayed in my hotel and watched Raw is the Draft.

9:06pm – Top of the fifth. Lackey and Bergman are pitching like they have a plane to catch.

9:10pm – Angels tied it in the top of the fifth on a sacrifice.

9:19pm – End of 5. That was the longest inning of the game so far. Still, we’re past the halfway point and it hasn’t even been an hour since the first pitch. I don’t know what the quickest 9 inning game in the last 25 years is, but this has to be in contention right now.

9:43pm – Seventh inning stretch and we’re still on pace to end this thing in under 2 hours, just as long as someone breaks the tie.

9:44pm – Willie “I’m still hitting under .200” Harris triples. This is followed by Lo Duca lining a shot to Lackey who attempts to double up Harris but throws it short. It skips down the line and Harris comes in to break the tie.

9:46pm – Some idiot further down in my section is standing with his cell phone to his ear waving across the stadium to someone who can’t possibly see him. He’s rightfully being harshly heckled by some guys in my row.

9:51pm – End of 7 and the Exodus begins. Because there’s no way the team with the worst record in the National League could blow a 1 run game in the 8th.

9:55pm – The Nats have gone to the bullpen and the pace has slowed with Saul Rivera on the mound.

10:00pm – And the Nats defense completely falls apart. After a single, Chone Figgens steals second and goes to third on the throw to the center fielder by the catcher. Felipe Lopez boots a groundball hit by Erick Aybar who advances to second because no one hustled to pick up the ball in short right field. Garrett Anderson singles scoring Aybar and it’s 3-2 Angels. Unbelievable.

10:17pm – Top 9. Gary “Don’t call me Junior” Matthews pinch hits. Immediately a “Steroids” chant starts up.

10:21pm – We’re officially 2 hours old and just heading to the bottom of the ninth. Francisco Rodriguez is in to close it out.

10:33pm – Rodriguez strikes out the side despite making it interesting with some deep counts and a walk. Official time of the game is 2 hours, 12 minutes. Thank God. I’m going to get a reasonable amount of sleep tonight. On to Detroit.

Monday, June 23, 2008

HeroesCon in (a few) pictures

For the second year in a row I trekked across the country to Charlotte for HeroesCon, a mid-major in the world of comic conventions. It's a fun event that draws a few names with maybe a surprise announcement and the ocassional costumed attendee but it's mostly about meeting up with friends you haven't seen in a while. And as with any convention, I spent more than I wanted to, though the money was well spent. I found a few books I'm really looking forward to reading and picked up a few things for some people back home. I didn't take any pics during the con but I managed to remember to snap a few shots when we had the group together during our meal breaks.

L to R: Georgie - whose name may or may not actually be Gregory, Nick - who is certainly British, Kyle - whose beard is most definetly sentient.

L to R: Josh - who is absolutely the product of an incestuous relationship, Raph - who could possibly have terrorist connections, Jabsen - who was too short to be photographed.

Another meal with another crew. This time with Jermaine (second from the right) and everyone from his shop. A fine bunch of people. I spent most of Sunday trying to convince Jermaine to come out west. I don't think he's been west of the Mississippi his entire life. And I've come out to NC every year for the last three years. I think we almost convinced him to come to San Diego next year. We'll see.

Julie, Me and Jermaine. I've already mentioned Jermaine. Julie I hadn't seen in two years and I didn't even know she was going to be in Charlotte. It was a nice surprise to see her. In two weeks she's getting her PhD in Psychology. Congrats Julz.

Drinking milk with Kyle and stud artist Greg Horn. Check out Greg's site to see his awesome work. Kyle lent Greg a hand during the weekend and we helped him pack up after the con after which we went out to dinner. We cleaned out Uno's milk supply for the weekend. Greg was ecstatic to find his milk-drinking brethren.

That's it from Charlotte. For the next 4 days it's baseball before I hit the second convention in Chicago.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lessons in History, part 1 of who knows?

I really need to heed my own advice sometimes or learn from previous experience. A few months ago I took a redeye flight to St. Louis. It was not amongst my favorite plane trips and when it was over I’d vowed not to take another redeye. Now, if I’d been reading my own blog I known not to book myself on an overnight flight to Charlotte, and truthfully, I hesitated before I did, but ultimately the cost/benefit analysis (the cost in this case being a night of sleep and the benefit being 1 less night in a crowded hotel with 4 other geeks) weighed in favor of the benefit side. Huge mistake! Appearently I didn’t learn the lesson of April 2008. So my flight to Charlotte was very much like my flight to St. Louis; long, over-booked, and mostly sleepless. Add to that a medical emergency on the plane and some missing luggage and what you get one epic fail of a plane trip. As of 10am I’m working on 3 hours of bad sleep, without access to a Starbucks and unclean and unshaven. Just a few minutes ago my luggage finally arrived, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. More later when I’m well rested and less cranky…

Friday, June 20, 2008

Deathtour Insanity~!

At this moment I find myself standing on an event horizon, a few hours away from leaping into a black hole of insanity as the Deathtour takes a galactic leap forward. Of the 30 stadiums on my list to see, I’ve checked off only 7. And those were the easy ones. I didn’t have to leave my home state for 4 games. And I only left my own time zone for 1. In a few hours I will be flying across the country to start a 15 day, 8 city, 8 games + 2 comic conventions tour. In 2 weeks I will be doubling the amount of games I saw in 2 months. It didn’t really hit me until this morning how insane this whole endeavor is. Traveling alone, visiting a different city almost every day, half of which I’ve never been too and having no idea how to get around in them, I don’t know what made me think this was possible. This trip is apropos of the tour’s namesake. You know you’re in trouble when your response to being asked ‘where are you going?’ is to say, ‘Well, let me tell you where I’m not going…” or you exhaust yourself just listing your itinerary. But a lot of the fun of this experiment is the challenge itself. This trip, should I survive it, will bring me to 15 stadiums, the official halfway point of the Tour. If I don’t make it to 30 I can at least hang my hat on that.

I’m really excited to visit some cities I’ve never been too before, especially Detroit. When I would rattle off the cities I was traveling too and stopped at Detroit, the reaction from other people was almost universal, a fear, or possibly delight, that I would disappear and never be heard from again with a mix of disbelief that I would even want to go there. When I mentioned that I hadn’t booked a hotel yet, I was told, ‘book a gun while you’re at it.’ There’s a similar apprehension surrounding Comiskey in Chicago’s South Side, mostly from the people living in Chicago. This I don’t understand. I find it impossible to believe that either of these places is that bad. But then, I was born in The City. By my reasoning, if I can handle the Tenderloin and Hunters Point, the South Side and all of Detroit shouldn’t be a problem. And anyone who thinks differently must be some sort of country bumpkin.

Here’s a quick rundown of this trip. June 21st and 22nd I’ll be in Charlotte for HeroesCon. No game here but it’s a chance to catch up with some people I haven’t seen in a while. From there I’m taking Amtrak to our nation’s capital. I’ll be at National’s Park the night of the 23rd. The following morning I’m flying out of Baltimore to Detroit for a game that same night. The next day I’ll be in Cleveland where the Giants are visiting the Indians in a rematch of the 1954 World Series. Thursday morning I go to Chicago for the weekend. After moving from city to city every day it will be nice to stay in one place for 4 nights. Week two finds me in the Twin Cities. Then it’s back to Chicago for a few hours before I catch a train overnight to Cincinnati. Then it’s back to Chicago for a third time before moving on to Milwaukee for the 4th of July. I finally come back on the 5th, road weary and desperately missing home.

So, yeah, insane. It’s going to be a lot of fun, if not exhausting. By far this is the most adventurous trip I’ve ever taken or conceived of. I can’t even think of a number two for that list. Nothing comes close. It’s a shame I don’t have anyone to share this experience with but alas I must undertake this trek alone. I hope to keep the blog updated daily with my whereabouts. We’ll see how long that lasts. Until tomorrow, Aloha.

Playing on God's Jukebox: Enjoy the Silence

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Reviews: Mr. 3000

Mr. 3000 is a baseball comedy from a few years back starring Bernie Mac as a Prima Donna athlete who quits the game after achieving a milestone in career hits (3000 as the movie title which doubles as his nickname indicates) leaving his team in the middle of a pennant race without their selfish, ego driven star. But his post-baseball life is lacking. His support for the Hall of Fame falls short of enshrinement despite inching closer to induction every year. That is until a statistical error is discovered that erases 3 of his 3000 hits and erodes a third of his Cooperstown support. Because, as we all know, no one with 2,997 hits ever gets induced into the Hall.

Mac decides to come out of retirement at age 47, 9 years after leaving the game that despised him so much, just to reclaim those last 3 hits. This premise is completely absurd, even by sports movie standards which routinely stretch the boundaries of reality in favor of Hollywood storytelling. A ridiculous endeavor as the natural sports world is filled with dramatics. We don’t need every game to come down to the last at-bat/shot/round to create drama, but this idea seems lost in Tinseltown.

Mr. 3000 takes every sports movie cliché and adds to the pile, almost to the point of parody. These are the same characters we’ve seen before, and they’re more bereft of life than ever before. The older star trying to hang on? Check. The young cocky player who reminds the older star of his younger self? Check. The foreign player who hasn’t learned how to properly swear? Check. The movie play-by-play guy who sounds nothing like a real play-by-play guy, which makes me wonder if any writer has ever watched a game on TV before? Check. ESPN segments with real personalities reading lines you’d never actually hear them say? Check.

The movie also suffers from not being funny, a fatal flaw for most movies that rely on joke-telling to carry you through a cookie cutter plot. Bernie Mac is usually a funny guy, but nothing he recites here comes close to generating genuine laughs. And when your biggest and best comedian can’t bring the funny, you’re in trouble. Angela Bassett plays an ESPN reporter who probably would have been fired from her job before the end of the movie in reality.

Paul Sorvino plays Mac’s manager and doesn’t utter a word until the final 10 minutes of the movie. One of the movie’s biggest question marks is how he managed to keep his job for 10 seasons (He’s the manager before Mac’s retirement and is still around when he comes back 9 years later). There’s no way he would have survived 10 seasons when the team was struggling and in last place as they were when Mac made his comeback. Especially in Milwaukee.

Speaking of Milwaukee, where in the blue hell was Bob Uecker? Uecker made a name for himself as radio announcer Harry Doyle in Major League. In real life, Uecker is the play-by-play guy for the Brewers. You can’t tell me he was unavailable for the role here. He would have single handedly salvaged a portion of this mess, or at the very least, turned it into a beautiful disaster.