Saturday, June 28, 2008

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.

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