Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boxing Day Rambling

I had a clever-ish idea (if I am allowed to have an opinion). As a holiday greeting from Baseball Byways, I would aggregate here the holiday emails from all the major league teams whose newsletters I subscribe to; for example the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Ignore the triangle inside of the circle. If you are
really curious, the slideshow is available online here.

Funny thing, though, I only received emails from the Angels, Phillies and Yankees. What happened to the Dodgers, Mets, Nationals, Padres, Pirates and Red Sox? I checked my subscriptions on; there was no apparent explanation for the discrepancy. Nothing in the spam folder either. What? No holiday spirit?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

You Never Forget Your First

From MLB Trade Rumors, Melvin notes that former Rockies pitcher Jeff Francis has announced his retirement. Francis was the first prospect that we focused on before seeing him in action.

We saw Francis in 2004, along with old pal Red, pitching for the Tulsa Drillers. Shortly after the game we attended, he was called-up to Colorado Springs before finishing the year with the Rockies, going 3-2 (5.15 ERA) in seven starts.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Not Quite Chicken Counting

As recommended, Kevin and I took the subway (separately) to yesterday's Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, between the Mets and Cubs.

A sick passenger fell exiting the Flushing Local at 40th Street-Lowry Street and I had to back-track to Queensboro Plaza to catch an express going around the out-of-service train. That was pretty much the last bad thing to happen, as the Mets would later go up two games to none in the seven-game series.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Washington Park Centennial

Today is the centennial anniversary of the final game at Washington Park—or, more specifically, the third incarnation of the base ball grounds at 4th Avenue and 3rd Street, in Brooklyn.

Raising the flag, opening day, Washington Park, April 10, 1915.
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Buffalo Blues and Brooklyn Tip-Tops opened and closed the 1915 season, the second and final year of the Federal League, at Washington Park. The Tip-Tops, named for owner Robert Ward's Tip Top Bakery, won the opening day contest, 13-9. One hundred years ago today, the Blues won 3-2 and then professional base ball was played no more at Washington Park. The teams finished six and seventh in the eight team circuit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Suicide Girls Sept 22"

As this post goes live, Suicide Girls are performing at the historic Babcock Theater, in Billings Montana. (In truth, the performance was over by the time I finished editing this, but I tried.)

The Babcock Theater, in The Babcock Building, Billings

Melvin and I were in Billings on Monday, August 10, having driven from Grand Junction, the first stop on our third itinerary of the year. We arrived in town just in time to see the Billings Mustangs beat the Idaho Chukars, 6-1.

Melvin and I headed downtown after the game for supper and to see the sights, including the 1907 Babcock Theater. And before? What about after? I will get to that. You knew I would and I know you knew. That's what makes this relationship special.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Four-Fifths of a Grand Junction

First pitch, through the net, at Grand Junction, 8/9/15
These trips are conditioned by luck in countless ways. The team schedules have to work right. Our schedules at work have to cooperate. The weather has to be nice, or at least nonfatal to playing baseball on the day we pass through. We have to make it to each stadium on time. And so on.

We're finally on the trip that I don't think we were ever sure we would take—seeing all the Montana teams—and stop number one is the team we have long said would be the hardest to get to: the Grand Junction Rockies. Astute geographers will note that Grand Junction is not one of the Montana teams. Indeed, it's a good (and it was good) 600 miles from Billings. Still, when in the West....

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Rain at Kane Falls Mainly on the Tarp

Someday, someway, baby, they'll play baseball here.
Watson and I always like to make it out to Kane County each year, and today was the anniversary of the last time we went. Decent food, a good array of beers, and pervious pavement, what more could you want?

Well, you could want for it not to rain, but it did, fiercely, in the middle of the fourth. Happily, the grounds crew was on the case, and they got the tarp on the field and the people out of the stands before the rain hit or anything tragic happened, which is more than you can say for a fair in an adjoining county

An hour after play was halted, they were back at it. Cougars starter Brad Keller—a huge kid (he just turned twenty) with a terrific fastball and dubious command—was supplanted by novelist and onetime newspaper preservationist Nicholson Baker, who... oh, no, that wasn't the author of The Mezzanine but a guy who wasn't even born when it was published. This Baker has a good record this year but less upside than Keller—when you're 23 and still at Low-A, you might want to at least keep a weather eye on the local educational offerings

We're dealing with a small sample size, of course, but Kane County seemed to be suffering from its dissociation over the off-season from the Chicago Cubs, who moved their Midwest League affiliation to South Bend. The SB Cubs set a local record for ticket sales in the spring, and big development plans around the stadium are now afoot. Meanwhile, the now-Arizona-affiliated Cougars had not even a half-full house on a mostly beautiful summer Sunday—you can't blame the rain for everything. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Bubbles and Byways

Screen grab from The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, via
In late August 2001, Red and I were stuck in a bus on the tarmac at Logan Airport with about ten other people, waiting for quite a long time to board a tiny plane to Halifax. One middle-aged New Yorker became decidedly agitated about the delay. "When," he barked at one point, "will the passengers take precedence??" It was clear that this was a man who was used to taking precedence—though he mispronounced "precedence" as "pre-CEE-dence." While we waited, he regaled us with details about the economic and labor situation in Nova Scotia. Was he some sort of government minister? A high-flying analyst or researcher?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Beneath the Tile Floor, the Swamp

Yours for the purchasing at BB&T Park, Charlotte and, doubtless, elsewhere
Following on yesterday's visit to Pearl Fryer's purposeful and semi-visionary topiary garden—about which my only remaining question is, Where are the peacocks?—today we spent some time at the purposeful and semi-visionary village of Oyotunji, near Beaufort, South Carolina. This swampy, perplexing, but intriguing "sovereign land" is mildly like Arcosanti, in that it has been constructed and populated since 1970 by true believers trying to develop a way to live outside most conventional social, political, and cultural structures. The biggest difference between the two is that while Arcosanti is essentially populated by hippies with power tools, Oyotunji is suffused with a Yoruban (or perhaps we should say neo- or quasi-Yoruban) worldview that shapes the beliefs and actions of its perhaps 25 inhabitants. They can explain better than I can, though that's not saying much.

What this place is doing on former plantation land in South Carolina is only one of the many questions that were raised today.

Raison D'être (short form)

Now that you have, with Melvin's help, mastered Hawaiian language, certainly you can handle a phrase borrowed from the French. Seeing the Savannah Sand Gnats is the raison d'être—back of the throat—of this trip.

syntactically incorrect

Between the Charleston RiverDogs and the Daytona Cubs,we planned last year to see the the Savannah Sand Gnats at historic Grayson Stadium. Instead, we watched the Royals shut-out the Twins on Melvin's laptop while it monsooned outside.

So we have driven hours—or in my case hours and hours and hours—to see the Low-A affiliate of the Mets before the team departs next year for Columbia, South Carolina. Like most stadiums from early in the previous century, the grandstand is a delight but that is only worthy feature.

The Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden

We also ate poorly for the second day in a row and stopped to see formal garden elements in an informal built setting. Donut World for breakfast, passable barbecue for lunch and dollar hot dogs at Grayson for dinner. The Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden is certainly worth the detour,

Sunday, July 19, 2015

We Begin Again

Hey, isn't this a baseball blog?
This day, the sixth anniversary of this blog (though the idea stretches back fourteen or perhaps eighteen years, depending on how you count), we're back on the road, once again in North Carolina. This is our second time here—the first was in 2007 to see the Carolina Mudcats, Asheville Tourists, and Durham Bulls—and it won't be the last. But I hope to hell those trips will be earlier in the year. We're told that what fearmongering weathermen call the "heat index" will reach 106 along our route tomorrow. In other news, colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

Anyway, this first day hit several of our buttons: a doubleheader, an intentional built environment, curious urban developments, and even the ghost of a downtown pedestrian mall. So, hunch over, put your chin in your lap, and let's begin:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Back to the Beginning

For many years, my ex-wife's family met annually in the "Triple Cities" of Binghamton, Johnson City, and Endicott, New York to wish her maternal grandmother a happy birthday. Our generation often griped afterwards about the poor ratio of travel to socializing.

A not so happy 91st birthday.

After several years of complaint, I proposed that we stay overnight together in a cabin in Chenango Valley State Park. Challenged to name something to do in the evening, I suggested we go see a Binghamton Mets game. That was the first of the now many minor league games I  have attended.

I recently returned to Binghamton to learn about the game we saw, watch the B-Mets again for the first time in almost two decades, and see the Elmira Pioneers—a collegiate summer league team—at historic Dunn Field.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fister? Wisler. Wisler? Fister.

The pitching match-up at the Thursday, June 25 game between the Nationals and Braves reminded me of David Letterman's odd opening joke at the 1995 Oscars ceremony. "Oprah? Uma. Uma? Oprah.," the host introduced the two before adding, "I feel much better." Me too.

Melvin and I met for the game, checked off the new stadium for him, worked out some August roadtrip details (now updated), and generally enjoyed each other's company. He was in town for a conference and compared to my life recently, driving nine hours round-trip for a baseball game with Melvin sounded like heaven.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

That's Why You Stay 'til the End

Kevin and I went back to Citi Field on Monday for what turned out to be a pitchers duel between the Mets' Noah Syndergaard and Mark Buehrle of the Toronto Blue Jays. The game went into extra innings before the home team won, 4-3, in sudden fashion.

Friday, June 12, 2015

No Hits, Three Hit

On Tuesday night, Kevin and I saw Giants rookie Chris Heston throw a 'no-no' at Citi Field. Heston only had a perfect game until the fourth inning, when he plunked Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda in consecutive at-bats. He also hit Anthony Recker to start the ninth.

We took advantage of another discount ticket offer but then watched the game from the Shea Bridge—behind right-center field and a short walk from where Goose Island Sofie was on tap. Listening to WFAN after dropping Kevin off at home, the announcer sneered at the Mets fans who cheered for Heston. We were two of them.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Then and Now

I am taking a (now extended) break from "then"—our SoCal trip last month—to return to "now", May in New York. In so doing, I uncovered a series of unanticipated "then and now" relationships.

Then: Nick's Cafe, in Los Angeles since 1948 but in this instance on April 8.
(No, Pastor Park, I am not free from sin.)

Friday, May 8, 2015

SoCal Tasting Notes

The third day of our recent trip began and ended at the Ballast Point tasting room in Little Italy. There were of course other activities that Thursday, not incidentally the home opener of the San Diego Padres ... but let's talk beer.

Not this kind of flight...

A couple disclaimers: We made no attempt to be exhaustive. Green Flash and AleSmith are about five miles apart, 20 miles from downtown San Diego. Didn't go there, never even discussed it. (If Mikkeller Borg Bjergsø was operating in AleSmith's old space, that might have changed everything.)

Secondly, there is a reason the term is, "tasting notes." "Tasting recollection" cannot carry as much authority but there is no turning back the clock, notebook in hand.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Fan's Guide to the Tijuana Toros

On the second day of our April baseball road-trip, Melvin, Chris and I went south of the border to see los Toros de Tijuana, uno de los 16 equipos en la Liga Mexicana de Béisbol. We had some sense of what to expect and easily improvised the rest. So others might improvise even less, I compiled an anecdotal and incomplete guide to seeing the team.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cold in April, Again

Readers of the 2015 season preview know our April itinerary was a response to several recent trips afflicted by rain. Southern California was a safe bet, we thought, and that was the case for all of our visit except the first night, when we walked to Dodger Stadium.

On Stadium Way, west of Lot 13.

It was the height of stupidity, particularly in my case. We had checked the Doppler radar map and knew the storm was intensifying. We had a car and prepaid parking. There was a television in our motel room and we could have tuned into the game to learn if it would be delayed.

Yet, when it came time to leave for the ballpark, we decided to walk. The rain was light and we agreed, traveling by foot would be more interesting. Halfway there, however, it started to pour. Chris had a raincoat and he lent Melvin his umbrella.

My jacket is rain resistant, but no match for the weather we encountered. Soaked to the skin, I was shaking uncontrollably by the third inning. The air temperature was higher than when Melvin and I saw the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and Boston Red Sox in 2011, but I was even colder than I was that April.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Turn, Turn, Turn

In the most depressing movie ever made, It's a Wonderful Life (1946), the town slattern one night asks the tragically upstanding hero/Dupe of the Entire Universe George Bailey, "Don't you ever get tired of just reading about things, Georgie?" I won't bother with what exactly he says—it involves nocturnal mountain climbing and a green pool—but the import of it is yes, yes, dagnabit, he does get tired of just reading about things and there are things he'd like to... like to... well, like to do! Such as wade in a presumably algae-clotted pool in the middle of the night--not that you could see it was green then, mind you.

Me, I'm usually pretty happy reading. (There are some ways in which I am probably more like George Bailey, though my best friend isn't The Devil. Usually.)

Every time this guy shows up, things go to hell for George.
I do a lot of reading for my day job, but overall I don't do as much of it as I would like. Which is why it was a pleasant surprise to realize how many baseball books I managed to plow through this off-season. (The Cubs/Cardinals opener doesn't start for another two-plus hours as I type this, so it's still the off-season.)

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Today is the birthday of the woman referred herein as "gal-pal Sarah." She figured prominently in a couple posts last year. Before heading off to someone else's birthday dinner, I thought I would mention that readers probably won't find other references to Sarah in the future—she picked a fight during Game 7 of the 2015 World Series and broke up with me eight days later.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Melvin Grants Me Three Wishes

The 2015 Season Preview

Image by DoloresMinette used through Creative Commons license.

Two weeks from today, Melvin and I will begin the first of three trips planned for the 2015 season. Each itinerary responds to a comment I made. I have written before about Melvin's generosity and here is yet another example.

Our last three trips were beset by rain: the July 2013 sojourn to Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana and then through the South and Mid-Atlantic last year. I said to Melvin, sincerely in despair, "I don't think I can do this anymore." "Next year," he promised me, "we will go someplace where it won't rain."

Secondly, I remarked that I didn't want to leave the Montana ball clubs for last, after we had seen every other team. I also pointed out this may well be the final season for professional ball at Historic Grayson Stadium, in Savannah.

Three preferences expressed, three wishes granted. We are heading to sunny Southern California in April, Savannah and North Carolina in July, and Montana, Spokane and the Tri-City Dust Devils in August.

Chris, who joined us for a game-and-a-half in Maryland last year—did I mention rain?—will accompany us for part of the SoCal trip. David Bragdon will make most of the July games, and Watson will come to Montana.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Hidee hidee hidee hi

The funeral for Minnie Miñoso—also known as Mr. White Sox and the Cuban Comet—was held today at Holy Family Church in Chicago. Born Saturnino Orestes Armas (Arrieta) Miñoso, he died on Sunday at the age of 90, or 89, or however old he was.

Miñoso was the ninth player to break baseball's color barrier and the first African-American to play for the White Sox. A five-tool player and nine-time all star, he deserved to be elected to the Hall of Fame but was passed over in an era when Negro League accomplishments were not a factor in the voting.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Eulogy for McCoy

And its not even dead yet.

Melvin emailed yesterday with a link to an essay in the New York Times reporting
"a group of high-powered investors announced their purchase of the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Class AAA franchise of the Boston Red Sox, as well as their plans to build a shiny bauble of a stadium for the International League team in downtown Providence, the capital city just south of Pawtucket — but not Pawtucket."
The author, Dan Barry, also wrote Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game.

I am charmed by McCoy Stadium, having visited three times; in 2005 with Melvin, on my own in 2012, and with Kevin a couple years ago. McCoy was included hypothetically when what became Baseball Byways was just a concept.

The real or perceived need for state of the art ballparks is how minor league baseball operates now. PawSox fans will go through some variation of the five stages of grief. However, rather than ending with decathexis, the withdrawal of emotional investment, the process here will end with nostalgia.

Often the local fan base will abandon a team when it announces it is going to move. I doubt that will be the case here. The team isn't going that far and the "Red Sox Nation" is as loyal as they come. I bet McCoy draws record crowds in its final years. I hope to be among them.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

One Week

Friday the 13th
Valentine's Day
"Obamacare" enrollment deadline
Presidents Day
Fat Tuesday
Ash Wednesday
Lunar New Year or, if you prefer, pitchers and catchers report for spring training!

Or, more precisely, the Giants, Phillies, Pirates and Reds have scheduled their first work-outs for next Thursday. "Thirteen other clubs will work out pitchers and catchers for the first time the following day," according to MLB.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Traded for Nine Paragraphs

The New York Times published yesterday an obituary of Charlie Williams, "a pitcher best known as the trade bait the Mets used to land Willie Mays in the twilight of his career...." Two-thirds of the nine paragraph obit is related in one way or another to the May 1972 trade.

Even the summation of Williams' career—23-22 in 268 games, 31 with the Mets—is preceded by the statistics for the Giants Hall of Famer. It must be strange to be remembered for something that was entirely outside of your control, although all reports indicate Williams wore it well.

Image: Associated Press

The remaining three paragraphs provide Williams' place and cause of death, survivors, and place of birth. Williams was born in Flushing, but 17 years before the Mets moved to Shea Stadium.

Image: centerfieldmaz

According to Brian Joura at Mets360, Williams is the only player in team history to hail from the Queens neighborhood. Joura's obituary runs to 14 paragraphs, provides more detail about his career—including the minors—and generally treats the player with more humanity.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Late Light-Hitting Center Fielder from South Jamaica, Queens

Even I do not understand my obsession with New York State governors. But having written six posts about former New York State Governor David Paterson, I thought, "Why not one about Mario Cuomo?" (Just one, I promise.) The 52nd governor of New York State (1983-1994) died at his home yesterday, just hours after his son Andrew was sworn into his second term as governor.

In its lengthy, front page obituary of Mario Cuomo, the New York Times notes Cuomo played one season with the Brunswick (Ga.) Pirates of the Georgia-Florida League. With 254 plate appearances, Cuomo hit .244. His 10 doubles, two triples and one home run bumped his slugging percentage up to .311.

Albany Archives altered a card from a set issued by
 Upper Deck and broadcast it through its twitter feed.