Archive for July, 2009
When you see the fuzzy screen and hear the click, followed by the “aaaaaaaah” of the HBO intro thingy, does your brain preemptively start singing/humming the theme tune of (a) the Sopranos, or (b) Curb your Enthusiasm, or (c) something else?
On July 27th, 2005, I went to a baseball game for the first time. New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins at the dearly departed old Yankee Stadium. I could never have imagined how much it would have affected my life. If one could study baseball at university, I’d have a degree by now. And, well, if you’d have told me I’d've ended up a Yankees fan, I’d have laughed in your face. But, life is strange like that, isn’t it? Anyway, in lieu of anything else that I want to blog about today, I thought it might be fun to repost the blog post that I posted the morning after that game.
It just got hotter and hotter yesterday, then out of nowhere, the wind picked up, the heavens opened, and it was cool for a while. But that was just as I was on my way up to The Bronx to go and see the New York Yankees vs Minnesota Twins. I’m totally a novice when it comes to understanding how baseball works. Over the past week, I’ve seen snatches of it on TV and I’ve slowly worked out the basics.
Outside the stadium, it’s just like going to a football game. Loads of people milling around, drinking beer, folks selling merchandise, ticket touts touting tickets. Inside the stadium, I got a little bronze statuette of some old Yankees player that they were giving away to the first 18,000 spectators (which, after the game, were desperately sought by statuette-less children and parents). And then… the hot dogs and beer.
How different to going to a football match that was. People coming ’round every five minutes or so selling hot dogs, beer, cola, peanuts, candy floss… rather than “excuse me excuse me sorry excuse me sorry excuse me”-ing your way out to an aisle, then having to queue for ages to get a drink like what happens at a football match in Berlin.
So, the game’s about to begin. But first, of course, the national anthem which seems like a pretty popular song. Just like The Macarena or something. And it was sung very very passionately with a bit of vibrato by a finely moustachioed gent behind me.
And they’re off. And good Lord they throw that ball fast! 90-odd mph sometimes. And the batting chap is pretty close, so he doesn’t have much time to react.
The game itself was quite long (nearly four hours). The Twins were 1-0 up in the 3rd innings and it stayed that way for quite a while. Then in the 7th innings, they got three more. Yankees heading for defeat.
Out of nowhere, half way through the 7th innings, just before the Yankees were to bat, the game stopped, everyone got on their feet again and sang God Bless America. Cue quizzical look on my face.
Two more for the Twins in the 8th, but then the Yankees got three, making it a bit more interesting… but to no avail: another run the Twins and the game finished 7-3.
And after stopping to spend more money on merchandise, everyone traipsed back to the subway, but this guy still seemed happy after the defeat.
Considering I knew virtually fuck-all about the game, I really had a lot of fun there. I wonder if they show baseball on German TV…
Finally, here’s a photo of a pitch invader being carted off by security and the police. He managed to get a good slide into second base before they caught him…
It makes me cringe a little bit reading that; like reading a teenage diary. And it also makes me wonder: will I be embarrassed in 2013 about the things I’m writing about now?
Obviously, only a handful of you care about baseball, but for those who do, you might like to know that I’ve done a few updates on Flip Flop Fly Ball, and there’s now an RSS feed, so you can stay in touch with what’s going on there.
Amongst the new stuff, there’s a look at the overall strength of MLB teams since the ’94 strike; a day-by-day chart of the McGwire, Sosa, and Griffey 1998 home run chase; the percentage of all-time major league players in the Hall of Fame; the number of lefties, righties, and switch hitters currently in the majors; a simple thing that puts Nolan Ryan‘s 27 season major league career in perspective; which ballparks allow smoking and which ballparks annoy the bejesus out of me; and a simple guide for the youngsters showing how to remove the New Era sticker from the bill of your new ballcap.
Bonus points for parking somewhere that made it easy for me to get a graffiti dong in the background of the photo.
Just after I put up the last blog post, I paid for my lunch at the jazzy house cafe, and decided to get a coffee for our walk in the park. It wasn’t until Billy and I rounded the corner onto the street where we used to live that I realised that this is possibly the first time that he’s been back there in nearly two years. He started pulling a little bit harder on the leash, and when we got to the building we used to live in, he went straight for the door.
I told him we no longer live there, but, well, he’s a dog. He scratched at the door, wanting to go in. I tried to drag him away, but he was having none of it. He sat there, stubbornly refusing to move, for a minute or so. Eventually, a little bit of coaxing with a biscuit did the trick.
I don’t have regular Internet access at the moment. I’m dependent on the dude who lives in the building to turn his unprotected Wi-Fi on. Either than or I have to go to a cafe where they incessantly play inane and insipid jazzy house music. It’s the sort of place that, I think, if you polled the patrons, none of them would say they liked the music yet the staff would just stare blankly like, “well I do.”
Busy relaxing. Seeing friends. Reading. Trawling the Internet and newspaper for an apartment (any Berliners reading, if you hear of anybody searching for a nachmieter: I’m looking for something about 60-70qm in Neukölln, Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, Mitte, or Prenzlauer Berg).
And I’ve been hanging out with my gay lover, too:
That was a long journey. Aside from all the wonderful memories, the big thing I’ve taken from all the travelling I did last year is taking long journeys and delays a lot more calmly than I did before. These things happen, no big deal. I left Brooklyn at 2pm, in a cab with a guy who spent the whole journey whistling along to the Latin pop and rap on the radio. Countless rim shops later, and I’ve got a window-seat boarding pass in my hand. I chugged down three cigarettes, stocking up on nicotine, looking at the lovely big thunder clouds heading JFK’s way.
Through security, listening to one of the three saved-up episodes of This American Life, and I headed to the only Starbucks in Terminal 8, way on the other side of the building. Sat down in a nice empty area, I watched as it chucked it down outside, the tarmac turning into a mirror. By now it was around 4pm, an hour before boarding was due to begin. I sauntered over to Gate 3, spent the last US dollars in my wallet on a 6-disc DVD box set (New York Yankees: Perfect Games and No-Hitters), and sat down in front of the telly and watched CNN’s coverage of the Michael Jackson memorial thingy. As the coverage cycled through and came to the point where CNN showed a clip of his daughter speaking, I got the feeling that aside from the heart-breaking sadness, an airport’s worth of people were all thinking the same thing: she seems like a cute, normal kid. How strange it is to only see someone in a mask for all these years, and then, well, it’s like the basis for a good Grimm brothers tale.
Due to the earlier thunderstorm, the incoming flight that would become my flight out of New York was diverted to Hartford, Connecticut. It would be refueling, waiting for clearance to take off, and would be in New York at five-thirty. My flight delayed by an hour. Time passes, another announcement says the plane will be arriving at six-thirty. Then it’d be arriving at eight. Then nine-thirty. Finally, at 10.15pm, four-and-a-half hours after we were supposed to be leaving, we started filing onto the plane. I took my seat next to a man with a hot and hairy arm nestled against mine on the toothpick of an armrest. German voices all around. A white American guy in his early twenties sat behind me. I didn’t see it, but I could hear he had a portable CD player. Do they still make those? He was clearly listening to rap music, and every now and again would rap along, loud enough for me to hear him. If ever I find myself rapping along to anything, I tend to censor myself and not say “nigga.” He didn’t bother.
I always find the time it takes between getting on a plane and taking off goes quite quickly. You spend a while just trying to organise your space. What things do I want out of my bag? Where will I put them? Taking the asbestos pillow out of its plastic wrapper. Taking the thin blanket out of its wrapper. Having a flick through the magazine. Taking your shoes off. Putting them back on again cos your socks smell awful. I’d long since stopped all of that, and we were still sat next to the terminal. Eventually, at 12.15am, two hours after getting onto the aeroplane, we were taking off. The thunderstorm that had diverted all of the planes to Hartford created a backlog of planes all wanting to take off at the same time.
I ate the surprisingly tasty Air Berlin food, popped in an over-the-counter sleeping tablet, kicked off my stinky shoes, and drifted off as the monitors started showing Marley and Me. That’s the fourth time that film has been shown on a plane or train that I’ve been on recently. Not once did I watch it, though. And for the first time in my life, I managed to sleep through most of a flight. Normally, I can’t sleep on a plane, train, or bus. I’m sure by now, it’s a mental thing. But the weak sleeping tablet was enough to get me to sleep, and even though the sleep was fitful and not particularly deep, I did manage to do it, and woke up as the plane was over Ireland. Not bad. And, with all the delays, it kinda meant my sleep pattern wasn’t too out of sync.
A too-cold croissant and a bitter coffee later, and we’re on the ground in Düsseldorf. We had to sit in our seats for ten minutes, though. The Düsseldorf health authorities wanted us all to fill out a form. In Germany for ten bloody minutes and I’m already filling out a form! Paranoid about swine flu, we had to give them contact information in case someone on the flight was found to have the plague. As we exited the plane, it felt like being in E.T.; leaving through a tunnel, dudes in white coats, rubber gloves, and face masks there to look over our forms.
Wait, wait, wait, one bag, wait, wait, other bag, scuttle, scuttle, scuttle, nothing to declare, families reuniting, scuttle around them, doors, doors, yes! doors, fresh air, cigarette, lighter… calm.
As the heady nicotine buzz floated me back into the airport, the German-ness hit me. People dress different. Teenage boys use a lot of hair gel. And, confirming every stereotype, there are mullets. Walking past a newsagent, the garish design of all the TV, gossip, and car magazines shout GERMANY! The beer at the little bar in tall thin glasses with a little circle of paper around the bottom shout GERMANY! And the wonderful sky train thingy that whisks me from the terminal to the train station shouts GERMANY!
After waiting in line, I go up to the counter to buy a train ticket. I’m talking German again, digging the knife into the bottom of the peanut butter jar, to try and find and scrape out the words for “one way ticket.” I had forty minutes to wait, so stood on the platform and, devoid of any shame or self-respect, took my shirt off, got the deodorant out, and put on a clean shirt and a different baseball cap (Montreal Royals for the flight, Kansas City Athletics for the train).
The ICE trains in Germany are lovely. After the clunking hand-operated Amtrak trains I’ve been on most recently, it’s so lovely to be on a quiet train that glides through the countryside super fast. Little German villages, the German style of architecture, all making me feel fuzzy and warm. It’s not my home country, but it feels like it. I got one of the DVDs out of the box set, turned my computer on, and watched David Wells‘ perfect game for the Yankees against the Twins, May 17 1998. Way before I was interested in baseball. Even though it says it right there on the cover of the DVD (DAVID WELLS’ PERFECT GAME), I still got nervous when he had a couple of three ball counts. As the game entered the ninth inning, and the crowd were all on their feet, cheering ever strike; cheering the 25th out, cheering the 26th out, and then the perfect 27th, I felt my lip wobble and eyes well up a bit. I was back in Germany, heading to Berlin, but on the screen was what I was leaving behind. And, y’know, moments of sporting greatness – especially those achieved by fat men with moustaches – always make me a bit weepy.
In Berlin, familiar landmarks all around, in a cab heading to the Tempodrom; a concert venue where Brian Wilson was playing. People outside looked at me funny. What!? You’ve never seen someone turn up to a concert venue with a backpack, holdall, and rucksack before? I got a beer from the little beer garden-y place outside the venue. I didn’t have to show him any ID to prove my age, which was a nice change. I took off my bags, sat down, sparked up a fag, and drank a German beer.
Sadly, though, I wasn’t going to the concert. I was there because I’m staying at my friend Hanni’s place, and she was going to the concert. The flight delay meant that I didn’t have time to get a key for her apartment before the show. I must’ve looked stupid sat there wait
ing for her: my luggage all around me, stupid grin on my face. It just seemed so funny to me that I was there, outside a concert venue where my musical hero was about to play. While I’d obviously like to have seen Brian Wilson, I didn’t really want to go inside, though; it just seemed so perfect to be arriving from the States, and to be sitting there, where one of the most American of all American musicians was about to play. I’d just left America. I’m in Germany now.
When she arrived, we had a beer, and she went inside to get her surf on, and I got a cab, dropped off my stuff and went out for a few beers and a chat with my friend and fellow Yankee fan, Jeff. We sat, drank, and smoked in a beer garden. I had my first German food, and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a bratwurst as much in my life. It was a great end to a long journey.
So it begins. Berlin, part two.
Last night was lovely. I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m meeting up with friends who don’t already know each other, friends from different circles, I’m always a little bit tense beforehand. Needn’t have worried, though, everyone got along swimmingly. A few beers in White Star, and some marvellous Mexican food at Barrio Chino. They served habanero-infused grapefruit margaritas which were awesome. We chatted the night away, and eventually all went our separate ways. It was a wonderful way to end my American odyssey. I arrived here in December, I’ve experienced three seasons (NFL, NBA, MLB), and, well, it’s been quite the adventure, for want of a better word. I’m not sure the recent events have properly sunk in yet; I’m sure that’ll happen once I get settled. But for now, I’m gonna go out, take one last walk around the neighbourhood, smoke a cigarette or two, drink a coffee, then get in a cab to the airport. Barring any disasters, I’ll be arriving in Düsseldorf tomorrow morning and then getting a train to Berlin. If there is a disaster (Air Berlin flight 3551), please mourn me like you would mourn… oh, I dunno… Justin Timberlake dying whilst trying to save a basket of kittens. If the women from the Addicted to Love video are reading this: could you be my pallbearers, please?
Goodbye America, it’s been a blast.
Some photos from my last couple of days in New York.
Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn.
Mural on Flatbush of Ebbets Field, the old Brooklyn Dodgers ballpark.
And what Ebbets Field looks like now.
Looks a bit like a side profile of man’s head with some badly drawn thought bubbles.
Such a strange combination of words.
Lots of Duracell batteries between the tracks at 42nd Street–Bryant Park subway station.
And the recently opened, and very lovely High Line.
I don’t know how other non-natives feel when they’re in the States on the 4th of July, but for me, having been here for the past two Independence Days, I seem to self-define my role at celebrations as the jokey redcoat, still holding onto the idea that one day, we Brits will reclaim the colonies. Not something I believe in, of course, but, what other reaction is there when someone says “Happy fourth!” to me? The U.K. seems to lack a day of celebration like this. I guess that’s what we get for bombing around the world and taking all the good stuff back in the day.
My friend Jennifer and I went to a backyard party in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Nice do. Friendly people. Beer. We all went up onto the roof via the treacherously dangerous fire escape stairs and watched the firework show that was going on over the Husdon River, the other side of Manhattan. Seems a bit odd to me that the New York City fireworks were entertaining a bunch of people in New Jersey rather than one of the other boroughs of New York City, but there you go. It was pretty. And some folks on the street below got out their less-impressive fireworks and their incredible loud firecrackers for all to enjoy, too.
There was one moment, though, that captured the evening beautifully; a moment that made me a little sad that I’ll be leaving this wonderful country on Tuesday. I went to the bodega on the corner of the street to buy another six-pack. As I walked along the street, I passed a family sat in their front yard, listening to the loud Mexican music playing on their parked car’s stereo, and as I got closer to the store, that music blended into “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”
That song was coming from a sound system outside the bodega. All manner of people were gathered outside in this traditionally Polish neighbourhood, drinking out of brown paper bags, and dancing arm-in-arm to a Stevie Wonder song. There’s no tangible reason why it felt like this, but it felt like such a perfectly American moment, probably a perfectly New York moment. I’m really gonna miss it here.
The triangle bit of the flag of Puerto Rico represents a rich port: blue with a star in it. The triangle bit of the flag of Cuba is red because they’re communists.
Puerto Rico is a self-governing territory of the United States, and has the same colour stripes as the U.S. flag. Cuba and the United States aren’t the best of friends, so the stripes are opposite.
As you were.
I remember at some point in 1983 or early 1984 (really, who’s gonna believe I can remember that far back?) looking at the back of the Thriller album and counting how many songs had been released as singles in the U.K. Twenty-five years later, with Photoshop and Wikipedia at my disposal, I got around to doing a chart. I’ve only looked at U.K. and U.S. singles cos one is my home country, and one was Michael’s and it’d probably get very messy if I added Namibia and Paraguay-only singles. The opening song on all but Invicible were singles. I wonder what was wrong with the first track off that album..? Can’t honestly say I’ve heard any songs off of that one. Note: the second bit of HIStory is represented here cos, of course, the first bit was a greatest hits.
I went on Wednesday night, and I went last night. Up to the Bronx, to see the Yankees. In their new stadium. And, well, it brought up a whole bunch of strange thoughts and feelings. Maybe it’s because going into these two games was full of anticipation. Maybe it’s because the old Yankee Stadium is where I fell for baseball. Maybe it’s because since the last time I saw the Yankees playing at home, I’ve been to fifteen other Major League ballparks; a decent amount of ballparks to compare it to. Maybe it’s because the Yankees were playing the Mariners, a team I’ve seen quite a lot lately, both live in Seattle and on TV in Bellingham. Mostly, though, I think the fact that I’ve be leaving the States in a few days affected my enjoyment. These visits to Yankee Stadium were to be my last baseball hurrah for quite a while. The next games I’ll watch will be streaming live on MLB.com in the early German hours of the morning.
After my interview regarding Flip Flop Fly Ball on a Yankees blog River Avenue Blues, one of their readers emailed me with an offer of a couple of cheap tickets. As the day approached, my pal Derick realised that family commitments would rule him out of going to the game, so we quickly scheduled in a game the night before. So on Wednesday, we braved the traffic and drove from Brooklyn to the Bronx. After the many reports about bad things at the new stadium, it made a little sad that the first thing I saw from the car window was the old stadium.
We parked, walked past the scaffolding surrounding the old stadium, crossed an enormous zebra crossing on 161st Street, and stood in front of this beautiful new, old-style building. It needs a patina of daily life (exhaust fumes, I guess) to make it less new-looking, but it’s impressive. We picked up the tickets, and entered the pompously-named Grand Hall.
Lots of big pictures of Yankee greats. Plenty of space. Very nice. It’s in this Grand Hall that you get the first example of the gouging that the New York Yankees organisation are guilty of. In a tackily-decorated beer fridge, there are tallboys of “Retro Beer.”
Pabst Blue Ribbon is retro? Not in Bellingham it isn’t. And, I imagine, not in many other U.S. towns. PBR is just a cheap, drinkable beer. They seem to have mixed up the price list with a list of oxymorons: Nine dollars for a PBR? This type of behaviour put me off spending money within the stadium. If they’re so blatant about ripping people off, why should I be a part of it? My plan to buy a couple of t-shirts was quickly abandoned. I’m not giving you any more money than I need to to have a good time (ie. a few beers and some peanuts).
Inside the stadium itself, the concourses all have views of the field. On the lower level, where all the super expensive seats are, there’s a ton of food and drink options. Wonderful smells of noodles, sausages, steak sandwiches all around. The unwashed can also peer into the fancy restaurant where the gout sufferers scoff down honey-glazed dodo eggs.
We took a walk around the field level. All seems fine. It’s big. A lot bigger than other ballparks. I got to see first hand the annoying stuff that I’d read about (the obscured views from a couple of bleacher sections, the ridiculous concrete moat separating the rich people in the very, very expensive seats), and then we went upstairs to our seats. Our seats were in the disabled bit, where you get a movable fold-up chair. Neither of us were disabled, but I guess once the game day arrives, people who actually need disabled access will have already bought their tickets, and it seems that they just sold the rest of the seats to able-bodied folk.
It was a shitty place to sit. It wasn’t a particularly windy evening, but it felt quite windy up there. We had to careful put peanut shells back into the bag to stop them blowing into the hair of people directly below us. And sitting near the employees, having to listening to one of them snort phlegm instead of blowing his nose all game was a bit distracting. One of those things where, the moment you start noticing it, you can’t stop. And, really, when you spend $1.5 billion on a stadium, there is absolutely no excuse for obscured views like the one we had.
And, sitting there in right field, watching the Mariners play at Yankee Stadium, the comparison of the view one has in right field at the Mariners’ ballpark was startling. I like sitting there at Safeco Field because of the good view of Ichiro. But this was my view of Ichiro on Wednesday night.
The seats, the phlegm, the view, the insanely distracting enormo-screen in center field, all combined to make it a disappointing experience. I found it difficult to get into the game. Last Friday, at the Mets’ new ballpark, I really enjoyed watching the Yankees; but on Wednesday… even seeing a long A-Rod home run wasn’t enough to jolt me into whole-heartedly getting into it.
Still, the Yankees won, and we saw John Turturro queueing for beer up in the upper tier with the normal folks. But the whole experience knocked me off-kilter a bit. The sunset was nice, though.
Back up to the Bronx on the subway on Thursday evening. I got my tickets off the guy, and had another good look around. My expectations were obviously not strictly expectations any more after being there the previous night. But I did feel a tiny bit better about it. I had a far better seat, even though it was higher up, but it wasn’t so isolated, and there was plenty of noise all around.
One thing that does need saying about the upper level, though, is, for all the talk of better concessions at this new stadium, upstairs, it pretty much the same as usual. Hot dogs, peanuts, beer. Well, I say beer. But more or less all of the concession areas are serving Bud Light. I guess technically Bud Light is beer, but it sure doesn’t taste like it. And on the side of the stadium I was sat on, the upper tier only had one small booth selling “premium” beer. That means eleven dollars for a Beck’s or Stella. The queue at this particular booth was pretty big all night.
There was a thiry-odd minute rain delay where not a drop of rain fell. The big screen honed in on Jack Nicholson sitting in the front row.
He seems like a good sport. I guess it’d be easy to be super famous and want to be left alone at a sports event, but every time the camera focussed on him, he smile
d, waved, flexed his muscles and even made a scary face when the wag operating the screen’s output added a speech bubble to the image with “Here’s Johnny!” in it. The camera also focussed on the two young women he was sat with. I dunno about you, but, when someone of Jack Nicholson’s age is sat with young women, I find myself spending way too much time wondering if they are family or his dates for the evening. (While we’re talking about famous people, later on, the camera zoomed in on Steve Earle, which I enjoyed.)
Aaaaanyway, it was a better view, a better experience on Thursday. I had a better view of Ichiro, too. Yay.
Sadly, a bunch of the fans sat around me felt it necessary to boo when Ichiro came to the plate. I realise it’s not the done thing at a sports event to openly praise one of the opposing team’s players, but I’d been clapping when he came up to the plate. He’s pretty much my favourite player, and just because he doesn’t play for my team, it doesn’t mean I’m not gonna clap. But a bunch of dudes around me booed, which was annoying. I could understand it if he played for the Red Sox or Mets, but, c’mon, Seattle isn’t a particularly hateable opponent. Later in the game, when Ichiro hit a two-run double, putting the Mariners 6-2 ahead, I found my reaction wasn’t that of a Yankee fan seeing his team go further behind; it was that of someone who was glad that the dicks behind me would shut up.
The Yankees scored a couple more runs, but didn’t give too much indication that they’d get back in the game, so the crowd started to amuse itself. People kept trying to get a Mexican wave going. I bet you can guess how I feel about Mexican waves.
I did see a good bit of verbal fighting, though. A couple of rows behind me, this woman had been quite gobby all night, and a dude in front of her called her on it. They then had a stand-up argument. He seem bemused by her (probably drunk-on-Bud-Light) ramblings and swearing. Eventually, a security guy came along, and took the guy away despite being told my strangers in our section that it was she not he that was being an idiot. He came back, and all seemed calm. A few minutes later, after going to get more beer, the woman started up another argument and ended up throwing a full $10 souvenir cup of Bud Light over the guy. She was escorted off. As she disappeared down the stairs, the cheering that from the section was replied to with a defiant and beautifully-timed middle finger. Moments later, he was inexplicable escorted away, too. He returned to great cheers from the whole section.
Game over, Mariners win. And, I’m sad to say, I’ll be glad to be getting back to watching the Yankees streaming on MLB.com, so I don’t have the negative feelings about the stadium cloud my view of the team. I didn’t feel like I was there to watch a game; I felt like the New York Yankees wanted me there simply to spend money. I’m not naive enough to think that every sports team doesn’t feel like that, but at other ballparks it doesn’t feel so blatant. At this new Yankee Stadium, I got the feeling that I was supposed to feel privileged to be in their presence. Going to a baseball game isn’t a privilege. Obviously, it’s not a right, either, but ultimately, it’s just a sport, even if you are the New York Yankees.
On Tuesday, my pal Derick and I took a day trip to Baltimore. Neither of us had seen the Baltimore Orioles ballpark, so a quick tap tap tap on the Orioles website, and we’d got ourselves a pair of eight dollar tickets to watch them play against the Boston Red Sox. It’s a three-ish hour journey from Brooklyn to Baltimore. I got to see some of the finer parts of New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland’s freeways. We flicked through radio stations all the way, and when we got into Orioles territory, settled on a sports talk radio station where callers seemed resigned to a thumping in the evening’s game.
Getting into Baltimore was really easy. Straight off the freeway into the Inner Harbor area and a car park. Lovely. After a lunch of really lovely crab cakes, we spent the afternoon wandering around in the 88°F heat. We had a look in the Babe Ruth Museum and the Sports Legends Museum, sauntered around the harbour, up to Federal Hill, and had a few beers in a local bar before game time.
Of the fifteen Major League ballparks that I’ve not seen, Oriole Park at Camden Yards was the one I was most looking forward to. The first of the new bunch of stadiums that have been built in the last twenty years. Oriole Park is lovely. A nice intimate park, with a huge brick warehouse running along one side. Plenty of space. And excellent food. Figuring that it’ll be rare for me to visit Baltimore, I chomped down on a pulled pork sandwich, and later on, a pit beef sandwich. Both were fantastic. By far the best food I’ve had at a sports event.
There has to be a downside, though, and with the Red Sox being in town, Camden Yards was pretty much 50/50 split between O’s fans and Red Sox fans.
And in the early innings, the visitors were making the most noise when their team took a 9-1 lead before some big clouds let rip with an hour long rain delay.
The rain, though, allowed for a bit of mingling with the locals. We were sitting in the upper level, and when I asked an employee on the concourse where the smoking section was, she said “You’re standing in it!” A cop stood near her nodded and concurred, “Right here.” After a bunch of ballparks where the smoking sections are hidden away, or even outside the stadium, it was very nice to be able to smoke just a short hop from my seat.
I got chatting to a couple of guys. Both Orioles fans, both into soccer, so we got to stand around and praise sports from our nations. We also got to the topic that I think a lot of British people wonder about: is The Wire accurate? Apparently so. I was told that, outside of a few downtown areas – the areas tourists might visit – there’s a whole heap of truth in the show.
I also pulled the tourist card and took a few photos of people while we waited out the rain delay. Here:
Eventually, the rain slowed to spitting, and the game re-started. 9-1 down, bottom of the fourth. Two-and-a-half scoreless innings later, and the Red Sox got another run. 10-1. And then, in the bottom of the seventh, Justin Masterson pitching for the Red Sox, the Orioles started hitting. Suddenly, it was 10-6. Again, in the bottom of the eighth, the O’s scored another five runs. Amazingly, the Orioles were leading 11-10. The Red Sox fans were quiet, the locals were having fun. Three outs later, and the Orioles had staged their greatest ever comeback in team history; the biggest ever comeback by a last placed team against a first placed team. Orioles manager Dave Trembley described it as “probably the best game I’ve been involved in.” And for Derick and I, it was fantastic to be in a beautiful ballpark, watching a fantastic game.
Three hours of sleepy driving later, we were back home in early hours of the morning Brooklyn, looking for a parking spot, tired but still raving about a great evening.