The All-Star game is tomorrow night in Cleveland. Below, something to keep you busy between innings and during mound visits.
Rita and I recently completed our fourth annual stadium tour. We were joined on the bus by 43 other baseball fans from around the country. As always, the tickets, hotels and other details were superbly handled by Darren Zinser who runs Triple Crown Travel (click here if you have an interest in a future trip). First stop, Minneapolis…
Target Field – Minnesota Twins: Named for the discount retailer. Opened in 2010.
For almost 60 years, the Minneapolis Millers and St. Paul Saints were minor league teams in the American Association. I grew up knowing about them because one of their big rivals was the Kansas City Blues. The league also had the Toledo Mud Hens, the home team for Klinger in MASH.
In 1956, the city of Minneapolis took the risk of building Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, a suburb about equally distant from Minneapolis and St. Paul. The initial tenant was the Millers, but the goal was to attract a major league team. It worked. In 1961, the Washington Senators relocated and became the Minnesota Twins.
In 1982, the Twins moved to the multi-purpose Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis, playing there until moving to Target Field in 2010. Rita and I attended a game in the old Metrodome, but it was not baseball. In 1992, we got lottery seats for the Final Four. The seats were far, far from the court, but it was still fun to be in the room where it happened (Duke won). Still have my ticket stub:
Both of the old stadiums made way for big projects. Metropolitan Stadium became the Mall of America. The Metrodome was replaced by U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings. As for the new Target Field, we had much better seats than we had in 1992 at the Metrodome.
Target Field looks great nestled in the middle of the city. We walked over from our hotel to see the game. Next door is the city’s multi-purpose arena (Target Center, featuring a big red-eyed Target dog that wags its lighted tail as seen from the baseball stands). Here is how the stadium looked on opening day this year:
Although Target Field is in Minneapolis, the Twins emphasize that they represent two cities. There is a sign in centerfield with the team’s original logo of Minnie and Paul shaking hands over the Mississippi River. When the Twins hit a homer (they did twice in our game), the lights that form the Minnesota border flash.
We got off to an entertaining start for our game with a unique presentation of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Local radio personality DJ Bonics played a mash-up of iconic anthem performances, including some Jimi Hendrix, much to the delight of fans who watched his work on the video screen. A clip was posted online so you can also enjoy the performance (click here).
Minnesota, currently leading the AL Central, played the Tampa Bay Rays who started strongly this season but have been overtaken by the Yankees in the AL East. Blake Snell, last year’s AL Cy Young winner, started for the Rays. His season has not gone well, and it got worse. He failed to last four innings and gave up seven runs. The Twins scored early and often, winning the game 9-4.
Miller Park – Milwaukee Brewers: Named for the beer company. Opened in 2001. The 20-year naming rights for Miller (at a cost of $40 million) will end after the 2020 season. Beginning in 2021, American Family Insurance will have the naming rights at double the cost paid by Miller (the new deal is $60 million for 15 years). No, there will not be a corresponding team name change to the Milwaukee Insurers.
The tickets to the games feature the players, and Rita grabbed the one with Lorenzo Cain. Unfortunately, he had a sore thumb and did not play.
Miller Park is adjacent to old County Stadium, some four miles from the city center. The brick façade, arches and clock tower are topped off with a retractable roof. Our weather was good, so the roof was open.
As soon as Rita and I entered the stadium, we asked how to get to the Bob Uecker statue. Uecker has been the play-by-play radio broadcaster for the Brewers since 1971. He is nationally known for his Miller Lite ads from the 70s and 80s, especially the one where he is relegated to the cheap seats in the upper deck after thinking he has a better seat. See the ad here. In 2014, the Brewers installed a permanent seat for Uecker on the last row of the upper deck. There is an extra seat next to him for photo ops like this one of me and Bob.
I am not an avid fan of “mascot races” (like the condiments mustard, relish and ketchup at the K). But two stand out from our baseball tours. In 2016, at Nationals Park in DC, we saw the Racing Presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt). This year in Milwaukee, it was the Racing Sausages (Brat, Polish, Italian, Hot Dog and Chorizo). I didn’t notice who won at our game, but here are videos of races by the Presidents and Sausages. [Technical Note: On some of the clips here and below, you may need to tap on the screen to get the sound or tap an unmute button, sometimes in the upper right corner.]
Although we were disappointed that Cain was not playing, we were able to cheer for another former Royal, Mike Moustakas. He did not disappoint. Moose blasted a homer to right for the first Milwaukee run. I did not hear Bob Uecker’s radio feed, but he is known for his signature call of a home run: “Get up! Get up! Get outta here! Gone!” Check that out with this clip of back-to-back homer calls from last year.
The scoreboard reported that Moose’s homer went 396 feet. Two batters later, there was another Brewers home run that was recorded at 251 feet. No, not a short fence. Ben Gamel hit a blooper into left, and Mac Williamson attempted a diving catch. He missed, and the ball rolled to the fence. Gamel circled the bases for an inside-the-park homer. These were the only two runs scored by the Brewers who lost to Seattle 4-2.
[Seattle v. Seattle Trivia: Both teams in the game originated as expansion teams in Seattle. The Seattle Pilots jointed the AL in 1969 (same year as the Royals). The team lasted only one year before it was bought out of bankruptcy by Bud Selig who moved the franchise to Milwaukee (and in 1998 to the NL). The Seattle Mariners were founded as an AL franchise in 1977.]
Wrigley Field – Chicago Cubs: Named for the gum company and the namesake family that controlled the Cubs from 1921 to 1981. The stadium opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park, home of Charles Weeghman’s Chicago Whales of the new Federal League. The league folded after two years, and the park became the home of the Cubs in 1916. In was renamed Cubs Park in 1920 and then Wrigley Field in 1927. It is the oldest park in the National League (Fenway in the AL opened in 1912).
My parents became fans of the Cubs from watching them for years on superstation WGN in the early cable days – Harry Caray at the microphone. Dad died in 1989, but Mom continued to keep company with Harry and the Cubs. In 1990, Rita and I took Mom and my Aunt Ellen on a day trip to Chicago to see the Cubs at Wrigley. Mom really liked us for doing that. Still have that ticket stub too:
And then 29 years went by before Rita and I were again at Wrigley. Note that our ticket price went from $7.00 to $76.00. Well we did have better seats this time.
The atmosphere at Wrigley is all you think it will be. There has been some modernizing since we were there in 1990, including in the surrounding Wrigleyville area and the stands for watching games from the rooftops across the street. Also better bullpens and locker rooms. But the Wrigley charm remains, ivy-covered walls and all.
One of the rooftop buildings has a sign that reads “Eamus Cafuli!” (roughly Latin for “Let’s Go Cubs!”). This is followed by a counter for “AC” (“Anno Catulorum” or “In the Year of the Cubs”). During 2016, the number was AC0871108 with the first two numbers being the number of years since the Cubs’ last division championship (2008 – 8 years ago as of 2015), the next two digits being the number of years since the Cubs won the NL pennant (1945, 71 years ago) and the last three, the number of years since winning the World Series (1908, 108 years ago). After the Cubs won it all in 2016, those numbers no longer applied and the sign was changed for 2017 to read AC0000000. We are now two years later, and here is my photo of the sign as it reads for 2019:
In 1977, White Sox owner Bill Veeck talked broadcaster Harry Caray into leading the crowd with “Take Me Out To the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch. It became a fan favorite that Caray continued when he moved over to the Cubs in 1982. After Harry’s retirement in 1997, the Cubs have continued the tradition with videos of Harry or by using guest celebrities. For our game, we were led by Cookie Monster (“Today, ‘C’ is for Cubbies!” – click here).
As for the game, it was quite exciting. The visiting Atlanta Braves got off to a 6-1 lead, but the Cubs rallied to a 9-7 victory. The closer for the Cubs was Craig Kimbrel who was making his first appearance for the team. Kimbrel had been an unsigned free agent since helping the Red Sox get to the World Series last year. He still has his long red beard and distinctive pose on the mound. He gave the fans a little scare by putting two men on base, but no runs scored.
The Wrigley day game left us an open night, so…
Rita saw Hamilton for the fifth time in four years. She’s one ahead of me. The current cast in Chicago is excellent. I could show you the ticket, but it’s just a barcode on Rita’s phone.
Guaranteed Rate Field – Chicago White Sox: Named for the residential mortgage company. Opened in 1991.
The White Sox played in the original Comiskey Park from 1910 to 1990. The replacement stadium was named Comiskey Park when it opened in 1991, but became U.S. Cellular field in 2003 and then Guaranteed Rate Field in 2017. The stadium is located adjacent to the original, about 4.5 miles south of downtown Chicago (Wrigley is 6.6 miles north of downtown).
In 1988, Rita and I attended a game at the original Comiskey Park. Yes, still have that ticket stub too.
And then 31 years went by before our next White Sox home game. Ticket price moved from $4.00 to $38.08.
The outfield concourse has several statues of former stars. Hall of Famers Luis Aparicio (SS) and Nellie Fox (2B) are a few feet apart with Fox taking a throw from Aparicio to go for a double play. Below, Rita with Nellie Fox. Why pick him? When she was in grade school, she had a Nellie Fox glove.
In the game, the White Sox led 4-2 going into the top of the 7th. Minnesota loaded the bases with one out, but the Sox ended the inning with a double play that was challenged by the Twins. While the review was going on, the Sox PA system played “Let it Be” by the Beatles (i.e., let the call be since it favored the Sox). Paul McCartney and the Sox won the decision.
The Sox scored two insurance runs in the 8th to go ahead 6-2. They were needed. Former Royal Kelvin Herrera came in for the Sox to get the save. He pitched to two batters: single, wild pitch, homer. Score now 6-4. Herrera was relieved by Alex Collome who got three straight outs to secure the Sox victory.
Great American Ball Park – Cincinnati Reds: Named for the property and casualty insurance company. Opened in 2003.
The Reds played in Crosley Field from 1912 to 1970 and then moved to Riverfront Stadium which they shared with the NFL Cincinnati Bengals. As had been the case with the multi-purpose Metrodome in Minneapolis, the teams wanted separate specialized stadiums. Most cities ultimately took this path after Kansas City’s success with two stadiums. So Cincinnati built two new stadiums on the Ohio River.
The stadiums are convenent to downtown, and we walked over to the game from our hotel.
Cincinnati was also part of our stadium tour last year, at which time we visited the excellent team Hall of Fame. There is a lot of history for their Hall of Fame because the Reds major league franchise dates back to 1882. Going further back, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings were the first all-salaried professional team in baseball history. This transformed baseball from a social-club pastime to the pro game. The sesquicentennial of that 1869 team is being celebrated this year with “150” logos throughout the stadium and on such things as the tickets and the bags given out as we entered the stadium (as modeled by Rita below).
The Reds were playing the Cubs, and thousands of Cubs fans made the 4-hour road trip from Chicago. They were loud. And they had a lot to cheer about. The Cubs shutout the Reds 6-0, the big blow being a grand slam by Javier Baez in the top of the 8th. You would have thought the game was at Wrigley when Baez hit the homer – click here to listen to the fan response.
The other play of note was when Yasiel Puig of the Reds was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the 8th. Puig threw off his cap to expose his bleached Mohawk hair, dropped his bat and started toward the mound. The then typical baseball fight took place – no blows, the players gathering around holding each other and the obligatory run across the field by the players in the bullpens (click here for a video).
Stadiums Across the Pond: Not on our personal itinerary, but in the news…
London Stadium: This stadium is primarily the home of West Ham United of the Premier League (i.e. real “football” aka soccer in the U.S.). But on June 29 and 30, it was the venue for two regular season games between the Yankees and Red Sox. There is a cool time-lapse video online showing the conversion of the football surface (called the “pitch”) to a baseball “field” (click here). For the record, as part of this conversion, the distance between the bases was set at 27.432 meters, and home plate to the pitcher’s mound was 18.440 meters.
The Yankees beat the Sox with two NFL-like scores: 17-13 and 12-8. The games had the feel of an NBA All-Star game with no defense. But they were two sellouts and the Cards and Cubs will play in London next season.
There was of course a mascot race. The contenders: King Henry VIII, the Loch Ness Monster, Winston Churchill and Freddie Mercury. Click here for the video to see Freddie win and listen for his singing near the end – Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”
Stade de Lyon: That would be Lyon, France, for yesterday’s final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Underpaid and undaunted, the USA women captured the team’s fourth World Cup (there have only been eight, starting in 1991). Other than those cheering at Stade de Lyon, the biggest fans were in Kansas City, as evidenced by the TV ratings and the shots of KC’s Power and Light District on the international coverage (below). Thank you to Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and all the other fine players.
All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club: Where Wimbledon is played. This morning, my new favorite player ended her magical run with a loss in the fourth round. That would be 15-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff (below, celebrating her third round victory). I think we will be hearing more about her. In the meantime, Centre Court will be on our TV agenda next Saturday and Sunday for “Breakfast at Wimbledon.”
Lonnie’s Jukebox – Yesterday: The movie. Last Friday, Rita and I saw Yesterday. There have been mixed reviews, but not from us. We thought it was delightful. There is some natural bias, especially from Rita who saw the Beatles when Charlie Finley brought them to Municipal Stadium in 1964. She was 14. Some 55 years later, she still has her ticket stub. I know you are doing the math.
If you don’t know the premise of the movie, check out the trailer here. If you do know the premise, please watch it anyway. It’s so much fun, and you will see that “Something” in the trailer is not in the movie.
Lead actor Himesh Patel does a fine job of channeling the Beatles. His long-time friend and manager is adorably played by Lily James – some of the best smiles ever in a movie. Star pop singer Ed Sheeran plays himself and provides a perfect backdrop from one of his real concerts at Wembley Stadium (reminiscent of Queen at Wembley in last year’s blockbuster movie Bohemian Rhapsody). There is also a scene-stealing performance by Kate McKinnon from Saturday Night Live.
So of course the jukebox selections for this post feature the Beatles. Click on the name of the song to listen.
Movie title song: “Yesterday”
Song at Guaranteed Rate Field for “Play Under Review”: “Let It Be”
Song at Kauffman Stadium played after the occasional Royals victory: “Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey” (the classic Wilbert Harrison version of “Kansas City” is played after the losses)
Song long enough to play during the credits as the movie ends: “Hey Jude” (not “Hey Dude” as recommended by Ed Sheeran in the movie)