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Introduction
Planned Itinerary
Notes - Weeks 1 & 2
Notes - Weeks 3 & 4
Notes - Weeks 5 & 6
Notes - Weeks 7 & 8
Notes - Week 9
Places, Costs & Scores
Mileage Breakdown
More Fun Facts
Epilogue


Weeks 1 & 2
Weeks 3 & 4
Weeks 5 & 6
Weeks 7 & 8
Week 9 & Epilogue


Game Summaries
Fun Facts & Stats



Game Summaries

 

Game 1 - Montreal Expos 7, Atlanta Braves 5
Turner Field - Atlanta, Georgia

I got to Turner Field soon after 5 pm and got a $20 ticket in section 203, behind the first base dugout. Picked up my free Turner Field poster at the gate and headed in to watch batting practice and explore the ballpark. It is right out of the Camden Yards mold - grass field with irregular outfield dimensions and great sightlines, including views of the field from the concession concourse. The game figured to be a serious mismatch, with the low-budget Expos facing 4 time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux. It is almost comical to realize that Maddux, with his new $11 million per year contract, makes nearly $2 million more than the salary of the Expos' entire 25-man roster this year!

Maddux gave up a quick first inning run, but settled down and provided a typically efficient performance, with the requisite abundance of ground balls back to the pitcher. The Braves got an early homerun from Ryan Klesko, then seemingly broke it open with 4 more runs in the middle innings. It was 5-2 when Maddux called it a night after 7 innings - coasting to his league leading 10th win. But wait! The mighty Braves have a weakness and that is their bullpen, where Mark Wohlers apparently has lost his touch as the closer. Tonight he started the ninth, but was pulled after walking the leadoff man. Mike Cather was definitely NOT the answer. He gave up another walk and a hit batsman and then served up a grand slam to rookie pinch hitter Darond Stovall, giving the Expos a 6-5 lead and leaving Turner Field in stunned silence. Another ugly run made it 7-5 and the Braves surrendered quietly in the bottom of the ninth to complete the stunning upset. All in all, a great kickoff game for my baseball tour.

Footlong dog - good, but nothing special.

Box Score

 

Game 2 - New York Mets 7, Florida Marlins 4
ProPlayer Stadium - Miami, Florida

The afternoon shower was tapering off as I entered ProPlayer Stadium at about 6 PM. Nice giveaway tonight - a Marlins 1997 World Champion baseball cap. So what if the entire team that won the World Series has been disbanded to cut the payroll - they bought that championship fair and square and they are going to flaunt it! The Mets come to town as one of the hottest teams in the league, but I don't get to see the prized new acquisition, Mike Piazza, who's out with a minor injury.

Things started well for the Marlins, with a solo homer in the bottom of the first. But it all fell apart extremely fast in the third, when their starter Brian Meadows, who had breezed through the first two innings, gave up 7 runs before he could get the second out of the inning. That seemed to take the fight out of the home team, and the crowd. Two guys sitting in the row behind me showed up in the third inning and left after the sixth - why even bother coming to the game?! The fans that stuck around were rewarded with a ninth inning rally that got the Marlins to 7-4 with one out and the tying run at the plate. Alas, the Mets DO have a closer, and John Franco finished them off. So far, I don't seem to be good karma for the home teams.

Hot wings - the wings were good, but the potato things (sort of hot, thick chips) that came with them tasted like cardboard.

Box Score

 

Game 3 - Toronto Blue Jays 8,
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 7
Tropicana Field - St. Petersburg, Florida

Camden Yards, Turner Field and all the other new "retro" ballparks are great, and everyone agrees that Astroturf has no place in baseball, but there certainly is something to say for watching a game in air-conditioned comfort when it's a humid 90 degrees outside. The domed Tropicana Field was all spruced up for the Devil Rays inaugural season and it looks pretty good. I bought a $22 "club seat" ticket for $15 from a guy outside the stadium.

The somewhat sparse crowd got excited real early as Quentin McCracken and Wade Boggs hit back-to-back dingers leading off the game for the Devil Rays. McCracken hit another one in the third and it was 5-0. The Blue Jays slowly climbed all the way back to take a 7-5 lead in the eighth inning and I was looking forward to my home team jinx continuing. Then the usually reliable Paul Quantrill gave up 3 runs in a painfully long bottom of the eighth and the expansion Devil Rays sent the crowd (if not me) home happy.

Cajun chicken sandwich - very good!

Box Score

 

Game 4 - Houston Astros 6,
St. Louis Cardinals 5
The Astrodome - Houston, Texas

The Astros were one of the teams that responded to my shameless requests for free tickets and such, and their Community Development Coordinator, Phoenix Mak (cool name, huh?) gave me the VIP treatment before and during the game. Besides some team freebies, I got a personal tour of the Astrodome (still referred to around Houston as "The Eighth Wonder of the World"). I heard all the details about the new downtown stadium that the Astros are building, watched batting practice from right on the field and then watched the game from the media level (great seats). I couldn't have asked for a better experience.

Speaking of batting practice - that was an event in itself because I happened to be in town during the Houston stop of the Mark McGwire World Tour. Over 15,000 people were in the stands (completely filling the outfield seats 1 hours before game time) to see Big Mac put on his power show. He did not disappoint, hitting 10 of the 24 balls he saw into the seats, including 2 into the top deck of the Astrodome.

The game was a beaut as well, including McGwire's 32nd dinger of the year, 3 other home runs, and a great comeback by the Astros. It was 2-2 in the eighth when the Cardinals got 3 gift runs on an extremely ugly botched bunt. Then, after McGwire lined out to right field in the top of the ninth, literally half of the crowd got up and left, only to miss their home team get 4 runs in a stirring bottom of the ninth to win the game. Suckers!

Hot & Smokey Dog - good, free peanuts - excellent (hey, they were free!)

Box Score

 

Game 5 - Texas Rangers 3, Oakland A's 2
The Ballpark - Arlington ,Texas

The Rangers don't play many day games, and I can sure understand why. I only lasted a couple innings in my exposed left field seat before seeking refuge in a shaded location. The game was another close one (every game I've seen so far has come down to the last out), but with the teams combining to use 10 pitchers, it was way too long for a 3-2 game. One highlight was watching Rangers' manager Johnny Oates go nose-to-nose with a foot-taller umpire after he got ejected in the first inning.

Nachos & Cheese - crisp and hot.

Box Score

 

Game 6 - 
Colorado Rockies 7, 
Los Angeles Dodgers 6
Coors Field - Denver, Colorado

The beautiful Coors Field hosted a near sellout crowd, so we had to buy separate single tickets to avoid the scalpers' big markups. We sat near the top of the upper deck, but almost directly behind home plate.

The game started slowly, with the Dodgers getting the game's first run. Raul Mondesi made a spectacular catch, robbing Vinny Castilla of a homer to center. The Rockies got rolling in the 4th and 5th innings, sparked by Ellis Burks' 3-run homer and RBI single. At 7-2, it looked like my string of squeakers was in serious jeopardy. Wrong! As a passing thunderstorm intensified, the Rockies' bullpen made things quite interesting. They finally held on to the 7-6 victory with the tie run on second in a major downpour.

Footlong hot dog - acceptable, fries - excellent

Box Score

 

Game 7 - Texas Rangers 3,
Arizona Diamondbacks 2
Bank One Ballpark -  Phoenix, Arizona

I picked up my free ticket at the will call window (thanks to Brenda in Media Relations - I guess this counts as filing my game report). The seat was great, 2nd row midway between 3rd base and the foul pole. I could shake hands with the ball boy sitting on his little stool down there. Wouldn't you know, only one foul ball was hit down that way the entire game! This was also the first of 4 interleague games on the schedule.

Bank One Ballpark has a retractable roof, which was thankfully closed in the afternoon heat. At about 6:45, they cranked open the roof and the game was played in the surprisingly comfortable evening breezes.

The Rangers took an early 2-0 lead on Juan Gonzalez's league-leading 92nd RBI and a solo homer by Mark McLemore. The home team got even in the 5th on a very bizarre play. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Devon White struck out swinging, but the ball got past the catcher, scoring the first run. The catcher's throw back to the plate hit the runner, allowing the runner on second to score as well, and White to get all the way to 2nd base. Not bad for a strikeout! Alas, the last-place D-Backs couldn't capitalize further and went down to another defeat when Gonzalez drove in another run with a monster triple high off the centerfield fence. That's twice I've seen the Rangers now, and they won both games 3-2.

A steak sandwich - not like a cheesesteak, but a slab of steak on a bun. It was extremely hot and not bad at all.

Box Score

 

Game 8 - San Diego Padres 6,
Anaheim Angels 3
Qualcomm Stadium - San Diego, California

I got a $6 ticket in the upper deck directly behind home plate, which is fast becoming my seat location of choice. Tonight was "retro night" at Qualcomm Stadium, flashing back to the year 1978. This meant lots of tie-dye, platform shoes and disco music. The teams wore their 1978-vintage uniforms, which for the Padres meant brown and bright yellow. It's hard to believe that I'm old enough to remember a "retro" era, but as I mentioned in the opening page, '78 was the year I became a sports fan, so those uniforms looked very familiar.

1996 National League ERA. champ Kevin Brown was starting for the Padres, and the first 3 innings flew by without a run crossing the plate. In the top of the 4th, the Angels scored 3 on a monster home run (443 feet into the second deck) by Cecil Fielder. But that would prove to be the only offense of the night for the Angels, and the Padres quickly got even and then jumped to a 6-3 lead. Closer Trevor Hoffman shut down an 8th inning threat and quickly dispatched the Angels in the 9th.

I don't mean to disparage the good people of San Diego, but I couldn't help but take note that the insipid 80's era "wave", which rarely is able to even get started in most stadiums these days, made nine complete turns around the stadium tonight. How little it takes to entertain some people.

An "inferno" dog, which wasn't all that hot at all.

Box Score

 

Game 9 - Los Angeles Dodgers 2,
Pittsburgh Pirates 0
Dodgers Stadium - Los Angeles, California

Dodgers Stadium, aka Chavez Ravine, sits looking down on the vast L.A. skyline, built right into a hillside. This accounts for the interesting fact that all the stairs to the second, third and upper decks are on the outside of the stadium instead of inside the gates, where they are in every other stadium I've ever been to. Once finally inside, the stadium evokes a sense of history and authenticity that all the new, "retro" ballparks cannot quite match. We (Denise, Theresa and I) sat in the upper deck behind home plate once more (again $6 each - such a deal!).

The game came close to being a once-in-a-lifetime-if-you're-lucky experience and ended up being just a pitching masterpiece and the first real pitcher's duel I've seen so far on my trip. Dodger's starter Ismael Valdes retired the first 21 hitters he faced, taking a perfect game into the 8th inning, and ended up facing 28 men and pitching a one hitter. The Dodger offense finally broke and got 2 runs on a single by Raul Mondesi with 2 outs and the bases loaded. There were lots of hard hit balls and nice plays on both sides. All in all, just the kind of game that a real baseball fan loves - and I did. The girls seemed to enjoy themselves as well, despite battling some chilly weather.

I had to try one of the legendary "Dodger Dogs" - it was good, but not that good. Also had a soft pretzel - good, but it should have been hotter.

Box Score

 

Game 10 - Anaheim Angels 4,
San Francisco Giants 3
Edison Field - Anaheim, California

Zia, Theresa and I arrived at the newly renovated (and renamed) Edison International Field just after 5:30 pm. The Angels had sent me two free tickets, but Zia was able to get a seat nearby and sit with us. The seats were in my favorite location, right behind home at the bottom of the upper deck.

The visiting Giants (it seems like interleague play has been going on forever) jumped on top very quickly with a triple by Darryl Hamilton on the game's first pitch and a subsequent ground out. The 1-0 lead held until the 6th , when the Angels fired up the crowd by plating 4 runs on an RBI double and then a 3-run homer by Garrett Anderson, which set off an impressive fireworks display . As usual, the lead nearly disappeared, but closer Troy Percival was able to shut the door and the Angels won 4-3.

A very messy, but tasty, beef brisket sandwich on a sub roll.

Box Score

 

Game 11 - Oakland A's 7,
 San Diego Padres 2
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum -
Oakland, California

I hadn't realized tonight was fireworks night, since this is the A's last home game before the All-Star Break. So, instead of the normal crowd of about 10,000 (consistently the lowest in the Major Leagues), this game was a near sellout of over 40,000. I got a $4 bleacher seat and sat in the front row in centerfield.

The Padres went ahead with an early 2-run homer that landed directly below me in center. From then on, the last-place A's, perhaps motivated by the biggest home crowd most of their players had ever seen, proceeded to score 7 unanswered runs on the first-place Padres and complete the only blowout of my trip so far. Along the way, I got to see the A's ageless wonder, Rickey Henderson, work his base-stealing magic.

When the game ended, everybody was invited down on the playing field to watch the fireworks. I decided to pass on the on-field melee and watched the fireworks from the parking lot.

In one of the plainer Major League stadiums, I had a regular hot dog. Very ordinary.

Box Score

 

Game 12 - San Francisco Giants 6,
L.A. Dodgers 3
3Com Park - San Francisco, California

The newspaper said the game was sold out, and I was prepared to deal with the scalpers, but I found out that sold out does not necessarily mean sold out. I walked up to the ticket window and bought a seat in my preferred location (say it with me now), upper deck behind home plate. The announced attendance was just over 56,000, the 2nd largest crowd in Giants history.

Giants-Dodgers games are always a big deal out here, and the crowd began booing the hated Dodgers from their first appearance. The loudest boos were reserved for newly re-assigned General Manager Tommy Lasorda when he walked on the field during batting practice. He seemed to enjoy it.

The Dodgers starter tonight was the hero of last Friday's game at Dodgers Stadium, Ismael Valdes. One of these guys had to be an imposter. After cruising through a one-hitter last week, Valdes gave up 3 hits in the first 1/3 of an inning and got hit hard all night. Despite his struggles, the Dodgers held a 2-1 lead on Gary Sheffield's long homer until the Giants' J.T. Snow electrified the big crowd with a 3-run home run in the 5th. The Giants tacked on a couple more runs on another homer and turned the game over to their closer in the "Nenth" inning (Closer Rob Nen, get it? Aren't those marketing folks clever?). For the ninth time in the last 10 games I've attended, the home team sent the crowd home happy.

As far as stadium food goes, I have never seen anything comparable to the popularity of the awesome garlic fries that they were selling here. While most of the other food stands had no lines at all, the stand selling these fries had a 20-minute wait for the entire game. I'd say at least 80 percent of the crowd went home with garlic breath.

Box Score

 

Game 13 - Seattle Mariners 8,
Anaheim Angels 6
Kingdome - Seattle, Washington

The Mariners stiffed me on the free ticket that they had promised would be waiting for me at the will-call window, so I got the cheapest seat they had and sat with Don and Aaron in their regular spot in the upper deck behind home plate (sound familiar?). The game started extremely sluggishly, with the only run of the first 4 innings scoring on a throwing error. Then the offenses woke up in a big way, with the M's scoring 8 runs in the 5th and 6th, capped off with Ken Griffey's 36th dinger of the year, a 440-foot shot to right-center. Predictably, the Mariners' pitching staff made things interesting by giving up 5 more runs in the next 2 innings, but the closer-of-the-day Mike Timlin did the job in the 9th and my home team victory streak reached 10 of 11.

We ate at a sub place right before the game, so I avoided the price gouging concession stands tonight.

Box Score

 

Game 14 - Milwaukee Brewers 4,
Philadelphia Phillies 2
Milwaukee County Stadium - 
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Even with interleague play, it is still kind of weird having the Brewers in the National League.

After the Phillies got a run in the top of the 1st on a Scott Rolen homer, the Brewers jumped all over Phillies' starter Tyler Green. Fernando Vina led off with a gapper that apparently got lost or lodged under the outfield wall. He had flown around the bases for an apparent inside-the-park homerun and the crowd was understandably perturbed that the umps made him go back to 2nd base - at the very least it should have been a triple. Justice was served when the Brewers batted around and scored 3 runs.

One sign that County Stadium is overdue to be retired is the black-and-white jumbotron; the only one I've seen so far and maybe the last one in all of pro sports. You have to give the team credit, however, for their league-best homerun celebration, with a real human being sent sliding down a long chute to a glass from the monster beer keg in centerfield. They've also got another unique touch - at each pitching change, a huge fat guy on a Harley Davidson (the company is headquartered in Milwaukee) motors around the rim of the field.

Another exciting home-team win (that's 11 of 12) sent the crowd of 17,000 -my smallest so far - home happy.

Box Score

 

Game 15 - Cincinnati Reds 7,
St. Louis Cardinals 4
Busch Stadium -  St. Louis, Missouri

As a result of switching nights for my trip to St. Louis, I lost the Mark McGwire crapshoot. I had read over the weekend that he was scheduled for a day off sometime this week (the quote was - "I'm only human, not Cal Ripken") but there was no way of knowing which day he would sit out and it turned out to be tonight. There was a collective groan among the crowd of 31,000 when the lineups flashed on the scoreboard and "Big Mac" was nowhere to be found.

The game was a good one anyway, with the teams swapping leads several times and hitting 3 homers. Cardinals starter Todd Stottlemyre was hit extremely hard and often all night. In the second inning, he gave up 5 straight hits to start the inning, but managed to escape with only 1 run allowed as 2 runners were thrown out on the basepaths. Tony LaRussa left him just a bit too long and he gave up a three-run homer in the 7th, bringing his totals to 7 runs and 12 hits allowed.

The crowd was rewarded with a last-minute pinch hitting appearance from the greatest homerun hitter of all-time, but McGwire grounded out to end the game.

  Just some slightly soggy nachos

Box Score

 

Game 16 - Chicago White Sox 9,
Toronto Blue Jays 3
Game 16A - Chicago White Sox 5,
Toronto Blue Jays 2
Comisky Park - Chicago, Illinois

Scheduled double-headers have been basically extinct for a number of years, and even when rainouts force teams to play two, more and more teams are gouging the fans by scheduling day-night double-headers and charging separate admissions. So, a traditional 2-for-1 double-header on a beautiful afternoon and evening in a baseball-loving city the size of Chicago should be a big draw, right? Wrong. The cellar-dwelling White Sox have nearly the lowest attendance in the league and when the first game started at 4:05, there could not have been more than 1000 people in the entire ballpark.

The first half of game 1 seriously resembled batting practice for the White Sox, which the sparse crowd enjoyed immensely. Being a Blue Jays fan, I could only shake my head as Pat Hentgen (who somehow won the Cy Young just two years ago) stood out there getting shelled for 8 runs and 12 hits in the first 4 innings. Even the outs were usually smashed. The Jays could do very little against White Sox starter Jamie Navarro and the Chisox coasted to a 9-3 victory, the biggest blowout of my trip so far.

Game 2 was at least contested for most of the way. It was 2-2 after 2 solo homers by the White Sox (including the second of the day for a red hot Albert Belle) and 2 RBI's by the constantly heckled Jose Canseco. I had sat in the front row of the upper deck for the first game, but decided to see game 2 up close and personal. The late-arriving crowd had managed to get all the way up to 16,000, but I still found a seat mere feet from the Jays on-deck circle - probably closer to home plate than the pitcher's mound is. Every time Jose came out of the dugout, the chanting and razzing began. Only once or twice did he ever crack a grin or take a peek at his tormentors. Canseco got on base 3 times, but also grounded out with two on to end the game and complete the White Sox' sweep.

I had a hotdog-like thing called a Cheddarwurst, which was actually very good - moist and flavorful.

Box Score (Game 1)

Box Score (Game2)

 

Game 17 - Detroit Tigers 3,
New York Yankees 1
Tigers Stadium - Detroit, Michigan

For $8, I got a seat in the left field "Fan Stands" plus a soda and a piece of pizza - such a deal! Tigers Stadium has a unique configuration, with the upper deck in the outfield hanging out over the field and providing some of the best seats in the house. For most of the game, I sat in the front row of the upper deck in left field - the best outfield seat in baseball. Another oddity in this ancient ballpark is centerfield, which boasts the most distant fence in all of baseball (440 feet) and sports a flagpole that is actually on the field, providing a one-of-a-kind obstacle to outfielders.

The mighty Yankees were in town tonight, sporting the best record in baseball history to this point in the season. The Tigers' young starter, Brian Moehler, got off to an inauspicious start when Chuck Knoblauch homered on the second pitch of the game, but he then proceeded to completely shut down the Yankees for the next 8 innings. David Cone, the American League's winningest pitcher, was on his game as well, shutting out the Tigers until a 6th inning homer by Raul Casanova tied the game. In the 8th, the Tigers broke through with a clutch, two-out single by Luis Gonzalez. The crowd was on its feet as the Yankees could only manage three deep fly outs in the top of the 9th, completing the upset. Way to go Tigers!

Besides my free slice of pizza, I had an Italian sausage. Both were hot and very tasty.

Box Score

 

Game 18 - San Diego Padres 2,
Cincinnati Reds 1
Cinergy Field - Cincinnati, Ohio

Cinergy Field, originally Riverfront Stadium, is one of three virtually identical, completely character-less stadiums built in the 60's and used for both football and baseball (the others being Three Rivers in Pittsburgh and Veterans in Philly). From the awful Astroturf to the bland circular seating bowl, these are easily the worst places in the majors to watch baseball. But don't worry, they'll all be replaced by new ballparks in due time. My $6 upper deck ticket got me in and after a few innings I headed down to the plaza level for a better view.

The hometown Reds came into tonight's game on a long hot streak, having won 16 of 18 games, but were still several games under .500. The game was a pitchers duel, with the Padres Joey Hamilton holding the upper hand throughout. Greg Vaughn put the Padres up 2-0 with a long homer to left (his 33rd of the season), and the Reds couldn't answer. Closer Trevor Hoffman set down the last four batters in order to close it out and leave the crowd of 30,000 very disappointed in the Reds' anemic offensive output.

A "pulled" barbecue chicken sandwich, virtually gourmet food by ballpark standards, was delicious.

Box Score

 

Game 19 - Texas Rangers 15,
Kansas City Royals 5
Kauffman Stadium -
Kansas City, Missouri

Kauffman Stadium, previously Royals Stadium, is easily the nicest of the 60's and 70's era stadiums. The field is below ground level and the view from behind home plate is of the signature fountains in centerfield with grassy hills beyond.

By the time the top of the first was over, so was the game. The Rangers sent 12 men to the plate, knocked out the Royals starter after just 2/3 of an inning, and scored 9 runs. They didn't let up there; after 6 innings, they had scored 15 runs and blasted 5 home runs. Juan Gonzalez's line: 3 for 5, 2 homers, 5 RBIs (that's 110 on the season), and another deep fly that missed being another 3-run homer by a few feet.

The other interesting item was the attendance at tonight's game of Negro Leagues legendary superstar Buck Leonard. After he was introduced and given a standing ovation, he was besieged by autograph seekers for the rest of the game.

A very spicy polish sausage.

Box Score

 

Game 20 - Anaheim Angels 6,
Minnesota Twins 5 (10 innings)
Metrodome - Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Twins jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead over the visiting Angels, who I was seeing for the fourth time on my trip. Two solo homers made it 4-2, but the Twins added what looked like an insurance run in the 8th, bringing in venerable closer Rick Aguilera with a three run lead. It wasn't enough. The first 5 hitters in the Angels' 9th reached base, and Aguilera was fortunate to escape with a 5-5 tie. The Twins went down in the bottom of the 9th to provide the first extra-inning game of the trip. Leading off the 10th, "Big Daddy" Cecil Fielder hit a one hopper to right field and came within an eyelash of being thrown out by the rightfielder (I say he was out). Fielder came around to score what proved to be the winning run, with Angels' closer Troy Percival making quick work of the Twins in the 10th to demonstrate how a non-geriatric closer operates.

A below-average hamburger, made even worse by incredibly inept service at the concession stand.

Box Score

 

Game 21 - New York Mets 5, Chicago Cubs 0
Game 21A - New York Mets 7, Chicago Cubs 3
Wrigley Field - Chicago, Illinois

The only tickets available were "standing room only" (when I asked for a ticket in the famous Wrigley bleachers, the guy just sneered and said "they've been sold out for 6 months") but I never found out exactly where I was supposed to stand. I just sat in my accustomed place behind the plate and wasn't displaced all afternoon.

The Cubs are known as the lovable losers and they demonstrated today that they are adept at losing both early and late. In the first game, the Mets jumped on Cubs starter Jeremi Gonzalez for 4 runs in the first 3 innings, ending the competitive portion of the game. The Cubs offense was, despite slugger Sammy Sosa, positively anemic and never threatened against starter Armando Reynoso, who hadn't pitched all season.

Game 2 started in a more promising fashion for the increasingly inebriated home crowd, with the Cubs taking a 1-0 lead and holding it through the 5th inning. Several lead changes later, the Cubs reverted to their historical form and surrendered by a 7-3 score. Near the end of the game, the remaining fans were entertained by two separate "bleacher bums" who were sufficiently soused to climb out of the stands and onto the field - comically evading security personnel for a few seconds before being hauled off to jail. I even got to listen to an ongoing discussion by some nearby fans as to whether one of them was to make his own break for it. There was talk of taking up a collection for his bail money but, alas, the game ended before he could find enough money and/or nerve.

An entirely average jumbo dog and above average fries. I also must note that Chicagoans are serious beer drinkers. This was the first ballpark in the country where I've seen what I'll call a "beer sling", a plastic handle-type thing that enables one to tote up to four cups of beer per hand. They seemed very popular.

Box Score (Game 1)

Box Score (Game 2)

 

Game 22 - Cleveland Indians 6, Detroit Tigers 5
Jacobs Field - Cleveland, Ohio

The Tigers got 2 runs off rookie phenom Bartolo Colon in the 4th, but it wasn't really his fault. Bumbling rightfielder Manny Ramirez misjudged his first of 3 fly balls into a double, then Travis Fryman misplayed a short-hopper to third. Ramirez atoned for his blunder right way with a two-run homer in the bottom of the 4th and the Indians broke loose for 6 runs in the next 2 innings.

Another Ramirez misplay led to 2 more Tiger runs in the 7th, but closer Mike Jackson has been pretty much a sure thing this year so the crowd wasn't worried with a two run lead going into the 9th. They should have been, because if it weren't for one of the most bone-header baserunning blunder ever, the Tigers would have tied the game. Tony Clark, who doubled with one out and represented the meaningless 5th run, tried to score on a single to center and was thrown out by 10 feet. I'm not sure if he ran through a stop sign of if the third base coach is the idiot, but it cost the Tigers in a big way when the next batter doubled. As it was, that only made it 6-5 and Jackson was able to get out of the inning and get his save.

A half-pound cheeseburger with the works - excellent!

Box Score

 

Game 23 - Atlanta Braves 2,
Pittsburgh Pirates 1
Three Rivers Stadium -
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Perennial National League powerhouse Atlanta was in town for the weekend, resulting in significantly larger than normal crowds - 40,000+ on Saturday, 35,000 today.

Perennial Cy Young favorite Greg Maddux made his second appearance on my tour, again against a team whose entire payroll is barely more than his $11million salary. Today was vintage Maddux - seven and two-thirds brisk innings, allowing only four hits and one unearned run. Pirates starter Jason Schmidt tried gamely to keep pace, and did so until the 7th inning when he gave up a second run on an Andres Gallaraga RBI single. The often-shaky Braves bullpen did its job today, giving Maddux his 14th win (which ties him with teammate Tom Glavine for tops in the league).

A big bucket of french fries, only mildly warm.

Box Score

 

Game 24 - Toronto Blue Jays 8, Texas Rangers 3
Skydome - Toronto, Ontario

If you added up my "rooting interest" in the other thirty-some games of my trip, it wouldn't equal tonight's game with Clemens on the mound. By the top of the second inning, I was preparing my "woe is me" commentary after Roger had given up 3 runs on 4 solid hits, including hits on the very first pitch of each inning, and often couldn't find the plate at all. But the Rocket is nothing if not a battler - he quickly got it in gear and shut down the high-powered Rangers for the next 5 innings.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays wildly inconsistent offense decided to show up. They tied it in the 2nd on a 2-run single by Shaun Green, then scored 3 more while batting around in the 6th, with Jose Canseco getting the key hit. That was more than enough support to Clemens and his relief help, but the most exciting moment came in the 8th when Shannon Stewart, in the game as a defensive replacement, lined a shot passed a diving Rusty Greer and scored standing up with an inside the park homer.

My good friends at McDonalds have a near-exclusive concession contract at Skydome. I had an excellent Italian sausage (since when did they make those?) and a large fry (no way to go wrong there!).

Box Score

 

Game 25 - Montreal Expos 6,
San Francisco Giants 0
Olympic Stadium - Montreal, Quebec

They Expos can't be competitive with their league-low payroll, but they somehow manage to crank out new young stars every year. This year it is Vladimir Guerrero who is playing his way out of Montreal to a team that can pay him properly. He beat the Giants almost single-handedly tonight, with a 2-run "circuit", two other hits, a walk, and a stolen base. The Expos started a young pitcher named Hermanson, who silenced Barry Bonds and the rest of the Giants bats, giving the Expos an easy 6-0 victory (the third shutout of my trip).

Just a gummy, lukewarm giant pretzel.

Box Score

 

Game 26 - New York Mets 2, Los Angeles Dodgers 1
Shea Stadium - Queens, New York

The game was quite a pitchers duel, 0-0 until the 8th inning. It was "Hispanic Night" at Shea Stadium, with Latino dancers, salsa music and lots of tributes to the late Roberto Clemente throughout the evening.

The Dodgers got a gift run in the 8th, inappropriately on an ugly error by the Mets Puerto Rican star Carlos Baerga, and things looked bleak in the bottom of the 9th with the Mets facing Dodgers closer Jeff Shaw. Lightning struck quickly, however, with a pinch-hit homer by Matt Franco, a walk, and a game-ending double prompting mass celebration on the field and in the stands.

With their stirring comeback victory, the Mets locked up the unofficial championship of my little adventure. In addition to tonight, they beat the Marlins and swept a doubleheader from the Cubs to end up with a 4-0 record. The only other teams that will have more than a single victory without losing are the Expos and White Sox, both 2-0.

A chicken sandwich, good, but somewhat undersized.

Box Score

 

Game 27 - S.F. Giants 15,
Philadelphia Phillies 3
Veterans Stadium - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Giants, who I watched being shutout by the lowly Expos on Wednesday, scored at will against the Phillies pitching staff this afternoon. In the second, they clubbed back-to-back-to-back homers and led 6-0.

By the 5th inning, Barry Bonds was 4-4, only needing a double to complete the cycle. He wouldn't get it though, because his next time up, Phillies reliever Ricky Bottalico nailed him with a pitch and Bonds charged the mound to ignite the first of two bench-clearing brawls. Bonds and Bottalico were ejected, Bottalico after throwing just that one fateful pitch.

The carnage continued, with the Giants scoring in 7 of the first 8 innings and building a 15-3 lead. A total of 7 homers were hit and when the game was finally over there were not very many Phillies fans left in the stands.

It wouldn't be Philly without the cheesesteak, right? Mine was large, hot, delicious and, at $5.75, the most expensive single food item so far.

Box Score

 

Game 28 - Baltimore Orioles 4, Detroit Tigers 0
Camden Yards - Baltimore, Maryland

I would have bet good money that Ismael Valdes' 7 perfect innings in Los Angeles (see Game 9) would be the closest I would see to a perfect game or no-hitter on this trip. Damned if "Moose" Mussina didn't go him 2 batters better.

The crowd of over 47,000 at Camden Yards really started getting into it in the 5th innings, and Mussina was getting brief ovations on every out. Extra excitement was provided by the home plate ump, who threw out Tigers manager Buddy Bell and two Tigers hitters for arguing balls and strikes.

The Orioles, one of baseball's hottest teams recently after their dismal start to the 1998 season, scored single runs in 4 different innings to give Mussina all the support he would need. The second run was on a long homer by the red-hot Eric Davis.

With only 4 outs to go, and the crowd pretty much constantly on its feet, Mussina surrendered a clean double down the rightfield line to an unheralded Tiger rookie hitter. There was another hit in the ninth, but the Orioles ace finished strong with a 2-hit shutout.

I hastily grabbed a "Super Dog" in the game's last inning (it just strikes me as wrong to eat while a perfect game is being pitched). It was hot and tasty, especially considering it had probably been sitting there the whole game.

Box Score

 

Game 29 - New York Yankees 8,
Kansas City Royals 2
Yankee Stadium - Bronx, New York

Is everyone paying attention to these Yankees? Despite their lack of a true "superstar", they very likely are going to finish the year with the best single-season record in Major League history. Whether they are turning a 5-1 ninth inning deficit into a 10-5 victory (Tuesday), or cruising to today's doubleheader sweep by a combined score of 22-4, the Bronx Bombers seem to be unstoppable.

The first game of said doubleheader was over early, with the Yankees getting 4 first inning runs and coasting from there. David Cone pitched well enough to become the Majors' first 16-game winner and Darryl Strawberry crushed one halfway up the stadium's top deck.

You would think that the best team in history in the biggest city in the country could draw more than 14000 people to the ballpark.

A very average "Jumbo Dog"

Box Score

 

 

BCG (Bonus Clemens Game) -
Blue Jays 4, A's 3

 

Things started better for Roger this time - instead of giving up a hit on the first pitch of the game, he held the visiting A's hitless into the fifth inning. Unfortunately, he was having control problems again and the A's managed to score an unearned run in the 3rd on a walk, a stolen base, an ugly play where Blue Jays second baseman managed to make two errors on one easy ground ball. In the 5th, Clemens gave up 2 more runs and 4 of the 5 hits he would yield all day. After 7 innings and over 130 pitches, he left the game trailing 3-2.

That turned out to be one inning to early to benefit from Jose Cruz Jr.'s clutch 2-run homer in the bottom of the 8th, which gave the Jays the win but only netted Clemens a no-decision. At least the winning streak is still alive - 9 wins in 13 starts since his last loss on May 29th.

Nothing - I only had enough loonies left for a Coke.

Box Score

 

Game 30 - Boston Red Sox 7, Kansas City Royals 4
Fenway Park - Boston, Massachusetts

The Sox were back in town after a long, successful road trip and cozy Fenway Park was packed with appreciative fans. I sat in the good seat for a few innings, but late-arrivers kept displacing me so I make the trek way out to my nosebleed bleacher seat for what turned out to be just a few innings.

I had read an article (with accompanying cover photo) in the Boston Herald newspaper this afternoon about a stadium vendor who had been fired for what amounted to "excessive personality" last year, but had been vindicated and given his job back by a local judge and was making his triumphant return to action at tonight's game. Sure enough, there he was, loudly hawking popcorn now (he likes to have his "own" product that no other vendor sells), chatting up fans and signing autographs. Not bad for a 21-year old kid just out of college.

The game was tight all the way. Both teams had a runner thrown out at the plate in the first on poor baserunning decisions. The Royals took 1-0 and 2-1 leads that were quickly erased by the Sox, who took a 3-2 lead of their own into the top of the 8th. Then, just after the Royals scored to tie the game, mother nature decided to turn on the faucet full blast again and I had my first rain delay of the trip. It rained sheets of water for about 30 minutes, then slowly tapered off. By the time the ground crew finally got the tarp back off and we got back underway at close to 11 pm, the rain delay had totaled an hour and 25 minutes.

On the positive side, the delay cleared out over half the crowd and I was able to sit wherever I pleased again for the rest of the game. It continued to seesaw and we went to the bottom of the 10th tied 4-4. Then, with one out and runners at the corners, the Red Sox' newest superstar, Nomar Garciaparra blasted a shot over the green monster to cap off the game and my whole trip in awesome style.

I had a polish sausage during the rain delay. It was good, but it wasn't terribly enjoyable eating while standing in the crush of people trying to find shelter from the downpour.

Box Score

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