Edition No. 13
August 27, 2007
Greetings to all as we move toward Labor Day and the home stretch of the 2008 baseball season. This version of the Jiggernaut will serve to fulfill my annual obligation as scribe for the league trip, and what a junket it was. Eight brave members of the Nebraska Hot Stove League set aside the weekend of August 24, 2007 to make the pilgrimage to Detroit and the still shining jewel that is Comerica Park. The trip ended up being a historically significant one, not only from the events that happened on the field, but those that transpired within the rickety walls of Detroit’s drinkery’s and grub stops. Read on for the specific details that can be shared beyond “what happens in Detroit stays in Detroit”.
For most of you, getting to the Motor City was fairly uneventful. There were two exceptions. My own trip to get there was remarkable due to the seating arrangements on the CanadaAir regional jet that served as our transportation mode from Minneapolis to Detroit. Silly me, but I thought Mama Cass died several years ago. Lo and behold, here she comes down the two foot wide aisle, MuMu and all, studiously alternating her gaze from her boarding pass to the mostly hidden seat indicators above the corresponding seats. You all know the drill….oh please, oh please, not by me. Keep going, keep going….then the interruption. A stern finger pointing to the 18 inch seat next to me, followed by the order….that’s my seat.
I’m sure it is, Mama, let me get up so you can sit down, put your 48 inch ass into that 18 inch seat, and get started on your turkey leg. Also, feel free to take full control of that armrest, and you are welcome to use half of my seat as well to accommodate that double telephone pole you call your thigh. Don’t worry about me. I’ll just hang myself half way out in the aisle so that the flight attendants can take turns ramming me with the drink cart, which includes not an apology but a stern admonition to “watch your feet and hands!” Alas, we finally landed in Detroit in one piece, and went about seeking out our transportation to the hotel. This is the point where the second exception to the smooth trip came into play.
Now, most of us have traveled rather frequently and understand that when you get to your destination, there are really three options to get you from the airport to your hotel. Those options include taxi (about $50 bucks) rental car (probably $150 by trip’s end), or having an acquaintance pick you up (no charge). Our friend from Des Moines has added another option for us all to consider going forward. The bus. Yes, for $1.50, you can hop on this public transportation favored by the Detroit meth addict community, and get downtown (a 20 minute ride) in no less than 90 minutes. The historical bus ride includes a film on interpreting gang graffiti, the opportunity to see parts of Detroit that even Gary Sheffield would be afraid to frequent, and your choice of a blue or red do-rag if you are still alive when you arrive at the hotel. Sir Charles did indeed complete this trip within the allotted 90 minute window, and he lived to tell about it. You are a brave man, Shamu, and about $13.50 richer than the rest of us for your efforts. So much for the value of one’s life. That’s one Horn, Hi-Yo on the Craps table.
Upon arrival at the hotel, we checked in, then took a leisurely 45 minutes to find our respective rooms through the maze of the Marriott Ren Cen. Shamu wisely left a trail of pizza slices (no breadcrumbs available) to mark his path, allowing for an expedited return to the lobby once we had finished taking the opportunity to mark our respective territories and freshen up for the night’s festivities. The hotel room assignments were random, or so it seemed. I thought I had booked four rooms at the Marriott, but upon presentation of my credit card at check in, I was informed that two of the individuals in my traveling party had already claimed rooms, leaving two more rooms for the four of us in the lobby. Buser and Mouse quickly assessed the situation at hand and realized that of the four remaining individuals in the lobby, one was none other than our beloved Stretch. They partnered up with each other quicker than a couple of bronco riders at a gay rodeo, leaving me with a single option for a bunk mate. Not to worry. Stretch informs me that he no longer snores, as a result of his drastic weight loss, his participation in a sleep apnea study, and his use of various and sundry medications and Breathe Right strips. Being the trusting soul that I am, I bought his story. Let me just say that this was not the only time I was to be hoodwinked this evening.
We quickly realized that it was time to head off to the ballpark, with only a short time to grab some sustenance on the way to Comerica Park. After all, with such a quick trip planned, we were only going to be afforded a small opportunity to spend a few hours at the park. We wanted to get there early, explore the environs, and try to create some memories during our brief visit.
We hopped on the DPM (Detroit People Mover) and hopped off at the second stop, Greektown. We found a quaint little hole in the wall restaurant that looked like perhaps the only building that had not been subject to a Molotov cocktail onslaught within the past week, and we settled in for a quick bite. Alcohol consumption began at this point for most of the group (certain troubled individuals began with Bloody Marys on the plane, in the Minneapolis airport, and in the cab). Our luncheon experience was routine and tasty. We finished our grub, downed our brews, exchanged our pleasantries with the locals and we hopped back on the DPM until the stop at Grand Circus Park, the exit for Comerica Park.
With Big Guy having already secured quality ducats for the evening, we made a beeline for the stadium, initially oblivious to the street people hawking their chits for the game. That was before we met Tee, he of the famous Tee’s Tickets and Deep Sea Fishing Excursions. You see, Tee had a deal for us. At least that’s what a certain gray haired Yankee fan among us concluded. Given that the games were sold out for both nights, Tee informed us that he was the only brother in town that possessed 8 tickets together for the Saturday night game (“It ain’t happenin no where else m’ man, trust me on that”). Larry Tate has nothing on Tee. In fact, I suspect Tee may have been involved in the original trinkets and beads transaction in Manhattan. For the reasonable price of $40 per ticket, Tee told us the tickets could be ours. “Third base line, I’m not really sure where” was Tee’s explanation of the accommodations. “Better hurry, though, cause like I said, you ain’t gonna find no 8 together nowhere else. I aksed around.” After a cursory examination of the documents to ensure that they were indeed legitimate and for the 8/24 game against the Yankees this year, Hoodwink #2 for the evening was well underway. We completed the transaction, each gladly coughing up the 40 bones in order to sit with our brethren and avoid getting shut out on Saturday. Life is good, we’re all set for the weekend now, let’s get in the stadium.
It was there, not one foot into the park, that the ticket taker informed us that we had purchased the absolute worst possible tickets for Saturday. You can’t get any higher, any further away, or have a more obstructed view than the “third base” tickets that Tee hooked us up with. But hey, who is to complain, really. We only paid EIGHT TIMES face value for the tickets, a new HSL record, surpassing Stretch’s famous Clark and Addison transaction in Chicago (Stretch on Clark, the brother on Addison with our tickets and our money). For those of you educated in the Lincoln school systems who are Math challenged, the face value of the tickets was $5. What does that tell you about a seat at a Major League Baseball game?
As we entered the stadium at 6:00, we got the opportunity to tour the grounds as the Yanks were finishing up batting practice. With only an hour until game time, we swiftly viewed the anatomically correct sculptures of Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, Ty Cobb, Barbaro Garbay, and other Tiger legends. Oh wait, that last one is only in Sparky Anderson’s basement.
It’s a nice stadium, probably still a Top 10er. With a sold out crowd on hand and it being a weekend to boot, there was electricity in the air. Literally. About 30 minutes before game time, the grounds crew dragged the tarp onto the field, and the PA announcer advised us to move up into the concourse area, as significant lightning and heavy weather was approaching the area. It rained buckets of water for about two hours straight, but we didn’t mind. So what if the game is delayed a few minutes. Beers were flowing and the Teutonic Tickler, also known as Al Sharpton Krause (ASK) was holding court on the Michael Vick saga. It seems the whole world is out to get Mr. Vick because he is black, according to ASK. There can be no other explanation. No white person who electrocutes dogs, builds a rape stand, and gambles on their death all in the name of good fun would face this type of scrutiny. Life just ain’t fair, and ASK concluded they should just let Vick go and forget about this whole thing.
Before we knew it, we had polished off about 7 or 8 of those bargain basement beers, and in the blink of an eye, the tarp came off the field and they were ready to play ball. At 11:05!!! All of us were literally flabbergasted that they didn’t call the game at that point, but play on they did.
It was an entertaining game, but as it progressed on, we were not yet aware of the historical significance of what we were witnessing. Finally, in the bottom of the eleventh at 3:30 am local time, Carlos Guillen deposited Sean Henn’s offering in the bullpen beyond the left field seats for a three run shot, to end the marathon game 6-3. After a 4 hour and 1 minute rain delay, and a 4 hour and 35 minute game, it was literally history. This one went in the books as the latest finishing time in the history of the American League. We were there, and it was also especially sweet as we enjoyed Joba Chamberlain’s 1-2-3 march through the middle of the Tigers lineup in the bottom of the 7th. The former Husker and current Bronx legend made our 9 and ½ hour visit to the park that much more special.
At this point, the weary troops hoofed it back to the hotel, picked up the pizza crumbs, found our rooms, and hit the sack circa 4:00 am. We slept until around 11:00 the next morning, with the only distractions being the chain saw and jackhammer in my room, lying in the next bed, that woke me every 13 minutes. Breathe Right, Breathe Loud.
I have to confess it has been a while since I woke up seeking breakfast and was informed that they quit serving it 2 hours ago. No problem. Bronco, Choc, Fry, hit the spot just fine, and we began seeking out some real tickets for Saturday night’s game. We figured we could take a page out of Tee’s book and re-sell the lemons we had in our possession to some unsuspecting stiffs, and get some better seats for ourselves. After all, I get paid to tell lies and deceive people for a living, so I am quite comfortable in that role. To no one’s surprise, our strategy worked, although it was Big Guy who pulled off the deal. Okay, okay, we took a little bit of a loss on the deal, but being ever mindful of the reversion to the mean theory, I know we’ll stumble upon some ticket prices in our favor on some future trip. This was a bad case of buy high, sell low. Maybe that’s why Tee’s tickets were in Level 3. Regardless, we did secure fabulous seats for the Saturday night game through the local Stub Hub, and no one gave the ill fated 8x purchase a second thought.
With tickets in hand, we made our way to Cheli’s Chili Bar, owned and operated by none other than Chris Chelios, local Red Wing legend. Even though someone had been murdered in this very bar about thirty days prior, the HSL brethren were non plussed. Hell, this is Detroit. A murder here and there is just considered collateral damage. We made our way up to the rooftop bar, and primed our souls for Saturday night’s game. Jim Ed and Mouse’s Mardi Gras style beads led to some interesting activities, albeit from 50 year old toothless women. Mouse broke the seal and ordered the first Jager Bombs of the trip, and the fun began once again.
Saturday’s game was another thriller, this time with the Yanks taking control and holding on for a 7-2 victory. Afterward, the crew settled in to a local pub for a few cold ones and their introduction to Irish Car Bombs. Although mesmerized by the bubbly personality and gracious hospitality of the waitress, we pulled ourselves away for another walk through Greektown and the final chance to have some fun for just once in our life before the trip’s end was upon us. Several of the crew swaggered into the Greektown Casino with more than a hint of bravado, eager to separate the Michiganders from their money and bring it back into their local Nebraska communities. It don’t exactly work that away.
Only AS Krause’s advice to put some money on the craps table when the homeless black folk throw the dice (“those people get hot”) produced any revenue for the HSL contingent. Old Itchie himself leveraged a few $5 Midnight’s and $10 Hard ways into some cash flow, and walked away from the table a winner, only to be accosted by said black folk with “how bout a little something for the effort? Itchie complied for fear of ending up on a slab at Cheli’s Chili, and we headed home for the night. The bad thing about casinos is they don’t readily disclose the time. Upon arriving back at the hotel post 3 am, the wake up call was hardly necessary at 6 am. I asked Jon if he could be sure to be snoring at 6 am, and then I wouldn’t have to trouble the front desk to get me up. Comply he did.
As we reminisced as a group about all the good times and good stories we have experienced throughout our time together in this league, I thought it would be a good idea to create the Top 15 moments of All Time in the Hot Stove League. This is certainly not cast in stone and probably contains a few glaring omissions, but based upon the recurring stories that seem to surface year after year, there are at least a few obvious inclusions. Starting in countdown mode, here is my Top 15:
15. Mike Flanagan’s Beat Down in Tiger Stadium – The bump was a lonely place for Flanny that night, as repeated looks to the dugout for a reprieve went ignored.
14. Underbelly’s Solo Cab Ride/Hotel Search in Chicago after a night out with Tom Mees- “Just drive around a while…I’ll find it”
13. The PNC Park Inquisition – Although it was only a small group, those in attendance were flowing with truth serum as Itchie uncovered previously unknown confidential details of their lives.
12. The 3:30 game at Comerica Park – This one debuts at #12 and may move into the top 10 as the legend grows over time. What a game…what a night.
11. Luis Polonia’s empty glove – Greg Gagne defies the astronomical odds and goes yard over the outstretched mitt of the child molester, costing Shamu the cost of two bus rides into Detroit.
10. “You Can Have Him”/Noriega in Cleveland – One young coed’s choice of a potential HSL mate is met with scorn by her friend, while the dictator’s look alike daughter befriends another HSL member.
9. Big Guy’s Brain Fart at the Border – The Customs Agent’s tricky line of questioning sent our Mr. Drews into a tailspin, leaving him flummoxed with “where were you born?”
8. The Van in San Diego – Driving a van with 7 feet clearance into a 6’10’’ garage is not a good idea, nor is running up a $100 phone bill in the hotel.
7. Blongo Creek in Milwaukee- Stretch’s threat to jump off a bridge and into a creek for a reasonable wad of cash is thwarted at the last second by Shamu’s withdrawal of his pledge.
6. Blongo’s Clark and Addison Ticket Exchange – As previously mentioned, the exchange of cash for Cubs tickets did not exactly go according to the script.
5. Flying Axle on I-29 – The Mobile Sewage Treatment plant was barreling down I-29 when the back tire decided it wasn’t going fast enough. To our shock and dismay, the tire passed us going 85mph and the axle left a few ruts as a historical reminder of the scene of the crime.
4. Kenny Jenkins Breakfast – Who can forget Kenny’s generosity as we all ordered the left side of the menu and put it right there on KJ’s room tab.
3. Scott’s Big Shoulder- BT’s gutsy maneuver to pass 263 cars on the shoulder, while met with threats and swearing from those vehicles left behind, saved the group 4 hours of drive time and preserved our sanity.
2. Curby’s Fall from Grace – Who can forget Curby’s imitation of David Palmer sliding into third, providing a lifelong memory for the street people who witnessed his stumble over the 6 inch Curb.
1. Seat Cushion from Heaven – Shamu goes from agony to ecstasy. After watching his prized Brewer seat cushion being tossed aside like a used up beer cup, Shamu’s prayers to the heavens are answered as a seat cushion rains down from the sky and into his awaiting arms.
Finally, it appears that Shamu is steaming toward his second overall** and first undisputed* HSL title, with what many consider the greatest assemblage of talent on one team that we have ever seen. One look up and down the West Des Moines roster, and it’s clear to see why any major league hitter would be cowering with fear:
Jimmy Gobble Chad Qualls
Casey Janssen Brandon Lyon
Jorge Sosa Joaquin Benoit
Scott Downs Jason Bergmann
Eight, count ‘em, eight middle relievers that not a one of us had listed in his top 150 pitchers going into draft day, form the core of the greatest team of all time. Shamu has used his motivational skills and genius line up maneuvering to create a winner out of this gaggle of vagabonds. Congratulations, Shamu, you are smarter than the rest of us. Just remember that league protocol calls for you to expend 100% of your winnings on wearing apparel for those of us that were foolish enough to draft home run hitters and ace starting pitchers back in late March.
I’d like an XL tee shirt, preferably with the logo of Tee’s Tickets and Deep Sea Fishing Excursions.
Thanks for the memories guys. It was a fabulous trip.