est. 1985


2007 Season     

   Edition No. 14        

September 6, 2007




Since Itchie covered the waterfront about the Trip with last week’s excellent special edition of The Jiggernaut, and because Shamu* is a lock for the 2007 crown and the Senators even more of a lock to finish the season in the league bowels, it might seem to be a slow news week around the circuit.  Regardless, with a refreshed point of view after the Labor Day weekend and a few noteworthy thoughts bouncing around the old cerebellum, I decided I should put finger to keyboard -- figuratively speaking -- and bang out a few paragraphs of From the Bullpen material for your consideration. 




Our third league trip to Detroit was as good or better than the first two (1992 and 1996), and the Friday night/Saturday morning rain-delayed game which finished at 3:30 a.m. with Carlos Guillen’s 3-run walk-off jack is an all-timer for the HSL annals.  The fact that there were more than 20,000 ardent Tiger fans still in the park for the end of this marathon session speaks volumes about this city and what the Tigers baseball team means to it.  I have a whole new respect for the Tiger faithful. 


As far as Comerica Park goes, I like it.  In fact, I like it a lot, much more than expected.  Comerica probably has the most “open” feel to it of any of the major league ballparks, and a very satisfying view of the downtown Detroit skyline, for what it is worth.  (Better than one would think, with several very cool old art deco skyscrapers within view.)  Not a match for PNC in Pittsburgh, but not half bad. 


Comerica has a pleasing mixture of animal and human Tiger statuary sprinkled across the ballpark grounds, probably the best of all the MLB parks.  Eye-catching and praiseworthy as they are, it should be noted that the sculptor who created the Hank Greenberg statue must have been working off a photograph of Norm Cash or Bill Freehan or some other former Tiger by mistake, because from every single angle of viewing, Greenberg the Statue bears absolutely no resemblance to Greenberg the Man.  None.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a freakish monstrosity like the radiation-inspired statue of Stan the Man in St. Louis, just a case of apparent mistaken identity.  It should also be noted that the statue of Willie Horton must have been sculpted from his junior high yearbook photograph, because that would have been the last time that Willie had the svelte sub-250 appearance that one sees in his Comerica statue. 


In checking my personal effects following this trip, I learned that this is the 48th different major league ballpark at which I have attended a major league baseball game.  My initial assessment of Comerica was that it definitely belongs in the Top 10, but not in the Top 5, of the 30 current major league venues.  But as I got to thinking about it, I have probably mentioned at least 15 different ballparks as being in my Top 10, so I will endeavor to set the record straight by enumerating them here: 






Wrigley Field


Fenway Park


Camden Yard


Coors Field


AT&T (San Francisco)


PNC (Pittsburgh)


Yankee Stadium




Safeco Field


Comerica Park


Sorry, McBlunder, but the Kauffman mausoleum doesn’t make the list.  After revisiting PETCO with my boys in April, I had to move it up a few notches from an earlier list.  It was hard not putting Dodger Stadium and The Ballpark in Arlington in the Top 10, very close calls indeed.  Jacobs Field has slipped off an earlier Top 10 of mine, a fate which may also have befallen Turner Field.  I think that Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia has previously been on one of my Top 10s, and a plausible argument could be made that it still belongs there. 


It’s interesting (to me, anyway) that our HSL trip to Cleveland and Jacobs Field in 1996 allowed both B.T. and myself to complete the MLB park circuit, so that at that time we each had been to a game in every then-current baseball park; and with the opening up of an abundance of new ballparks since that time, it has taken me 11 seasons to close the loop once again by hitting Comerica Park last month.  Between 1996 and now, we have seen new ballparks open in Atlanta, Houston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, St. Louis and Seattle, in addition to Comerica, a total of 9 new ballparks in a little over a decade.  The steelworkers union has been busy. 




Fortunately, the winds of change are not yet done blowing.  Next season, 2008, will play witness to the opening of a new ballpark in Washington, D.C., in replacement of the aging and unremarkable RFK Stadium.  In 2009, if all goes according to schedule, both the Yankees and the Mets will play host in new green cathedrals, replacing the revered Yankee Stadium (open since 1923) and the not-so-revered Shea Stadium, which will be dismantled and flushed into Flushing Bay.  Finally, in 2010, the proud citizens of the Twin Cities will finally get to close the doors to the wretched and joyless Baggiedome and say hey again to baseball in the natural light.  Hallelujah! 


So, boys, we have our marching orders for at least the next three seasons.  After 2010, I’m not sure what we’ll do. 




I have updated our official league documents pertaining to the trip, which you may view by clicking onto either of the following two links:  HSL Trips or Hot Stove League Trip Summaries.  In 23 years of Hot Stove League travels, we have now made it to an impressive total of 26 ballparks in 20 cities and have seen a total of 56 baseball games as a collective group.  As Jimmy Buffett would say “Where this all ends, I don’t wanna know.” 




Allow me to share with you now a few more pictures from our recent trip to Motor City with a few attending comments: 



Stretch must go about 6-11 with his dandy “SHEF” hat on.  If any fantasy league does not have their own version of McBlunder in it, they are more the worse because of it.  Each year on our annual excursion, I am reminded of the immense value of having a chum like McBlunder in the league, a passionate, opinionated, literate, lovable, mascot-hating curmudgeon who loves nothing more than to dip his oversized proboscis into a surprise libation of any sort, often to excess, and then to engage in lively discussion of baseball, politics, society, or any other topic of the moment.  Stretch’s implausible denials of nocturnal lumbermill-like noise levels only add to the richness of his character.  Who wouldn’t have paid good money to witness an inebriated McBlunder holding court and rolling the bones at the craps tables on Saturday night, drawing the immediate attention of the pit boss and his crew, not to mention the rapt audience of fellow gamblers, as so aptly described by his partner in crime, Mouse.  Stretch, my friend, you are one-of-a-kind. 



Our affable Trip Scribe and unofficial Social Chairman relishes finding the perfect seat to view a game at Comerica Park.  Foster Brooks, you are a rank amateur when juxtaposed against Our Man Itchie.  I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but our back-slapping, baby-kissing Purveyor of Dreams seems to have in recent times ratcheted up his leadership role in instigating Trip monkeyshines and tomfoolery, beginning at least with the Pittsburg trip a couple of years ago.  It’s understandable:  the poor guy just wants to have a little bit of fun -- for once in his life!



Tee takes umbrage as B.T. questions the sincerity and veracity of our ducat vendor for Saturday night’s game.  After Mouse personally vouched for the integrity of the enterprising Motor City businessman, the transaction was consummated. 



This image is all wrong on more levels than Cheli’s rooftop bar where the candid shot was taken.  Mostly, seeing the arch and upright Iowaegan Jim Ed decked out in bling-bling, is just plain unsettling, and likely a chargeable misdemeanor in most jurisdictions.  The untold story is that this innocent young maiden was merely following the cruel directive of her new Svengali, Big Johnny. 



Big Guy gets a bit testy as he explains one more time to Shamu* why he chose to go with the 8 x face-value tickets instead of the $15 SRO ducats favored by the penurious Shamu*. 



Nice matching shirt, loser.  Colemans? 



Eight proud 2007 HSL Trip attendees in pre-car-bomb demeanor. 




Itchie did a superlative job of recounting some of our favorite stories from HSL Trips past, and I think most of us would generally agree with his Top 15.  There have been so many great HSL trip moments across the past 23 seasons, it was a heckuva task to narrow them all down to the best of the best.  Lest they slip into the black abyss of our aging and failing memory banks, allow me to offer up just a few of the other Trip highlights over the years: 


Colorado 1995:  Itchie and One Way Tony’s admirable goal of quaffing five score beers over the course of a 3-day weekend, culminating in One Way’s blissful ignorance of Vinny Castilla firing of two screaming cannon balls across his port bow, followed by Tony’s steely, Kreskin-like attempt to will himself into sobriety.

Toronto/Cleveland/Detroit 1992:  The fond memories of our beautiful accommodations in Toronto in the heart of the red light district, and the startling announcement of our hotel desk clerk that we faced a seven hour yak ride back to Cleveland; getting flattened by the Tubes at the Flats; breakfast at Lenny’s; Scott’s expulsion of the angry muskrats.

Chicago/Comiskey Park 1991:  SloPay’s sacrilegious attempt to lure Sister Theckla away from the convent while plying her with liquor at Comiskey Park.

St. Louis 1999:  Ubaldo losing his wallet and ID on the mean streets of St. Louis, and then steadfastly refusing to retrace his steps in an effort to recover the meaningless trinket; Itchie sitting next to a hungry fan who feasted on a large emu drumstick and a thermos of hot coffee in 102° weather.

California Dreamin’ 1993:  The three shades of green which Mouse turned during his first official Hot Stove League Trip meal at Senor Guacamole’s in San Clemente, followed by Shamu’s* plaintive “Are you going to finish that, Mouse?” 

Milwaukee 1989:  “Cones” night at County Stadium. 

1994 Boston/NewYork/Baltimore:  Hearing the Irish tenor (Tip O’Neill’s twin brother) sing Danny Boy in downtown Baws-ton; our Turkish steam bath in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium. 

Chicago 1991:  Who can forget U-Bob excoriating Itchie about his upcoming nuptials, admonishing him that “You will never paddle your own canoe again!”; or U-Bob’s monk-like chanting of his new mantra, “I love my life,” while heavily inebriated, followed by his frightening solo dancing at an outdoor stage on the Chicago waterfront, followed by the subway mockery of him by his HSL colleagues as he dozed during his train ride home from all of the partying. 

San Diego 2004:  Witnessing the extraordinarily odd behavior of Possum as he cut loose in a drinking establishment frequented by 19-22 year-olds, and the panicky phone call from Shamu* once he realized he had been separated from the more normal members of the league and was farcing a night entirely out of his comfort zone with Possum and Curbie. 




In closing out this issue of From the Bullpen, let me finish by expressing my great joy at having B.T. rejoin us as a full league participant and on our excursion to Detroit.  His provocative arguments (i.e., Michael Vick’s screw job), his keen wit, and his general likeability and geniality have been sorely missed. 


I count my blessings often for being part of such a splendid bunch of baseball lovers and great friends.  I can’t wait until next year.