|Edition No. 27||
September 26, 2008
Here we are at the end of the first week of Fall and our last week of HSL baseball, and what a terrific week it was. On Sunday I coached Joe’s Fall Ball baseball team to a couple of hard-fought ties (14-14 and 1-1 –– no tie breakers in Fall Ball), and watched him come of age as a hitter as he smoked multiple Pujolsian line drives in the gap against a pair of quality pitchers, one a senior in high school. I can take no credit whatsoever for his sweet, natural swing, which strongly resembles that of another Joe, the great DiMaggio, with all of his weight on the back foot until the weight shifts almost at the end of his swing. I’m not sure if it’s considered textbook or not, but it sure is fun to watch. Okay, so I didn’t teach it to him, but at least I’m smart enough to not tinker with it. Much.
On Monday I had the sincere pleasure of mediating a case with a true titan of the plaintiffs bar, a Florida trial attorney by the name of Willie Gary who flew into Omaha with three of his associates on their corporate jet known as the “Wings of Justice,” a 32-passenger jet which is piloted and co-piloted by the law firm’s own aeronautical staff. According to the firm website, Mr. Gary has personally won more than 150 cases with seven-figure awards, which puts him at least 149 such verdicts ahead of anyone around these parts. Anyway, as soon as he saw what he was up against from the Omaha bar, he quickly adjusted his expectations and ended up settling up for only a small fortune. That’ll teach him. Anyway, it was an interesting day with an flashy and admirable adversary, not your run-of-the-mill Omaha mediation.
On Wednesday and Thursday I got to go to Lansing, Michigan, for a meeting with a good client, affording me an opportunity to see a capital city and a state capitol I had not heretofore seen; a chance to visit the Michigan State campus in East Lansing; and the crème de la crème, a return visit to Comerica Park for a Thursday afternoon baseball game between the Tigers and the Rays. What a country! If only Obama doesn’t ruin it.
Thankfully, Itchie wasn’t along to spoil my chance to see another state capitol building, and my visit to the Michigan State Capitol was all that I hoped for and more. This beautiful structure, in the neoclassical style, was built between 1872 and 1878 at a cost of $1.2 million. It was designed by Elijah Meyers of Springfield, Illinois, who used the central dome and wing design style found in the United States Capitol. He was so successful in Michigan that they also picked him to design the state houses of Colorado, Texas and Idaho, the most by any individual architect.
I always enjoy these little side trips, because Linda always furnishes me with great factual information right out of the Cliff Claven files. For example, I now know that Lansing was not the original capital city of Michigan, but followed Detroit, which was the home to the state government of Michigan from 1837, when Michigan was admitted to the Union, to 1847, when the governor signed into law a bill naming the Lansing Township in Ingham County as the new state capital. Described at that time as a “howling wilderness,” the capital city was at first called Michigan, Michigan, but the confusing name was changed a few months later to Lansing, after a hero of the Revolutionary War.
I also learned that the word Michigan is derived from the Native American word “michigama,” meaning “large lake”; that the state motto is “Si quaeris peninsulan amoenam circumspice,” which means “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you” (catchy); that the state flower is the apple blossom; the state fish is the brook trout; the state tree is the white pine; and the state fossil is the mastadon. As of the 2000 census, Michigan had 9, 938,444 people, eighth among the fifty states. I also learned that Michigan has more shoreline than any state other than Alaska.
So there you go. Stuff you were all just dying to know.
After my business meeting, I made a quick trip over to East Lansing for a self-guided tour of the Michigan State campus, including a trip inside Spartan Stadium. I am amazed that these sports arenas are almost always left unlocked, so that wandering tourists like me can simply walk in and check out the environs.
From my trip inside Spartan Stadium, I learned that four former Michigan State football players have had their numbers retired, two of whom are quite well known. If anyone knows, or wants to hazard a guess, put it up on the Message Board and I will let you know if you are correct. I am guessing that B.T. knows the answer, and probably Itchie as well.
The last and best part of my trip to Michigan was a visit to sun-drenched Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon, where I picked up a ducat for half a sawbuck from one of T’s colleagues on the street, and witnessed my last (regular season, anyway) ballgame of the season. On a fantastic 85-degree day, I sat in my excellent seat in the shade, fewer than 20 feet from a beer and peanut vendor, and wished that my twelve colleagues from the Hot Stove League could have been with me on this sublime afternoon. For several innings, time seemed to have stood still, as I watched the game on the field and the theater in the stands. I wasn’t disappointed.
Fate placed me by a fiftyish Jewish fellow named Ira, a ghostly pale Neil Diamond gone bad-lookalike who was sporting a Frisbee-sized Yarmulke. Next to Ira was an elderly Jewish man, perhaps his father, who was wearing a gray woolen suit, a brown baseball tie with Ty Cobb and other Tiger heroes on it, and a bright blue (but not Detroit Tiger blue), ill-fitting baseball hat which said ECHOES OF DETROIT in large white block letters, which looked like they were ironed on just that morning. I could have sat and watched and listened to these old characters all day long. I’m not sure that Ira ever looked up from his newspaper, or away from his companion, to actually glance out to the field, but he seemed to be as content as could be merely to be there in the ambience of the ballpark.
The game on the field was a good one, especially considering that the Tigers are woefully out of contention, beyond contending for last place. Light hitting Ben Zobrist of the Rays began the fireworks with a solo home run in the top of the first, which was matched by Tiger shortstop Ramon Santiago with a solo job in the bottom of the frame off Scott Kazmir.
In the bottom of the third, Santiago hit his second home run off Kazmir, again with nobody on. Third sacker Mike Hessman joined the party in the bottom of the fourth with yet another solo home run, followed by Tiger catcher Dustin Ryan with a solo dinger in the bottom of the fifth. In the top of the seventh, Rays stud Evan Longoria hit a solo home run off Tiger pitcher Galarraga, but the Tigers answered back with three in the bottom of the seventh, including a pinch-hit jack by Curtis Granderson, the fifth Tiger home run of the afternoon. The Rays closed out the scoring in the top of the eighth with Zobrist’s three-run blast off Galarraga, and the game ended with the Tigers on top by a score of 7-5.
I was even more impressed with Comerica Park this time around than last year during our league Trip, mostly because of the beautiful weather and the large crowd for a Thursday afternoon game for a last place team. Detroit fans are some of the best in the country, and they showed it once again on Thursday afternoon.
As we head into the final weekend of the season, here are your rankings through games of Thursday night, September 25:
Can the Monarchs hold onto second place, and the Highlanders fend off the Cubs for third? Can the Chiefs outlast the Wahoos in their battle for fifth place? Will the Skipjacks overtake the Bears for the seven-hole finish? Can the Senators catch the Tribe for eleventh place, or will they slip downward past the Slugs into the league sewer? In three more days, we will know the answers to all of these questions.
Hope you all had as great a week as I did, and best wishes to each of you during our final three days of the 2008 Hot Stove League season.