|Edition No. 19||
August 11, 2009
Through eighteen weeks of play, the vaunted Lincoln Chiefs continue to lead the way in the 2009 Hot Stove League season, threatening to capture B.T.’s second HSL Crown after a long drought following that glorious 1996 Campaign. With his eldest son’s wedding behind him and his brief stint as a volunteer house painter almost complete (just a few areas of touch-up, Scott, nothing that one more weekend can’t take care of), B.T. has the time and the resources available to devote maximum efforts to completing a title run. Despite stiff competition from the Cubs, Skipjacks, Butterflies and Wahoos, smart money is on the Chiefs to hold off these pretenders and finish the season atop the HSL standings.
Standings in the league through eighteen weeks are as follows:
Point totals for Week 18 look like this:
A fortnight and three days ago, the Hot Stove League quartet of Itchie, McJester, Big Guy and Skipper paid a visit to newly-refurbished Kauffman Stadium to assess the Royals’ $400,000,000-plus reclamation project, and to watch Zach Greinke pitch a 7-inning, 3-hit, 1-earned run, 10-strikeout gem that resulted in a Royals loss to the visiting Texas Rangers by the score of 2-0. Future Hall of Famer Scott Feldman, the Rangers’ starting pitcher, was simply too overpowering for the impotent Royals offense, holding them to 5 hits and yielding nary a run. Alex Gordon demonstrated quite convincingly that if you can’t hit a major league curveball, you’re probably not going to be able to hit over the Mendoza line. A sad sack of an organization, these Kansas City Royals.
As McJester proudly showed off the capital improvements to his beloved Kauffman Stadium, his three visitors from Omaha exchanged raised eyebrows as their daft host proclaimed the new and improved Kauffman Stadium to be worthy of a Top Ten Ranking among major league baseball venues, a major stretch even for Major Stretch. As I took in the sights, sounds and smells of Kauffman Plus, I did some mental calculations and gymnastics to see if I could possibly elevate an improved Kauffman from its previous ranking of 25 out of 30 ballparks to Top 20 Status—primarily to please, mollify or appease McJester—but came up short. The best I could do for our old friend was to rank new Kauffman Stadium as my 23rd favorite ballpark. Sorry, Big Jon, but as Dizzy Dean used to say, “Them’s facts.”
This isn’t to say that Kauffman II is a terrible place to watch a ballgame. It’s not. And the renovated stadium is definitely an improvement over Kauffman I. But as they say, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.
Thanks again to Itchie for lining up our quick junket to Kansas City for baseball and a round of golf. We need more of these short-order trips in our future.
With this summer’s trip to the Big Apple and our visits to new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, as well as our recent visit to Kauffman II, I figured it was high time to re-rank our 30 baseball cathedrals, and I have done so, as you will see on the website. I hope Mouse and Screech aren’t too ticked off about my demotion of the new home of the Yankees from 7th place to 13th place, but I had to go with my gut here. Even though it was a dilapidated old relic that cried out for replacement, the House that Ruth Built had so much history and character that it was impossible to recapture this with the new ballpark in the Bronx, although valiant efforts were made to do so. I was actually quite impressed with new Yankee Stadium, especially the huge banners which pay tribute to Yankee stars of the past, and the manifold black and white blow-ups of players and scenes from the various decades of Yankee prominence. It is a beautiful new structure, and will likely stand the test of time, but there was something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps it was all of the sterile concrete in the outfield bleachers, which were empty during our June 18 visit, or as B.T. pointed out, perhaps it was the lack of gingerbread and panache in such areas of the ballpark as the retired Yankee player numbers and the World Series championship banners. Perhaps these areas will be dressed up in the future, enhancing the visual experiences of the fans.
Turning to Citi Field, although I read good things about this new home of the Mets before our trip to the Big Apple, I was not prepared for what happened as we entered the interior of the ballpark—that is, for my jaw to drop as I saw the inside of this beautiful new baseball gem. It reminded me of the sensation that I had when B.T. and I first walked into The Ballpark in Arlington on April 11, 1994, just before Van Cliburn tickled the ivories in his stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. The feeling that I had on both occasions was of being in a true baseball cathedral, a place where the architecture of the ballpark was a perfect melding of brick and steel to the colorful bleacher seats, the scoreboards, the signage, and the field of play itself. To be sure, it is a difficult feeling to put into words in such a way as to do it justice, but it was a feeling that I was in a good place, a very right place, to watch our beloved National pastime.
I loved almost everything about Citi Field, save its location in Queens, New York, directly adjacent to the largest assemblage of automobile chop shops and auto repair and parts graveyards that I have ever seen. It will be interesting to see if these unsightly neighboring properties will be replaced by bars and restaurants and shops in a way similar to the LoDo area around Coors Field. I wouldn’t bet against it, but it is Queens, after all.
In any event, although I was initially inclined to reward Citi Field with a Top 5 ranking, upon further reflection and consideration, I have given it a ranking of No. 6, just behind PNC Park. I would love to hear from the rest of the boys who saw Citi Field with me on the 2009 Trip as to their evaluation of this new ballpark. I know there was a lot of buzz on game day when we were all seeing it for the first time together, although some of this was no doubt due to the premium seats behind home plate secured by Tricko, including the magic of wait service.
And finally, as aforementioned, my revised rankings now have Kauffman II listed at 23, up from No. 25. With the $400,000,000-plus price tag, some pretty expensive lipstick. For any of the rest of you who have been to Kauffman II, except McJester, who can save his breath, am I wrong? I don’t think so.
Built the Yankee Empire, by Peter Golenbock
Although Golenbock’s writing style and employment of the English language falls well short of some of the more talented baseball wordsmiths such as Roger Kahn, Tom Boswell and Roger Angell, George is nevertheless a good read, primarily because of the fascinating subject of the book, but also because of Golenbock’s deep fund of knowledge about him. Getting to read about Steinbrenner’s love-hate relationships with Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, among others, and about Steinbrenner’s constant meddling with all of the many managers and general managers that he hired and fired during his reign of terror is enough alone to justify the purchase of this book.
A few of the more interesting tidbits about Steinbrenner which are contained in this book are as follows:
In the end, I won’t give this book a thumbs up or a thumbs down, but a thumbs sideways. Not a “must” read, but a pretty darned interesting read, particularly for all you Yankee fans out there.
I had the good fortune on Thursday evening of last week, August 6, to attend a Triple A baseball game between the Albuquerque Isotopes and the Portland Beavers at Isotopes Field in Albuquerque. This is an absolutely gorgeous ballpark, as you can see from the pictures below.
Isotopes Park is located just across the street from the University of New Mexico’s Lobos Stadium, and this beautiful little jewel offers a spectacular view of the majestic Sandia Mountains in the background, reminiscent of the beautiful ballpark in Salt Lake City.
There was absolutely nothing that I didn’t like about this ballpark. Some of its best features are: great concessions (The Sweet Spot and More;
the Pecos River Café; We’re Bananas; and lots more); cold Dos Eckes and Tecate on tap; a multi-tiered cheap seat berm area in right field, with kiddie rides and all kinds of family-friendly features behind it; a big, bright, colorful scoreboard; irregular outfield dimensions, 400 feet to dead center, but 428 feet to deep right center and deep left center, due to an unusual configuration; terrific organ music (can’t believe I’m saying that); fan-friendly music, games, contests and such; and of course, a madcap monstrosity of a team mascot by the name of “Orbit” (see pictures below), which McBlunder would absolutely love to hate.
Triple A baseball in Albuquerque has a rich and long history, mostly through its long-time affiliation with the Los Angeles Dodgers. For many years, the Albuquerque franchise went by the team name of the “Dukes,” until being renamed the Isotopes in 2003 after fan voting elected to take this name from the fictional “Springfield Isotopes” of The Simpsons fame. After being connected with another major league team for most of the past ten years or so, the Isotopes once again became affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2009.
Tommy Lasorda managed in Albuquerque prior to taking the helm in Los Angeles. Numerous future Dodger stars (Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Bill Russell, Mike Marshall) made their way through Albuquerque before starring in Los Angeles. Mike Marshall was a three-time PCL MVP while playing for the Albuquerque Dukes, including his Triple Crown year in 1981. Many people consider the 1981 Albuquerque Dukes the greatest minor league team of all time.
Anyway, if you ever get the chance to visit Isotopes Park, I highly encourage you to do so.
That’s it for this issue. Thanks for tuning in.