The Hot Stove League’s annual “brain drain” began with eight of the league members (Skipper, Magpie, Screech, Shamu, BT, Possum, Stretch, and yours truly) descending upon our nation’s capital last weekend from various endpoints in helter skelter fashion. The inefficiency with which this trip’s logistics were managed (no advance tickets, eight separate flights, unidentified hotel accommodations, and no advanced scouting out of watering holes) would have made lesser men “Nervous Nellie’s”, but given the collective experience and laid back temperament of this aging posse, there was not a fret to be heard
As noted in various posts on the HSL Message Board, the beautiful stadium, Chamber of Commerce weather, discounted beers, and hotly contested ballgames between two of the league’s premiere teams made for a weekend to remember. Well, maybe not.
After waiting a mere thirty five minutes for the lone hotel clerk to process the reservations of a lobby full of visitors waiting to check in, we were assigned room accommodations based on arrival times and/or personality conflict avoidance. I’ll give you one guess as to my assigned roomie. I know you all think this is the part where I’m going to start complaining about Stretch snoring, but this year it was different. There was something changed about Stretch’s personality. I guess I should have recognized it based on the feather plume in his hat and the puffy purple shirt he was wearing when I first saw him, but I just didn’t make the connection at the time. More details on that situation later.
After check in was complete and we took a brief moment to unpack, the HSL’s “DC 8” met in the lobby and hatched a well conceived plan to gulp a few cold ones and get a feel for the town before heading to Friday night’s game. Given that there are literally no dining or drinking establishments within five miles of the athletic venue, we leveraged the Possum’s intimate familiarity with the Metro subway system and Georgetown area bars to find a place to kick up our collective heels.
The Possum circumnavigated the traditional subway routes and led us directly to a fine watering hole where we quaffed our beers, munched a few wings, and collectively lauded the athletic prowess of Tom Kropp. BT was conspicuously absent for a large portion of this pre-game meeting, but when he ultimately surfaced a short time later, the reasons were clear. Perhaps feeling out of place and a bit socially removed from the trend setting Georgetown crowd, and faced with the realization that he is careening out of control toward his 50th birthday and a middle age crisis, BT had vacated our session to frequent one of the avant garde boutiques in the area and came back clad in new outerwear. The size small “ochre” t-shirt he was sporting gripped his Michelin Man physique quite snugly, letting him fit right in and be passed off as one of the locals. The color “Ochre” is described on Wikipedia as designating flamboyance….or did they mean flaming…either way, mission accomplished BT.
The HSL Boys in Georgetown; BT in his latest fashion look
Before the waitress could get comfortable shouting “Big Johnny” or scare up a few Jagerbombs for the group, it was time to head to Nationals Stadium to witness the highly anticipated series between the hometown team and the visiting San Francisco Giants. Off we went for our first glimpse of the jewel of the Potomac.
The HSL Super 8 visit Nats Park
Let me think…..bland, unspectacular, disappointing, Cincinnati…..these were the words that flashed around in my head as I got my first glimpse of the stadium. But then again, how else can you describe a corrugated steel box in a burnt out warehouse district? Upon our grand entrance to the stadium for a Friday night game, we made our way past the other 15 people interested in attending the game, through the main entrance, only to walk nine feet further into a painted concrete wall. Somebody really put some thought into the aesthetics on this one.
The stadium is isolated like Denny at a Republican fund raiser, so there is nothing to get you pumped up like the Flats in Cleveland, Blake St. in Denver, or Murphy’s Bleachers at Wrigley. Just walk on in, grab yourself an $8 brew from the concession stand, and settle in for the old ballgame. The crowd gave me the feel of a Millard West versus Westside game on a Wednesday afternoon, but for what we were about to witness talent wise, that would be a slap in the face to the Wildcats and Warriors.
The Nationals, beset by injuries and a crappy roster, started with Big Guy’s own Jason Bergmann on the bump, and the Giants countered with BT’s flame throwing Tim Lincecum (there’s that BT / flame connection again). The Giants struck early and often, putting up a 7 spot in the third inning on their way to a 10-1 victory and a minus 18 for Bergmann. Interest was held throughout the game due only to the ongoing over/under wagering on total runs, pitches per inning, and the temperature/humidity combined total. The latter line was set at 200, and the over prevailed easily. It felt like a combination of Death Valley heat and Orlando humidity.
As you might suspect, the heat took its toll on Brother Shamu, causing him to go Albert Brooks in Broadcast News and sweat through a minimum of three shirts. Shamu’s saving grace was the ice cream cone he purchased and subsequently attacked like a porn star. The guess here is that Shamu will never again consume an ice cream cone in front of his HSL brethren.
Shamu fends off a minor hypoglycemic episode
Sapped from the oppressive heat and stress of the wagers, we were in need of a collective cocktail to replenish our souls, so we made our way to the only available saloon, located back in our hotel lobby. The ambiance was top notch, what with about 50 sweat filled males trying to secure a drink in an area designed for a capacity of 20. Not to be deterred, we arranged for several appearances by Captain Morgan, and drank the night away. The last of the group retired about 1:45, a tame night by HSL standards.
Itchie “Chin-Chin” Thielen has fun for once in his life
After a restful night of slumber, several of the league brethren gathered for breakfast and the opportunity to discuss the day’s plans. There’s nothing like runny scrambled eggs, greasy bacon, and biscuits and gravy to soak up the previous night’s liquids. Skipper, Shamu, and I enjoyed a hearty breakfast, and finished up as Stretch made his way down to the lobby. Sensing Stretch’s trepidation at dining alone, Shamu offered to stay with him while he ingested some grub. In a grand gesture of selflessness, Shamu even offered to go ahead and eat another breakfast so Stretch would not have to wear the stigma of eating alone. Three crepes, a blintz, two donuts, a syrup covered chocolate chip waffle and some more bacon later, Shamu had demonstrated his graciousness and was ready for the day’s activities
The wide range of social interests among league members caused the group to splinter into three sections on Saturday. The intellectuals (Shamu, Skipper, Stretch, and Itchie) opted to take a tour of historical monuments; the nostalgic ones (Possum and Magpie) opted to reunite with an old law school buddy; and the sedate ones (BT and Screech) opted for prone position in the room.
We went our separate ways, with the understanding that we would re-convene at the ESPN Zone in time for the Saturday night game. The intellectuals stayed at ESPN through the running of the Belmont, feasting on the “4 for $40” bottled beer special they were promoting in conjunction with the race.
Once again, we headed for the ballpark ready for Saturday night’s game two of the series. This time, we entered the stadium from the outfield, and I will reluctantly admit that this point of entry allows for a more positive perception of the grounds. Once they get some restaurants, bars, and shops built up around the area, it might even crack someone’s top 15 stadium list, just not mine. The planning of such construction has begun, so perhaps a return here in five to ten years will yield a different experience.
The Jonathan Sanchez-Shawn Hill matchup for this tilt yielded nothing but goose eggs for the first seven frames. The Giants broke the game wide open in the eighth, highlighted by John Bowker’s grand slam, and closed out the 6-0 victory by shutting down the Nats fearsome bats for the final two innings.
The boredom factor for this relatively insignificant game was broken up by Screech’s unbridled enthusiasm for the Nat’s new mascot (Screech),
That lovable Nats mascot, SCREECH
and Stretch’s bristling at having to sit through the Presidential mascot race. Just to ensure that the race results are properly documented in the HSL annals, Teddy Roosevelt’s three length victory was overturned by Screech (the mascot) for using a motorized vehicle.
Back to Stretch for a second. It is interesting that when you spend a little more personal time with someone, you get to learn more about what they are all about and what drives them in their everyday life. During the “intellectual’s” tour of the monuments on Saturday, Stretch found the inner strength to come forward with a confession to the group that I think he has been bottling up for years. What we didn’t know is that while Stretch is indeed a true baseball fan and a history buff to boot, his real passion lies in attending Renaissance Faire’s and transforming that weekday lawyer into the weekend Jester. Stretch (from now on, Stretch McJester is his new moniker) dons that plumed hat and puffy shirt most every weekend, loads the family in the Town and Country van, and scours the country for a Renaissance festival where he can ply his trade as a jouster/jester.
Now it is all starting to make sense to me. I have heard him talking in his sleep, shouting phrases like “Mount your steed, young knight; I have challenged you to a duel for the honor of m’lady”. I now also know why he has been referring to his family members as Maid Marian, Warrior King, and the Baroness. I would encourage you all to ask him about his medieval escapades with the scalawags, pirates, and wenches as he seeks to storm the castle. I think he will be much relieved that he can be “who he is” without having to suppress this passion any longer.
Sunday brought the end to this annual rite of summer. Four brave souls once again ventured to the stadium, perhaps motivated by the opportunity to watch the Skipjacks own Barry Zito continue his trend of moon walking points, while the other four headed out to wait for their delayed flights home. What those four at the game didn’t take into account was that Zito was facing the Nationals, and thus was spared the whipping that those 83 mph fastballs normally would bring. The Giants prevailed 6-3, and actually went on to complete a four game sweep of the home team on Monday. Them Nats got some work to do.
Thanks to everyone who attended for the camaraderie, the laughs, the baseball talk, and another great trip. Next year in New York will be fabulous with full attendance by all league members.
Just a reminder to whoever takes ownership of scheduling for that trip: Check dates for the jousting camps and festivals, and work around those dates so all of us can attend.
Bartolo Colon is a dyslexic Andre the Giant. His bio says he weighs 240, and we all know that should be 420. Are you kidding me? 240?
Akinori Iwamura has been picked up more times by more league members than anyone I can ever remember.
Your perpetually inebriated scribe
So who wins the boiler reduction contest?
Shamu spots the ice cream vendor and contemplates a bull rush
Screech is tickled pink to have made a new friend and
fellow Yankee fan, Maurice “The Mole” Moncraft
Stretch frowns at the thought of another Presidential mascot race to endure
“Look, McJester, a damsel in distress for you to rescue!”
The crack Nats emergency team saves the day again.
Another “monumental” HSL moment.
“I am your next President!”
Itchie displays abject disgust at how far and hard
former HSL Trip guest 1-Way-Tony has fallen
Shamu prepares to change into shirt No. 7 on the sweltering Tour De Monuments
The one time that Itchie wasn’t slurping down an alcoholic beverage—his tribute to Abe.