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Cleveland’s League Park: A gem restored

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I wore my old-time “skimmer” — just like the “cranks” who followed baseball early in the 20th century — to the refurbished League Park in Cleveland. The infield can be seen to the right beyond the fence.

June was a good baseball month for me: Not only did I get to take in my first game at Pittsburgh, but on a trip back to my hometown of Cleveland I visited the old location of League Park.

The park was the full-time or part-time home of Cleveland professional baseball [go ahead, insert your stinging Cleveland joke here] from 1891 through 1950. Four years later, most of the park was demolished. In all my years growing up in Cleveland, I never visited, and until arriving a few weekends ago I didn’t expect to find much there.

How wrong I was. On site is a beautiful new ball field in the same funky dimensions as the old League Park, where so many great players of the past rounded the bases. Even more surprising, a summer college game was being played between teams from Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

The ballpark is alive again, thanks to the City of Cleveland investing in a rebuilding project completed in 2014.

There’s no grandstand, and only a few fans were parked along the sidelines in lawn chairs with umbrellas shielding them from the sun. But a game was underway, and that made me very, very happy.

We arrived too late in the day to tour the small Baseball Heritage Museum in the park’s old ticket house. It’s a good reason for me to go back, only this time I won’t wait 60 years.

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Not much is left of the old park save for the old ticket house and a portion of the wall along Lexington Avenue. This is shot from inside the old park. The illustrations feature former players from major and Negro leagues, including (from left) Quincy Trouppe, Bill “Wamby” Wambsganns Bob Feller and mural artist Jerome White.

 

 

 

A farewell to the Freak? I hope not

Just yesterday morning, waking up and moping over the morning news that the Giants had fallen to the Dodgers for a second consecutive night, I got to thinking that it would do the world good to see Tim Lincecum back on the mound.

Today, I woke up here on the East Coast to the news that the Dodgers had swept the Giants, which was bad enough. But then came the cruel word via Twitter that Tim Lincecum is done for the season.  After arthroscopic surgery in Colorado, he may have thrown his last pitch for San Francisco.

Say it ain’t so!

I’ve followed the Giants for the last 20-plus years, all the more passionately in recent years since the bloated Barry Bonds left their employ. So many dynamic players have donned their orange, black and cream uniforms in recent years, it’s hard to pick one’s favorite: MadBum, Buster, B-Craw, Kung Fu Panda, the Baby Giraffe, Sergio Roma, Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson, Cainer, Hunter Pence and the signs that tauntingly follow him.

As great as they all are (or have been), nobody tops Timmy.

With his long hair and slashing delivery, Lincecum packed overpowering stuff into his relatively slight frame. Each time he took the mound, particularly in his early years, timed perfectly with the arrival of Twitter as a fan-bonding vehicle, the atmosphere was electric. “Happy Lincecum Day!” we tweeted, and those strikeout-stuff starts were must-see events.

But Lincecum’s appeal went beyond his dominating performances. A free spirit, Timmy embodied the free-wheeling nature of San Francisco and San Franciscans. After getting busted for pot possession in his home state of Washington, Lincecum grew even more popular. Vendors sold lots of “Let Timmy Smoke” T-shirts around AT&T Park (wish I’d bought one!).

Even as we started seeing signs of the inevitable decline, Lincecum continued to impress. His relief appearances were critically important to the Giants’ 2012 World Series victory. He tossed no hitters in 2013 and last year.

I don’t know what the future holds for Tim Lincecum, but I do know the past.

As a man and a fan, I’m wistful, while the kid in me is crying.

Meet the Matz

Another reason to like the Mets.

The On Deck Circle

Yesterday afternoon in Queens, New York, starting pitcher Steve Matz, making his Major League debut against the Cincinnati Reds, watched as the first batter he ever faced, Brandon Phillips, smacked a lead-off homer over the left-field wall.

The home crowd of 29,635 could never have guessed what would happen next.

Matz, apparently, had the Reds right where he wanted them.

The Long Island lefty, who grew up a Mets fan, quickly recovered his composure and shut down the Reds the rest of the way (other than a Todd Frazier solo homer in the 4th) on two runs and five hits through seven and two-thirds innings pitched.  Matz fanned six while walking three.  Of his 110 pitches, he threw 72 for strikes.

That manager Terry Collins let Matz go out and start the eighth inning after Matz had already thrown 90+ pitches through seven innings had as much to do with…

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Achieve your dream: Fly to all 30 MLB ballparks

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Is there a baseball fan alive who doesn’t want to visit all 30 Major League ballparks? I doubt it.

This morning I read in The New York Times about Hopper, an intriguing new site that allows travelers to research optimum times to fly from Point A to Point B (and Point C, and Point D, etc.). Read the Times story for the details and caveats, but go straight to the Hopper research page
to learn how you can fly to all 30 MLB cities for a lot less than I imagined.

Hopper lets you plug in the airport of your choice and determines the cheapest or shortest route from there. I chose Philadelphia International and was surprised to learn that, in theory anyway, I could fly the route on the map above for $2,471.

Meshing all those discounted flights with the MLB schedule would be a colossal challenge. But it’s fun to dream.

Link

From the mouths of babes: My daddy is going to be an Inidan

From the mouths of babes: My daddy is going to be an Inidan

There’s a delightful story this morning off the AP wire about how the 5-year-old daughter of David Murphy spilled the beans on her father signing with the Cleveland Indians. According to the story, Indians General Manager Chris Antonelli relates how little Faith Murphy was at day care in Texas learning about Thanksgiving. The talk turned to pilgrims and Indians, and that’s when the girl informed people, “My daddy is going to be an Indian.”

Link

Reblog: On Baseball Gloves, and Girls

Reblog: On Baseball Gloves, and Girls

This morning I am compelled to share from The On Deck Circle this post, which is required reading for any American male who loves baseball and whose attention was diverted during his teenage years by girls.

Cardinals and Red Sox in a World Series rematch

Ever since the Indians got knocked out (not to mention the Giants failing to make the playoffs altogether), I have sulked and turned my back on the baseball postseason. Oh, I caught a half inning here of the NLDS, a few outs there of the ALCS. Most mornings I woke up to check for the score of whatever game stretched well past bedtime with incessant late-inning pitching changes.

I tuned out nearly completely.

But the imminent arrival of the Red Sox and Cardinals facing off in the World Series will bring me back, not only to see two fine teams compete but also because of the memories this matchup will stir.

For this 50-something baseball fan, the 1967 series between Boston and St. Louis is usually what comes to mind when I think “World Series.”  (Yes, even ahead of the Amazin’ Mets in 1969 and the Giants finally prevailing in 2010.) I was 11 years old back then, in sixth grade and at the height of my boyhood baseball card collecting.

And, with apologies to the good sisters who taught me at St. Margaret Mary elementary school, Bob Gibson was God. Gibby was seemingly invincible on the mound, and I hung on every pitch appearing in grainy black and white on the Zenith TV in our dining room for whatever innings I could catch after dashing home from school.

A decade later as a college student, I’d visit the home of my roommate in Lowell, Mass., where we’d often find his father in the basement, playing a Red Sox ’67 highlights record album over and over. Even though Boston lost in seven games, for him it was worth reliving that season if only to know how close the Sox had come to ending the Curse of the Bambino.

A World Series is no longer a novelty for modern-day Red Sox fans, nor for a long time has it been for Cardinals fans. I will be tuning in, waiting for Gibson and Yaz and Jim Longborg and Curt Flood and all the others to come walking out of the long shadows.

I’m hoping for a classic.