Ballpark Tour: Brewers

Spring training is in full swing and opening day is about a month away, as we continue our tour of all of the baseball stadiums I’ve been to over the years. The closest city, outside of Chicago, for baseball, contains the homes of the Milwaukee Brewers. Between the two stadiums that have been located in the heart of cheeseland, I’ve seen 8 games. So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my history with County Stadium and Miller Park.

Stadium Name: County Stadium

Years in Service: 1953 – 2000

Visits: 1

Milwaukee County Stadium was built with the intention of drawing a major league baseball team to Milwaukee, and it worked quicker than anybody would have expected, as the Braves announced they would be moving from Boston 3 weeks before the stadium, and the 1953 season, opened.  The Braves would call Milwaukee home for the next 13 seasons before leaving for Atlanta for the 1966 season.

During the 1968 and 1969 seasons, the struggling Chicago White Sox wound up playing 20 home games at County Stadium in an effort to keep the baseball fandom alive in Milwaukee.  In 1970, local businessman Bud Selig purchased the expansion Seattle Pilots out of bankruptcy court and moved them to Milwaukee and rechristened them the Brewers.  The Brewers would call County Stadium home until 2000, when they would move next door in to the newly built Miller Park.

I made one trip up to County Stadium for a White Sox/Brewers tilt on July 18, 1993.  The White Sox were victorious thank to a 2-run single by Bo Jackson in the 9th inning. I remember sitting out in the bleachers, but, beyond that, have no particular memory of the stadium or what amenities, if any, it offered.

Stadium Name: Miller Park

Years in Service: 2003 – Present

Visits: 7

The Brewers broke ground on a new stadium on November 9, 1996, in a parking lot behind County Stadium, with plans to open the park for the 2000 season.  Construction was delayed in 1999 after a crane collapsed while lifting a 400-ton roof section, killing three workers.  This caused the opening to be delayed for a year, and the new Miller Park did not open until April 6, 2001.  In 2007, the stadium hosted an Indians series against the Angels after snow storms in Cleveland forced the cancellation of the previous series against the Mariners.  The Astros called Miller Park home for two games in 2008 when Hurricane Ike stormed through Houston.

I made the first of my seven visits to Miller Park during the inaugural season of 2001.  That May 7th contest had the Cubs squeaking out a 7-6 victory against the hosting Brewers.  My most recent trip up north was this past summer, to once again see the Cubs battle (or destroy) the Brewers.  Miller Park was a vastly superior replacement over County Stadium, and I’ve enjoyed each of my subsequent trips up to Milwaukee to see the local ballclubs.

Turn On The Marquee

Tomorrow, the Marquee Sports Network, the new home of the Cubs, goes live as the team kicks off their slate of games in the 2020 Cactus League.  Unfortunately, for the majority of homes in the Chicagoland area, the network will not be available.

Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies will continue on as the main announcing team for Cubs games.  They will occasionally be joined by one of the roving band of analysts that have been announced to date: Lou Piniella, Rick Sutcliffe, Mark Grace, Carlos Peña, Mark DeRosa, Ryan Dempster, Doug Glanville, Dan Plesac, and Jason Hammel.  Cole Wright, formerly of NFL Network, will be the studio host for pre- and post-game coverage and Taylor McGregor will be the sideline reporter, a role she previously held with the Rockies.

The one thing Marquee doesn’t have is a carriage agreement with Comcast, the dominant cable operator in the Chicago metropolitan area.  Comcast has 1.5 million home subscribers in the area, more than all the other metro area operators combined.  The Cubs hope to avoid the fate of the Dodgers, who created their own network in 2014 and still have not gotten full clearance in the Los Angeles market, after 7 years and 2 World Series appearances.  Tomorrow was a soft deadline to get a deal done.  If nothing happened by March 26, when the Cubs open the season in Milwaukee against the Brewers.

2020 Tickets – Northside Edition

For the second straight year, the Cubs are going all-digital for their season tickets through the MLB Ballpark app.  No word on whether the team plans to offer commemorative printed tickets after the season, as they did last season.  While the convenience of digital tickets can’t be denied, the move continues to be a disappointment for those of us who collect ticket stubs.

iTunes Top 200: #144

itunes_image4 years ago, we last counted down the Top 200 songs in my iTunes library. Since my iTunes stats are still intact, across multiple PCs, iPods, iPads, and iPhones, I figured it was time to take another look at my most listened to songs, based on number of plays as of January 1, 2020.

We continue on today with the next batch of songs tied for 144th place with 31 listens since my stats began in late 2007.

#144: Hole – Celebrity Skin
iTunes stats: 31 plays, most recently on 12/20/2019
Previous ranking: #79

A big drop for Hole’s most commercially successful single, being the only one to reach #1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.

#144: Harry Caray – Take Me Out To The Ballgame
iTunes stats: 31 plays, most recently on 10/2/2019
Previous ranking: Unranked

An impressive debut for this version of the baseball classic, which features on my Cubs victory playlist.

#144: Green Day – Basket Case
iTunes stats: 31 plays, most recently on 8/30/2019
Previous ranking: #79

The third single from the band’s major label debut, it spent 5 weeks atop the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

#144: Great White – Once Bitten Twice Shy
iTunes stats: 31 plays, most recently on 12/11/2019
Previous ranking: #56

A big drop for the biggest hit from the band best known for a fire, which also appears on Volume 4 of my mix tapes.

#144: George Carlin – Telephone Mimes
iTunes stats: 31 plays, most recently on 11/25/2019
Previous ranking: Unranked

Yet another entry from Carlin’s 17th album and twelfth HBO stand-up special.

#144: Foo Fighters – All My Life
Continue reading →

Ballpark Tour: Padres

Spring training is right around the corner as we continue our tour of all of the baseball stadiums I’ve been to over the years. Today we travel to southern California for the baseball homes of the San Diego Padres. Between the two stadiums that have been located in the paradise that is San Diego, I’ve seen 4 games. So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my history with Qualcomm Stadium and PETCO Park.

Stadium Name: Jack Murphy Stadium/Qualcomm Stadium

Years in Service: 1969 – 2003

Visits: 1

San Diego Stadium opened on August 20, 1967 as the home of the AFL’s Chargers and opened for baseball the following spring for the final season of the minor league San Diego Padres.  The following season, San Diego’s expansion team, also named the Padres, moved in and stayed as the main tenants until the end of the 2003 season.  The stadium was renamed in 1980 for local sportswriter Jack Murphy, who had championed support for the building of the stadium, after he passed away.  That name stuck until 1997, when the naming rights were sold to technology company Qualcomm.

In 2003, I was in San Diego for what, to date, was my 3rd and final Comic Con.  On the afternoon of July 17, I skipped out on the con and took the trolley out to Mission Valley to take in the day’s contest between the Padres and the Diamondbacks.  I don’t remember much about the game, which the Diamondbacks won handidly 9-1, other than Curt Schilling taking the bump for the Dbacks.  The park, one of the last remaining cookie cutter stadiums that popped up in the late 60s and early 70s and designed to house both baseball and football teams while doing service to neither, did not really register one way or the other and hold’s no particular space in my memory.  I do seem to remember a giant outdoor escalator, but that might have been Candlestick.

Stadium Name: PETCO Park

Years in Service: 2004 – Present

Visits: 3

After 35 seasons at the Murph, the Padres moved downtown in 2004 with the opening of PETCO Park.  The new stadium was initially supposed to open for the 2002 season, but legal battles and political tomfoolery delayed the project for two years.  The first event held at PETCO Park was an NCAA invitational tournament hosted by San Diego State University, whose head coach was former Padres great Tony Gwynn.  The Padres themselves christened the stadium on April 8 with a 10 inning victory over the Giants.

With the Cubs, coming off their surprising run towards the NL title in 2003, scheduled for a weekend series at the newly opened PETCO Park in the middle of May in 2004, a trip out to the coast was in order.  The Cubs swept the three game series against the Padres, and a tremendous weekend was had.  The new park was a vast improvement over the old Jack Murphy.  One of these days, I’ll need to take a return trip.

Grievence Denied

After nearly 5 years, an arbitrator has ruled in favor of the Cubs in the grievance filed by the MLBPA on behalf of Kris Bryant.  The grievance, filed in May of 2015, alleged that the Cubs manipulated Bryant’s service time in an effort to keep an extra year of team control before Bryant was eligible for free agency.  The hearing took place this past October, once it became obvious that Bryant and the Cubs would not be coming to an agreement on a long term contract that would make the grievance moot.

Bryant split the 2014 season between Double A Tennessee and Triple A Iowa.  Despite hitting .325 with a combined 43 home runs and 110 RBIs between the two levels, he did not get a September call-up by the Cubs.  Determined to break camp with the big league team the next spring, Bryant slashed .425/.477/1.175 with nine home runs in 40 at-bats in the Cactus League.  However, that was not good enough to supplant Mike Olt, and Bryant was returned to Triple A to, allegedly, work on his defense.  When Olt injured his wrist on April 11, the Cubs waited until April 17 to put him on the DL and recall Bryant, the very day they gained an extra year of control.  Bryant went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year award, hitting .275 with 26 home runs and 99 RBIs while Olt, after finishing the year with the White Sox, never played in the major leagues again after the 2015 season.

So, the Cubs retain control over Bryant for an additional two years.  Whether he steps foot on the field again as a member of the team is still up in the air.  With the Cubs too close to the luxury tax threshold for Tom Ricketts’ comfort, Bryant has been rumored to be on the trading block all winter, with the result of his grievance, and the length of time before he becomes a free agent, seen as being the holdup in closing a deal.  While trading Bryant may be the best way to replenish a farm system left bare by 5 years of contention, while also lowering the team’s overall payroll commitments, doing so does not signal an intention to try and win in 2020, while the remainder of the team’s core moves closer to free agency themselves.

Entering The Hall

All eyes turned towards the small hamlet of Cooperstown, New York yesterday, as the votes were tallied and two new members were announced as the Hall of Fame class of 2020: Derek Jeter and Larry Walker.  Jeter, in his first year of eligibility, came 1 vote short of joining his former teammate Mariano Rivera as the only players to be elected with 100% of the vote.  Walker, in his tenth and final year of eligibility, found himself on 76.6% of the ballots, 6 votes above the threshold for enshrinement.

Four others tallied greater than 50% of the vote, led by Curt Schilling, who jumped up to 70%.  Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds saw very modest increases, which makes their eventual induction by the BBWAA unlikely with only two more elections for each.  Omar Vizquel saw a nice increase in his third go-around, going from 42.8% to 52.6%.

Bobby Abreu is the only first timer who will return, earning 5.5% of the vote, just above the 5% cutoff.  Of the local contingent, former White Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez finished with 28.2%, Andruw Jones earned 19.4%, and Cub outcast Sammy Sosa garnered 13.9%.  Paul Konerko got a mere 10 votes, Alfonso Soriano got 6, and J.J. Putz and Adam Dunn snagged a vote apiece.

As for the newest Hall of Famers, I’ve seen Jeter play 18 times, followed by a mere 3 career games for Walker.  These two, along with Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller, who were elected by the Veteran’s Committee in December, will enter the Hall on Sunday, July 26.

Derek Jeter’s numbers in games I’ve attended were: Continue reading →

2019: The Year In Travel

Once again, I thought it would be nice to look back at the many trips I took this year.  As you may recall from last year‘s wrap-up, the year began in California.

New Year’s Day was spent in Pasadena for the Rose Parade, where Danny and the Lincoln-Way Marching Band were performing.  Lucky for them, they were slotted right after the float that caught on fire and eventually mucked up the entire end of the parade.  However, they were able to march around the disabled float and keep things moving for the time being.  The next day we went to the California ScienCenter, where we were able to see artifacts from King Tut’s tomb and the space shuttle Endeavor, and the beach before heading home.

And home is where I stayed for a whole month before heading out to Hawaii in February.  I arrived that first Saturday in February, checking out my surroundings around the resort and down Waikiki Beach after the long flight.  Monday, I took a tour of the island of Oahu, with stops at Hanauma Bay, Nu’uanu Pali lookout, Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, Sunset Beach, Waimea Falls, and the Dole Plantation.  Tuesday, I took in a whale watching cruise, where we were able to see multiple whales surfacing during the excursion.  Thursday, I traveled over to Pearl Harbor and all of the associated attractions and museums.  Come the following Saturday, it was time to head home on an overnight flight that got me in town very early Sunday morning.

Come June, the whole family headed east to celebrate Michael’s graduation.  We flew into Baltimore, where Dennis, the boys, and I went to breakfast before heading to Camden Yards to see the Orioles take on the Giants.  On the way to the stadium, we stopped at the grave site of Edgar Allen Poe and the Babe Ruth Birthplace & Museum.  After the game, we walked to the local bus depot, where we caught a bus to Washington DC for the remainder of the trip.

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The Decade In Baseball – Team Records

The 2010s have drawn to a close and its time to take a look back at the previous decade.  Today, we are starting with baseball, specifically the performance of all 30 MLB teams in games I attended between 2010 and 2019.  Locally, things were good on the north side of town, as the Cubs finished their rebuild with 3 straight NLCS appearances in the middle of the decade, including a World Series championship in 2016.  It was much bleaker on the south side, as the White Sox failed to compete after a late collapse in 2012, finishing the decade on a string of 7 consecutive losing seasons.

I managed to take in 385 games over the past 10 years at 12 different stadiums from coast (Dodger Stadium) to coast (Fenway Park).  2010 was my high water mark, with 52 games, while 2013 and 2018 tied for the lowest total of the decade with only 29 games.

Games Per Year
Year Total Games
2010 52
2011 43
2012 33
2013 29
2014 35
2015 39
2016 39
2017 49
2018 29
2019 37

Two franchises went through the decade undefeated in games I attended, while another 2 teams went winless.  Both local teams finished just a shade under .500.  The White Sox are far and away the team I saw most often, while the Diamondbacks bring up the rear with only 2 appearances over the past 10 years.

2019 Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Colorado Rockies 4 0 1.000
New York Mets 3 0 1.000
Boston Red Sox 9 3 0.750
New York Yankees 9 4 0.692
Washington Nationals 6 3 0.667
Houston Astros 6 3 0.667
Florida Marlins 2 1 0.667
Los Angeles Angels 9 5 0.643
Detroit Tigers 22 13 0.629
Pittsburgh Pirates 5 3 0.625
Kansas City Royals 21 17 0.553
Cleveland Indians 17 14 0.548
Toronto Blue Jays 8 7 0.533
Minnesota Twins 19 17 0.528
Oakland Athletics 7 7 0.500
St. Louis Cardinals 2 2 0.500
San Diego Padres 2 2 0.500
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 1 0.500
Chicago White Sox 159 164 0.492
Chicago Cubs 40 43 0.482
Continue reading →

Ballpark Tour: Indians

As we prepare to close out 2019, we continue our tour of all of the different baseball stadiums I’ve been to over the years. This week, we head east to the so-called Mistake By The Lake for a look at the Cleveland Indians. So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my history with Progressive Field.

 

Stadium Name: Progressive Field

Years in Service: 1994 – Present

Visits: 2

The Indians moved into Jacobs Field for the 1994 season after calling Cleveland Stadium home since 1932.  In 1997, the park became one of the few in MLB history to host both the All Star Game and the World Series in the same season.  2008 saw the naming rights sold to a local insurance company and the stadium was renamed Progressive Field.  Since opening, the park has seen 10 Central Division titles, 5 ALCS appearances, and 3 trips to the World Series.  It hosted its second All Star Game this past summer.

I almost took my first trip to the park in 2016, for Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, but I just couldn’t quite pull the trigger.  A Southwest credit this summer led to me booking a 2-day September trip to Cleveland for $3, so there was no second guessing this time.  I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon, in plenty of time for that evening’s tilt between the White Sox and the Indians.  A tremendous catch on a smash by Eloy Jimenez saved the game for the Tribe.  The matinee performance on Thursday afternoon entailed a nice one-hitter by Reynaldo Lopez, giving the White Sox a quick victory before I had to head back to the airport.