Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Now there's the Devil Rays we know and love

I set the TiVo to record the MLB Extra Innings feed of this morning's game. If I'd been 100% sure it would be showing up for free, I might have woken up earlier to watch it; as it was, I had to fast-forward through major portions of the game, which turned out to be a good thing. It was the Yankees' YES Network coverage, and it looked like they had dug up a lot of old films of teams and players visiting Japan in the past, including Mickey Mantle celebrating his 24th birthday while the Yankees were on a barnstorming tour of Asia. (Actually, maybe ESPN showed the same footage yesterday morning, but I wouldn't know.) Also, there will be a suitable-for-framing 8x10 photo of a Yankee great inside the Sunday Daily News every week.

Anyway, now that we know I'll be getting MLB Extra Innings free for the first week of the season, Levi, you're invited to my nameless apartment for the real Opening Day on Monday. It kicks off with Tigers at Blue Jays at 10:00 A.M. (And then the question is, since this morning's game was the first one in the Extra Innings package, will they define "first week" as lasting only until next Wednesday, or all the way through Sunday the 11th?)

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Future hanger-on Luke Seemann pointed out a photo in the Chicago Tribune yesterday, taken at the Tokyo Dome at the Yankees/Devil Rays game. Luke characterizes it as the best sign ever. I think I might have to agree. It said, "Hi, Derek. I hope you achieve more and more!"

You gotta have wa.

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Honorary hanger-on number 2

Whichever "Jeopardy!" writer came up with this clue from tonight's show, for $2,000 in the category 10-Letter Words:

Remember Chuck Mangione? Remember this instrument that he plays?

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

In case you were sleeping: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are in first place!

Jim: you'd better put down your subscription copy of Red Eye and start making World Series plans!


Hanger-on Luke wanted to make sure I had explored all possible rental car options, including in-town locations of the various rental car agencies, especially the Enterprise location on Sheridan Road that's fairly close to Levi and Stacey's place.

Yes, I did, and the problems are that, as far as I can tell, Enterprise's "unlimited mileage" is only good in the five states nearest Chicago; various others, including Dollar, Thrifty, and National, prohibit taking their cars into Canada (and they don't seem to have any convenient city locations in Chicago anyway); and, believe it or not, Hertz and Avis are more expensive at their in-town locations than at O'Hare...but less expensive than Midway. Seriously, someone needs to investigate the Midway rental car situation.

Luke also wondered about perhaps picking up the car on the 20th and dropping it off on the 31st to possibly save some money. Also as far as I can tell, there wouldn't be much price difference between that and the current plan of picking it up on the 19th and dropping it off on the 1st.

And, importantly for me, by getting the car on the 19th, I'll get a chance to spend the day of the 20th at the Illinois Railway Museum, which I've never been to before and which is supposed to be a very nice place. (Yes, a non-baseball activity. I'm sorry, but I like trains, too.) And then on the 31st I can go play pinball at one of the semi-secret locations in the suburbs where Stern puts their new pinball machines out for testing, to see if they need to do any last-minute tweaks. Or Levi and Stacey can go buy stuff at Ikea in Schaumburg. Whatever.

In conclusion, I think we're getting a pretty good rate from Hertz, considering how many miles we're going to be putting on one of their cars.

(P.S.: If Southwest really was charging negative $100 for Burbank-to-Chicago round trips, I would be there for breakfast and baseball tomorrow morning, and maybe every morning. But no such luck.)

Original comments...

mr. troll: Yes, we're all sorry that you like trains, too.

Jim: Shame on you, leaving this comment on the date of Amtrak's 33rd anniversary.

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Monday, March 29, 2004

Turns out my existing contact lens prescription is going to be just fine for watching baseball. But it's nice to have a medical exam to find out that I probably won't suffer a detached retina during the trip.

Something I forgot to mention in the last entry: I did check rental car rates at both O'Hare and Midway airports, and the rates at Midway are ridiculously expensive compared to the ones at O'Hare, to the extent that it would only have made economic sense for me to fly through Midway if Southwest Airlines was charging negative $100 for Burbank-to-Chicago tickets. So even though I'm a regular viewer of "Airline" on A&E, I'm flying American Airlines instead.

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The best evidence yet that this is really going to happen

Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to make it to The Rocketship for Opening Night in Japan/Opening Early Morning in America. I will instead be celebrating Opening Day next Monday, the way it's supposed to be, here in my non-named apartment. Sometimes it's advantageous to have a Tuesday-Saturday work schedule.

However, in celebration of the impending start of the season, I have a sudden flurry of news. First of all, they may have annoying pop-under ads on other web sites, but it turns out that Orbitz is very good at letting you know that Burbank-to-Chicago fares have suddenly plummeted to the extent that they're cheaper than fares from LAX.

Plane ticket in hand (well, e-ticket confirmation printout in hand), I went ahead and booked the rental car for the trip, following a certain amount of sleuthing. The only rental car agencies serving O'Hare International Airport that had deals with fully unlimited mileage and unequivocally said it was okay to drive their cars into Canada were the big two, Avis and Hertz. And Hertz was cheaper, thanks largely to their AAA member discount.

Thinking of the portions of the trip where there will be hangers-on, I reserved a "full size" car, which to Hertz means "Ford Taurus or similar." Consumer Reports says that the Taurus is "roomy and comfortable with a decent ride and a spacious rear seat and trunk," and that "[t]he bland but well-assembled interior has a comfortable driving position for most." (Actually, the last time I rented from Hertz, I got the "or similar": a Toyota Corolla instead of a Ford Focus.)

It occurs to me that I've made one crucial assumption, and perhaps I should ask: hey, Levi, how do you feel about taking the 'L' to O'Hare after work on Thursday, August 19th, to meet me, so you can sign yourself up to be the Additional Authorized Operator on the rental car?

All of this is now reflected on the itinerary. Now I'm off to the ophthalmologist, because I want to make sure I will be able to see all of these baseball games perfectly.

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Now, as you all know from hearing me rant about it, I think Major League Baseball has done a lot of stupid things lately.

In fact, more often than not, the phrase "Major League Baseball announces" is enough to get me worried.

But one thing they've done extremely well is use the Internet to bring their product to fans in ways that, just a few years ago, weren't possible. They have game tickers, pitch-by-pitch updates, and a variety of video packages that is pretty impressive.

By far the best thing they do, though, is have the radio broadcasts of all games available on their web site. Having spent years tuning in KMOX after dark to (barely) hear the Cardinals, being able to listen to games clearly has been a sheer, unadulterated joy. We don't have the Internet at home, but getting to hear day games while I'm at work, and getting to catch up on particularly exciting games from the night before has been wonderful. On top of that, when the Cardinals aren't playing, I can listen to, say, Vin Scully.

And this year, for the first time in five years, they're not raising their prices. Maybe they're learning? Probably not. But right now, I don't care. We're hours away from the first game, and soon my workday will fly by at the pace of a ballgame.

Now, if they could just do something about that site design. I suppose it could be worse. It could flash and play Smashmouth or something.

Oh, and Jim, you're invited to the house for a big breakfast and a viewing of tomorrow morning's game featuring your favorite team and that team that couldn't hit Josh Beckett. Game starts just after 4 AM Central Standard Time, and just after 5 AM Rocketship TiVo Time.



Not just "The Simpsons"

If it's almost time for the baseball season, it's obviously time for various networks to break out whatever Kevin Costner baseball movies they have in the videotape library. Over the weekend, Turner Classic Movies presented "Field of Dreams," and Encore countered with "Bull Durham."

I hadn't seen "Field of Dreams" since it was in theaters 15 years ago, and I had completely forgotten about the "road trip to Boston to kidnap James Earl Jones" part of the plot. If nothing else, it made me want to play catch with my father. I mean the movie as a whole, not just the part about kidnapping James Earl Jones.

Now, "Bull Durham" reminds me of my summers from 1987 to 1990 in the Duke University Talent Identification Program's Summer Residential Program, which I see they're now calling The Academy for Summer Studies. I actually went to a Durham Bulls game as a "field trip" in 1989, but didn't see the movie for a few years after that, because its R-rated content would have been too much for my tender young mind.

I will quibble with the depiction in "Bull Durham" of an out-of-town game being recreated using sound effects, in a movie supposedly taking place in the present day, although I guess they were trying to give it a timeless quality. But I'm reasonably certain that, by 1987, even small-town radio stations broadcasting Class A minor-league games had advanced as far as broadcasting out-of-town games via a telephone hookup. (Durham kind of seemed like a small town at the time, although I only saw limited portions of it. From what I can tell from afar, these days, it's no longer like that. Even the Bulls are now in a newer, bigger stadium near the Interstate, and jumped to Class AAA.)

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Saturday, March 27, 2004


"Our lives have taken an odd turn"

Things seen in "Dancin' Homer," one of my favorite "Simpsons" episodes, that we will probably experience on this trip:

Things from that episode which I hope to experience on this trip:

Things I hope we don't experience:

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Friday, March 26, 2004

Finally, almost two months after the promotion started, the Pepsi iTunes caps have shown up in Los Angeles, so I no longer have to risk a Big Gulp spilling in my car in order to try to win free music.

Even though I didn't try to cheat by tipping the bottle to look under the cap (because I don't want to get banned from 7-Eleven), I won a free song on my first try today. With it, in honor of this trip and my unintentional namesake, I purchased Joe Cocker's version of Bob Dylan's "Catfish"...

Even Billy Martin grins
When the Fish is in the game
Every season, 20 wins
Gonna make the hall of fame

Yes, there is going to be a "baseball songs" playlist available on my iPod on the trip. Right now it's almost entirely filled with the tracks on both of the Rhino Records "Baseball's Greatest Hits" compilations. I also already have "What Bothers the Spaceman?" by Mono Puff, as well as a certain song that's playing during a current "Sportscenter" promo, which is no doubt one of Dan Rivkin's favorites. If anyone has other baseball song suggestions, pass them along. Extra points for naming songs available in the iTunes Music Store.

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I was reminded today of one of my very favorite baseball nicknames: Cincinnati Reds first baseman Sean Casey is known as "The Mayor." Apparently the nickname was bestowed on the reportedly down-to-earth, friendly, outgoing Casey in the minor leagues because he seemed to know everyone in town.

Oh, and he did a good thing last year. Afterwards, do you think he drove off in one of these?


Cardinals lefty reliever Steve Kline--he of the nastiest cap in the majors--missed a few games early in spring training with gout.

I didn't think people got gout anymore. Sure, the wealthy used to, because they ate terribly and way too much. Ben Franklin, you may remember, had a little talk with his gout. But nowadays?

And even more impressive: Steve Kline says he gets a case of the gout every spring. What do you think that man eats?

I suppose it's not the weirdest ailment to sideline a ballplayer. Remember when the versatile, arachnaphobic Glenallen Hill was injured waking up from a nightmare about spiders?

Oh, and if you've been wondering how much better advertisements for some products would be if Steve Kline were pitching them, the Internet, as always, is here to remind you that someone's already thought of everything.


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

When I got the bleacher tickets for the Red Sox, I also registered for the opportunity to buy tickets atop the Green Monster. However, I got an e-mail tonight telling me that I was not among the chosen few. Maybe it's a good thing, because I got an up-close look at the seats on one of the Pat Sajak shows, and they look potentially vertigo-inducing, being so high up and pretty much directly above that steep drop-off.

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Okay, but only if it can be a purple Lamborghini!


Instead of renting a car for the trip, why don't we just buy a new one with a bad check?

Tony Womack may be a great guy. He may work very hard. He's a far better baseball player than I'll ever be. But he's not a good ballplayer at this point. He hasn't really done anything very successfully on a baseball field since he eliminated the Cardinals from the playoffs in 2001. Which, as you might imagine, still rankles.

And now he's a Cardinal.

But at least he has a purple Lamborghini!

As the folks at the Cardinals Birdhouse say, "How can you not like a guy who has a purple Lamborghini?

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One more politics post before I leave it behind like Bonds blowing past Willie Mays.

There are a couple of sites that allow you to search FEC records to see who has donated what to whom. This one lets you search for any contributions made to presidential campaigns this election cycle. One entertaining feature is that you can search by ZIP code and see what your neighbors are giving.

This site has, for some reason, the 1997-98 and 2000 election cycles. It seems to be much more comprehensive, too, including contributions to PACs and congressional campaigns.

So what's this have to do with baseball? You can look up ballplayers! And owners!

Since I spend most of my time worrying about the National League Central, I thought I'd look up the owners of the teams in that division.

Cardinals: I already knew that Bill DeWitt, Jr. of the Cardinals was a Forest Ranger or Space Pirate or whatever Bush called people who raised a certain number of billions for him. But he's also given thousands in soft money to the Republicans and thousands in direct money to John Ashcroft.

Cubs: Owned by the Tribune Company. If you read the Chicago Tribune's editorial page any time between, say, the Lincoln administration and today, you already know where their money is going.

Reds: Owner Carl Lindner gives insane amounts of money to both party central committees, but on balance, the GOP takes home more of the money Reds fans (not to mention the residents of Cincinnati who funded that ballpark) cough up. Sadly, for both Lindner and the GOP, attendance at Reds games wasn't helped quite as much as they hoped it would be by the new park.

Houston: Owner Drayton McLane likes to give to Tom DeLay. And Elizabeth Dole. And Craig Biggio, if you count extending his expensive contract beyond the point when he will be a good player a political contribution.

Pittsburgh: Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy is an oddity among MLB owners. He mostly gives to Democrats, in amounts in the low thousands of dollars. He did, however, write one check to Rick Santorum, for $250. The very smallness of the check in relation to his other donations makes me imagine him wrinkling his face in disgust as he wrote it, considering it a cost of doing big business in Pennsylvania.

Milwaukee: Ah, yes. Have you heard me rant about Selig? Well, despite his union-busting and serial lying, Allan H. Selig is on the same side as me here, with him and his family members giving across the board to the Democrats.

What's most interesting in this is that nearly all these owners have given--freely, I'm sure--amounts ranging from $1500 to $7500 to the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball Political Action Committee. I guess that committee is one of the ways MLB convinces people like James Sensenrenner to lob softballs at the Commissioner during congressional hearings.

Oh, and ballplayers? Turns out they just don't give much to anybody, despite having loads of the ready. I suppose that shouldn't surprise me. Al Leiter, noted Republican and boyishly cute pitcher, did give to Jim Bunning's senate campaign. From which filing I learned that Al's full first name is Alois.

And Tony LaRussa gave to a Democratic congressional candidate, which doesn't surprise me, seeing as he's a vegetarian and animal-rights activist.

Weirdest of all so far? Steve Garvey, noted conservative first baseman, gave Bill Bradley $1000.

That's it for politics, unless Jim wants to go through the rosters of all current teams in order to see which players donated to legislators who have supported Amtrak?


Monday, March 22, 2004

I have updated the map by adding yellow dots to indicate the locations of the games.


Me taking off my shirt to reveal "Kerry for President" would likely result in a lot of votes for Bush, or Nader, or Lyndon LaRouche, not to mention a constitutional amendment against taking one's shirt off in public.

I'd kind of like to keep politics out of this in order to focus on the baseball, but then, I was the one who named the trip "baseball-related program activities," wasn't I?


Because I've been more or less obsessed with the presidential race for months now, I was thinking today about how we could do our part during our trip in getting Bush out of office. I've got a few ideas.

1) We could have friends and relatives and coworkers pledge money for each of several types of discrete baseball event we see. For example, people could pledge to give the Kerry campaign a quarter per single, fifty cents per double, maybe a dollar per triple, and seventy-five cents per home run. A nickel per strikeout. A penny per swear word overheard in the bleachers at Fenway. Two dollars per extra inning. We could really go nuts and have the truly flush pledge $25 per beanball, $50 per ejection, $100 per menacing confrontation around the mound, and $200 per legitimate brawl. A no-hitter would come in around $500, and a perfect game would cap the person's legally allowable election cycle donation at $2,000. A Brewers or Tigers win would force the person to split his or her donation of $4,000 between the Kerry campaign and the Obama campaign.

And since the Bush campaign has names for people who are able to bundle huge amounts of cash (I have a name for them, too, but it's inappropriate for a website on such an all-American topic as baseball.), maybe we should name ourselves when we hit $50,000 raised. Suggestions, Jim?

2) We could paint "Kerry for President" on our chests and take off our shirts. This tactic would be likely to get us more attention at the games which include female hangers-on. Maybe we could coax Morganna the Kissing Bandit out of retirement?

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Saturday, March 20, 2004

Since it's late March, it must be time for plenty of baseball programming, even on non-sports channels. Tonight on the Travel Channel was, I swear, "Pat Sajak's American League Ballpark Tour," followed immediately by "Pat Sajak's National League Ballpark Tour." Each one highlighted what somebody decided were the five most unique stadiums in each league, including two of the parks set for this trip, Fenway Park and PNC Park.

The other four NL parks: Dodger Stadium, Coors Field, SBC Park, and Wrigley Field; the other four AL parks were Kauffman Stadium, Safeco Field, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and The Ballpark in Arlington. The SBC Park segments were taped last year, so Pat Sajak in his introductions had to point out several times that it was "formerly known as Pac Bell Park," which is what everyone was calling it.

The best segment was the man who was redoing the 778 metal scoreboard number plates for Fenway Park, using paper stencils individually cut by hand, so that no two examples of the same number would look exactly the same.

Oh, by the way: it's now 22 weeks until the first game on the itinerary.

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Friday, March 19, 2004


Whetting Levi's appetite again

Here's 50% of the items that came in the mail today (in the most nondescript envelope ever, with an indication that it contained "your requested dated material")...

Yes, it's vertical, which I had previously thought was an orientation reserved for football and hockey season tickets. (Bleacher section 36 is in dead center field, if anyone's curious. Looking forward to seeing Johnny Damon's back!)

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Thursday, March 18, 2004

I saw a great statement today in an article in the April issue of Harper's about Jim Bouton's recent book, Foul Ball: My Life and Hard Times Trying to Save an Old Ballpark, from Bouton's one-time teammate Steve Hovley:

"Religion is like baseball . . . great game, bad owners."


Wednesday, March 17, 2004

You know, I didn't even mention the Fox Sports Net promo in which the burglars are ransacking a house, but stop and put all the stuff back after they spy...some Devil Rays autographed collector's items. At the end of the spot, the burglars leave a note: "Sorry about the window."

I'm pretty sure this is a promo used in every FSN region, with the only difference being a different team's merchandise in the point-of-view shot. But, really, shouldn't Fox Sports Net Florida have also re-edited it so that the note read "Sorry about the Devil Rays"?

But it's all moot, as far as I'm concerned, now that I informed a DirecTV "entertainment consultant" of my sincere desire to not have my DirecTV bill go up by $35.00 a month after my introductory period ends. I think it's a little creepy that they can take away channels instantly while you're still on the phone with them (it seems to take hours, if not days, for the cable company to make changes). Kind of makes you wonder what else they can take away.

Actually, as I understand it, the MLB pay-per-view package is probably going to be free for the first week of the season, so maybe I'll end up watching a Devil Rays regular-season game, assuming every other game being played simultaneously is in a rain delay (or snow delay) and my TiVo has failed to record any "Match Game" episodes recently.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

I believe that last line should be "'s the best place in Tampa Bay to run around like a deranged orphan."

Links to e-mail me and Levi are now at the bottom of the page, under the archives links.


I've been thinking about how I would go about promoting the Devil Rays, if that were part of my sentence for some particularly heinous crime.

It's tough. You can't try to convince people that you're going to win, because they've been watching for six years and they know which Sandberg you have on your team.

You can't tell them about hope for the future, because even a casual fan can see that there's no hope in the near future of passing the Orioles, let alone the Blue Jays, Red Sox, then the Yankees.

And you can't use the Wrigley Field approach, selling drunken fun in the sun, because you play here.

You can't even sell the team on the nine games they play against the Yankees at home, the only games that the mostly-100-year-old retirees from New York City who comprise your market care about. After all, it's only nine games, and the Devil Rays know they're bound to lose seven or eight of them.

So maybe the Devil Rays do have the right idea with the silly ad Jim described of the kids discussing the merits of Tino Martinez and Aubrey Huff. You've got to go for the kids. But, as in most activities, the D-Rays are going about this the wrong way. Here's the text of my radio ad, which would run on, like, Radio Disney.

"Kids. Are you stuck visiting at Grandma's house with NOTHING to do but watch Wheel of Fortune? And you can't go anywhere because you can't drive and our public transit system is nonexistent? And there are no other kids in the neighborhood because the only kids in Florida are at Tomorrowland right now?

I bet your Grandma doesn't even have any video games.

That's right. Being at Grandma's sucks. It might be the only thing that sucks more than . . . . YOUR TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS!

Get Grandma to drop you off at the ballpark today! Tropicana Field: it's the best place in Tampa to run around like a deranged orphan!"

I suppose I should give my email in case the Devil Rays want to give me a consulting contract. Oh, and the ad should be read in a wacky, kid-friendly voice.


Monday, March 15, 2004

Oh, those poor Devil Rays. You know it's bad when your commercial is based on a premise (two kids being Devil Rays fans) that is so unlikely that even that Cadillac ad using Led Zeppelin seems more realistic.

But maybe that's their idea. They want to distract viewers with the only premise less likely than the Rays winning 75 games?


Sunday, March 14, 2004

Because my DirecTV introductory offer is up in a few days, I'm going to be canceling their sports channel package (turns out it's not going to be worth $12.00 a month to be able to watch "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" on 15 different channels). However, I took advantage of it one last time today to watch some spring training baseball...Tigers vs. Devil Rays, from "Progress Energy Park, home of Al Lang Field," as the announcers were careful to say.

During one commercial break, there was a promo for Devil Rays tickets: two kids on the beach arguing about who's better, Aubrey Huff or Tino Martinez. "Tino's the man!" "Aubrey's the man!" Meanwhile, there's sand being thrown on them; eventually, the scene widens to show that Pansy the Wuss-Wuss Fish has constructed a giant replica World Series trophy out of sand. Then one of the kids yells, "We're trying to make sandcastles here!"

Oh, yeah, Rays 11, Tigers 3, but to be fair, it seemed like the Rays were using a lot of actual players, while the Tigers were using a lot of players with uniform numbers above 70, including some 3-digit numbers.

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Friday, March 12, 2004


Honorary hanger-on number 1

Entertainment Weekly, talking about Chris Rock on tour: "He travels with two iPods: one for music, one for comedy, with playlists including Buddy Hackett, Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, Moms Mabley, Steve Martin, and Redd Foxx, among others."

Edited later to explain further, since this is something Levi and I discussed pre-blog: we will be traveling with two iPods, one for music (mine) and one for comedy (Levi's), although we will probably have more Jack Benny radio shows and fewer Moms Mabley routines than Chris Rock.


I just want to point this out for posterity: right now, as I'm looking at this blog, the two related-to-the-text-of-the-page "Ads by Google" at the top are headlined "Steroids For Sale" and "Buy Steroids Online."

And then the "Related Searches" in the small print below the ads are "minor league baseball" and "Barry Bonds."

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I may have to root for the Blue Jays solely because I really like their new logo. I might even go so far as to buy a replica Jays cap while on the trip, assuming they're being sold at a reasonable price and they have them in Imperial measurement sizes (because my head's not metric).

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I've been thinking about the match-ups we'll see on our trip, and which teams we'll be rooting for. I think Jim would agree that the default, absent other reasons to root for (Say, that they're the Cardinals) or against (Say, that they're the Braves) a team, would be to root for the home team.

But mitigating factors do affect several games on this trip. So here's my first pass at the rooting plan:

Game 1: Swing
Game 2: Cardinals
Game 3: White Sox (over the Tigers. Sorry, Detroit, but local interest comes first.)
Game 4: Red Sox (over the Blue Jays. Sorry, Toronto, but toppling the Yankees comes first.)
Game 5: Expos
Game 6: Red Sox
Game 7: Phillies
Game 8: Cardinals (over the Pirates. Sorry, Pittsburgh, but you guys had to see this one coming.)
Game 9: White Sox (over the Indians. Sorry, Cleveland, but that team name's got to go. And take that offensive logo with it, why don't you?).
Game 10: Ooh. This is a tough one. I want to root for the Brewers over the Pirates, because they're the home team and I love Wisconsin. But I just don't know that I can root for a team owned by Bud Selig. I may have to root for the Pirates, despite their being owned by Kevin McClatchy.

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Thursday, March 11, 2004

Add 1 to the hangers-on for Pittsburgh: Tim Anderson, aka Giant Man, is joining us. "I love Pittsburgh!" says Giant Man.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2004


Yet another itinerary update

I added the map to the itinerary so that future viewers of this page don't have to scroll past lots of Julio Franco talk in order to see it.


Julio Franco just keeps getting better!

Yesterday or the day before, Andy Van Slyke, well-known for running his mouth*, accused Julio Franco of using steroids, saying, basically: Look at him--he's like a hundred years old and still playing. He's got to be on the juice.

To which Franco replied, "I am on the juice. The juice of Jesus of Nazareth." What the hell he means, I have no idea, but I'll go with it. Franco is now the first baseman on my team of entertaining goofballs. Let's see: Doug Glanville in center, Julio Franco at first, Joaquin Andujar on the mound, Jim Bouton in the pen.

I guess my team still has some roster spots to fill. Suggestions?

*It's amazing how much of the "Barry Bonds is an asshole teammate" line comes from Van Slyke and Jeff Kent, who, by all appearances, are assholes.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2004


Whetting Levi's appetite

I fired up the ol' scanner tonight, and first of all, since the other attendees have already seen their tickets:

And this is the route map as it stands now. I have a feeling some portions may not be the AAA-approved routes, such as the "back way" to get to Yardley, Pennsylvania from the north (on U.S. 202 and state route 31), which involves going through some of the less smelly parts of New Jersey.

I'm sorry that my clumsy attempts to reduce the image size, not to mention my clumsy attempts to draw a line, made Mapquest's beautiful cartography look like crap, but I'm not exactly working with the Adobe Creative Suite here. (This is the non-online, made-from-dead-trees 2004 Mapquest "Routemaster" spiral-bound road atlas we're looking at, just in case you're wondering why doesn't look that good when you use it.)

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Another itinerary update

Stacey is now listed as an official hanger-on. If this keeps up, someone is going to end up riding in the trunk. Fortunately, Levi folds up into a compact package, and a flashlight and a couple of comic books can keep him occupied back there for hours.

Darn it, someone is already sponsoring Karl Rhodes' page at But, Tuffy, I thought what we had was special!

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Today's best baseball moment:
Julio Franco talked about filling out a questionnaire for some media thing. When he got to the question, "What's something no one knows about you?" he wrote, "My age."

Other things I like about Julio Franco: his goofy batting stance and his goofy career path. He didn't play in the majors in 1998. In 1999 he had 1 at-bat. He struck out. Then in 2000 he went to the Mexican League and hit something like .475. In the three years since then, he's had 699 at-bats with respectable numbers. And he's so old he makes Benito Santiago look, well, if not young, then at least less like the living dead.

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Monday, March 08, 2004

Re: the long version of "Feels So Good"

I haven't looked at the daily distances yet, but I know the trip is approximately twelve days.

That's not nearly enough time for the long version.

PS Do you think Chuck Mangione wants to join us for a game? He's from Rochester, so maybe he'd want to meet up in Toronto.


Saturday, March 06, 2004


Another itinerary update

I've added approximate driving times to the itinerary, for Levi to calculate how many times the long version of Chuck Mangione's "Feels So Good" can be played on each leg of the trip. Actually, since Levi has a first-generation iPod, I'm not sure how familiar he is with the concept of the "on-the-go playlist" feature of the third-generation iPods. This allows someone in the passenger seat to easily construct a playlist consisting of, for example, "Feels So Good" three times, the Beach Boys' "Kokomo" twice, and then "Feels So Good" four more times. It would also allow someone in the driver's seat to steer the car into a tree.

On another note, I got my brand-new passport in the mail today, so that I can more easily get into and out of Canada on this trip. My previous passport was issued in 1984, the last time I traveled outside the borders of the U.S. Why, it's old enough that it has separate stamps for France and Belgium in it! (My mother finally dug the old one up from wherever she'd been hiding it and sent it to me, thus finally allowing me to apply for a new one.)

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Friday, March 05, 2004


The Motor City, etc.

I don't think AAA would approve of staying in a hotel that has chunks of plaster all over the floor and pigeons roosting inside. But maybe I'm wrong. Their 2004 Tourbooks come out in April, so I'll pick up the one for Michigan when I have the Triptik made and see how many "diamonds" they give the ol' Book Cadillac.

While we're on the subject of Detroit, just the other night, I watched an HBO documentary called "A City on Fire: The Story of the '68 Detroit Tigers." The part about the World Series might make Levi depressed and morose, but I enjoyed it. Our next baseball trip after this one needs to involve time travel.

It actually contained some content relevant to our National Anthem discussion: Mickey Lolich complaining about how long it took Jose Feliciano to get through "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the beginning of Game 5, and several other interviewees, including Ernie Harwell, talking about all the complaints received about this unique take on the anthem. It sounded fine to me, although they didn't play the whole thing uninterrupted in the documentary, so I couldn't tell exactly how long it went on for.

The birth of this blog prodded a couple of people to put their names into consideration as official hangers-on. Luke wants to go to Davenport and St. Louis, and Maura wants to join us in Pittsburgh in addition to Philadelphia, so I certainly hope she enjoys the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I have updated the itinerary with details of their attendance.

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I read the itinerary this morning, Jim, and I have but one quibble. You say that we'll stay in a hotel in Detroit.

Have you forgotten that there are half a million abandoned buildings in Detroit? Many of them are even hotels! Why pay for a dinky room in a chain motel when you could stay right downtown at the Book Cadillac Hotel?

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Off to a good start?

I have just added a link to our trip itinerary to the header of this blog.

Since they're reflected in that itinerary, I might as well discuss some of the recent preparations I've made, because if getting there is half the fun, then preparing for the trip is the other half...

Places to stay: With the assistance of the AAA web site, I made reservations at relatively inexpensive hotels in Toronto, Montreal, Boston, and Pittsburgh (and the Canadian dollar better not get any stronger, so that the hotels in Toronto and Montreal stay inexpensive). Yes, the AAA web site doesn't list every possible place to stay, but I like the assurance that a AAA inspector didn't have a room infested with bedbugs, or however they decide on their "diamond" ratings. Anyway, the Toronto, Montreal, and Boston hotels seem to be a quick rapid transit ride away from each city's respective stadium, and the Pittsburgh hotel is within walking distance, thanks to Hilton's weekend specials. (I assume in this case, the AAA inspector didn't have a room infested with the Hilton sisters.)

Unfortunately for Levi, the Skydome hotel in Toronto didn't qualify as "relatively inexpensive," especially the "field view" rooms. But maybe if I make it onto "Super Millionaire" in May...

Anyway, I haven't made reservations for the Quad Cities or Detroit yet because I guess we're not exactly sure how many hangers-on there are going to be. I have a place in mind for Detroit which looks like it's in walking distance of Comerica Park. There seem to be plenty of choices in the Quad Cities, and I may end up deciding that perhaps we should stay in Galesburg, which is about 45 minutes south (since we have to make it to St. Louis for an afternoon game).

Driving directions: Speaking of making it to St. Louis, it turns out that the AAA web site is ill-equipped for making very complicated requests for their Triptik map packages. Each request can only have one starting point and eight destinations, and this trip is about twice that long. (Also, the request form doesn't include the town in Pennsylvania where my aunt and uncle live.) Nevertheless, I tried making two separate requests, one starting in Chicago and going until I ran out of destinations in Philadelphia, then one starting in Philadelphia and going back to Chicago. I only ended up getting the second one, probably because the AAA computer wanted to be helpful and cancel one of my Chicago-Philadelphia routings, assuming I had quickly changed my mind about which cities I wanted to pass through on the way.

So one of these days, I'm going to show up in person at the local AAA office to challenge them and their route-highlighting skills.

Rental car: Obviously, it will be important to get unlimited mileage and be sure it's okay to take the car into Canada. I am under the impression that the lowest car rental rates can be found at airports if you're coming in on a flight, as I will be...but since Levi, I believe, rents cars more often than I do, perhaps he knows more than I do.

My flight: Right now, the cheapest L.A.-Chicago fare is on Spirit Airlines, but their one flight a day is a red-eye eastbound, and I hate red-eyes because I can't sleep on planes; more importantly, a flight I took on Spirit in the summer of 1999 left me with no confidence in their ability to run an airline.

(By the way: "AAA" above is a reference to the American Automobile Association, not to minor-league baseball.)

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Thursday, March 04, 2004

Oh, and to explain the previous post: I had just been talking with someone here at the office about steroids and baseball and how the image of steroid abuse would be hanging over the whole season. So I wrote a post that was kind of continuing that conversation, the problem being that no one reading the post had been privy to the conversation.

Anyway, I promise this is my last word on the issue, unless Rabbi Klein is found to have been taking steroids during the heyday of the Diamond Kings.

30 days until Opening Day!


First off: I don't much care about the steroids question, in part because we won't ever know the truth. I do think maybe it's time for the union to just give it up and offer a real testing plan. Not that I think they _ought_ to, or should feel ethically obligated to. I just think maybe they should consider it just to get all the chattering sportswriters and their disappointed eight-year-old souls to shut up.

One last thing for today, which I think I can promise on both of our behalfs: Jim and I will not be taking steroids before our trip, despite all the shady characters we will probably be associating with.


Wednesday, March 03, 2004


We have a blog

Three years ago, friends of ours named Luke and Sandy went on a baseball road trip and kept a joint blog about it. So I figured we should either rip them off, or pay homage to them, depending on whether or not Luke and Sandy are going to be reading this.

This is actually the replacement for some "manual" blogging I had been doing about this trip on my own web site, so I've copied all those entries over to here. The advantages are that Levi can easily make entries here as well, and we can both make entries from anywhere...including while we're on the trip, if we can beg, borrow, or steal a computer capable of connecting to the Internet at some point.

It has also been rumored that Luke may be joining us for the first portion of our road trip. I hope he can make it, even if I disagree in part with his opinions on National Anthem etiquette. While I will happily sing along to an instrumental version (especially if it's being played live by an organist), I will remain silent if someone is out on the field performing, because I actually want to listen to their performance. But I do agree that the cheering shouldn't start until the end of the song, no matter how good the singer is at hitting the high note.

Therefore, in case they do instrumental versions of "O Canada" in Toronto and/or Montreal, I want to be sure I have the lyrics down.

On another note, my mother tells me that my cousin is getting married in Connecticut in July. Depending on the exact wedding plans (and the exact wedding location), I may attempt to come up with a scheme to visit New York for a day, a city which is a noticeable gap on the road trip itinerary. The Yankees will be in town that weekend, right before the All-Star break, playing my hometown Devil Rays.

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Monday, March 01, 2004


The first tangible sign of spring

Hey, the Phillies tickets showed up in the mail already! We'll actually be meeting up with my aunt and uncle at the game and our mutual friend Maura, so I'm going to mail those people's tickets to them ASAP.

On another note, I bought Padres tickets over the weekend for a May game against the Cubs. This isn't directly relevant to the road trip, except that both the Padres and the Phillies are going to be playing in new stadiums in 2004, so it'll be fun to do a comparison and contrast. The Padres' stadium, Petco Park, already gets points for being named after something warm and fuzzy (well, as warm and fuzzy as a chain store can be, i.e., much warmer and fuzzier than Wal-Mart), whereas the Phillies' stadium, Citizens Bank Park, loses points for being yet another stadium named after a cold, impersonal bank. Actually, at least it's a bank that still has "bank" in its corporate name, unlike its baseball stadium naming rights counterpart across Pennsylvania, PNC.

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