Sunday, August 22, 2004


"If anyone asks, you're two adults and two children."

First of all, yes, the trip is going as scheduled so far. Even though it's going to say this was posted by Jim, this is actually a collaborative post, more or less, because for the first time both of us are sitting next to the same computer. This may be how we do things for the rest of the trip, or maybe not -- we'll have to see. We're at Levi's parents' house in Carmi, Illinois, right now, using their computer, and we have to get up early to get on the road, but we wanted to get a little something down.

The car we ended up with from Hertz is a 2005 Chevrolet Impala. It has a CD player but no tape deck, so we're using Vince's iTrip, which is working okay so far. Everyone in the car seemed to enjoy Jim's baseball song playlist and Luke's baseball song-and-Red-Barber-recollection playlist. Now we're working our way through Jim's "Number Ones" playlist, which is every song he owns that hit #1 on the Billboard playlist. (Playing it was Levi's request; Jim probably would have chosen something with more radio station jingles.)

On to the games. Saturday's game at John O'Donnell Stadium in Davenport is the only minor-league game on the trip. That meant it was the only game at which we could walk up and get box seats and still get change from a $20 after buying two. We bought four, so we got change from a $40. We sat 10 rows up, right behind home, in front of a row of screaming children. (You know how you hear sometimes how great the laughter of children sounds? In reality, it's shrill.)

Levi tried both vegetarian food options at the ballpark. Neither the nachos nor the fries were particularly distinguished.

The mascots, on the other hand, were almost the Famous Chicken level. The Swing's actual mascot is a man in a monkey suit who, when he's wearing the monkey suit, is known as Clyde. Clyde has a sidekick, a 4'10" man in a green-and-yellow superhero costume, complete with cape, named, of course, Banana Man. He runs around, occasionally stopping to stand heroically with arms akimbo, and occasionally stopping to throw bananas into the crowd. No explanation is offered.

The game itself was a brisk affair. The Swing center and right fielders should possibly have been players of the game due to the following incident late in the game with the Swing up by 1: with the tying run at first, a ball was hit to the wall in center. We couldn't quite see if the Swing center fielder bobbled it or not, but whatever was going on out there, it eventually ended with the outfielders' arms upraised in the universal symbol of "where the hell is the ball," most commonly seen in the major leagues at Wrigley Field when a ball gets lost in the ivy. We, being cynical city folk, doubted their story, but the umpire bought it hook, line, and sinker, the hook being the tying run being sent back to third. You can guess what the line is -- the go-ahead run being stuck at second. The sinker: a 1-0 Swing win.

Distracting everyone late in the game was a rabbit that had somehow wandered onto the field. First he was out in left field minding his own business, but somehow in all the commotion, he ended up in foul territory near home. He would sit around for a few minutes, then scamper off about 30 feet. At one point, perhaps thinking he had been called in to pitch, he sat between home and the pitcher's mound between innings. The umpire appeared to be consulting his mental rule book, but surprisingly, the Midwest League doesn't seem to have an official policy on rabbits taking up residence in the infield, so he decided it was somebody else's problem and ignored the little guy. No, not Banana Man, the rabbit. Banana Man was clearly the umpire's problem.

Eventually, the rabbit took off for parts unknown. Meanwhile, it seems that whenever a rabbit gets loose on the field, Section 5 gets handed free Blue Bunny bomb pops, or whatever they're called now that you can't say "bomb." Perhaps Tom Ridge pops. Anyway, we got to enjoy our tri-color quiescently frozen confections for the last couple of innings, with no real explanation as to how we got them.

After some interesting wandering on two-lane roads in Illinois, through Saturday night rodeo traffic, we spent a too-short night at the Country Inn and Suites in Galesburg. Bright and early Sunday, we got up and Levi spilled tea on his feet, which meant it was time to leave for St. Louis. We met up with hanger-on Tony for lunch before the game, and then met up with the various other hangers-on at the Stan Musial statue outside Busch Stadium. Inside, Jim met the final hanger-on of this busy hanger-on day, Jay, of "Jeopardy!" message board fame, who managed to get a seat right behind the main group.

Levi nearly used up a whole pencil filling in the boxes on the Cardinals' side of the scorecard today, after he finally figured out which side was supposed to be the Cardinals' side of the scorecard. He had to fill in box after box after box as the Cards scored run after run after run, as usual this season. Luke, in his Cubs shirt and cap, looked awestruck. Behind him, the fans wearing Cardinal red looked on with pity. Particularly noteworthy plays were Edgar Renteria's 13-pitch first-inning at-bat that ended in a 3-run homer; Larry Walker's grand slam; and, best of all (only best because the Cardinals were already leading by nearly a touchdown at this point), Reggie Sanders leaping high against the wall, coming down with his glove closed to cheers from the audience, and the scoreboard operator immediately putting up "HR RBI." The scoreboard operator was the only one in the stadium not fooled by Reggie's act -- well, we guess the umpires weren't fooled either; there was no joy in Gloveville, the ball had gone right out.

Immediately after the game, we found the ramp to I-64 East that hadn't been torn down for new Cardinals ballpark construction and hightailed it to Levi's hometown, Carmi, Illinois. At Levi's parents' house, we were visited by frequent commentator Toby, as well as Levi's grandparents (non-commentators).

The title quote for this post was said to Jim by the desk clerk at the Country Inn and Suites in Galesburg, explaining how he could qualify for the rate he was quoted on the AAA web site. No one asked.

All right, now we're going to bed, probably two hours later than we should have. See you in Detroit, assuming we can find an abandoned building that still has an Internet connection up and running.

Original comments...

sandor: When those buildings were abandoned, it was still callled DARPAnet, which means you're going to have to enter in your post using punchcards. I think they still sell blank ones down at the A&P.

Where are the links? I assumed Levi would gladly trade in sleep for the chance to hyperlink all possible words in this post. I was particularly looking forward to the interpretation of the words "Banana Man" as well as "Levi's grandparents."

You are playing the license plate game, right? Who's winning?

Congrats on keeping up your schedule. Keep the posts coming!

stacey: i think the lack of links was due to the late hour, combined with the fact that the internet connection at the stahl chalet is VERY slow. this is more than made up for by their amazing hospitality, though. i'm still full of delicious pasta, fresh fruit, and great company. the commute from carmi to chicago is a drag, though.

Luke, hanger-on: To flesh out the image of how this post came to be, I should note that Jim and Levi wrote together at the family computer in Levi's brother's room. Jim did the typing, employing his closed-captioning skills to take dictation from Levi, who reclined on a bean bag with a cigar and glass of port, pausing now and then to re-read that Sunday's Post-Dispatch story about the Cardinals and the clubhouse iPod.

I, meanwhile, dosed a few doors down in Levi's old bedroom, which I found impressively well-preserved. The Smithsonian should scoop it up for its exhibit on "Halcyon Childhoods of America: 1980-1989." Not surprisingly, the room betrays fascinations with Star Wars, classic rock and mullets. I could have stayed forever.

Jim: Yes, we will go back after the trip and add links, additional stuff we may have forgotten to write about, and especially photos. Or at least I will. Levi may choose to wash his hands of the whole thing, for all I know.

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