Continuing with my greatest games attended …
August 9 2003, Comerica Park, Detroit, Twins vs. Tigers
Strangely enough, the 2006 AL champs were one of the worst teams in MLB history in 2003. I believe the Twins won 16 of 19 games against the Tigers that year. This was one of them.
Trevor and two of his friends and I took a weekend trip to see our Twins in a real park. After being up all night driving, we stayed up all day and went to the game. The Detroit fans did not like us Minnesota boys cheering for our team.
There are two dominant memories from this game. One was the Twins winning in extra innings. I almost felt bad for the Tigers fans. The other was the short happy life of a Lance Parrish bobblehead the nice people at Comerica Park gave out to 10,000 or so fans. When some fans from 10 rows behind us started yelling, “Go back to Minneapolis,” Trevor stood up, turned around to face the fans, held his bobblehead over his head so everyone could see it and severed the head.
We made it out of there alive and even went to the Sunday afternoon game the next day and saw Kirk Gibson, the Tigers batting coach, get thrown out of the game … and the Twins won again.
Despite being located in Detroit, Comerica Park is one of the most beautiful parks I’ve been to. It has a great connection to the team’s history and is very fan friendly.
April 28 2001, Miller Park, Milwaukee, Brewers vs. Expos
A few weeks before my college graduation and as sports editor of the college newspaper, I convinced the university to pay for my ticket as gas money to write a review of the Brewers’ new ballpark. I brought my attorney Leviathon with for any legal advice I might need.
Milwaukee was taking on the late Montreal Expos and sitting half way between first base and the right-field wall in the lower deck, I was hoping some unlucky Brewer might try to go from first to third on a single and test the arm of Vladimir Guerrero. No go.
Instead, I saw Geoff Jenkins have one of the greatest games of his career for Milwaukee. All he did was hit three home runs for the red hot Brewers. His attempt at a fourth landed in the glove of the Expos’ left fielder as his back was against the wall.
I was also able to take one of my favorite baseball pictures. I managed to get to field level in the stands (proof it’s a good park) behind Montreal’s on-deck circle before Guerrero was up to bat. With his back in the foreground, the panoramic picture shows the new park with some rookie pitcher named Ben Sheets delivering to the Expos hitter.
It was a fine way to finish up my writing career for the college newspaper.
Sunday night, July 13 2003, Wrigley Field, Chicago, Cubs vs. Braves
I had a three-day weekend and I thought, “What the hell, I’m gonna catch my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field.”
Took the red line to the Addison stop, bought one ticket from a scalper in an office down the street from the field and killed time in a local pub waiting for the ESPN Sunday night game of the week to begin less than a block away.
I told myself before I went in the park I wouldn’t look up to see it until I was at the top of the steps of the lower deck so I could take it in all at once. It was as beautiful as I’d hoped.
It turned out, the first person I saw taking batting practice was the mighty Sammy Sosa. With one swing of his corked bat, his undetectable steroids helped launch the pitch over the left field stands and onto Sheffield Avenue.
Before the game I saw the crew for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, who were about to broadcast on the field. Along with Karl Ravich, Bobby Valentine and Tim Kurkjian were commentators Jon Miller and hall of famer Joe Morgan. I was star struck and the game hadn’t even begun.
As I watched the live taping of Baseball Tonight, during a commercial, it looked as though the three men behind the desk were waving at me. I noticed the woman next to me waving back. After talking with her I found out she was the wife of baseball writer Tim Kurkjian.
I was able to tell her I respected her husband’s work and I enjoyed listening to his commentary on the Tony Kornheiser radio show. “Oh, he loves being on the Kornheiser show,” she said.
Sammy Sosa, Dusty Baker, Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Joe Morgan, Jon Miller … the list went on and on. But none were bigger or drew a bigger ovation that who was to come. The ballpark announcer told us all.
“And now, here to throw out the ceremonial first pitch — you know him from such films as Stripes, Caddysh…” Wrigley Field erupted in applause before the announcer could get any further. Through the roar of the crowd I could barely make out the words from overhead, “…Bill Murray!”
The man is funny even as he walks to a pitching mound waving to the crowd. He was even funnier when he wound up to throw the first pitch as if he were a real major leaguer and then chucked it ten rows into the seats.
Oh yeah, the game. The Braves trounced the cursed Cubs something like, 8-3. Sosa came up once with the bases loaded and popped out.
A few months later Moises Alou threw a hissy fit and Alex Gonzalez followed that up with an error that should have been easily avoided at shortstop in Game 6 of the NLCS, helping the Florida Marlins to defeat the Cubs and go on to win the World Series.
June 2000, Lewis and Clark Stadium, Sioux City, IA, Sioux City Explorers
I had just begun an internship with the Sioux City Journal. A woman in the office heard I was a baseball fan and offered me the company’s season ticket for the evening. My roommate Josh couldn’t make it, so I went alone.
I’d been to Lewis and Clark Stadium the previous season when Josh and I saw the St. Paul Saints play. Walking to my seat, I contained my joy as I sat in the first row behind the screen, about 30 feet from home plate.
This is Northern League baseball, which is on par with a double-A team. The majority of the game is a blur, but it was the first of many that summer, and it was filled with the excitement of the summer to come. I was beginning a long and interesting journey in the world of journalism that would last over five years. Later that summer I wrote my first published article on the Explorers’ Clay Calvert, who would later play for the Australian Olympic baseball team.
The game was tied in the bottom of the ninth. Sioux City had a runner on third when a pitch got by the catcher. I saw it hit the backstop a few feet to my left. I looked up to see the Explorers’ runner trying to score from third. The catcher tossed his mask and ran back to get the ball. The pitcher ran to cover the plate as the runner sprinted for home. The catcher threw a strike to home where the runner was sliding feet first. Dirt was flying everywhere from the slide.
Safe! Myself and the crowd went wild as the Explorers’ dugout poured on to the field to celebrate with the winning run.
The icing on the cake? Wait for it…
There it is…
I had to cover my mouth so as not to inhale the cloud of dust from the slide that had drifted to my front-row seat seconds later. It’s something you won’t experience in the majors.
June 1996, Metrodome, Twins vs. Yankees
Thank you Jeremy Hursh for the tickets. Thank you Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for allowing the Yankee Stadium rainout to be rescheduled in the doubleheader-deprived Metrodome – two games for the price of one.
With high school graduation fresh in my mind, Nick and I went inside for six hours of baseball. I know the Twins won the first game and dropped the second. What I didn’t know at the time was how that Yankees team would become one of the greatest teams of all time. The late 90’s were a time, like all others, to hate the Yankees. But at least those teams a baseball fan could respect. New York was a lot more home grown back then and not just the best free agents of the year. The Yankees would go on to defeat the Braves in the World Series that year and then the Padres in ’98, the Braves again in ’99 and the Mets in 2000. Their overall World Series record in that time was 16-3.
During the doubleheader, some guy I’d never heard of named Bernie Williams hit two home runs off the Twins. A middle reliever by the name of Mariano Rivera shut us down in game two for three innings and Don Zimmer, the Yankees’ bench coach, was thrown out for arguing with the umps with New York up something like 8-2. Nick and I screamed in joy at the baseball legend from the third row above the Yankees’ dugout. “Only the Yankees would argue when they’re up by six runs late in the game!”