Sorry gang that this took so long to write. In the course of a week, I've had six people, a bat and a possum all living in my house. I kid you not, a POSSUM! Anyway, here's the story about Miller Park series. Pictures on their way to LB.
Game #1 at Milwaukee Section 124, Row 11 aka Behind Third Base.
I should really give up trying to get work done the day of a game. The only thing I managed to do was break the docking station on my laptop, which I believed served as a bad omen for the day. However, my wife, who had originally planned to work from home to facilitate my early arrival at the park, managed to get out of work WAY early and was home before our agreed to time of five. I like her.
Probably most of you watched, listened to, or read the recap of the game, so I won't go into a lot of details of who did what and why. I'll concentrate on the atmosphere and all the going ons that those media don't cover. Blog to fill in the gaps I always say.
Miller Park, for all its faults and resulting litigation, is actually a nice place to watch a game. The moveable windows along the outfield provide a nice breeze on the right days and make the park feel like a true open air stadium when in reality its pretty close to a dome. We arrived an hour before game time and found four rows deep of Cardinal fans lining the third base side from home plate all the way down to the foul pole. The Nation came from many different parts, and they came early.
A couple of things struck me about the fan base. First, there are kids, and kids at heart like me, clutching a ball or ticket stub with the accompanying pen, just hoping for an autograph. (I really want a Tony LaRusa, but I want him to sign it Tony LaRusa, JD, as my wife and I are both attorneys and I really admired him as a person, a coach and a leader.) Second, there are the parents of the aforementioned kids who seem to be beaming both at their offspring, but also at the team, basking in being this close to someone actually in the uniforms for their heroes. Third, there are the baseball geeks who are taking pictures and comparing notes on who Tony should play where and why. (I guess we would all fall into that one as well.)
About half an hour before game time, Eckstein comes out of the dugout, throws his glove on third base and runs, no sprints, over to the stands to sign autographs. Kids come flying out from six surrounding sections. Now, I'm six two and cover twice the ground in a third of the time, but I cannot be that guy, the type who is using his size to push over kids and get to him. Besides, I have my autograph, on a picture I took, which is very cool. I give the vast majority of my autographs away to friends and family and keep the chance to meet these guys and just talk to them. Though, I have a habit of saying stupid things.
Eckstein signs for twenty minutes and then goes into his exaggerated warm ups. While most guys are doing lunges and stretches, Eck doesn't the craziest assortment of maneuvers that look like something Michael Richards would go through to play Kramer. Ok, I understand the first step sprint drills, and the swinging the weighted bat, but he does this jump and wiggle that looks like a bad flying fish imitation. The funniest move is when he takes the bat, chokes up to where the barrel starts and proceeds to fling it around in all directions like a ninja with a sword. I told the wife it looked like something that the hero in a bad B-Movie would do when surrounded by 100 zombies.
Twenty minutes before game time and the stadium is not half full. The entire concourse is Cards fans. This might feel like home. Four teenage girls are sitting behind me all gabbing into their cell phones. They are dressed in white skirts and heels, heels at a baseball game!! Wife says inning number three when I ask which inning I will snap and tell them to shut up. She's got too much confidence in me.
Quick lesson to learn from my mistakes. The first two or three rows at Miller park don't exist. So, if you are on the field and it says row five, you are actually three rows back. The first 6-8 rows are 75 bucks a ticket. The seats immediately behind them are 35 bucks and just as good. Double your money and sit there. Miller Park actually has LIVE ticket operators who know the seats and will help you out. Call and talk to them, they are fabulous.
The wife is addicted to baserunners, or as some call it, the dollar game. I made the mistake of teaching it to her at the Sox vs. Sox game. We play what I call Bill James rules where a walk and a single or both a buck. She complains that she doesn't know the Cards stats, so she doesn't know whom to pick. I'm honest with her and tell her that I would go...
Eck or Grudz
Then pick em
Oh, and I would take Matty Mo over Mahoney. Walk or single you make a buck, double gets you two, so on... Your guy strikes out and you pay a buck. I win the toss and here's our draft, with me picking first...
Eck (Should walk, right?)
And to end the wife picks Morris over Mahoney.
For those of you playing along at home, this wonderful draft by yours truly nets minus 11 dollars. Grudz and Gooch put a hurting on my pocket book.
Our angle to the plate was the far side of the dugout, so it was difficult to see location on the plate. It seemed from our angle that MattyMo struggled a lot with the curve and went quickly to the fast ball, which may explain the first pitch swinging in the third inning from the Brewers. Fortunately for us, this netted only one hit and nothing on the scoreboard. The Cards continued their domination of Brady Clark, who after this series is hitting only .218 against us. Pitiful.
31,000 on hand, about 25% Cards fans. The mood in Miller has changed dramatically since the last series. More Brewers fans, louder, more passionate. Milwaukee seems to prove the adage that if you put a winner on the field, the fans will come. However, they will trickle in around the bottom of the first, after they finish their parking lot beers and put out the Weber grills. Eighty-five percent show up just in time to see the Brewers jump to a 2-0 lead, thanks to a Geoff Jenkins RBI single. Under my breathe, I utter my first swear of the night.
I officially agree with an ESPN Radio talking head, pretty much a first. One of the morning guys was discussing how it is not pleasurable to watch his team play. Losses are extremely difficult and the expectation of win limits the high of the win. In other words, the lows hurt badly and the highs just aren't as high. My wife thinks I'm an idiot on this one, but with a 2-0 nothing deficit, I'm not counting us out, but the nails on my left hand are bleeding. Grudz homers in the next inning and I am feeling better. One run against the Cards is nothing. Grudz delivers again! and the Cards are up. It's back and forth and I'm stressed most of the night. When we go up finally to stay, Its more relief than joy. Cards win! Cards win.
Night 2, Section 233, Row 4. AKA, down the pole in the bleachers.
This was my first night in a non-first level seat at Miller Park. My visitors decided late that they wanted to go to a game and wanted cheaper seats. When we sat down, my friend the scientist declared that a homerun ball hit up here would land in our laps. Unfortunately, no home runs to left this night. Worse, we got the treatment from some drunks behind us.
The next incarnation of Busch Stadium will look something like Miller Park, so each visit is a view into the future. (I wrote that in my best Professor Farnworth voice.) In this visit, I finally realized that besides the grilled meat, the food at Miller Park is poor. Bland pizza, dry Italian beef, just a gamut of the non-descript. I like the wide open concourses and the breeze ways in the outfield. The windows that open behind left and right give what is essentially a 2/3rds dome a more open feel.
However....I still get a kick out of the video the Brewers show before games. The Cards video starts with Dizzy and works it way through great moments in Cards history, building to the dramatic conclusion in which the current team is placed in its rightful place with the championship teams of the past. I get excited just thinking about that montage because A) I'm a sucker for the Cards and B) I'm obsessed with the idea of us winning it all again and now. If it weren't for the stupid bell ringing and loud noise intro that follows, I would almost be in tears. IF THEY would only let the U-Man do the traditional, and here come your 2004 National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals! Seriously, I might just break down at the point.
To contrast, the Brewers show a pep talk by the Manager, Ned Yost, which was obviously filmed at Spring Training. He goes through a litany of clichés, talking about playing hard everyday. The kid of talk that you would give a pee-wee soccer team.
I'm not going to comment on Reyes's pitch location because its hard to tell from the left field bleachers. The batters that got the bat on the ball seemed to hit it pretty hard, granted. He didn't seem to struggle at all out there, which is commendable for a rookie outing. Smart move giving him his first start in a pretty neutral to borderline friendly park. The four of us decided that our emotions would range from two votes for throwing up, one for needing to change uniforms at least once, and one for sobbing so bad that you gasp for air. If we are complaining that a few guys got good wood on the ball, then well we don't have that much to complain about.
The following excerpt should not discourage you from attending Miller Park. I write this portion only to provide a full account of my evening. It is an outlier on what have been multiple enjoyable games at Miller Park.
When we initially sat down, a group of middle-aged guys behind us began giving us the business about the Cards. It was all good-natured and very friendly. Stuff like, "Does Eckstein's mommy know he's out here this late?" and "We were rooting for the Red Sox." Which they would finish with good nature laughter and a compliment about the Cards. Decent guys, who obviously enjoyed a couple hours in the parking lot a little too much.
The counter to these guys was three frat boys sitting behind, us who start in with the extremely loud and unfunny chants, insults and comments. Fine, I can take that because usually they pass out or get horse by the third inning. By the third batter, these guys start throwing coins at us, like some kind of English soccer hooligans, minus the off key singing and the chants of Beckham. Though it take me awhile to figure out what's going on, because in close quarters like the bleachers you get used to being inadvertently poked, prodded and/or popped. When the nickel landed in my lap, off the richoet from the guy in front of me's back, I figured out that we were being bombarded. I turned to share my new found wisdom with my brother, who was already standing up, facing backwards and implying that the guys did something that I cannot repeat in mixed company.
I stand up as well, and proceed to use the most favored two-word phrase from HBO's Deadwood, when I see my brother has teleported to the end of the hooligan's row. Melvin, my assumed name for my brother, is telling the guy's to step outside and discuss this. Combined, my brother and I have been ZERO fights that didn't involve my parents not being home or the invasion of one's back seat territory by the leg of his sibling. He's an English teacher for pete's sake, he might write a nasty soliloquy about you, but he's not going to kick your *$@ in a parking lot.
When my brother final sits down, the guys behind us are asking questions about what happened. Mid-way through our six-word response, the guy asking questions gets nailed with a quarter. As I watch the quarter bounce off the seat, I'm thinking "I'm going to jail tonight." In one of the smartest moves I've ever seen in heckling, the guy doesn't freak, or threaten the kid, he embarrasses him into behaving. In two minutes, he challenges the kids age, intelligence and manhood and tells him that everyone around him doesn't like him. He then turns to the kid's friends and says, "I cannot believe you are friends with this guy and actually go out in public with him." Then the friends spend the next few innings apologizing to everyone personally for the kid's behavior.
Oh and the Cards win AGAIN!!
Section 125, Row 4: Keeping out the riff-raff....
I took a client to the last game, a good guy who likes baseball and I enjoy hanging out with. The radio was reporting a game time high in the upper 80's and it was sunny, so a nice day to bake at the ballpark. I was a little miffed that Mulder was yanked for Sups because I wanted to see him battle Sheets.
Even when things are going well for Sups, I'm just waiting for the wheels to fall off. We've discussed how he implodes in his last inning, but none of that. I still maintain that the Brewers were getting just as good wood on the bat as against Reyes. Nunez was the shining defense star of this game.
I might be getting curmudgeonly in my young age, but certain behavior at the park drives me nuts....comment for this game....a drunken Cards fan behind me, who I swear looked like Larry the Cable Guy's younger brother said, "We should drill him for last night." When Bill Hall came up. I assume he meant for hitting a 2 run home run. Not much into biblical clichés, but would we want Jimmy and Albert getting drilled for every home run. Besides, there was a runner at first, you want to put two on and no out and move a runner into scoring position. That's just a Dusty Baker level stupid move.
I like Miller Park and love being able to see the Cards there in good seats relatively cheap. I also like the Brewers new found passion, though the bad apples did sour Tuesday night for me somewhat, the majority of fans are respectful, beer drinking group that just wants to have a good time. I'll get the pictures to Boros from Wednesday for everyone to see.