August 1996 - All-Star Trip Diary
Tuesday Hit the road, destination Philly. Side trip to the burg of Hawthorne, NY, and Gate of Heaven Cemetery. I need to make a pilgrimage to the final resting spot of one George Herman Ruth. Easily find the graveyard; immediately ask a groundskeeper where the slugger rests. His directions include another piece of information he knows I'll appreciate: Billy Martin's grave is in the same section. Pay homage at both spots. On the Babe's stone, visitors left baseballs, gloves, a bat, ticket stubs, schedules, a well-worn Yankee cap. No hotdogs, beer, cigars, or penicillin. A few quick snapshots, then back on the road.
Pull into the Vet parking lot an hour before the gates open. A nice amount of time to absorb the buzz of an All-Star Game. Complain about the lack of Fenway parking, but the Vet (and many others) is surrounded by nothing but acres of asphalt. Some of us appreciate the urban nature of Fenway -- the ballpark is in the city. The Vet is more like a shopping mall.
Pittsburgh two years ago was my first All-Star Game. Lousy seats, but knew that when I wrote the check. I was happy just to be there. The Philly folks wanted money up front, and would only promise that I'd be in the 600 or 700 (top two) sections. Despite my pleadings, they sent me pretty marginal outfield seats, with no recourse.
Another reason to appreciate Fenway: The way so many MLB parks, The Vet included, "stage" a game. Baseball's pinheads sell the sizzle, not the steak. So we get twits shooting T-shirts (that are nothing more than walking advertisements for a soft drink) to "fans" that seem much more interested in copping one of these rags than watching the best baseball players on the planet in their showcase event. So much hoopla that had nothing to do with baseball. The whole event was just a chance for marketers to push their products on an unsuspecting (and sadly willing) audience. Baseball was an afterthought. The nadir: blasting the Brady Bunch theme when Brady Anderson was up. Speaking of afterthoughts: The National League won. Boo, hiss. But you knew that.
Wednesday A side trip to the Jersey shore, and yet another reason to appreciate Massachusetts. Hurricane Bertha cranking the waves so big that swimming is prohibited.
Tonight, it's Waterfront Park in Trenton. Home of the Red Sox AA affiliate, the Thunder. Nice place, nice folks. Logo needs work (most minor league ones do). See hot prospects Trot Nixon and Donnie Sadler (who makes an error at short) as well as others whose names may become household words in Beantown in the years to come. "Easy" directions from ballpark cops get me lost for over a half hour after game.
Thursday Long drive up to Norwich, CT to see a Navigators day game. Camp Day, zillions of little kids in attendance. A few that don't spend their entire day looping through the concession lines actually know there is a game. Gorgeous afternoon. The townies win on a catch 'em out, throw 'em out at the plate double play to end the game.
Friday Down to New Haven, where the Ravens take on the Portland Seadogs. The Black Birds play in historic Yale Field, built in 1927. Modern seats, but the exterior looks a lot like a squished Harvard Stadium. Sit on the first base side, only feet from the bag where Yalie George Bush was photographed with Babe Ruth. Bertha is starting to spit, but a zippy game with no rain delay.
Saturday Roundin' third and headin' home. Mist and drizzle till I hit the Pike, then Bertha clobbers the Bay State. Last 50 miles as bad as it gets. But I slide in safely. Four nights, four games, three new ballparks. Another satisfying road trip under the belt.