Sunday, July 15, 2018

1998 Yankees vs. 2004 Arsenal

Top row, left to right: Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp, Edu Gaspar,
Jens Lehmann, Lauren Etame Mayer, Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure.
Bottom row: Unidentified mascot, Ashley Cole,
Freddie Ljungberg, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires.

Somebody asked me recently, on Twitter, if the 1998 New York Yankees' achievement of a 114-48 regular season record, followed by an 11-2 postseason record, totaling 125 wins and 50 losses and resulting in winning the World Series, was equivalent to the 2003-04 Arsenal team's achievement of an undefeated Premier League season: As an announcer said, "They were, quite literally, unbeatable: Played 38, won 26, drawn 12, lost exactly none!"

I told him this was worth studying, and that it required a lot more than the 280 characters that Twitter now allows.

The Case for The Arsenal

The Arsenal didn't lose a game. Maybe they drew some games they should have won. But they also drew some games where they could have lost. Examples: 1-1 home to Portsmouth on September 13, 2003 (no, Robert Pires did not dive, he was practically mugged); 0-0 away to Manchester United on September 21 (a.k.a. the Battle of Old Trafford, or the van Nistelrooy-Keown Game); 1-1 away to Charlton Athletic on October 26; and 1-1 home to Man United on March 28, 2004.

The 1998 Yankees' record of 114-48 was magnificent. Only 2 Major League Baseball teams have ever won more games in a regular season: The 1906 Chicago Cubs and the 2001 Seattle Mariners, both of whom won 116. But neither of them went on to win the World Series. The '98 Yanks did.

But they didn't win every game. In 29 percent of their games, they not only failed to win, they lost. The Gunners lost exactly none.

That had only been done once before in the history of English soccer's 1st division. It was all the way back in the 1st season of the Football League, 1888-89, when Preston North End of Lancashire played 18, won 22, drew 4, and lost none. But 22 games unbeaten is one thing; 38 is another. Indeed, Arsenal's League unbeaten streak ran from May 7, 2003 to October 24, 2004, encompassing pieces of 3 seasons, and stretching to 49 straight games, before Man United cheated them out of a 50th.

And it hasn't been done since. An unbeaten League season of more than 22 games? Only The Arsenal have done it. The Yankees haven't. No Major League Baseball team has.

For comparison's sake, the longest winning streak in Yankee history is 19 games, in 1947. They also had an 18-game winning streak in 1953. They won the World Series both times.

The Case for the Yankees

They won every competition that was available to them. They won a Playoff berth. They won the American League Eastern Division. They won the American League Pennant. And they won the World Series.
Contrast that with the Gunners. They reached the Semifinal of the FA Cup, but lost to Man United. Understandable, as they were a great team. Indeed, while Arsenal did not lose a game in the regular season, they played Man U 4 times, and didn't win any of the games: They played the Community Shield, the annual season-starter between the defending winners of the League title (Man U) and the FA Cup (Arsenal), and Man U won on penalties; they lost to Man U in the FA Cup Semi; and the 2 League games were both draws.

They also reached the Semifinal of the League Cup. There, they lost to Middlesbrough. Not a good team. But then, Arsenal usually don't take the League Cup very seriously.

Then there was the UEFA Champions League. That season, Arsenal became the 1st English club ever to defeat Internaionale of Milan in Milan, and also gained their 1st victory on Spanish soil by knocking Celta Vigo out of the tournament. But after a 1-1 draw in the away leg of the Quarterfinal, they lost to fellow Londoners Chelsea 2-1 at home.

The title was there. Chelsea were knocked out by AS Monaco, who really weren't as good as either Chelsea or Arsenal. And Monaco lost the Final to FC Porto, who also weren't as talent-laden as Arsenal. This is the great missed opportunity in Arsenal history.

Arsenal did not win everything that was available to them. The Yankees did.

In addition, the big argument of "lost exactly none" has a flaw in it: Draws are not available in baseball. If the '04 Gunners had had to play to a winner every time, how many of those 12 draws would they have lost?

Surely, some would have gone to penalties, and with Thierry Henry leading the way, they likely would have won most of those shootouts. But they could live with a draw, as they did on April 25, 2004, when a draw would clinch them the League title at the home of their North London arch-rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, and they blew a 2-0 lead to finish 2-2. Still, "We won the League at White Hart Lane!"

The '98 Yanks failed to win in 29 percent of their games; but the '04 Gunners failed to win in 31 percent of theirs.

CONCLUSION: What 2003-04 Arsenal did was astonishing, and had never (really) been done before, and hasn't been done since. But what the 1998 Yankees did was even better. They didn't avoid defeat in all their League games, but they did "win it all."

One more note: When Reggie Jackson hit his 3rd home run of Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, ABC's Howard Cosell noted that all of the controversies of the season had, for the moment, been swept away. Cosell said, "Victory can bring harmony!"

Which is almost the exact opposite if Arsenal's motto: Victoria Concordia crescit. "Victory through harmony."

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Diego Maradona for England Losing the 1986 World Cup

From @Fattcheeked on Twitter:

England World Cup recap: Beat Tunisia with a last minute goal from a set piece. Beat not-too-good Panama and Sweden teams. Miraculously triumph in a penalty shootout vs Colombia missing their best player. Lost 3 times to the 2 good teams they faced.

Meaning Belgium in the Group Stage, Croatia in the Semifinal, and Belgium again in the 3rd place game today.

England failed to reach the World Cup Final this time, as they have done in every World Cup except for 1966, when it was on home soil.

The World Cups of 1942 and 1946 were canceled, due to the effects of World War II.

England didn't enter the World Cup in the 1st 3 tournaments: 1930, 1934 and 1938. None of the British "Home Nations" did, due to a dispute with FIFA.

They didn't qualify in 1974, 1978 and 1994.

They went out after the Group Stage in 1950, 1958 and 2014. 1950 was when they famously lost to the U.S.

They lost in the Round of 16 to Argentina in 1998 and Germany in 2010.

They went out after the Second Group Stage, effectively the Quarterfinals, in 1982.

They lost in the Quarterfinals to Uruguay in 1954, Brazil in 1962 and 2002, the nation then known as West Germany in extra time in 1970, Argentina in 1986, and Portugal in 2006.

They lost in the Semifinals to West Germany in 1990, and now, again, to Croatia in 2018.

And, of course, they won the Final in 1966, beating West Germany in extra time.

Famously, they went out on penalties in 1990, 1998 and 2006. They also got knocked out of of the European Championship on penalties in 1996 (in the Semifinal, to the now-united Germany) and 2012 (in the Quarterfinal, to Italy).

The Netherlands is also a leading "footballing nation" known for failing at penalties. If the English and Dutch teams ever met in the knockout round, and the scores were level after extra time 'twould be better to flip a coin, or else we could be there all night.

Tomorrow, it will be France, in its 3rd Final, having won in 1998 and lost in 2006, against Croatia, in their 1st Final.

Jules Rimet, founder of the World Cup, and the man for whom the trophy is named, was French. It could be "coming home" after all.

England's most famous loss isn't the rain-soaked 1990 Semifinal in Turin, Italy, with Paul Gascoigne crying over his yellow card making him ineligible for the Final (had England made it) and the loss on penalties to Ze Germans. Nor is it the 1950 Group Stage game with the U.S. in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

It's the 1986 Quarterfinal, against Argentina, at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. In the 51st minute, Argentina's star, Diego Maradona, slapped the ball with his left hand, and it went past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, giving Argentina a 1-0 lead. The referee, Ali Bin Nasser of Tunisia, gave the goal. There was no VAR in those days. Maradona's postgame comments gave the goal its name: "The Hand of God." It is the most famous cheat in the history of sports on planet Earth.

Five minutes later, with the England players still in angry shock, Maradona scored again, a dizzying display of dribbling ending with a great shot that became known as "The Goal of the Century." Gary Lineker scored in the 81st minute, but England got no closer, and were out, 2-1.

If Nasser had correctly waved the 1st goal off, does Maradona score the 2nd? Would the England players have been able to stop him? Would they then have won 1-0 thanks to Lineker's goal? Would they then have beaten Belgium in the Semifinal, as Argentina did? Would they then have beaten West Germany in the Final, as Argentina did? We'll never know.

How much did Maradona's cheating really hurt England?

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" for England Losing the 1986 World Cup

5. Diego Maradona. At the time, he may well have been the best player in the world. He might have scored his "Goal of the Century," or another goal, anyway. And if it had been 0-0, and thus 1-0, later than it actually was, maybe Lineker doesn't score his goal at all. And Argentina still win.

4. Mexico. No, not their national team. They were eliminated by West Germany in the Quarterfinal. The only way England and Mexico could have met was in the Final. Indeed, only twice have Mexico gotten as far as the Quarterfinal, and, both times, it was on home soil: In 1970 and 1986. (Mexico was hosting again after just 16 years because Colombia, troubled by civil war and the effect on its economy, backed out of hosting the 1986 edition in 1982.)

I'm talking about the location. Mexico has a diverse climate, but most of the cities selected for the World Cup were in deserts at high elevation. A combination of heat and thin air makes the country a difficult place to play, especially at the Azteca, giving El Tri a tremendous home field advantage.

Argentina were used to playing on that side of the world, in tropical heat, and at altitude. England, a country on the other side of the world, considerably further north, whose weather tends toward the cool and damp, simply couldn't handle it.

Note that England's best World Cup performances have come in Europe: The 1966 win at home, the 1990 Semifinal in Italy, and the 2018 Semifinal in Russia.

3. Belgium. They didn't have a single player whose name you'd remember now, with the possible exception of Lei Clijsters, and he only because he was the father of tennis star Kim Clijsters. Only 2 of their players played their club football outside Belgium: Goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff for Bayern Munich in Germany, and defender Eric Gerets for PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

But 7 of Belgium's players played for R.S.C. Anderlecht, which had just won the 2nd of 3 straight league titles. Some of them had been on the Anderlecht team that won the 1983 UEFA Cup. And 4 of the Belgium players were from Club Brugge, which had just won the Belgian Cup, and, then as now, frequently does well in European competition.

The aforementioned Pfaff had just helped Bayern to its 2nd straight Bundesliga title. And the aforementioned Gerets had just helped PSV win the 1st of what turned out to be 6 straight Eredivisie (Dutch league) titles. Belgium had lots of talent, and there's no guarantee that England would have gotten past them to face...

2. West Germany. Who's kidding who? They had of Lothar Matthäus of Bayern; former Bayern star Karl-Heinz Rummenigge of Internazionale; Rudi Völler of Werder Bremen; Andreas Brehme of Kaiserslautern; Felix Magath of Hamburg; Thomas Berthold of Eintracht Frankfurt; and, in goal, Harald Schumacher of Köln, who proved in his collision with Patrick Battiston of France in the 1982 World Cup that he was not above playing dirty.

This would be the 2nd of 3 straight World Cup Finals that West Germany would make, losing to Italy in 1982, losing to Argentina in 1986, and reversing that result by beating Argentina in 1990, before the reunification with East Germany later that year. Ze Germans were good enough to win the World Cup; the Three Lions were not.

1. England. They weren't that good. Despite the lies told by the English media, and believed by the England fans, the Three Lions, then as now, were simply not good enough to win the World Cup.

Note: All of the club affiliations I'm citing here are those of the players involved in the 1985-86 season that had concluded before Mexico 86 began.

Of the 22 players selected, 11 of them would later be selected for the 1990 team that got all the way to penalties in the Semifinal: Goalkeeper Peter Shilton of Southampton; defender Gary M. Stevens, midfielder Trevor Steven, and forward Gary Lineker of Everton; defender Terry Butcher of Ipswich Town, midfielder Bryan Robson of Manchester United, midfielder Chris Waddle of Tottenham Hotspur, goalkeeper Chris Woods of Norwich City, midfielder Steve Hodge of Aston Villa, midfielder John Barnes of Watford, forward Peter Beardsley of Newcastle United,

But 7 of them were on the 1982 team that flopped in the Second Group Stage in 1982: Shilton, Butcher, Robson, defenders Kenny Sansom and Viv Anderson of Arsenal, midfielder Glenn Hoddle of Tottenham, and midfielder Ray Wilkins of A.C. Milan (formerly of Chelsea and Manchester United).

And 7 of them weren't good enough to make any World Cup team but 1986: Defender Alvin Martin of West Ham United, striker Mark Hateley of Milan (formerly of Coventry City and Portsmouth), defender Terry Fenwick of Queens Park Rangers, defender Gary A. Stevens of Tottenham (no relation to Gary M.), midfielder Peter Reid of Everton, forward Kerry Dixon of Chelsea, and goalkeeper Gary Bailey of Manchester United.

Maybe the 1986 England team could have gotten past Argentina if the "Hand of God" goal had been correctly waved off. Maybe they could have gotten past Belgium. But they would not have beaten West Germany.

And saying, "But we invented football!" doesn't wash. Rutgers College fielder America's 1st football team, and its successor school, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, correctly calls itself "the birthplace of college football," but they've done precious little since 1869.

England have had some success since 1966, but not enough to justify the hype they get every 2 years when the World Cup and, in between them, the European Championships comes along.

Yes, Maradona cheated. But it probably didn't matter that much. England would not have won the 1986 World Cup had it not happened.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

How to Be a Yankee Fan In Cleveland -- 2018 Edition

Next Thursday, the Yankees begin a 4-game series away to the Cleveland Indians, followed by the All-Star Break.

Unlike a lot of these cities, I have been to Cleveland, and have even seen the Yankees beat the Indians at Jacobs Field -- sorry, Progressive Field. (I hate the corporate name. But I love the "Flo" commercials.)

Before You Go. You've no doubt heard the legends of wind blasting off Lake Erie and "lake-effect snow." Well, this will be August, so cold and wind won't be an issue., the website connected with the city's main newspaper, The Plain Dealer, is predicting temperatures in the low 80s for the afternoons, and the low 70s at night. No rain is predicted.

Despite former Indian 3rd baseman Graig Nettles' joke on a Yankee flight to Cleveland in 1977 -- "Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to land in Cleveland. Please set your watches back 42 minutes." -- Cleveland is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to change your timepieces.

Tickets. The Indians won a surprise American League Pennant in 2016, but any bounce they got from it is already gone: They are currently averaging 22,113 fans per game. Ohio has never really recovered from the Bush Recession -- and short memories may explain why the State fell for Trump's line of bull.

This should be shocking to those of you who remember their home field, then known as Jacobs Field for Richard Jacobs, the owner who got the place built, being sold out every game from 1995 to 2001. But it shouldn't be shocking to those of you whose memories go back further, to the days when they played at 86,000-seat Municipal Stadium, a.k.a. "Cavernous Cleveland Stadium," where there were often 75,000 to 80,000 people who showed up disguised as empty seats.

However, the Yankees are always the biggest draw of the year for the Indians, and the park officially seats 35,051 people (from a 2009 peak of 45,569). And, as it happens, these games are pretty much sold out. You may have to go to StubHub or a similar website.

Naturally, tickets to see the Indians play the Yankees are more expensive than those against other opponents. Field Boxes (lower-level infield) are $120, Lower Boxes (lower-level down the foul lines) are $98, Lower Boxes in the corners by the poles are $72, Lower Reserved (right-field bleachers) are $60, View Box (first few rows of upper deck) are $46, Upper Box are $42, and Upper Reserved (pretty high up) are $24. The Bleachers, in left field under the big scoreboard, are $27.

Getting There. Cleveland is 500 land miles from New York. Well, not quite: Specifically, it is 465 miles from Times Square to Public Square; and 467 miles from Yankee Stadium to Progressive Field. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

This may be a good idea -- if you can afford it: Like New York, Boston and Chicago, but unlike most of the American League cities, Cleveland has good rapid transit from the airport to downtown. In fact, with the extension of the RTA Rapid Transit's Red Line in 1968, Cleveland became the 1st city in the Western Hemisphere to have rapid transit direct from downtown to its major airport. But round-trip fare could run you over $700.

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, named for William R. Hopkins, a City Manager in the 1920s and an early pilot, is about 12 miles southwest of downtown, and the Red Line takes 24 minutes, 9 stops, to get from Hopkins to Tower City.

From Tower City, underneath the iconic Terminal Tower on Public Square, there is a walkway directly to the ballpark and the adjoining Quicken Loans Arena – meaning you could fly in, ride in, walk in, see a game, walk out, ride out and fly out, all in one day. But you really should take a day to see the city.

Train? Bad idea. Not because of the price, just $168 round-trip, but because of the schedule. The Lake Shore Limited (formerly known as the Twentieth Century Limited when the old New York Central Railroad ran it from Grand Central Terminal to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station) leaves Grand Central (while Penn Station undergoes track work) at 2:15 every afternoon, and arrives at Cleveland's Lakefront Station at 3:27 in the morning. Let me say that again: 3:27 AM. In reverse, the train leaves Lakefront Station at 5:50 AM and arrives back at Grand Central at 6:56 PM. Time-wise, this is incredibly inconvenient.

And, unlike the Cleveland Union Terminal, now known as Tower City Center but hasn't had long-distance passenger rail traffic since 1977, Lakefront Station, at 200 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, is not exactly one of the great rail terminals of this country. To make matters worse, while the RTA Green Line and Blue Line both serve Lakefront Station, the RTA doesn't run overnight, and thus any Amtrak train that comes into the station will not be serviced by it.
Not only isn't it an Art Deco masterpiece like Union Terminal,
but Lakefront Station is about the size of Metropark in Woodbridge.
Pathetically small for a metro area of Cleveland's size.

How about Greyhound? There are 9 buses leaving Port Authority every day with connections to Cleveland, but only 2 of these are nonstop: The rest require you to change buses in Pittsburgh or Buffalo. The ride, including the changeover, takes about 13 hours. Round-trip fare is $226, although it can be as little as $151 with advanced purchase.

The terminal, at 1465 Chester Avenue, adjacent to the Cleveland State University campus east of downtown, was a hideously filthy hole on my 1st visit in 1999, but by my next visit in 2004, they'd gotten the message and cleaned it up, and it's tolerable again. At least on the inside; on the outside, it's a magnet for panhandlers. It's a 7-block walk from the terminal to Public Square, but it's better to take a cab, or to walk 3 blocks to the corner of 13th Street & Superior Avenue and take the Number 3 bus in.
If you decide to drive, the directions are rather simple, down to (almost literally) the last mile. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. I point this out merely to help you avoid confusion, not because I-90 will become important. You'll take I-80's Exit 173, and get onto Interstate 77 North. Take Exit 163 toward E. 9th St. This will take you into downtown. If you're driving, I would definitely recommend getting a hotel, and there are several downtown, including some near the ballpark.
If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, and a little over an hour in Ohio. Counting rest stops, preferably at either end of Pennsylvania, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Cleveland, it should be no more than 10 hours.

Once In the City. Cleveland, which once had a city population of over 900,000, but is now under 400,000 with a metro area population of 3.5 million, was founded in 1796 by Moses Cleaveland, a hero of the War of the American Revolution, a General in the Connecticut militia, and a shareholder in the Connecticut Land Company. When the Northwest Ordinance was passed in 1787, a lot of New Englanders moved to what's now the Great Lakes States, and many "original" Ohio families can trace their roots back to Connecticut and Moses' expedition to what was known as the Western Reserve.

Supposedly, the reason for the difference in spelling is that, in 1830, the city's 1st newspaper was established, but the editor found "Cleaveland Advertiser" was too long to fit on the incorporation form, so he dropped an A.

The city doesn't really have a highway "beltway" as we understand that term. It is centered on Public Square, at the intersection of Ontario Street and Superior Avenue (U.S. Route 6), with Euclid Avenue (U.S. Route 20) flowing into it. The Terminal Tower, a 708-foot Art Deco masterpiece, is at the southwest corner of Public Square, and includes the Tower City rail hub and shopping mall. It opened in 1930 and, until 1964, was the tallest building in North America outside New York.

At the southeast corner is the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, probably the best memorial to the American Civil War outside of that war's preserved battlefields. And at the northeast corner is the Key Tower, at 948 feet now the tallest building in the State of Ohio; Richard Jacobs, who owned the Indians for a time, also owned the real estate development company that built the Key Tower (named for Key Bank) in 1991.
The sales tax in Ohio is 5.75 percent, and in Cuyahoga County (which includes Cleveland), it's 8 percent. ZIP Codes in Cleveland begin with the digits 441, and the Area Code is 216.
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) runs a heavy rail Red Line, similar to New York's Subway, and light rail Blue and Green Lines. They converge at the Tower City, and all 3 run together from there to East 55th Street. The Blue and Green Lines both start at South Harbor, and run together to Shaker Square before diverging. The fare is $2.25, and is the same for RTA buses. An all-day pass is a bargain at just $5.00.
An RTA line outside the Browns' stadium

Going In. Progressive Field, named for the insurance company (with TV spokesgal Flo) and called Jacobs Field from 1994 to 2008 -- once "The Jake," it's now "The Prog" -- is 7 blocks from Public Square, at 2401 Ontario Street. Parking at lots around the ballpark runs from $5.00 to $20.
As I said, a walkway connects Tower City Rail and the ballpark. Ontario Street is the 3rd base side, Carnegie Avenue the 1st base side, 9th Street the right field side, and Eagle Avenue the left field side. Gates A and B, including a statue of Bob Feller, are at the left field corner. Gate C is a the right field corner, and Gate D is behind home plate. Each gate features a ticket office as well as an entry point.

Quicken Loans Arena (a.k.a. "The Q," formerly Gund Arena) is across Eagle Avenue. It is the home of the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, a minor-league hockey team called the Lake Erie Monsters (but there's no monster in Lake Erie, the way some people say there are in Loch Ness and Lake Champlain), and an Arena Football team called the Cleveland Gladiators.
The first thing that will catch your eye when you get to your seat is the big scoreboard in left field. The light towers are also distinctive, known as "The Toothbrushes." If you've been to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, "The Jake" is going to seem rather familiar. The layout is nearly identical, with the wraparound being from the left field corner around home plate, around the right field corner nearly to center field, with the bleachers in left field under a huge board. There's even a statue of a legendary pitcher outside left field (in Philly's case, Steve Carlton).
The ballpark faces northeast, and from some sections Cleveland's taller buildings, such as the Terminal and Key Towers, can be seen. The field is natural grass. Outfield distances are as follows: Left pole, 325 feet; left-center, 370; center, 405; deepest part of the park, to the right of dead-center, 410; right-center, 375; right, 325.

In 1999, Jim Thome hit the park's longest home run, 511 feet. There is some dispute as to the longest ever at Municipal Stadium: Officially, Luke Easter holds the record with a 477-footer in 1950, but Mickey Mantle may have hit one there a little longer in 1952, and Ted Williams may also have surpassed it.

Food. Ohio -- much more than New Jersey and Maryland, which get into the conference this year -- is part of Big Ten Country, where college football tailgate parties are practically a sacrament. However, unlike the Tigers, White Sox and Brewers, there really isn't a lot of great food options.

Their "Ballpark Classics," "Ballpark Grill," "Cleats" and "Market Pavilion" stands have the usual fare, and there's a Subway sandwich shop and a snow-cone cart inside. But you're better off going somewhere either before or after the game and loading up.

According to a recent Thrillist article on the best food at each of the 30 current MLB parks, the best at Cleveland's is the grilled cheese sandwich at Melt Bar and Grilled, in "The Right Field District."

There was a restaurant called the New York Spaghetti House on East 9th Street, just a few steps from the ballpark, but it went out of business in 2001. Original owner Mario Brigotti, who died in 1998 at age 99, was a childhood friend of another Italian Clevelander, Mario Boiardi – a.k.a. Chef Boyardee.

Team History Displays. The Indians put their title notations under the right field roof: Their 1920 and 1948 World Championships; their 1954, 1995 and 1997 American League Pennants; and their 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2007 AL Central Division titles.

Many of those upper-deck seats in right field have been closed off, hence the drop in seating capacity. Atop the current last row of seats, the Indians have their retired numbers: 3, Earl Averill, center field 1929-39; 5, Lou Boudreau, shortstop 1938-50 and manager 1942-50; 14, Larry Doby, center field 1947-58 (grew up in Paterson, New Jersey); 18, Mel Harder, pitcher 1928-47; 19, Bob Feller, pitcher 1936-56; 20, Frank Robinson, outfielder 1974-76 and manager 1975-77; 21, Bob Lemon, pitcher 1946-58 (and Yankee manager 1978-79 and 1981-82); and, of course, Jackie Robinson's universally-retired Number 42.
The 25 of Jim Thome, 1st baseman 1991-2002, is not currently being worn, but it has not yet been officially retired. If they were waiting for him to be elected to the Hall of Fame, they need wait no longer.

All of their honorees except Harder are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. They have also retired a number for their fans, 455, for the number of consecutive sellouts at the park from 1995 to 2001 (a record since topped by the Boston Red Sox in 2008, and lasting until 2012).

Outside the left field gates is a statue of Feller, who was the 1st Cleveland-based athlete to have his number retired, and is generally considered the greatest Indian of all time by those who don't remember Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie and Tris Speaker, who played before uniform numbers became standard. (Speaker would later wear Number 43 as an Indians coach.)
Feller's statue

Also outside those gates are statues to Boudreau, Doby, Thome, and Robinson, showing him handing in his lineup card as MLB's 1st black manager on Opening Day 1975.
In center field, the Indians have Heritage Park, similar to Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. Unlike the Yankees, who have a rather exclusive list, the team honors the 100 Greatest Indians, as chosen in a 2001 poll for the team's 100th Anniversary. It has since been expanded into a Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame:

* From the team's early days: Bill Bradley (no relation to the Knick-turned-Senator), Elmer Flick (Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown), Vean Gregg, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Addie Joss (Cooperstown), Napoleon Lajoie (Cooperstown, player-manager, team had previously been named "Cleveland Naps" in his honor before the 1915 switch to "Indians" to copy Boston's World Champion Braves), Robert "Dusty" Rhoads (not to be confused with the New York Giant who beat the Indians with a walkoff homer in the 1954 World Series) and Terry Turner.

* From the 1920 World Champions: Jim Bagby Sr., George Burns (supposedly, the New York-born comedian named himself for this former Giant star), Ray Chapman (accidentally hit by Yankee pitcher Carl Mays, the only player to die in an on-field incident), Stan Coveleski, Larry Gardner, Jack Graney (became the first former player to become a broadcaster), Charlie Jamieson, Guy Morton, Steve O'Neill (no relation to the man of the same name who owned the Indians in the late 1970s and early '80s), Joe Sewell (Cooperstown), Tris Speaker (Cooperstown, player-manager of the '20 champs), George Uhle and Bill Wambsganss (pulled unassisted triple play in the '20 Series).

There is also a monument to Chapman that had been inside the right-field gate at League Park, before the team moved into Municipal Stadium full-time. It got lost, and was finally found in 2007, inside a trunk at Jacobs Field. Obviously, it had gotten moved in with the move to the new ballpark in 1993-94, but it took them 13 years to open the trunk in question.
* From the 1920s and '30s: Averill, Harder, Sewell, his brother Luke Sewell, Wes Ferrell (the Cooperstown Hall probably should have elected him instead of his brother Rick Ferrell), Lew Fonseca (better known as the director, editor and sometimes narrator of the official World Series highlight films in the 1940s and early '50s), Willis Hudlin, Johnny Hodapp and Joe Vosmik.

* From the 1940 team that just missed the American League Pennant: Harder, Johnny Allen (former Yankee), Feller, Boudreau, Odell Hale, Jeff Heath, Ken Keltner and Hal Trosky.

* From the 1948 World Champions: Feller, Boudreau, Doby, Keltner, Lemon, Gene Bearden, Mike Garcia, Joe Gordon (came to the Indians in the trade that sent Allie Reynolds to the Yankees), Steve Gromek, Jim Hegan, Dale Mitchell (helped Dodgers win 1956 Pennant and became Don Larsen's last victim in his perfect game), Satchel Paige (Cooperstown) and Al Rosen (general manager of Yanks' 1978 World Champions and now the last surviving man who played on a World Series winner in Cleveland).

* From the 1954 Pennant winners: Feller, Doby, Lemon, Garcia, Hegan, Mitchell, Rosen, manager Al Lopez (Cooperstown), Bobby Avila, Luke Easter, Don Mossi, Ray Narleski and Early Wynn (Cooperstown).

* From the 1959 team that nearly won a Pennant: Rocky Colavito (Bronx native who closed his career with the Yankees), Jim "Mudcat" Grant (who pitched the Minnesota Twins to a Pennant and is now an Indians broadcaster), Herb Score (Queens native whose stunning career what short-circuited by a line drive from Yankee Gil McDougald, but became their beloved broadcaster, their Phil Rizzuto, their Richie Ashburn), Woodie Held, Minnie Minoso, Jim Perry (Gaylord's brother and a pretty good pitcher in his own right), Vic Power (had been in Yankee system) and Al Smith (better remembered for his "beer shower" while chasing a home run for the White Sox in the '59 Series).

* From the 1960s: Max Alvis, Joe Azcue, Gary Bell, Tito Francona (father of former Red Sox manager and current Indians manager Terry), Sam McDowell (briefly a Yankee toward the end of his career), Luis Tiant (better known as a Red Sock but also a Yankee toward the end), Johnny Romano, Sonny Siebert and Leon Wagner.

* From the 1970s: Frank Robinson (although he's in Cooperstown for what he did well before becoming MLB's 1st black manager), Buddy Bell, Dennis Eckersley (Cooperstown, though not for what he did in Cleveland), Ray Fosse, Rick Manning, Toby Harrah, George Hendrick, Duane Kuiper, Gaylord Perry (Cooperstown), Andre Thornton and Rick Waits (who had this nasty habit of beating the Yankees, including in the 1978 regular-season finale to force the Bucky Dent Playoff).

* From the 1980s: Len Barker (pitched a perfect game in 1981), Bert Blyleven (Cooperstown, but not for what he did with the Indians), Tom Candiotti, Joe Carter, Joe Charboneau, Mike Hargrove (managed them to their 1995 and '97 Pennants), Brook Jacoby, Doug Jones and Pat Tabler.

* From the 1995 and 1997 Pennant winners: Hargrove, Sandy Alomar, Carlos Baerga (who they sent to the Mets in exchange for Jeff Kent, dumb Met trade), Albert Belle, Julio Franco (starred for the Tribe in 1980s but returned to them for 1997 Pennant, closed his career with the Mets), Kenny Lofton, Jose Mesa, Charles Nagy, Orel Hershiser, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez (not only was he an Indian, but shaved his head instead of wearing dreadlocks, and as far as we know he was clean then), Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel.

* Since 1997: Roberto Alomar (Cooperstown) and Travis Fryman.

In 1933, Indians Averill, Ferrell and Oral Hildebrand were named to the 1st All-Star Game. Lajoie, Jackson, Speaker, Feller, Paige, Wynn, Perry and Robinson were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999.

Also named to that team was Cy Young, the Ohio native who pitched for the Naps in 1909, '10 and '11, and for the National League's Cleveland Spiders from 1890 to 1898. Also in 1999, Young was named to the Major League Baseball All-Star Team. In 2006, Feller was Indians fans' choice in the DHL Hometown Heroes poll.

Since the start of Interleague Play in 1997, the Indians and the Cincinnati Reds have competed for the Ohio Cup. The winner of the season series gets it. The Indians have won it 8 times, the Reds, 5, and there have been 7 splits. Overall, the Indians lead the series, 55-46.
They have never met in the World Series, the closest call coming in 1940, when the Reds won their Pennant and the Indians fell just short in theirs. They've made the postseason in the same year in 1995 and 1999.

Stuff. The Cleveland Indians Team Shop is located under the 3rd base stands, with a non-game entry on Ontario Street. Additional team stores are located throughout the ballpark. However, if you're looking for Native American-themed items, you won't find any aside from things with the "Chief Wahoo" head logo on them.

The Indians are sensitive about that sort of thing, including frequently wearing caps with a block C on them instead of the Chief's head. They have announced that 2018 will be the last season that the Chief will be used at all, switching to the block C logo on everything next season. But they have not been so sensitive as to change the name of the team.

The 1920 World Series was before the age of official World Series highlight films, but the 1948 highlight film is available on DVD. However, there is, as yet no DVD of The Essential Games of the Cleveland Indians.

The best books about the Indians are a series by Terry Pluto, the great columnist of The Plain DealerThe Curse of Rocky Colavito: A Loving Look at a 33-Year Slump, about the fall from regular contention from 1940 up to the trade of Colavito for Harvey Kuenn 20 years later, and hadn't even been in a Pennant race through the book's 1994 publication; Burying the Curse, about the Jacobs-led recovery, the new ballpark, the return to contention and the 1995 Pennant; and Our Tribe, an overall history of the team that dovetailed with the life of Pluto's father Tom, born in the World Series year of 1920 and died in 1998, just after their most recent World Series appearance; Pluto himself remarked that he was born in 1955, just in time to miss the last Pennant the team would win for over 40 years.

Our Tribe is, I believe, truly one of the best books ever written about anybaseball team.  Its chapter comparing the less-than-intellectual Cleveland hitters Shoeless Joe and Manny is fascinating, and shows that "Manny Being Manny" started well before Ramirez arrived in Cleveland, let alone in Boston.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans ranked Indians fans 10th. In other words, not good, but not up there (or down there) with the very worst.

Cleveland fans really hate the Yankees. Which is understandable, as the Yankees ruined many a Pennant race for them: 1921, 1923, 1926, 1940 (even though the Yanks didn't win that one, either), 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956 and 1957. Too long ago, you say? Well, the Yankees also ruined the Indians' bid for a Pennant in 1998, and also won Pennants that Indian fans felt their team should have won in 1996, 1999, 2000 and 2001. That the Indians beat the Yanks in Division Series play in 1997 and 2007 seems only to have fed their contempt for us. As city native Drew Carey put it when they finally broke their 41-year Pennant drought in 1995, "Finally, it's your team that sucks!"

So don't tell the classic "Cleveland Jokes." You know, the ones about the city going broke in 1969 (besides, New York came pretty close to going broke in 1975) and Lake Erie catching fire the same year (actually, it was the Cuyahoga River, not the Lake). Or the one told by 1970 outfielder Richie Scheinblum: "We should change our name to the Cleveland Utility Company. All we have are utility players." Or the one told by the late umpire Ron Luciano: "I loved umpiring Indian games, because they were usually out of the race by Memorial Day and I knew my calls wouldn't affect the Pennant race." Or the one I mentioned from Nettles about setting your watches back. Or Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff's line: "They made me feel at home in Cleveland. So I had to escape again."

And you definitely do not want to remind Indians fans that George Steinbrenner was from Cleveland. However, it's not as bad as it would be if you were wearing Pittsburgh Steelers or Cincinnati Bengals gear to a Browns game: Chances are, no one will try to pick a fight with you. But, aside from Red Sox and Met fans, Indian fans may hate the Yankees more than anyone else.

The Thursday night game will feature a promotion: Carlos Carrasco Bobblehead Night. Friday night will be Dollar Dog Nignt. Saturday night will feature postgame fireworks. Having been to an Indians home game on a night with postgame fireworks, I can tell you that these have a particularly loud echo through the skyscrapers of downtown Cleveland. Be warned. And Sunday afternoon will be Kids Fun Day, with kids being allowed to run the bases after the game.

In the 1970s, '80s and '90s, Rocco Scotti, an opera-singing construction worker, sang the National Anthem at Indians games, and along with Robert Merrill of the Yankees was one of the most popular Anthem singers in baseball. He died in 2015, at age 95. The Indians now hold auditions for Anthem singers, rather than hire a regular.
The mascot is Slider, a big pink thing that doesn't seem to be any animal in particular. During the 1995 Playoffs, the man in the Slider suit performed a stunt, and injured an ankle. The Indians played the Seattle Mariners in the ALCS, and for the first time ever, both mascots were injured, as the Mariner Moose had broken an ankle during a stunt a few weeks earlier.
Slider with a kids' birthday party.
Clearly, those kids are not from England,
or else they'd know what that gesture means.

The Indians also have an unofficial mascot, John Adams. The native of nearby Parma was a drummer in his high school band, is a longtime employee of AT&T, and teaches at Cleveland State University. Starting in 1973, he sat in the bleachers at Municipal Stadium, 513 feet from home plate -- he had it measured -- and pounded away on a 26-inch-wide bass drum while the Indians batted, and during the 9th inning when the Indians were getting close to victory.

He said Indians fans used to bang on their seats during rallies, but since he was in the bleachers, where there were no seats, just wooden planks, he needed something else to bang on. It was publicized by Bob Sudyk, the famed reporter for the now-defunct Cleveland Press. Herb Score nicknamed him "Chief Boom-Boom."

Since then, he claims to have missed only 37 home games in 41 years -- mainly midweek afternoon games when the phone company wouldn't give him the day off -- and made the move from the last row of the bleachers at Municipal Stadium to the last row under the scoreboard at Jacobs/Progressive Field.  He claims he goes through 3 sets of mallets a year, and occasionally has to replace the skins on his drum, but that he's still using the same drum from the beginning.
He was invited to throw out the first ball for a Playoff game against the Yankees in 2007, and when he drummed for his 3,000th game (though not consecutive) in 2011, the Indians set up a first-pitch ceremony with another of their club's characters, 1980 American League Rookie of the Year and noted wacko Joe Charboneau: "Super Joe" threw the pitch, and Adams hit it with his drum.

At the old Stadium, his drumming was especially noticeable when there was a small crowd in the huge old stadium, and it used to particularly bother Red Sox star Carl Yastrzemski, who complained about it to the media. "Ever since then," Adams said, "I play a little louder when the Red Sox are in town." In spite of the big crowds the Indians got in the Hargrove years, he could still be heard over the noise.

Since 2007, the Indians have had a takeoff on the Milwaukee Brewers' Sausage Race, the Sugardale Hot Dog Derby. At the end of the 5th inning, a race is held between hot dogs with the following toppings: Mustard, listed as "the all-American boy of the group" on the Indians' website; Ketchup, wearing nerd glasses in "honor" of the Charlie Sheen character in the Indians-themed Major League
films, and like Sheen will cheat in order to be "Duh, winning"; and Onion, a female character who is described as a diva, and supposedly has a crush on Mustard, which irritates Ketchup.
Nevertheless, the results are usually rather even among the 3 racers. (Sometimes Slider attempts to influence the outcome of the race.)

The Indians do not have a regular song to play in the 7th inning stretch after "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." But in the 8th inning, they play "Hang On Sloopy" by The McCoys, an Ohio-based rock band, and long part of the repertoire of the Ohio State band.

After a win, they play The Presidents of the United States of America's version of Ian Hunter's "Cleveland Rocks" – the version you may remember as the theme to The Drew Carey Show. (Although the 1st season of that show had Drew himself singing "Moon Over Parma" and the 2nd season had the Vogues' 1966 hit "Five O'Clock World" -- which probably had to be dropped since you don't want to be a Cleveland guy with a Pittsburgh group's song.)

After the Game. Cleveland has some rough areas, but you should be safe downtown. There are a number of places you could go after the game, with names like the Greenhouse (2038 East 4th Street at Prospect Avenue) and the Winking Lizard (811 Huron Road East at Prospect). A House of Blues is at 308 Euclid Avenue, 5 blocks from the park.

The Winking Lizard, a.k.a. Winks, is the home of the local Jet fans' club. The local Giant fans meet at Anthony's, 10703 W. Pleasant Valley Rd. at York Rd., 18 miles southwest of downtown. Bus 45.

If your visit to Cleveland is during the European soccer season, which gets underway in mid-August, the best place to watch your club is probably The Old Angle Tavern, at 1848 West 25th Street in the Ohio City neighborhood, across the Cuyahoga, west of downtown. Red Line to West 25th-Ohio City.

Sidelights. Cleveland has a losing reputation. The Indians haven't won a World Series since 1948, the Browns haven't won an NFL Championship sine 1964 (Super Bowl –II, if you prefer), and the Cavaliers have played since 1970 and didn't win so much as 1 NBA Finals game until 2015, before finally winning the title in 2016. And now, they've lost LeBron again. But Cleveland is still a great sports city.

As I said, Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cavs, is next-door to Progressive Field. The Browns' new stadium, now named FirstEnergy Stadium, stands at on the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway at West 3rd Street, across from Lakefront Station to the south. To the east are the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Great Lakes Science Center – good museums, but expensive.

Built in 1999, FirstEnergy Stdium has hosted U.S. soccer games. The men's team won a friendly 2-0 over Venezuela on May 26, 2006; lost a friendly 4-2 to Belgium on May 29, 2013; and won a CONCACAF Gold Cup Group Stage game 3-0 over Nicaragua this past July 15. The women's team has won 3 friendlies there: 4-0 over Germany on May 22, 2010; 2-0 over Japan on June 5, 2016; and 2-1 over China on June 12, 2018.

Formerly named simply Cleveland Browns Stadium, the new stadium was built on the site of Municipal Stadium, which was the Indians' part-time home from 1932 to 1946, and their full-time home from 1947 to 1993.

The stadium opened on July 3, 1931, with a Heavyweight Championship fight. Max Schmeling, quite popular in America before the rise of Nazism in his native Germany, delivered the only knockout of William "Young" Stribling's career.

An NFL team named the Indians played at the Stadium in its 1st season, 1931. The NFL's Rams played there from 1936 to 1945, winning the 1945 NFL Championship Game there, but moved to Los Angeles due to lousy attendance.

The Browns, founded with the All-America Football Conference in 1946 and moving into the NFL in 1950, played there until 1995, before being moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens and being reborn in 1999. The U.S. soccer team has played 2 games there, a win over Venezuela in 2006 and a draw to Belgium in 2013.
The Browns won the AAFC Championship in all 4 seasons of that league's existence, then won NFL Championships in 1950, 1954, 1955 and 1964. In fact, the Browns played in a league championship game every season they played, from their 1946 debut until 1955.

The 1950 NFL Championship Game, won by a Lou Groza field goal in the last 30 seconds of a chilly Christmas Eve encounter over, ironically, the Rams, is regarded as one of the greatest games in pro football history, although the Rams got revenge in the 1951 title game in Los Angeles. The Browns lost the 1952 Title Game at home to the Detroit Lions, lost to the Lions in Detroit in 1953, beat the Lions at home in 1954, and beat the Rams in Los Angeles in 1955.

A new generation of Browns won the 1964 NFL Championship Game at home against the Baltimore Colts – though it's hard to argue that Baltimore taking the Browns in 1995 was revenge. Still, that '64 Title remained the city's last World Championship for 51 1/2 years. No city with at least 3 major league sports teams has waited longer.

Most Clevelanders who watch college football are Ohio State University fans, even though Ohio Stadium is 145 miles away in Columbus, which is further from Browns Stadium than the Steelers' Heinz Field, 135 miles.

Still, while O-State has won many Big Ten titles and some National Championships over the years, including since 1964, they are a team for the entire State, not Cleveland-specific, and have played very few home-away-from-home games in Cleveland. And Cleveland State only restarted their football program in 2010. So while Cleveland is a great pro football city and a great high school football city, it is not a good college football city.

Municipal Stadium hosted a Beatles concert on August 14, 1966. The Beatles also played Cleveland's Public Auditorium on September 15, 1964. That building, which opened in 1922, not only still stands, it now hosts the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Elvis Presley sang there on November 6, 1971 and June 21, 1974.

It also hosted the Republican Conventions of 1924 (nominating Calvin Coolidge) and 1936 (Alf Landon). And it hosted the only Presidential Debate of 1980, when Ronald Reagan hit Jimmy Carter with the lines, "There you go again," and, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" 500 Lakeside Avenue East, a 6-block walk from Public Square and across from City Hall.

There were 2 different ballparks known as League Park, constructed at East 66th Street and Lexington Avenue on the city's East Side. The 1st was built in 1891, and was the home of the National League's Cleveland Spiders until 1899 and the American League team that became the Indians from 1901 to 1909. A 2nd park built there in 1910 was the Indians' home until 1946. A pro football team called the Cleveland Indians played there from 1916 to 1921.
League Park was also the home of the Cleveland Buckeyes, who played in the Negro Leagues from 1943 to 1950, and won the Negro World Series in 1945.

Unlike most parks of the pre-World War I era (or even those built before the 1960s), something remains of this park: The ticket office that stood behind the right-field corner still stands. And there is a baseball field, a public park, on the site today, although it is currently undergoing renovations. However, this is a poverty-stricken neighborhood – it has never really recovered from a race riot in 1966 – so do not visit at night.
The Number 3 bus will take you up Superior Avenue to 66th, and it's a 6-block walk; a bus called "The HealthLine," which can be picked up on Euclid Avenue across from the Soldiers & Sailors Monument at Public Square, will take you up Euclid Avenue to 66th, and it's a 7-block walk.

There is a Baseball Heritage Museum, inside the 5th Street Arcades shopping center at 530 Euclid Avenue.  It began as a private collection of Negro League memorabilia, and it grew to include stuff from the Indians and all kinds of baseball, including amateur, industrial/semi-pro, women's and international leagues.

The Cleveland Arena was home to one of the great minor-league hockey teams, the Cleveland Barons, from 1937 to 1974 and the World Hockey Association's Cleveland Crusaders from 1972 to 1974. It was home to the Cleveland Rebels in the 1st NBA season of 1946-47, and the Cavaliers from their 1970 debut until 1974.

It was here, on March 21, 1952, that local disc jockey Alan Freed hosted the Moondog Coronation Ball, which is often called the first rock and roll concert (which is why Cleveland is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). The place held about 10,000, but about twice that tried to get into Freed's show, launching him on a career that would take him to his pioneering job on New York's WINS and then WABC.
The Crusaders didn't do much: They got to the WHA Semifinals in their 1st season, 1972-73, but that's as far as they got. Nick Mileti, who owned the Barons, the Indians and Cavaliers at various times, owned them. Their biggest player was the once and future Boston Bruin goaltender, Hall-of-Famer Gerry Cheevers, who made the WHA's All-Time Team.

Elvis sang at the Arena on November 23, 1956. While the 1988 film Heartbreak Hotel shows him, played by David Keith, in concert at the Cleveland Arena in 1972, that film is fiction, and the website clearly states that he gave only one concert in the State of Ohio that year, at the University of Dayton Arena.

The Arena was demolished in 1977. The HealthLine bus will drop you off at 36th Street; but, again, this is an uneasy neighborhood, so be aware of your surroundings.

From 1974 to 1994, between the Cleveland Arena and the Gund/Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs played at The Coliseum at Richfield, a.k.a. the Richfield Coliseum. This was also the home of the WHA's Crusaders in the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons, and the NHL version of the Barons (who had been the California Golden Seals) in the 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons, before money problems forced them to be merged with the Minnesota North Stars.
On March 24, 1975, in his first fight after regaining the heavyweight title from George Foreman, Muhammad Ali fought a journeyman fighter from North Jersey, Chuck Wepner, a.k.a. the Bayonne Bleeder. Wepner actually knocked Ali down in the 9th round, and that pissed Ali off: He clobbered Wepner, but the Marine veteran refused to go down, until he had nothing left and fell to an Ali punch with 19 seconds left in the 15th and final round. Supposedly, seeing this fight on TV led Sylvester Stallone to create the character of Rocky Balboa. Wepner is still alive at age 74, and recently retired from running a liquor store in Carlstadt, Bergen County.

Like the Meadowlands Arena and the Nassau Coliseum, the Richfield Coliseum had two levels of seats and one level of concourse – and, when a full house of 20,000 showed up, this was a mess. The location was also bad, picked because it was halfway between downtown Cleveland and downtown Akron, but it didn't exactly help people of either city.

When the Cavs moved out, its days were numbered, and it was demolished in 1999. The site is now a wildlife sanctuary. 2923 W. Streetsboro Road, and don't expect to take public transportation: The closest bus, the 77F, drops you off almost 6 miles away.

Elvis sang at the Coliseum on July 10 and 18, 1975; and on March 21 and October 23, 1976. Elvis actually gave concerts in Cleveland before becoming nationally famous. On February 26, 1955, nearly a year before "Heartbreak Hotel" hit the charts as his first national hit single, he did 2 shows at the Circle Theater, at 105th & Euclid (built 1920, demolished 1959 for the expansion of the Cleveland Clinic, hence the bus is called the "HealthLine," and this area is a bit safer). On October 19, 1955, he again played 2 shows at the venue. The next day, he did a matinee at Brooklyn High School (9200 Biddulph Road, Number 45 bus to Biddulph and walk a mile west) and an evening show at St. Michael's Hall (Mill Road & Wallings Road, 77F bus to Wallings, walk a mile west and a couple of blocks south on Mill).

No NCAA Final Four has ever been held in the State of Ohio. Ohio State won it in 1960, and lost Finals in 1939, 1961, 1962 and 2007, but they're in the State capital of Columbus, 142 miles from Public Square, and considerably closer to Cincinnati. The most notable college in the area is Cleveland State University, whose Vikings notably reached the Sweet Sixteen as a 14th seed in 1986, upsetting Indiana and St. Joseph's of Philadelphia before David Robinson and Navy beat them by 1 point to keep them out of the Elite Eight, but that's as close as any Northern Ohio team has come to the Final Four. Their campus is headquartered on Euclid Avenue between 17th and 26th Streets.

With the demise of the Barons, minor-league hockey has been played at the Coliseum and The Q, but the closest NHL team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, 134 miles away. It's not clear how much of the fandom of the Columbus Blue Jackets, 142 miles away, comes from Cleveland, but with Cleveland being a big boost to Ohio State's fandom, I can easily imagine Clevelanders preferring a team from Ohio's capital, however much they might dislike the State government, over the team from Steeler Town. If Cleveland ever did get another hockey team, it would rank 17th in population in NHL markets.

Cleveland's highest-ranked soccer team is Cleveland SC, which plays in the National Premier Soccer League, the 4th tier of American soccer. Their home field is the 5,416-seat Don Shula Stadium, formerly Wasmer Field, at John Carroll University, a Jesuit school in NCAA Division III, that nonetheless includes among its alumni Shula and All-Pro linebacker London Fletcher.
20700 N. Park Blvd., in the University Heights section of Cleveland, 9 miles east of Public Square. Blue-Green Waterfront Line to Belvoir Station, then a mile's walk north.

I once asked Drew Carey, through Twitter, if he loves soccer so much, why didn't he try to get a Major League Soccer franchise for Cleveland, instead of buying into the group that owns the Seattle Sounders? Especially since Cleveland had done so well in the Major Indoor Soccer League. He said there was no suitable playing facility, unless they wanted to play before 50,000 empty seats at the new Browns stadium. This made sense, which is why the nearest MLS team is the Columbus Crew, 138 miles away. The next-closest is Toronto FC, 289 miles away. If, as now appears likely, the Crew are moved to Austin, Texas for the 2019 season, then expansion FC Cincinnati will be the closest, 247 miles.

There is a Cleveland Museum of Art, but it's way out on the East Side of the city, at 11150 East Boulevard at Wade Oval Drive, near the campus of Case Western Reserve University. It's a 15-minute walk from the Euclid-East 120th Street Station on the Red Line, or a 35-minute ride on the HealthLine bus.

Cleveland was home to a President, James Garfield, elected in 1880 but assassinated just a few months into his Presidency. Although he died near us, at his "Summer White House" in Long Branch, New Jersey, he was born in the Cleveland suburb of Orange (now Moreland Hills, and he was the last President to be born in a log cabin), and his home, Lawnfield, stands at 8095 Mentor Avenue in Mentor, northeast of the city. It takes 4 buses to get there: The 3, the 28, the R2 and the R1, but it is possible to get there without a car or an expensive taxi.

William McKinley, elected in 1896 and 1900, was from Canton, 60 miles away, and there are some historic sites there relating to him. We Yankee Fans also know Canton as the home town of Captain Thurman Munson. But most sports fans know it as the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, selected because it was the location of the NFL's founding meeting on September 17, 1920, at the Hupmobile showroom of Ralph Hay, also the owner of the Canton Bulldogs. The Frank T. Bow Federal Building is now on the site. 201 Cleveland Avenue SW.

The Hall of Fame itself is 3 miles to the northwest, at 2121 George Halas Drive NW, off Exit 107 on Interstate 77. Just to the south is Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, named for the owner of the New Orleans Saints, who made a big donation to renovate the Hall and the adjoining Fawcett Stadium, which was renamed for him. Originally built in in 1938 for McKinley High School, just to the south, it replaced the old 8,000-seat League Field. It now seats 22,375, and annually hosts the NFL's exhibition season-opening Hall of Fame Game.

The Canton Bulldogs played at League Field from 1905 to 1926, winning Ohio League titles in 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1919, and NFL Championships in 1922 (10-0-2), 1923 (11-0-1) and 1924 (7-1-1 -- that's 28-1-4 in 3 seasons). They featured eventual Pro Football Hall-of-Famers Jim Thorpe, Joe Guyon, Guy Chamberlin, Pete Henry, Link Lyman and Greasy Neale, though not all at the same time.

But starpower meant big salaries, and their owners couldn't afford them. After the 1926 season, the NFL cast off several weaker franchise, and the Bulldogs were among them. Thus passed the 1st great professional football team.

The Akron-Canton Regional Airport, where Thurman Munson died on August 2, 1979, is at 5400 Lauby Road in North Canton. He is laid to rest at Sunset Hills Burial Park and Memory Gardens, 5001 Everhard Road NW. Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium is a 5,700-seat minor-league ballpark at 2501 Allen Avenue SE. It was built in 1989, before Camden Yards in Baltimore revolutionized ballpark construction in both the majors and the minors, so it is an all-aluminum stadium, and the Canton-Akron Indians left after the 1996 season to become the Akron Aeros.

It is possible to get from Cleveland to Canton via public transportation, via GoBus, but it takes 2 hours and 20 minutes. Each way.

Akron is about 30 miles south of Cleveland on I-77, a little more than halfway to Canton. There is a Bus C that goes there, taking a little under an hour and costing $10, each way. Since 1997, the Double-A Eastern League team known as the Akron Aeros, and now the Akron RubberDucks (1 word), has played at Canal Park, 300 S. Main Street at Exchange Street.

The 1st NFL Champions were the Akron Pros, in 1920. Their coach was also their best player, two-way back Frederick Douglass "Fritz" Pollard -- the 1st black head coach in any major league sport. (Well, sort of: He was, unquestionably, the head coach; it's the NFL's status as "major league" up until 1933 or so, or even until after World War II, that's questionable.) Another great black football player of the era, the 1917 and '18 All-America end at Rutgers and later actor and singer Paul Robeson, played for them in the 1921 season. (He also played for the Milwaukee Badgers in 1922.)

The Pros played under various names, in various leagues, from 1908 to 1926, but financial problems made them part of the NFL's post-1926 purge, and they folded. They played at League Park, at the southeast corner of Carroll and Beaver Streets, a mile and a half east of downtown. The area is industrial now.

Also associated with Ohio are Presidents William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison and William Howard Taft, but they were from the Cincinnati side; Rutherford B. Hayes, whose hometown of Fremont was closer to Toledo; and Warren G. Harding, whose birthplace of Blooming Grove and adult hometown of Marion are closer to Columbus.

The Armstrong Air & Space Museum was built to honor Neil Armstrong, the 1st man to walk on the Moon, in his hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio. The building is, naturally, shaped like a crescent moon. 500 Apollo Drive, 185 miles southwest of Cleveland, 93 miles southwest of Toledo, and 88 miles northwest of Columbus.

If you're a fan of The Drew Carey Show, and you remember the cast's hangout, the Warsaw Tavern, you should know that there is a real-life bar with that name, in Brooklyn (a separate city) south of downtown, on West 22nd Street at Calgary Avenue. Take the Number 35 bus.

The House from the film A Christmas Story, in which Cleveland stands in for Chicago and author Jean Shepherd's hometown of Hammond, Indiana, is at 3159 W. 11th Street at Rowley Avenue, and was restored by a fan to its exact appearance in the movie, made in 1983 but set around 1939 or so. Take the Number 81 bus. The Higbee's store was also real, but was most likely based on Chicago's real-life Marshall Field's chain.  Higbee's still stands on Public Square, and the sign visible in the movie is still there, but the store closed years ago, and is now home to the Cleveland Convention & Visitors Bureau and Horseshoe Casino Cleveland.

Thurman Munson is not the only Monument Park honoree buried near Cleveland. Charles "Red" Ruffing, a Hall of Fame pitcher in the 1930s and the early '40s, is laid to rest at Hillcrest Memorial Park, 26700 Aurora Road in Bedford Heights, about 17 miles southeast of Public Square. Light rail on the Blue/Green/Waterfront Line to Van Aken-Warrensville, then transfer to Bus 41.

Bob Feller is buried in Gates Mills North Cemetery, at the southeast corner of River Oaks Trail and Chagrin River Road, in Gates Mills. In spite of being only 16 miles east of downtown Cleveland, it's very rural, and not reachable by public transit. Cy Young is buried in New Peoli Cemtery, next to the local Methodist Church, on State Route 258 in Port Washington, Ohio, 111 miles south of downtown.

Toledo is 115 miles west of Cleveland, where the Maumee River flows into Lake Erie. Megabus can get you there in 2½ hours. In fact, it's closer to Detroit: 60 miles. For this reason, their Triple-A baseball team, the Toledo Mud Hens, has been a farm club of the Detroit Tigers for much of their history, including continuously since 1987.

What's a "mud hen"? It's a bird that flocked near Bay View Park, where the team played from 1886 to 1896. It's also known as an American coot. The team left the next season, but the name stuck. The stadium remained in place, and was used as the site of the Heavyweight Championship fight of July 4, 1919, when Jack Dempsey won the title by destroying Jess Willard. It's all parkland now, except for the clubhouse of the Bay View Yacht Club. 3900 Summit Street, 3½ miles northeast of downtown.

Originally known as the Toledo Blue Stockings, they played at League Park from 1883 to 1885, before moving to Bay View Park. It was here, in the 1884 season, that they fielded catcher Moses Fleetwood "Fleet" Walker and his brother, outfielder Weldy Wilbeforce "Welday" Walker, the 1st 2 black players in what we would now call Major League Baseball, but were forced by the baseball establishment to let them go.

The Taylor Body Shop is now on the site of this important, but shunted-aside, piece of baseball history. 1400 Monroe Street, just west of downtown. 

The Mud Hens moved to Armory Park, playing there from 1897 to 1909. This was the home of an early pro football team, the Toledo Maroons, from 1902 onward. In 1922, they entered the NFL, but it became too expensive for them, and they folded after the 1923 season. Armory Park was demolished in 1934, and the site is now part of the Civic Center Mall, on Jackson Street between Spielbusch Avenue and Erie Street.

Swayne Field opened in 1909, and was the home of the Mud Hens until 1955. This stadium, eventually reaching 14,800 seats after a 1928 expansion, would have been "home" to the M*A*S*H
character Max Klinger, played by Toledo native Jamie Farr, who made the Hens' jersey and block-T cap nationally famous. For this reason, the modern version of the team retired Number 1, which Klinger wore, for Farr.

In 1927, they won their 1st Pennant at Swayne Field. But they were never prosperous, and in 1955, they moved, and the ballpark was soon demolished. A shopping center, including a McDonald's, is on the site now. 3000 Monroe Street, at Detroit Avenue (U.S. Route 24), 2 miles west of downtown, and a mile and a half's walk down Monroe from the site of League Park.

The team was revived in 1965, when the 10,197-seat Lucas County Stadium opened, thanks to the efforts of County Commissioner Ned Skeldon. They won the Pennant in 1968. In 1988, when it was learned Skeldon was dying, the County government renamed the stadium for him. He lived long enough to see it, dying 3 months later.

Ned Skeldon Stadium remains a home for amateur baseball, as part of the Lucas County Recreation Center. 2901 Key Street in suburban Maumee, 8 miles southwest of downtown.

In 2002, the Mud Hens moved back downtown, to the 10,300-seat Fifth Third Field, named for an Ohio-based bank (which also holds naming rights to Dayton's ballpark and the University of Cincinnati's arena). They won Pennants there in 2005 and 2006. 406 Washington Street at Huron Street, downtown.

And while Adam's Ribs, the Chicago barbecue joint mentioned in one of the better M*A*S*H
episodes, isn't real (though many places with the name have popped up since that 1974 episode), Klinger's beloved sausage emporium, Tony Packo's Café, is absolutely real. The original is at 1902 Front Street at Consaul Street, 2 miles across the river from downtown, and they have another across from the ballpark at 7 S. Superior Street.

Elvis sang at the 5,230-seat Toledo Sports Arena on November 22, 1956, and at the University of Toledo's 8,300-seat John F. Savage Arena on April 23, 1977. The old Sports Arena stood at 1 Main Street at Riverside Drive, a mile across the river from downtown, from 1947 to 2007, hosting concerts and minor-league hockey. It was replaced by the 5,000-seat Huntington Center, at 500 Jefferson Avenue at Huron Street, downtown. It is home to minor-league hockey's Toledo Walleyes. The Savage Arena is at 2025 Douglas Road, on campus, 4 miles west of downtown.

Bowling Green State University, of the Mid-American Conference, is 112 miles west of Public Square, and 22 miles south of downtown Toledo. They won hockey's National Championship in 1984. The 5,000-seat Slater Family Ice Arena is at 417 N. Mercer Road.

The 24,000-seat Doyt Perry Stadium, built in 1966 and named for their former football coach, who from 1955 to 1964 won 5 of the school's 12 MAC Championships, is next-door, at Stadium Drive & Alumni Drive.


A visit to Cleveland can be a fun experience. These people love baseball. They don't like the Yankees, but they love baseball, and their city should be able to show you a good time. Again, don't mention that The Boss was a Clevelander. And, for your own sake, don't mention the name of Art Modell.

And one more warning, from Major League: Is very bad to steal Jobu's rum.
Is very bad.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

How to Attend the Hudson River Derby at Yankee Stadium -- 2018 Edition

This coming Sunday night at 7:00, "the Hudson River Derby" will be renewed at Yankee Stadium II, as New York City Football Club host the New York Red Bulls.

In 2015, the 1st season in Major League Soccer for NYCFC, the Red Bulls won all 3 inaugural installments: On May 10, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, the Red Bulls won 2-1; on June 28, at Yankee Stadium II, a match that NYCFC really hyped up, thinking that home-field advantage would give them the victory, "Metro" beat them 3-1; and on August 9, at Red Bull Arena, the Red Bulls won 2-0.

The NYCFC fans didn't like that, and they tried to make something of it. They failed.

In 2016, Metro laid the greatest humiliation in MLS history on NYCFC, going into Yankee Stadium and beating them 7-0 on May 21. NYCFC finally beat them at Yankee Stadium on July 3, 2-0. But on July 24, at Red Bull Arena, Metro won 4-1. Metro beat NYCFC out for the Eastern Conference regular season title by 3 points.

On June 14, 2017, they played each other in the U.S. Open Cup for the 1st time, and the Red Bulls won 1-0 in Harrison. On June 24, NYCFC won for the 1st time, 2-0 at Red Bull Arena. NYCFC won again on August 6, 3-2 in The Bronx, before a 1-1 draw at Red Bull Arena on August 25. Already this season, they've played each other twice, both times at Red Bull Arena, and both 4-0 wins by the Red Bulls: In the League on May 5, and on June 6 in the Open Cup.

The record currently stands as follows: Red Bulls 8 wins, City 3, with 1 draw; Red Bulls 30 goals, City 11. It's not close: Bradley Wright-Phillips has scored 11 goals in these games, as many as all City players combined.

But because of the incidents between the teams, the Hudson River Derby has become a special circumstance, like Yankees vs. Red Sox, or a Philadelphia Eagles or Oakland Raiders game. Pay attention now, and be on your guard then.

Before You Go. It's New York. It's a roadtrip, but it's not. You won't have to concern yourself with time zones, passports, Customs officials or exchange rates, and the weather's going to be pretty much the same as it is where you live -- currently projected at the low 80s for Sunday afternoon, and mid-70s for gametime Sunday night.

Tickets. NYCFC is averaging 22,335 fans per game this season, a drop of 6,000 from their debut season. They say 22,335 is 78 percent of what The Stadium's seating capacity for soccer is. Well, I went to the Real Madrid vs. AC Milan match there on August 8, 2012 (Madrid won, 5-1), and was one of 49,474, so it's really 45 percent of capacity.

NYCFC fans mock the Red Bulls for their attendance, currently 18,295 per game, but they're only getting 4,000 per game more. They don't open the upper deck. They could if they had to, but they don't have to. Now that the novelty has worn off, and the on-field product has proven rather underwhelming, I suspect attendance will remain low.

Away supporters are assigned Section 217, on what would be the 1st base side. Tickets are $35. However, Red Bulls supporters groups tend to buy up Sections 205 to 210, the box seats in the 2nd deck in right field. Those run $45.

Getting There. Flying is not necessary. Nor is Amtrak, nor is Greyhound. You might come into The City using New Jersey Transit or the Long Island Rail Road into Penn Station. If so,walk to the 8th Avenue end, and take the A Train to 59th Street-Columbus Circle, and switch to the D Train to 161st Street-Yankee Stadium. Or, walk out the 7th Avenue entrance, walk a block east to Herald Square, and take the D Train all the way up.

If you come into The City on a bus, Port Authority Bus Terminal is 1 stop further up the A Train than Penn Station, so follow those directions.

If you come into The City via Metro-North Commuter Railroad, take it into Grand Central Terminal, then take the 4 Train to 161st Street. Unfortunately, unlike for Yankee games, there's no special Metro-North train that goes directly to The Stadium for NYCFC games. This is the same setup that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has for Patriots as opposed to Revolution games at Foxboro, but it's not as bad, since you'll only have to take a $2.75 Subway ride from Grand Central, as opposed to the $18 cab ride from Walpole to Gillette Stadium.

If you're driving, take the New Jersey Turnpike to the George Washington Bridge, then get on Interstate 87 South, the Major Deegan Expressway. Take Exit 5 for The Stadium.

Once In the City. It's New York vs. New York. You live in the Tri-State Area. You already know this part. Let's move on.
Times Square

Going In. New York City FC is the only Major League Soccer team groundsharing with a professional baseball team, at any level. This makes the field look bad. Indeed, given the shapes of the stadiums, they might have been better off sharing Citi Field with the Mets. But who wants to be associated with the Mets? Then again, at the rate NYCFC are going, maybe it's the Mets who should have been embarrassed to be associated with them.

When you come up the steps of the D station, or come down the steps of the 4 station, you'll be led onto 161st Street, which is also named Babe Ruth Plaza. (The official address is 1 East 161st Street.) Most likely, you'll enter the new, 2009 version of Yankee Stadium through either the home plate entrance, Gate 4, or the right field entrance, Gate 6. These are connected by a Great Hall that includes banners of past Yankee greats.
The old Yankee Stadium, which stood across 161st Street, was home to many great events besides baseball. It hosted many championship prizefights, most notably in 1938, with Joe Louis defending the heavyweight title against Max Schmeling, the unwilling stand-in for Nazi Germany. In 1965, Pope Paul VI visited, and delivered the first Papal Mass anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. As for soccer:

* Glasgow Celtic, aware of New York's strong Irish heritage, came in 1931.
* Hapoel Tel Aviv, with New York's strong Jewish heritage in mind, came in 1947, not so much to play soccer as to raise funds for Israel's independence. When Israel's national team was formed, they played their first match at the old Yankee Stadium.
* In 1952, Liverpool played Swiss club Grasshopper Club Zurich, and Tottenham Hotspur walloped Manchester United 7-1.
* In 1953, shortly after being embarrassed by Hungary at Wembley, and 3 years after their World Cup defeat to the U.S., England salvaged some pride by beating the U.S. 6-3.
* In 1966, Pele and his Brazilian club, Santos, beat Inter Milan.
* In 1968, a local team, the New York Generals, beat Pele's Santos and lost to Real Madrid, while Santos beat Napoli there.
* In 1969, Barcelona beat Juventus, Inter beat Sparta Prague, AC Milan beat Panathinaikos, and a Milan derby was held, with AC Milan beating Inter.
* The original version of the New York Cosmos played their 1971 and 1976 seasons there -- for reasons I won't get into here, they bounced around the Tri-State Area before moving to the Meadowlands in 1977.
* And in 1976, England beat Italy there.

In 2012, the new Stadium hosted Chelsea vs. Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid vs. AC Milan. In 2013, it hosted Chelsea vs. Manchester City, inspiring Man City to partner with the Yankees to create New York City FC (they also bought Australian club Melbourne Heart, and changed its name to Melbourne City), and Ireland vs. Spain. In 2014, it hosted Man City vs. Liverpool. I saw the Madrid-Milan match, and there really isn't a bad seat in the house.
The pitch, which is natural grass, will be laid out from left and center field to first base. There really isn't a bad seat in the house. My seat for Madrid-Milan, in the upper deck, which would have been way up in left field for baseball, was right over one of the goals, and I got to see Iker Casillas make some sick saves for Madrid. (And I got to see Cristiano Ronaldo score 2 goals, and Kaká get cheered by both sets of fans, for both of whom he'd played.)
Food. At the old Yankee Stadium, back in the good old days, the food wasn't great, but at least it was overpriced. As the team moved into the Nineties and got better, to his credit, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner demanded that the fans get a better food experience. A few specialty stands went up. And the new Stadium has chain restaurant stands, including Nathan's Hot Dogs, Johnny Rockets, Brother Jimmy's Barbecue, Famiglia Pizzeria, Carvel Ice Cream, and others. There's a Hard Rock Café, and a restaurant called NYY Steak.

Pretty much anything you get will be expensive, but it'll be good. Think of it this way: It would cost the same as movie theater food, but it's better, there's more variety, and the show is better than most movies, and longer, too. Both the show on the field and the show in the stands will be better.
One of the few things that Yankee Fans and Red Sox fans can agree on -- the putridness of the Mets and their fans is another -- is Dunkin Donuts. Finally, after putting in stands at both Fenway Park and Citi Field, Dunkin has put one in at Yankee Stadium.

Team History Displays. Ha! NYCFC are the opposite of the Yankees: As the old song about Chelsea FC goes, They ain't got no history!

For all their self-hype, for all their aid from the media, for all their money, for all their acquisitions, for all their coaching pedigrees, Man City NYC are in Year 4 and are a very ordinary team. That's it. 

They've been given so much, and produced so little. No trophies, one decent playoff run, a few minor memories. They were supposed to be the new version of the 1972-82 Cosmos. (Certainly more than the actual new Cosmos have been.) Instead, they're a joke.

They could have a trophy for the winner of the season series between themselves and the Red Bulls,as they would have won it last year. But there is, as yet, no such trophy.

Stuff. There are team stores throughout The Stadium, but it's all Yankees stuff. NYCFC gear may be available at smaller souvenir stands. And, since they ain't got no history, there's no team books or videos.

During the Game. For the 1st 19 seasons of MLS' existence, the league kept a close watch on the potential for hooligan confrontations. As a result, such issues were few and far between. In 2015, NYCFC fans decided they wanted to, as the old saying goes, make something of it. Or, as is said in England, come and have a go.

First, there were neo-Nazi chants in Yankee Stadium -- the successor building to the one where Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling, and where the Israeli national soccer team played its first-ever game. Then, there was an incident at the 1st Hudson River Derby to be played at the new Yankee Stadium. Then, before the next Derby, at Red Bull Arena, some NYCFC morons decided to fight the Red Bulls ultras on their home turf, on Market Street in Newark. To put it mildly, this was a gross, and very stupid, miscalculation.

NYCFC fans also started something with New York Cosmos fans during a U.S. Open Cup match on Long Island. And got their heads handed to them by a team in America's 2nd division. Maybe they should just stop, before they embarrass themselves any further.

Nevertheless, these dipsticks are trying their damnedest to cross what they see as traditional soccer hardman menace (English hooligans, Italian fascists, South American barras bravas) with pre-Giuliani New York violence (including the kind we saw in The Bronx, the kind that kept many baseball fans away from the old Yankee Stadium), to create the ultimate 1980s sports nightmare.

So if you can't get tickets for Section 223 or 224, the designated away supporters' section, get tickets anywhere but...

* Section 235, home of Brown Bag SC (in this case, standing for Social Club, not Soccer Club or Supporters' Club) and NYC 12 (the 12th Man).

* Section 236, home of the Third Rail, the biggest NYCFC supporters' group, named because, like the third rail in the Subway system, they want to "power" the team to victory. (Red Bulls fans have nicknamed them the Third Fail.)

* Section 238, home of Hearts of Oak, a largely-black group named for a renowned supporters' group in the African nation of Ghana.

These sections are all in the left field bleachers, behind the north goal. So you should probably also avoid Section 237, in between 236 and 238, in order to avoid unnecessary unpleasantness. (Is there such a thing as "necessary unpleasantness"?)

Kearny, New Jersey native and former U.S. national team star Claudio Reyna is NYCFC's "sporting director." They have legendary player David Villa of Barcelona. However, former Arsenal Captain and World Cup winner Patrick Vieira is no longer their manager, having gone back to France to manage OGC Nice, and has been replaced by Domènec Torrent, a Spaniard who has worked under Pep Guardiola since his Barcelona days, including at Manchester CityFormer Chelsea star Frank Lampard and Italian legend Andrea Pirlo have retired, and current U.S. national team star Mix Diskerud's loan to Swedish club Göteborg has been made permanent.

On the whole, they are truly an average team. They went for big names who turned out to be well past their prime. So far, this strategy hasn't worked any better than it did for the Mets in the early 1960s or the New Jersey Devils in the early 1980s.

NYCFC tends to have New York-based celebrities sing the National Anthem. With the costumes worn by some of the "Bleacher Creatures" in left field (opposite from their counterparts at Yankee games, who sit in right field), they neither have nor need a mascot.

Among the chants used by the NYCFC supporters is a reworking of the 1962 Bruce Channel chart-topper: "Hey... hey, baby... I wanna know... if you're NYC!" To "Hey Jude," they sing, "Na, na na, na na na na... na na na na, New York!" To "Mrs. Robinson": "Here's to you, NYCFC, New York loves you more than you will know!" (No, it's less.) They are one of many teams to adapt "When the Saints Go Marching In," none of which (except Southampton, long known as the Saints) do it well.

Lamest of all, to the tune of "You Are My Sunshine":

He's David Villa! He drinks sangria! 
Came from España, to bring us joy!!
He's 5-foot-7, of football heaven!
Please don't take my Villa away!!

Actually, no: Their lamest song is doing Taylor Swift's "Welcome to New York." It's no Frank Sinatra "Theme from New York, New York." It's no Billy Joel "New York State of Mind." Hell, it's not even Jay-Z and Alicia Keys doing "Empire State of Mind."

After the Game. Since there's already been 2 incidents between RBNY and NYCFC supporters (both started by the latter), and especially since it's on their ground, follow the instructions of the Stadium ushers, the Stadium security, and the NYPD.

Especially the NYPD: From their experience with Yankees vs. Red Sox, Yankees vs. Mets, and Rangers vs. Islanders, these men (and a few women) are seriously trained, they know what they're doing, and they do not kid around. If you follow their instructions, you'll be able to get both in and out of the Stadium area safely.

Stay out of Stan's Sports Bar. This legendary Yankee Fans' bar is where Brown Bag SC goes after the game. This is not, as they would say in England, an away supporters' pub.

If you came by Subway, your best bet is to get back to Midtown, and do what you want there. If you drove in, get to your car, follow the traffic instructions, and get back to where you started out from, and then chow down there.

If you're a fan of a European team, you probably already know where your team's supporters gather on matchday. Since the off-season for these teams is upon us, it won't matter anyway.

Sidelights. This is the part of the trip guide where I talk about other sports-related sites in the city's metropolitan area, and then move on to other noted tourist attractions. But this is New York, and you already live in the Tri-State Area, so you know this stuff already.


Be on your guard. Cheer your team as hard as you want. But try to avoid contract with NYCFC ultras. Remember: It's better to be an injured coward than a hospitalized tough guy.