Wednesday, May 30, 2012
In the red corner: The New Jersey Devils, the 6th seed in the NHL Eastern Conference, having disposed of the Florida Panthers and the 2 teams they hate the most, the Philadelphia Flyers (a.k.a. The Filth) and the New York Rangers (a.k.a. The Scum).
Heroes thus far include 40-year-old goaltending legend Martin Brodeur; Travis Zajac, whose overtime goal won Game 6 vs. Panthers; Adam Henrique, whose double-overtime goal won Game 7 against the Panthers; Alexei Ponikarovsky, whose overtime goal won Game 3 against the Flyers; David Clarkson, whose 3rd period goal won Game 2 against The Scum; and, of course, Henrique again, whose overtime goal won Game 6 against The Scum, and is a serious challenger for the title of greatest Devils goal ever, along with John MacLean '88, Claude Lemieux '95 and Jason Arnott 2000.
The Devils, having started play as the Kansas City Scouts in 1974, and become the Colorado Rockies in 1976, moved to New Jersey, into the Brendan Byrne Arena (now the Izod Center) in the Meadowlands of East Rutherford in 1982, and into the Prudential in 2007. This is their 5th Stanley Cup Finals, and they will be going for their 4th Cup -- 4 in 30 years, as compared with the New York Islanders' 4 in 40 years (or, if you prefer, 4 in 4 but none in the other 36, including the last 29) and the Rangers' 4 in 86 (including a drought of 54 years and the current drought of 18).
In the black corner: The Los Angeles Kings, the 8th seed in the NHL Western Conference, who beat the Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes along the way. (Meaning neither team had home-ice advantage at any point, until the Devils do now, and both had to beat the 1 and 3 seeds.)
Heroes thus far include Anze Kopiar, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown, all of whom scored at least 22 goals in the regular season; former Flyers star Simon Gagne, a man used to driving the Devils nuts; goalie Jonathan Quick, who notched 10 shutouts in the regular season and 1 in the Playoffs thus far; Jarrett Stoll, whose overtime goal won the clinching Game 5 against the Canucks; and Dustin Penner, whose overtime goal won the clinching Game 5 against the Coyotes.
The Kings, having started play in 1967 at the Forum in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood, first wore purple and gold, to match the colors of their arena-mates, the Los Angeles Lakers. When Wayne Gretzky arrived in 1988, their colors were changed to silver and black to match another team then playing in L.A., football's Raiders. They switched back to purple and white, but now wear black again. In 1999, along with the NBA's Lakers and Clippers, they moved into the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
In spite of having some great players over the years, including Gretzky, his former Edmonton Oilers linemate Jari Kurri, and before that Hall-of-Famers Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon, the Kings have only been to the Stanley Cup Finals once before, in 1993, when they beat the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1, then dropped the next 4 straight, including the next 3 in overtime.
With both teams having pulled 3 upsets along the way, neither is going to be taken by surprise by the other. It's hard to say that these are the two best teams in the League. But it's easy to say that these are the two teams that have earned the right to be here.
A postseason game or series between teams from the New York and Los Angeles areas has been possible in the following rounds, and in the following eras:
Baseball: Yankees vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, from the 1958 World Series onward, and only in the WS; Yankees vs. the team currently known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, from the 1969 American League Championship Series onward, and until 1995 only in the ALCS, but now also in the AL Division Series; Mets vs. Angels, from the 1962 WS onward, and only in the WS; and Mets vs. Dodgers, from the 1969 National League Championship Series onward, and until 1995 only in the NLCS, but now also in the NLDS.
Football: Giants vs. Los Angeles Rams, in the NFL Championship Game from 1946 to 1965, and in the NFL/NFC Playoffs from 1966 to 1994; Jets vs. Los Angeles Raiders, in the AFC Playoffs from 1982 to 1994; Giants vs. Raiders and Jets vs. Rams, in the Super Bowl only from the 1970 to the 1994 season.
Basketball, only in the NBA Finals: Knicks vs. Lakers, since 1961; Knicks or New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets vs. Los Angeles Clippers, since 1985 (although the Clippers never even won a Playoff series until this past month); New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets vs. Lakers, since 1977.
Hockey: Rangers vs. Kings, since 1968, but in rounds prior to the Finals only from 1971 to 1982; Islanders vs. Kings, since 1973, but in rounds prior to the Finals only until 1982; Devils vs. Kings, since 1983, but only in the Finals; Rangers, Islanders or Devils vs. Anaheim Ducks, since 1994, but only in the Finals.
I won't count New York Liberty vs. Los Angeles Sparks, or New York Cosmos vs. Los Angeles Aztecs, or New York Red Bulls vs. Los Angeles Galaxy.
Here's the list:
1963 World Series: Dodgers over Yankees
1970 NBA Finals: Knicks over Lakers (Willis Reed)
1972 NBA Finals: Lakers over Knicks (the Lakers' first title in L.A.)
1973 NBA Finals: Knicks over Lakers
1977 World Series: Yankees over Dodgers (Reggie Jackson goes boom, boom, boom)
1978 World Series: Yankees over Dodgers (Reggie gets hip)
1979 Stanley Cup Preliminary Round: Rangers over Kings
1980 Stanley Cup Preliminary Round: Islanders over Kings
1981 Stanley Cup Preliminary Round: Rangers over Kings
1981 World Series: Dodgers over Yankees
1982 American Football Conference Divisional Playoff: Jets over Raiders
1984 National Football Conference Wild Card Playoff: Giants over Rams
1988 National League Championship Series: Dodgers over Mets (Mike Scioscia)
1989 National Football Conference Divisional Playoff: Rams over Giants (Flipper Anderson)
2002 NBA Finals: Lakers over Nets
2002 American League Division Series: Angels over Yankees
2003 Stanley Cup Finals: Devils over Ducks
2005 American League Division Series: Angels over Yankees (Randy Johnson implodes)
2006 National League Division Series: Mets over Dodgers
2009 American League Championship Series: Yankees over Angels
Devils: 1-0 going into these Finals
Kings: 0-3 going into these Finals
Baseball: Los Angeles leads, 5-4
Football: New York leads, 2-1
Basketball: Tied, 2-2
Hockey: New York leads, 4-0
Overall: New York leads, 12-8, but take out hockey and it's an 8-8 tie.
In Finals, New York leads, 5-4.
Let's go, Devils!
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Disclaimer: While I have been to Detroit, and I did see a game at Tiger Stadium, it was not against the Yankees, and the Tigers' new home, Comerica Park, was then still under construction. I have no firsthand knowledge of what the ballpark is like. I have, however, been around Tiger fans, both at the old yard and in their visits to the old Yankee Stadium. So I have a pretty good idea of what the game experience will be like.
Before You Go. The Detroit Free Press website is suggesting that it will rain on Friday night; but, other than that, weather should not be a factor. This is the beginning of June, so Detroit's being in the Midwest snowbelt should not be a problem. Dress like you would for a Yankee home game.
Getting There. Detroit is 600 land miles from New York. Specifically, it is 616 miles from Times Square to Cadillac Square. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.
Except... Wayne County Metropolitan Airport is 22 miles southwest of downtown. A taxi to downtown will set you back a bundle. There is a bus, SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation) bus Number 125, that goes directly from the airport to downtown, but it will take an hour and 20 minutes.
Also, do you remember the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza had a girlfriend, played by a pre-Will & Grace Megan Mullaly (using her real voice, you'd never recognize her as W&G's Karen), and he had to accompany her to a funeral in her hometown of Detroit? "It's kind of an expensive flight," George said.
This was not just George being his usual cheap self: At the time, 20 years ago, it was expensive, more expensive from New York to Detroit than it was to the further-away Chicago. It's actually cheaper now, but not by much: A check of airline websites shows that flights are going to be over $1,000 round-trip.
Too rich for your blood? The news gets worse: There is no good way to get to Detroit, and that's got nothing to do with the city's reputation for being a crumbling, crime-ridden place where even Batman would fear to tread.
I once saw a T-shirt that said, "I'm so bad, I vacation in Detroit." As I mentioned above... I have. And the legendary comedian Red Skelton once said, "In Detroit, you can go 10 miles and never leave the scene of the crime." Newark and Detroit had their race riots 2 weeks apart in July 1967. In May 1999, I saw Detroit, and I realized just how far back Newark had come, by seeing how far Detroit had not.
Train? Forget it. The only Amtrak route in and out of Detroit is to and from Chicago, which in the opposite direction. 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 New York's Penn Station at 3:45 every afternoon, and arrives at Union Terminal in Toledo at 5:55 every morning. From there, you have to wait until 6:30 to get on a bus to Detroit's Amtrak station at 11 W. Baltimore Avenue, arriving at 7:35.
In reverse, the bus leaves Detroit at 9:25 PM, arrives in Toledo at 10:30, and then you have to hang around there until the Lake Shore Limited comes back at 3:20 AM, arriving back in New York at 6:35 PM. Total cost: $212. Cheaper than flying, but a tremendous inflammation in the posterior.
How about Greyhound? Yeah, ride a bus for 14 hours to Detroit, there's a great idea. Actually, having done it, I can tell you that it's not that bad. Seven Greyhound buses leave Port Authority every day with connections to Detroit. The best one is at 10:15 PM, and you'd change buses in Cleveland, arriving 6:50 AM and leaving 7:50, arriving at 11:20 AM at 1001 Howard Street. Compared to most of Detroit, the bus terminal is new and clean. It was just about within walking distance of Tiger Stadium, which really helped me in 1999. It's also not a long walk from Comerica Park, but I wouldn't recommend this. Better to take a cab, epsecially if you're getting a hotel.
The first bus to leave Detroit after the Sunday afternoon game is at 6:00 PM, and you won't have to change buses, arriving at Port Authority at 7:40 Monday morning. Round-trip fare: $182, although there are discounts for ordering online. So Greyhound is also far cheaper than flying, roughly the same cost as Amtrak, and less of a pain than Amtrak -- on this roadtrip, anyway.
If you decide to drive, the directions are rather simple, down to (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 -- though it will when I do "How to Be a Yankee Fan in Chicago."
In Ohio, you'll take I-80's Exit 64, and get onto Interstate 75 North. This will take you into Michigan. Take Exit 50 for Grand River Avenue. Follow the ramp to Woodward Avenue. Comerica Park's address is at 2100 Woodward Avenue, although it's bordered by Montcalm Street, Witherell Street, Adams Street and Brush Street. Across Brush Street is Ford Field, the home of the NFL's Detroit Lions.
If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 3 hours in Ohio and an hour in Michigan. That’s 10 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and in the Cleveland suburbs, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Detroit, it should be about 12 hours.
I strongly recommend finding a hotel with a good, secure parking garage, even if you're only staying for one game.
Tickets. The Tigers have usually been good since their 2006 Pennant season. In spite of this, due to how hard the Bush Recession hit Michigan, attendance has not been all that strong. But it is coming back: The Tigers averaged 32,618 fans per game last season, and are averaging 35,201 so far this season, in a ballpark that officially seats 41,782 (but can be boosted to over 45,000 with standing room).
You would think that, considering these factors, and the "majority-minority" status and poverty even in good times that has stricken Detroit, tickets would generally be affordable. They're not: Nearly every seat in the lower level is at least $47, and most run at either $47 or $60. Upper deck seats are mostly at the $30 level, and outfield bleachers can be had at $20 in left and $17 in right.
Going In. Detroit is a weird city in some ways. It often seems like a cross between a past that was once glorious but now impossible to reach, and a future that never quite happened. (That observation was once made about the remaining structures from New York’s 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Astrodome in Houston.) Art Deco structures of the 1920s and ‘30s, such as the Penobscot Building (the tallest building outside New York and Chicago when it opened in 1928, the tallest in Michigan until 1977) stand alongside abandoned, boarded-up or chained-up stores.
But alongside or across from them, there are glassy, modern structures such as the Renaissance Center, a 5-tower complex that includes, at its center, the 750-foot tallest building in Michigan (the tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere), and, in one of its 4 outer towers, the headquarters of General Motors (although the RenCen was originally financed by Ford).
Downtown also has the Detroit People Mover, a monorail system that is part of the suggestion of Detroit trying to get from 1928 to 2028 while jumping over the difficult years in between. Like the Washington and Montreal Metro (subway) systems, the company running it prides itself on the artwork in its stations. It has a stop called Times Square, but it won’t look anything like the one in New York. It has a stop called Bricktown, but it won’t look anything like Brick Township, the sprawling Jersey Shore suburb off Exits 88 to 91 on the Garden State Parkway. The Grand Circus Park Station is 2 blocks from Comerica Park. The DPM also has a stop at Joe Louis Arena, home of the Red Wings. It’s cheap, only 75 cents, and it still uses tokens, although it also accepts cash. Be advised, though, that it stops running at midnight, except on Fridays and Saturdays, when it runs until 2:00 AM.
The area around Comerica Park (named for a Midwest-based bank) and Ford Field (named for the automaker), at the northern edge of downtown Detroit, is called Foxtown, after the Fox Theater, which Tigers/Wings/Little Caesars owner Mike Ilitch also had restored. The ballpark can be entered at Gate A on Witherell (that’s the 1st base stands), Gate B at Witherell & Adams (right field corner), Gate C at Adams & Brush (left field corner), or Gate D on Montcalm (home plate).
There are a lot of distractions in the park, from the huge Tiger statues to the Comerica Carousel, near the Big Cat Food Court under the 1st base stands, to the Fly Ball Ferris Wheel, with baseball-shaped compartments, under the 3rd base stands. But, not being a kid, you’re interested in the baseball, so let’s move on.
The ballpark faces southeast, and some of Detroit’s taller buildings can be seen from behind the plate, including the RenCen and the Penobscot. Much of Detroit’s financial district, including the Penobscot, was built in the 1920s and ‘30s and, like many of New York’s buildings of the same period, were heavily influenced by the Art Deco movement. Some of these structures show just how much of a shame it is that Detroit has so badly fallen apart in the last 40 years.
Food. When I visited Tiger Stadium in its final season, 1999, it had great food, including the very best ballpark hot dog I've ever had. Since they're owned by Little Caesars Pizza mogul (and also Detroit Red Wings owner) Mike Ilitch, and before that were owned by Domino's Pizza boss Tom Monaghan, food is taken very seriously by the club. This is, after all, Big Ten Country, where college football tailgate parties are practically a sacrament.
Their big feature is the Big Cat Food Court, under the 1st base stands, featuring Little Caesars, naturally; Sliders, a stand featuring that Midwest staple, the Coney dog (hot dog with chili and onions, though they're not that popular at the actual Coney Island); the Brushfire Grill, with barbecue specialties; a stand selling "Chicago Style Hot Dogs," with the little pickle slice, the tomato slice, and the celery salt (and, no, I don't know why Detroit's ballpark would sell a Chicago-themed item); Asian Tiger, with Chinese food and sushi; a Mexican food stand; and "Lemons & Ears," which sells lemonade and "elephant ears," a Midwestern variation on that Middle Atlantic States standard, funnel cake.
The Tigers also have numerous in-park restaurants, but, like the ones at Yankee Stadium II, you can only get in with certain tickets. But if you go to a Detroit Tigers home game and you don't find something good to eat, you're not trying hard enough.
Team History Displays. The main concourse features a Walk of Fame, showing great moments in Detroit baseball history, from the 1887 National League Champion Detroit Wolverines, through the Ty Cobb Pennants of 1907-08-09, to the Hank Greenberg years of 1934-45, to the amazing 1968 "Year of the Tiger," to the "Bless You Boys" of 1984, and the 2006 Pennant.
Along the left-center-field wall are statues of the 5 Tiger players who have had their uniform numbers retired: 2, Charlie Gehringer, 2nd base, 1924-42; 5, Greenberg, 1st base, 1933-46; 6, Al Kaline, right field, 1953-74; 16, Hal Newhouser, pitcher, 1939-53; and 23, Willie Horton, left field, 1963-77 (and grew up in Detroit). There is also a statue of Cobb, center field, 1905-26, who played before uniform numbers were worn (though I once saw film of him at an old-timers' game, wearing a Tiger uniform, Number 25).
Not with those statues, but rather at the first base entrance, is one of the late Ernie Harwell, the broadcaster whose very voice meant "the Detroit Tigers" from 1960 to 2002. His name, and those of Cobb and the players whose numbers have been retired, are on a wall in left center field.
On a matching wall in right center field is a notation of 1979-95 manager Sparky Anderson, Number 11 retired, Hall-of-Famer; and the names of Tigers who, while their numbers have not been retired by the team, are, like the preceding (including Harwell, with Horton the lone exception) also in the Baseball Hall of Fame: Sam Crawford, right field, 1903-17; Hugh Jennings, manager, 1907-20; Harry Heilmann, right field, 1914–29; Henry "Heinie" Manush, left field, 1923–27; Gordon "Mickey" Cochrane, catcher 1934-37, manager 1934-38; and George Kell, 3rd base, 1946–52. Jackie Robinson's universally retired Number 42 is also with these names.
Like Harwell, Heilmann, Kell and Kaline also served as Tiger broadcasters. So did Ty Tyson, a non-player who was the first great Tiger announcer, but has not, like Harwell, received the Hall of Fame's Ford Frick Award for broadcasters. These walls, in left-center and right-center, serve as Detroit's answer to Yankee Stadium's Monument Park.
The Tigers have removed from circulation, but not officially retired, the following: Number 1, Lou Whitaker, second base, 1977-95; Number 3, worn by Cochrane, Dick McAuliffe (2nd base, 1960-73), and Alan Trammell (shortstop, 1977-96 and manager 2003-05); and Number 47, worn by Jack Morris, pitcher, 1977-90. Perhaps they're waiting for Whitaker, Trammell and Morris to be elected to the Hall of Fame, but they probably won't be elected, and they retired Horton's number without him getting in. (Number 23 was also worn by Kirk Gibson, right field, 1979-87 and 1993-95, but there's no mention of him on the wall.)
Stuff. The Tigers have 5 team stores located throughout the ballpark. Stuffed tigers are a natural to sell, and jerseys, jackets, T-shirts and caps abound. You can also buy DVDs of the official World Series highlight films of 1945, 1968 and 1984 (they come in 1 disc, with the 1935 edition preceding the start of official films sponsored by MLB which started in 1943) and "The Essential Games of the Detroit Tigers."
Unlike the "Essential Games" series for the old Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium, instead of 6 games, there's only 4, and, due to the limitations on what Major League Baseball Productions has, they only go back to 1968, and, despite it not being "The Essential Games of Tiger Stadium," they still limit it to home games. Thus the 1984 clincher, Game 5 at Tiger Stadium, is included; 1968's Game 5 at Tiger Stadium, the only home game the Tigers won in that Series, is included; but the Game 7s of 1945 (at Wrigley Field) and 1968 (at Busch Stadium) are not. They do, however, include the Tiger Stadium finale in 1999 and Game 4 of the 2006 American League Championship Series, which was won by Magglio Ordonez hitting a walkoff homer to cap a series sweep. The Bonus Features include highlights from the 1971 All-Star Game (future Yankee Reggie Jackson hitting the Tiger Stadium roof off future Yankee Dock Ellis), the 1976 "Mark Fidrych Game" in which "the Bird" beat the Yankees on ABC Monday Night Baseball; the Comerica Park opener in 2000; a tribute to Trammell and Whitaker; a big moment from the career of Curtis Granderson, now a Yankee; and a brief Tiger Stadium retrospective.
During the Game. You do not have to worry about wearing Yankee gear in Comerica Park. Maybe if it was a Pistons game and you were wearing Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers or Boston Celtics stuff. Or if it was a Lions game and you were wearing Chicago Bears or Green Bay Packers stuff. Or if it was a Red Wings game and you were wearing Chicago Blackhawks or (due to their nasty late 1990s, early 2000s matchups) Colorado Avalanche stuff. But for a Tigers game, you can wear just about any opposing team's cap, jersey, jacket, whatever, and no one will give you a hard time based on that.
Unlike its predecessor, with its overhanging outfield upper deck, Comerica Park is a pitchers' park. Left field is 345 feet away, left-center is 370, center is 420, right-center is 365, and right is 330. These fences have already been brought in once, following complaints from Tiger players that it was too hard to hit there. Actually, the dimensions are not all that different from Tiger Stadium, but since there's no outfield upper deck, air can circulate better, and when the wind comes in off the Detroit River, it makes it tough to hit one out.
In the early 20th Century, most ballparks would have a strip of dirt between home plate and the pitcher's mound, known as a "keyhole." Comerica Park added this tough, and so did the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, now known as Chase Field, as you'll see in this year's All-Star Game.
The Tigers' mascot is Paws the Tiger, and not only is he one of the less ridiculous mascots in the major leagues, but he's a better dancer than the Phillie Phanatic.
Whenever the Tigers score a run, the sound of a tiger growling is played through the public address system. It's a bit more intimidating than the really loud variation on the "Westminster chimes" that gets played at Yankee Stadium.
The Tigers do not have a regular song to play in the 7th inning stretch after "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Nor do they have a regular ballgame-over song.
The Yankees inadvertently contributed to the Tigers' version of the Angels' "Rally Monkey." In a June 2006 Yanks-Tigers game at Comerica, Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson (not to be confused with former Knick Nate Robinson) was featured on FSN Detroit's "Sounds of the Game," in which the TV station puts a microphone on a coach, or a player not in the game. To get the fans going, Nate began to stuff Big League Chew into his mouth, hoping to spark a late-inning rally. The trend caught on, with Jeremy Bonderman, Zach Miner and Justin Verlander all chewing from time to time. The Tigers came back to tie the game, and the phrase "It's Gum Time" has become a new rallying cry for the team, along with 1968's "Sock It to 'em Tigers" and 1984's "Bless You, Boys."
After the Game. With Detroit's rough reputation, I would recommend not hanging around downtown after a night game. If you want a postgame drink or meal, you're better off sticking to your hotel.
The only bar I was able to find catering to Yankee Fans that is within 25 miles of downtown Detroit, and that one just barely, was a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in suburban Roseville. It's also been known to serve as the local headquarters for expatriate Giants and Jets fans.
Sidelights. Detroit is a great sports city, not just a great baseball city. Check out the following – but do it in daylight:
* Site of Tiger Stadium. The first ballpark on the site was called Bennett Park, after Charlie Bennett, a catcher for the NL’s Detroit Wolverines, who didn’t play there. Bennett Park opened in 1896, for the Detroit team in the Western League, which became the American League in 1901. However, the team we know as the Tigers (so named because the orange stripes on their socks evoked not just tigers but the teams at New Jersey’s Princeton University, also called the Tigers) are officially dated from 1901.
After the 1911 season, the wooden Bennett Park was demolished and replaced with a concrete and steel structure, opening on April 20, 1912 (the same day as Fenway Park in Boston) and named Navin Field, after Tiger owner Frank Navin. He died in 1935, and his co-owner, Walter Briggs, expanded the place to its more familiar configuration in 1938, renaming it Briggs Stadium. In 1961, new owner John Fetzer renamed it Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers played there from 1912 to 1999, and the NFL’s Lions did so from 1938 to 1974. The Tigers won the World Series while playing there in 1935, 1945, 1968 and 1984; the Lions won the NFL Championship while playing there in 1952, 1953 and 1957. (The ’52 Championship Game was played in Cleveland against the Browns, the ’53 and ’57 editions also against the Browns at Tiger Stadum.) Northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Street, 1 mile west of Cadillac Square down Michigan Avenue (U.S. Route 12). Number 29 bus.
* Joe Louis Arena. Opening in 1979, while the Alabama-born, Detroit-raised-and-trained heavyweight champion of the world from 1937 to 1948 was still alive, this 20,000-seat building was considered very modern at the time. There has been talk of a replacement for “The Joe,” but it doesn’t look likely that an agreement for one will be reached anytime soon. The Red Wings have come a long way from the building’s early days, when they were nicknamed the Dead Things, winning 4 Stanley Cups in 6 trips to the Finals between 1995 and 2009. It’s considered one of the loudest arenas in the NHL: Someone compared it to Chicago Stadium, the now-demolished home of their arch-rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, and said that, if the visiting team scores 2 early goals, the Chicago fans quiet down, but Detroit fans stay loud throughout the game. 600 Civic Center Drive at Jefferson Avenue. It has its own station on the Detroit People Mover.
* Cobo Hall. This has been Detroit’s major convention center since its opening in 1960, and, following the rejection of a plan to demolish it and put a new Pistons-Red Wings arena on the site, it is about to undergo a renovation that will expand it. It includes a 12,000-seat arena that was home to the NBA’s Pistons from 1961 to 1978, and a convention complex that includes the city’s famed annual auto show. It is known for some legendary rock concerts, including the KISS album Alive! and area native Bob Seger’s Live Bullet. Unfortunately, it may be best known for the January 6, 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan during a practice session for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Next-door to Joe Louis Arena, using the same DPM station.
* Site of Olympia Stadium. From the outside, it looked more like a big brick movie theater, complete with the Art Deco marquee out front. But “The Old Red Barn” was home to the Red Wings from 1927 to 1979, during which time they won the Stanley Cup in 1936, ’37, ’43, ’50, ’52, ’54 and ’55. In 1950, they hosted Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and Pete Babando’s overtime winner defeated the Rangers. In ’54, they had another overtime Game 7 winner, as “Tough Tony” Leswick hit a shot that deflected off Doug Harvey, the great defenseman of the Montreal Canadiens. (In hockey, the shooter is still credited; in soccer, this would have been an “own goal” on Harvey.)
The Olympia was also home to the Pistons from 1957 to 1961, and the site of some great prizefights, including Jake LaMotta’s 1942 win over Sugar Ray Robinson – the only fight Robinson would lose in his career until 1952, and the only one of the 6 fights he had with LaMotta that LaMotta won. It was the neighborhood, not the building, that was falling apart: Lincoln Cavalieri, its general manager in its last years, once said, "If an atom bomb landed, I'd want to be in Olympia." It was demolished in 1987, and the Olympia Armory, home of the Michigan National Guard, is now on the site. 5920 Grand River Avenue, corner of McGraw Street, on the Northwest Side. Number 21 bus. If you’re a hockey fan, by all means, visit – but do it in daylight.
* Silverdome. Originally Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium, this stadium was home to the Lions from 1975 to 2001 (after which they moved back downtown to Ford Field), and very nearly became home to the Tigers as well, before owner John Fetzer decided to commit himself to Tiger Stadium. Heisman-winning running backs Billy Sims and Barry Sanders ran wild for the Lions here, but the closest they got to a Super Bowl was reaching the NFC Championship Game in January 1992 – unless you count hosting Super Bowl XVI, 10 years earlier, the beginning of the San Francisco 49er dynasty led by Bill Walsh and Joe Montana. The Pistons, playing here from 1978 to 1988, had a little more luck, reaching the NBA Finals in their last year there. It seated 80,000 for football, set an NBA attendance record (since broken) of 61,983 between the Pistons and Boston Celtics in 1988, and 93,682 for a Papal Mass in 1987.
Without the Lions and Pistons, its future is unclear. It hosted a Don King-promoted boxing card in January 2011, and in August 2010 hosted a friendly between Italian soccer giant A.C. Milan and Greek club Panathinaikos – appropriate, considering the area’s ethnic makeup. A current rumor is that a group trying to get an MLS expansion franchise for Detroit will use it, or demolish it and build a new facility on the site. 1200 Featherstone Road, Pontiac. Getting there by public transportation is a pain: The Number 465 bus takes an hour and 25 minutes, and then you gotta walk a mile down Featherstone from Oakland Community College.
* The Palace. Home to the Pistons since 1988, they won the 1989, 1990 and 2004 NBA Championships here, and almost won another in 2005. The Detroit Shock have won 3 WNBA Championships here, and, as a result, every time a title is won by either the Pistons or the Shock, the address changes: Currently, it’s “Six Championship Drive, Auburn Hills, MI 48326.” Unfortunately, the 22,000-seat building’s best-known event isn’t a Pistons title or a rock concert, but the November 19, 2004 fight between the Pistons and the Indiana Pacers that spilled into the stands, becoming known as the Malice at the Palace. Even the WNBA had a rare brawl there, between the Shock and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2008. Lapeer Road and Harmon Road, Auburn Hills, off I-75. Don’t even think about trying to reach it by public transportation: You’d need 2 buses and a half-hour walk.
* Motown Historical Museum. As always, I’m going to include some non-sports items. Detroit is generally known for 3 good things: Sports, music and cars. The museum is the former Motown Records studio, which company founder Berry Gordy Jr. labeled “Hitsville, U.S.A.” His sister, Esther Gordy Edwards, now runs it, and it features records and costumes of performers such as the Supremes, the Temptations and the Four Tops. 2648 W. Grand Blvd., on the North Side. Number 16 bus.
* Henry Ford Museum. The centerpiece of the nation’s foremost automotive-themed museum is a replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Henry Ford himself established the museum: “I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used.... When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition.”
It contains the fascinating, including early cars and bicycles, Henry Ford’s first car (his 1896 "Quadricycle"), Igor Sikorsky’s prototype for the helicopter, the bus Rosa Parks was riding in when she refused to give up her seat to start the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and a Buckminster Fuller “Dymaxion house.” It also contains the macabre, with the chair Abraham Lincoln was supposedly sitting in when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater in Washington (the theater owner was no relation to Henry) and the chair John F. Kennedy was definitely sitting in when he was assassinated, in the Lincoln Continental convertible limousine he was riding in through downtown Dallas.
Next door to the museum is Greenfield Village, which Henry Ford imagined as a kind of historical park, a more modern version of Colonial Williamsburg – that is, celebrating what was, in 1929 when it opened, considered modern American life, including the reconstructed Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory of his good friend Thomas Edison. Ford and Edison were both friends of rubber magnate Henry Firestone (whose tires certainly made Ford’s cars easier to make), and Firestone’s family farm is reconstructed on the site.
Please note that I am not excusing Henry Ford’s despicable anti-Semitism – and, to be fair, he did give his black auto workers the same pay and benefits as his white ones – but I am recommending the museum. It's a tribute to the role of technology, including the automobile, in American life, not to the man himself. Oakwood Blvd. and Village Road. Number 200 bus to Michigan Avenue and Oakwood Blvd., then a short walk down Oakwood.
* Greektown Historic District. Although Detroit is famed for its Irish (Corktown, including the site of Tiger Stadium) and Italian communities, and has the largest Arab-American community of any major city, its best-known ethnic neighborhoods are Greektown and the Polish community of Hamtramck. New York’s Astoria, Queens has nothing on Detroit’s Greektown, which not only has some of the country’s finest Greek restaurants, but also the Greektown Casino. 555 E. Lafayette Street, at Beaubien Street. Greektown Station on the People Mover.
* Hamtramck. Pronounced “Ham-TRAM-ick,” this city is actually completely surrounded by Detroit. When the Dodge Brothers (who later sold Dodge to Chrysler) opened an auto plant there in 1914, it became a hub for Polish immigration. However, the Polish population of the city has dropped from 90 percent in 1970 to 22 percent today. And Arabs and South Asians have moved in, making it Michigan’s most internationally diverse city. Nevertheless, if you want the best kielbasa, kapusta, golumpkis and paczkis this side of the Oder, this is the place to go. Hamtramck Town Shopping Center, Joseph Campau Street and Hewitt Street. Number 10 or 34 bus.
* Mariners’ Church. On my 1999 visit to Detroit, I discovered this church by accident, walking past it without realizing it was there until I saw the historical marker. Every March, it holds a Blessing of the Fleet for every person and ship going to see; every November, they hold a Great Lakes Memorial Service for those who have lost their lives at sea within the past year. This included the 29 men lost on the iron ore freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior, on November 10, 1975. Build and homeported in Detroit, the Big Fitz was commemorated in song by Gordon Lightfoot, whose song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” called the church “The Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral.”
170 E. Jefferson Avenue, at Randolph Street. It’s right downtown, near the RenCen and Detroit’s City Hall, which includes the Spirit of Detroit statue and the giant arm and fist that represent Joe Louis. But be careful, because Randolph Street empties into the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, to Windsor, Ontario, Canada. I’m not recommending that you bring your passport, unless you want to go across the river to the casinos of Windsor; but I am recommending that you be wary of tunnel traffic.
The University of Michigan is 41 miles west of downtown Detroit; Michigan State University, 86 miles northwest. If you’d like to visit either one, you might need Greyhound.
A visit to Detroit does not have to be a scary 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.
They went out to the Pacific Coast, and took 3 straight from the Oakland Athletics, extending their winning streak to 5 games.
On Friday night, the Yankee bats, so quiet these first 2 months of the season, got the runs we needed: 3 in the 3rd, including the 6th home run of the year by Mark Teixeira, who has broken out of his awful start in a big way; and 3 in the 5th, due to Robinson Cano's 6th homer and Nick Swisher's 8th. Ivan Nova took this cushion and threw 7 strong, showing once again that he is ready to be a Number 2 starter behind CC Sabathia.
Yankees 6, A's 3. WP: Nova (5-2). SV: Rafael Soriano (4). LP: Trevor Ross (2-5).
On Saturday afternoon, the Yankees unloaded the lumber again, at the expense of one of last year's key Yankee cogs, Bartolo Colon. (GM Brian Cashman kept Freddie Garcia and let Colon go. Maybe it should have been the other way around.) They chipped away with single runs in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th, before scoring 3 in the 5th. The run in the 2nd was Cano's 7th homer, the one in the 4th was Teixeira's 7th.
The 5th began with a Chris Stewart single, then another by Derek Jeter. Curtis Granderson flew out to left, but that moved Stewart over to 3rd, and Alex Rodriguez got him home with a sacrifice fly. Then Cano doubled Jeter over, and Teix singled home Jeter and Cano. Teix added his 8th "Teix Message" of the season in the 9th.
Yankees 9, A's 9. WP: CC (6-2). LP: Colon (4-5).
On Sunday afternoon, the Yankees didn't hit much -- but it was enough, as Hiroki Kuroda was fantastic, winning on the road for the first time as a Yankee. He pitched 8 innings, allowing 4 hits, 1 walk, and no runs, earned or otherwise.
Andruw Jones hit his 5th homer of the season in the 2nd inning, and a Granderson single and a Teix double in the 7th provided a small cushion that held up.
Yankees 2, A's 0. Sounds like an old-time battle between Catfish Hunter of the A's and Fritz Peterson of the Yankees. Or maybe Catfish Hunter of the Yankees and Vida Blue of the A's. No, more like: WP: Kuroda (4-6). SV: Soriano (5). LP: Tommy Milone (6-4).
So the Yankees score 2 runs when 1 will suffice. So what happened last night, when they scored 8? It wasn't enough.
They moved on to Anaheim to play the Angels. (I'm too pissed off about the result to go through the full name, real or perceived, of the club.) The score was 4-3 Angels... after the 1st inning. Granderson tied it in the 2nd with his 15th homer. The Angels retook the lead, and were up 8-5 going into the top of the 7th.
Cano led off that inning with a double. Teix drew a walk, and Angel manager Mike Scioscia brought in Jason Isringhausen, the former "Generation K" starter with the Mets who got hurt, then revitalized his career as an A's and Cardinals reliever. Raul Ibanez greeted him with a short single that loaded the bases with nobody out.
Recent Yankee games would suggest that we'd blow this, with no runs being scored.
Not this time: Swish hit a sac fly to score Cano. Eric Chavez grounded out, moving the runners over to 2nd and 3rd. And Russell Martin, who needed a big hit and needed it badly, doubled home Teix and Ibanez. The game was tied, 8-8. And the go-ahead run was at 2nd, with the team's best hitter so far this season, Jeter, coming up.
But Jeter grounded out, stranding Martin. The Yanks went out 1-2-3 in the 8th. Teix singled to lead off the 9th, but Ibanez and Swish flew out. Chavez drew a walk, so it was men on 1st and 2nd -- the potential winning run on 2nd. Martin needed another big hit, and got one -- but it was only a single, and not one that was deep enough to score Teix. Jeter grounded into a forceout to end another threat.
Incredibly, Boone Logan had held the Angels off in relief of Phil Hughes (who didn't have it at all, after 3 good starts), Cody Eppley and David Phelps. But for the bottom of the 9th, Joe Girardi brought in Cory Wade, who pitched to Mark Trumbo.
And only Trumbo, who hit one out to end it. Angels 9, Yankees 8. WP: Jordan Walden (2-1). LP: Wade (0-1).
So much for coasting on the Coast.
So here's how things currently stand with the Bronx Bombers:
* The Yankees are 26-22, 2 1/2 games (2 in the loss column) behind the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Eastern Division. Not bad at all, considering we're missing our sparkplug (Brett Gardner) and our top 2 closers (Mariano Rivera and David Robertson). The Toronto Blue Jays are 4 back, and the Boston Red Sox are 4 1/2 back (4 in the loss column).
* Jeter now has 3,156 career hits. He's now 15th on the all-time list, having passed Paul Waner and George Brett while in Oakland. He's 29 short of passing Cal Ripken for 14th. Having been close to .400 for a while, his batting average is now down to .335.
* A-Rod now has 2,824 career hits, 176 short of 3,000. He has 636 home runs, 24 short of Willie Mays at 660, 64 short of 700, 82 short of Babe Ruth at 714, 119 short of Hank Aaron at 755, and 128 short of Barry Bonds at 762.
* Robertson will probably be back on June 5, for the start of a home series against the Rays.
* The best-case scenario for Gardner's return appears to be June 7, the end of that series against the Rays.
The returns of both Robertson and Gardner will be big boosts. It's easy to believe the return of the closer would help, but hard to believe "the closer" is Robertson, not Mariano Rivera. And also hard to believe that Gardner, so often cited as the weak link in the Yankee lineup, was such a sparkplug and so badly missed. But they'll be back soon.
And the American League (and those unfortunate teams from the other league that got stuck with us in the Interleague schedule) will not like it at all.
Well, you know what? To hell with them. As we'd sing if the Yankees were an English soccer team, We are the Yankees and we are the best, we are the Yankees so fuck all the rest! Fuck 'em all!
Friday, May 25, 2012
Well, not quite, but 2.3 miles away from Disneyland is the Yankees' next opponent, as they conclude their West Coast roadtrip with 3 games against the team officially known as...
The Los Angeles Angels, 1961-65.
The California Angels, 1966-96.
The Anaheim Angels, 1997-2004.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 2005-present.
Also nicknamed the Halos.
DISCLAIMER: I have never been to the Pacific Coast, so all of this information is secondhand at best, but much of it does come from the opposing teams' websites.
Before You Go. Unlike the Seattle and San Francisco Bay Areas, the Los Angeles area has very consistent weather. It’s a nice place to visit. If you don’t mind earthquakes. And mudslides. And wildfires. And smog.
The Angels’ hometown (well, home County, anyway) newspaper, the Orange County Register , is predicting low 70s for daylight and low 60s for evenings throughout the series. The region’s (and indeed the Western U.S.’) largest newspaper, the Los Angeles Times concurs. (For those of you who are Met fans, that means they agree.) Therefore, short-sleeve shirts should be all that’s necessary.
Getting There. It’s 2,789 miles from Yankee Stadium to Angel Stadium (known as Anaheim Stadium 1966-97 and Edison International Field 1998-2003). In other words, if you’re going, you’re flying.
After all, even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days. Each way.
But, if you really, really want to, well, in order to get there in time for this series, you may have to leave... right now. But in the future... Take Interstate 80 West across New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Just before leaving Nebraska for Colorado you’ll get on Interstate 76, and shortly before reaching Denver you’ll get on Interstate 70 West. You’ll take that all the way to its end in Utah, where you’ll take Interstate 15 south. You’ll go through a short strip of Arizona before getting into Nevada (where you’ll see THE Strip, Las Vegas), before getting into California.
Assuming you're not going to a hotel first (and you really should, either in Los Angeles or near the stadium or Disneyland in Anaheim), you’ll get off I-15 at Exit 106, and get on State Route 60, the Pomona Freeway. You’ll get off Route 60 at Exit 24, for State Route 57, the Orange Freeway. Take Exit 1E for Orangewood Avenue, turn right, and soon you’ll be able to turn right on State College Blvd. Right after that, you’ll turn right onto East Gene Autry Way, and there’s the stadium. The official address is 2000 East Gene Autry Way.
Given an average speed of 60 miles an hour, you’ll be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5:15, Nebraska for 6 hours, Colorado for 7:15, Utah for 6 hours, Arizona for half an hour, Nevada for 2 hours, and California for 3 hours; for a total of 46 hours. Factor in rest stops, you’ll need more like 3 full days. And, remember, that’s just one way. And if you end up using Las Vegas as a rest stop, well, you might end up missing the series and end up, yourself, as what “stays in Vegas.”
That’s still faster than Greyhound (68 hours, 30 minutes, changing buses 5 times, $497 round-trip, station at 100 West Winston Road, 2 1/2 miles from the stadium) and Amtrak (whose Anaheim stop is within walking distance of the Big A’s gates, 64 hours, 15 minutes, $500 each way). But flights, usually changing in Chicago, will be a lot more expensive.
If you do go all the way to Los Angeles for your hotel, it’s a 40-minute drive from downtown L.A. to Angel Stadium down Interstate 5, and a 40-minute trip on Amtrak ($34 round-trip) or a 46-minute trip down the Metrolink Orange County Line ($16.50 round-trip) from L.A.’s Union Station to Anaheim’s Amtrak station.
Tickets. Unlike the A’s and Mariners, the Angels are doing very well at the box office. Their average of 39,090 was 5th in the majors last season behind the Phillies, Yankees, Giants and Twins. They're only averaging 33,581 so far this season, but that's probably due to the Angels having gotten off to a slow start, 21-25. The Angels have averaged over 38,000 per home game since 2003, the year after their World Championship. And with a capacity of 45,050, that means the Angels are operating at 86 percent of capacity, which, while not good in the other 3 major league sports (the NBA & NHL having half as many home games in a season, the NFL 1/5 as many), is very strong in baseball. So this may be one where it helps to order your tickets beforehand.
Like the New York ballparks and Fenway, Angel Stadium is expensive. You’ll be lucky to get into the lower level for $75, and most seats in that level are $98 and up. Club (middle) level seats go for $65 and $50, and the upper deck goes for $25.
Going In. Originally known as Anaheim Stadium, built in 1966, the place was known as the Big A (sometimes hyphenated as “Big-A”) because of the A-shaped scoreboard in left field. In 1980, that board was moved out to the parking lot to be used as a message board, and replaced with a smaller A-shaped “crown” over the board on top of the football bleachers, used by the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams when they played at the Big A from 1980 to 1994 – increasing capacity from the original 42,000 to 64,593 and getting the stadium tagged “The Bigger A” before those bleachers were demolished in 1996 in an effort to restore a baseball-like sense of intimacy.
You’ll most likely be going into the stadium through the home plate entrance. When you do, you’re going to think you’ve been here before, even if you haven’t. Red Patterson, former publicity director for the Yankees (and the man who coined the phrase “tape measure home run” to describe the wallops of Mickey Mantle) worked for the early Angels, and wanted a stadium that would be like Yankee Stadium, but modern – in other words, no support poles, and more bathrooms and concession stands. The result ended up being very much like an updated old Yankee Stadium, and the 1973-76 renovation of the Bronx ballyard made it resemble the Big A in main structure (though not in color).
Beyond the outfield, installed part of the 1997 renovation, there is a fountain, “the California Spectacular,” which sends geysers of water down a tree-lined rocky area – and brings up thoughts of Royals Stadium/Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. And, while the old Big A scoreboard still stands, the biggest scoreboard instead the stadium has is no longer in left field but in right, echoing the home of the original Los Angeles Angels, Wrigley Field. (More about this West Coast version of Wrigley later.)
And on top of the scoreboard is an ad for... the Los Angeles Times, not the Orange County Register. Angels owner Arturo “Arte” Moreno has decided to do what the owners of the other “second teams” – the Mets, the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland Athletics – have in recent times refused to do: Fight the older, established teams for a majority of fans in the metro area. He won’t move the team into the County, much less the City, of Los Angeles (why waste a perfectly suitable, if not perfect, ballpark), but he was the one who changed the names of the team and the ballpark, so that it would no longer be an Anaheim or an Orange County team, but a team for all of Southern California.
Which was exactly the opposite of what was intended when the Walt Disney Company bought the team from Gene Autry’s widow Jackie: They figured Orange County, growing like gangbusters during the team’s existence, now over 50 years, was enough, and building loyalty to Orange County would work. They were right, it did. But Moreno thinks bigger, and he is fighting the Dodgers for command of the metropolitan area.
It hasn’t quite worked: Last season, the 51st season of combined play by the two area teams, was the first time the Angels had a higher attendance than the Dodgers: 39,090 to 36,236. And with Lakers legend and business mogul Earvin "Magic" Johnson having recently bought the Dodgers and heavily committed to restoring their former glory, Moreno -- who went from being the richest MLB owner on the West Coast to being the poorest MLB owner in the Los Angeles area -- will be in one hell of a fight for area fans' hearts and minds. Still, the Angels have been seen as a model franchise the last few years, and the Dodgers, under the ownership of Frank McCourt, were not. And since the Angels have reached the postseason 6 times in the last 9 seasons, while the Dodgers have done so in 4 out of 9, the Angels have become the more successful team recently.
Food. Aramark Sports & Entertainment, the successor corporation to the Harry M. Stevens Company that invented ballpark concessions, provides food and beverage services for the Big A. However, there is little that is unusual or special about Anaheim food.
In fact, back in 1985, when the football bleachers were up, Bob Wood, a junior high school history teacher who was going to all 26 ballparks then in the majors, reported for his book Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks that the main purpose of the Anaheim Stadium scoreboard (the successor to the Big-A board) was not to give you details about the game you were watching, but “to remind you... that Coke is It!” (Hey, at least it wasn’t that giant “This Bud’s For You” sign on top of the Shea scoreboard, which, during the scoreboard’s electronic rotation, would occasionally remind you to not drink and drive.)
Team History Displays. The outfield fence has notations for the Angels’ 2002 World Series win and their AL West titles of 1979, ’82, ’86, 2004, ’05, ’07, ’08 and ’09. The scoreboard shows the teams retired numbers: 11, Jim Fregosi, shortstop 1961-71 & manager 1978-81; 26, Gene Autry, owner 1961-98 (number chosen for him because he was “the 26th Man”); 29, Rod Carew, 1st base 1979-85; 30, Nolan Ryan, pitcher, 1972-79 (obtained in a trade with the Mets for Fregosi, just thought I’d rub that in); 50, Jimmie Reese, coach 1972-94 (also L.A. area native, and Yankee teammate of Babe Ruth); and the universally-retired Number 42 of Jackie Robinson.
The team has an Angels Hall of Fame, although I don’t know where in the ballpark the display is. Members include Fregosi, Autry, Carew, Ryan, Reese, Bobby Grich (Number 4, 2nd base, 1977-86); Don Baylor (Number 25, outfielder-DH, 1977-82, also former Yankee player and Met coach); Brian Downing (Number 5, catcher & left fielder, 1978-90); and Chuck Finley (Number 31, pitcher, 1986-99, the team’s all-time winningest pitcher, once known as a Yankee Killer but now best known for having been beaten up and outed as a steroid user by his then-wife, actress and heavy-metal video vixen Tawny Kitaen – though she may have been lying, and has herself been in and out of rehab, and her past loves have included Tommy Lee, David Coverdale and O.J. Simpson, so who do you believe?).
Oddly, some of the Baseball Hall-of-Famers who played for the Angels are not in the Angels Hall of Fame, including ex-Yankees Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson. Nor is the recently-elected Cooperstowner Bert Blyleven, who gave up a home run to Mark Grace to give the Cubs a World Series win over the Angels in the 1990 film Taking Care of Business – with Joe Torre playing himself as a broadcaster.
(In 1990, the idea of either the Cubs or the Angels reaching the World Series was “fantasy baseball”: It could only take place in the movies. The Angels also won a Pennant in the 1994 version of Angels In the Outfield, in which they, like the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1951 original version, were considered so bad they needed divine help. The Angels were also the home team in the 1988 film The Naked Gun, with Leslie Nielsen doing his deadpan comedy/dumb hero bit, as Lieutenant Frank Drebin trying to stop a brainwashed Reggie from assassinating Queen Elizabeth II: “I... must kill... the Queen.” Drebin stopped Reggie. Of course, this wasn’t in October.)
Stuff. The Angels have Team Stores in a few locations in the Big A. Additional merchandise locations and novelty kiosks are open throughout the stadium during all home games.
There haven’t been a whole lot of books written about the Angels, in spite of their no longer being an expansion team. Amazon.com lists The Official History of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as being available, and there are a few generic books about the team, including the recently-released memoir Always an Angel: Playing the Game With Fire and Faith by Tim Salmon, currently the team’s all-time home run leader. There is no team-history DVD available, no Essential Games of the Angels or Essential Games of Angel Stadium DVD collection. But the 2002 World Series official highlight film is available.
During the Game. There is no team, except maybe the Dodgers, that Angel fans hate more than the Yankees, but they do fit the Southern California “laid-back” stereotype. They will not initiate violence against you.
The Angels take the field to the song “Calling All Angels” by Train – not to be confused with “Trouble In Paradise” by the Brooklyn doo-wop group Johnny Maestro & the Crests, which starts with the words “Calling all angels.” I like that song, but I don’t like the Train song. During the 7th Inning Stretch, after playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” they play “Build Me Up Buttercup” by the Foundations. I don’t like that song, either. (Remember, just because it’s an old song doesn’t necessarily mean I like it.)
The Angels don’t have a guy in a suit to act as a mascot, but they do have the Rally Monkey. Thankfully, the damn thing only appears on the video board if the Angels are losing or tied during the 7th inning, holding a sing saying “RALLY TIME!” and jumping to the song “Jump Around” by House of Pain – whose frontman, Erik “Everlast” Schrody, is a Long Island native who, due to his New York and Irish heritage, sometimes calls himself “Whitey Ford.” (He even titled an album Whitey Ford Sings the Blues and another Eat at Whitey’s.) I hope both Everlast and the Yankees' Whitey Ford get royalties from the Angels.
The Angels also appear to have been the first North American sports team to give their fans those annoying long plastic balloons called Thunderstix. Like the damn monkey, that, alone, is a reason to be furious with them.
After the Game. Angel Stadium is yet another of those 1960s-70s suburban islands in a sea of parking, so you won’t be in any neighborhood, much less a bad one.
The closest thing I could find to a Yankee-friendly bar near the stadium is the Katella Grill, at 1325 W. Katella Avenue in Orange, about 3 miles away. It’s gotten some praise from New Yorkers as a nice place. O’Brien’s Irish Pub at 2226 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica is the home of the local fan club of the New York Giants football team.
Sidelights. The Los Angeles metropolitan area, in spite of not having Major League Baseball until 1958, has a very rich sports history. And while L.A. is still a car-first city, it does have a bus system and even has a subway now.
* Honda Center. Previously known as the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, it is across the railroad, the Orange Freeway and Katella Avenue from Angel Stadium. It has been home from the beginning of the franchise in 1993 to the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks – formerly the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and I still tend to call them the Mighty Dorks and the Mighty Schmucks. The NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, with their typical luck, had to move one of their few home Playoff games there in 1992 during the South Central riot. 2695 E. Katella Avenue. Anaheim Metrolink stop.
* Dodger Stadium. Walter O’Malley’s Temple of Greed has been home to the Bums since 1962. The Dodgers clinched over the Yankees here in 1963 and took 3 straight from them in 1981; the Yanks took 2 of 3 in 1977 and clinched here in 1978. Sandy Koufax & Don Drysdale, Maury Wills, Tommy & Willie Davis, Steve “Not My Padre” Garvey, Don Sutton, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, Kirk Gibson. Just don’t wear San Francisco Giants gear here, or they might try to kill you. No, I’m not kidding: Against all other teams, they show up in the 3rd inning and leave in the 7th Inning Stretch; against San Fran, they turn into Raiders fans. The Angels shared it from 1962 to 1965. 1000 Elysian Park Avenue, Los Angeles. Too far to walk from the nearest subway stop, and while there is a Dodger Stadium Express bus, it only operates on Dodger home game days.
* Wrigley Field. Yes, you read that right: The Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels played here from 1925 to 1957, and the AL’s version played their first season here, 1961. The PCL Angels were a farm team of the Chicago Cubs, and when chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. bought them both, he built the Angels’ park to look like what was then known as Cubs Park, and then named this one, and then the Chicago one, Wrigley Field. So this ballpark was Wrigley Field first. The Angels’ PCL rivals, the Hollywood Stars, shared it from 1926 to 1935. Its capacity of 22,000 was too small for the Dodgers, and the AL Angels moved out after one season.
Torn down in 1966, it lives on in ESPN Classic rebroadcasts of Home Run Derby, filmed there (because it was close to Hollywood) prior to the 1960 season. Mickey Mantle was a fixture, but the only other guy thought of as a Yankee to participate was Bob Cerv (then with the Kansas City A’s). Yogi Berra wasn’t invited, nor was Moose Skowron, nor Roger Maris. 42nd Place, Avalon Blvd., 41st & San Pedro Streets. Metro Red Line to 7th Street/Metro Center station, transfer to Number 70 bus. Be careful, this is South Central, so if you're overly nervous, you may want to skip this one.
* Gilmore Field. Home to the Hollywood Stars, this 13,000-seat park didn’t last long, from 1939 to 1957. A football field, Gilmore Stadium, was adjacent. CBS Television City was built on the site. 7700 Beverly Blvd. Metro Red Line to Vermont/Beverly station, then either the 14 or 37 bus.
* Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Probably the most famous building in the State of California, unless you count San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, which celebrates its 75th Anniversary on Sunday.
USC has played football here since 1923. UCLA played here from 1928 to 1981, when they inexplicably moved out of the Coliseum, and the city that forms their name, into a stadium that could arguably be called USC’s other home field. The Coliseum was the centerpiece of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games. It was home to the NFL’s Rams from 1946 to 1979 and Raiders from 1982 to 1994, and to a number of teams in other leagues, including the AFL’s Chargers in 1960 before they moved down the coast to San Diego.
The Dodgers played here from 1958 to 1961 while waiting for Dodger Stadium to be ready, but the shape of the field led to a 251-foot left-field fence, shortest in modern baseball. They got the biggest crowd ever for an official baseball game, 92,706, for Game 5 of the 1959 World Series; 93,103 for Roy Campanella’s testimonial, an exhibition game against the Yankees on May 7, 1959; and the largest crowd for any baseball game, 115,300, for a preseason exhibition with the Red Sox on March 29, 2008, to celebrate their 50th Anniversary in L.A. A crowd of 102,368 on November 10, 1957, for a rivalry game between the Rams and the San Francisco 49ers, stood as a regular-season NFL record until 2005. Ironically, the first Super Bowl, held here on January 15, 1967 (Green Bay 35, Kansas City 17) was only 2/3 sold. Super Bowl VII (Miami over Washington) was sold out. The Beatles played their next-to-last concert here on August 28, 1966. Officially, the Coliseum now seats 93,607, and would likely be a stopgap home for a new or moved NFL team until a modern stadium could be built.
* Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Next-door to the Coliseum, it opened in 1959, and hosted the Democratic Convention the next year, although John F. Kennedy gave his acceptance speech at a packed Coliseum, debuting his theme of a “New Frontier.” The NBA’s Lakers played there from 1960 to 1967, the NHL’s Kings their first few home games in 1967 before the Forum was ready, the NBA’s Clippers from 1984 to 1999, the ABA’s Stars from 1968 to 1970, the WHA’s Sharks from 1972 to 1974, the 1968 and 1972 NCAA Final Fours, USC basketball from 1959-2006, and UCLA basketball a few times before Pauley Pavilion opened in 1965 and again this coming season due to Pauley’s renovation. Due to its closeness to Hollywood studios, the Sports Arena has often been used for movies that need an arena to simulate a basketball or hockey game, a fight (including the Rocky films), a concert, or a political convention. Lots of rock concerts have been held here, and Bruce Springsteen, on its stage, has called the building “the joint that don’t disappoint” and “the dump that jumps.”
3900 Block of S. Figueroa Street, just off the USC campus in Exposition Park. The California Science Center, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the California African American Museum are also there, and the Shrine Auditorium, former site of the Academy Awards, is but a few steps away. Number 40 or 42 bus from Union Station. Although this is on the edge of South Central, you will probably be safe.
* Rose Bowl. Actually older than the Coliseum by a few months, it opened in 1922 and, except for 1942 (moved to Durham, North Carolina for fear of Japanese attack right after Pearl Harbor), it has hosted the Rose Bowl game every New Year’s Day (or thereabouts) since 1923. As such, it has often felt like a home away from home for USC, Michigan and Ohio State. UCLA has used it as its home field since the 1982 season. It hosted 5 Super Bowls, including the first ones won by the Raiders (XI) and Giants (XXI), plus the all-time biggest attendance for an NFL postseason game, 103,985, for SB XIV (Pittsburgh over Rams, the "home" field advantage not helping the Hornheads). Rose Bowl Drive & Rosemont Avenue. Number 485 bus from Union Station to Pasadena, switch to Number 268 bus.
* Pauley Pavilion. Following their 1964 (and soon their 1965) National Championship, UCLA coach John Wooden wanted a suitable arena for his ever-growing program. He got it in time for the 1965-66 season, and it has hosted 9 more National Championships, making for 11 banners (10 coached by Wooden). It was also the site of the 2nd debate of the 1988 Presidential campaign, where CNN anchor Bernard Shaw asked the question that shattered the campaign of Governor Michael Dukakis – not that the Duke helped himself with his answer. Oddly, he held his Election Eve rally there, despite being a Bostonian. (In contrast, Boston’s JFK held his Convention in the Coliseum complex but his Election Eve rally at the Boston Garden.)
Currently being renovated, so be advised of construction if you want to visit. Metro Purple Line to Wilshire/Normandie station, switch to 720 bus, then walk up Westwood Plaza to Strathmore Place. A few steps away is Drake Stadium, the track & field facility that was home to 1960 Olympic Decathlon champion Rafer Johnson and another UCLA track star you might’ve heard of, named Jackie Robinson. On the way up Westwood Plaza, you’ll pass UCLA Medical Center, now named for someone who died there, Ronald Reagan. The UCLA campus also has a Dykstra Hall, but I’m 99 percent sure it wasn’t named after Lenny Dykstra.
* The Forum. Home of the Lakers and the Kings from 1967 to 1999, built by their then-owner, Jack Kent Cooke, who went on to sell them and buy the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Known from 1988 to 2003 as the Great Western Forum, after a bank. The Lakers appeared in 14 NBA Finals here, winning 6, with the Knicks clinching their last title over the Lakers here in 1973; the Kings appeared in just 1 Stanley Cup Finals here (or anywhere), losing it.
Now owned by the Madison Square Garden Corporation, thus run by James Dolan, which means it’s going to be mismanaged. Elvis Presley sang here on November 14, 1970 and May 11, 1974. The Forum is not currently being used by any professional team, but was recently the stand-in for the Sunshine Center, the arena in the ABC sitcom Mr. Sunshine. 3900 W. Manchester Blvd. Hollywood Park Racetrack is on an adjacent site. Metro Silver Line to Harbor Transitway station, switch to Number 115 bus. (Be careful, this transfer is in South Central.)
* Staples Center. Home of the Lakers, Clippers and Kings since 1999, and usually the home of the Grammy Awards. 1111 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles. Nearest Metro stop is Westlake/MacArthur Park, 8 blocks away. (Yes, that MacArthur Park, the one where songwriter Jimmy Webb used to take the girlfriend who ended up leaving him and inspiring the song of the same title recorded by Richard Harris and later Donna Summer, and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” by Glen Campbell, and “The Worst That Could Happen” by Johnny Maestro's later group, the Brooklyn Bridge. The worst that could happen there now, you don’t want to know: Since the 1980s it’s been a magnet for gang violence, although this was significantly reduced in the 2000s.)
* Hollywood Bowl. This 17,376-seat outdoor amphitheater in the Hollywood Hills, with the HOLLYWOOD sign in the background, is one of the best-known concert venues in the world. Opening in 1922, it should be familiar to anyone who’s seen the original 1937 version of A Star Is Born, Double Indemnity, Xanadu, and Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. The Beatles played here on August 23, 1964, and again on August 29 & 30, 1965. 2301 N. Highland Avenue. Metro Red Line to Hollywood/Highland Station, then walk almost a mile up Highland.
* Academy Award ceremony sites. The Oscars have been held at: 1929, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd.). 1930-43, alternated between the Ambassador Hotel, 3400 Wilshire Blvd.; and the Biltmore Hotel, 506 S. Grand Avenue, downtown. 1944-46, Grauman's Chinese Theater (more about that in a moment). 1949-60, Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. 1961-68, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (which also hosted The T.A.M.I. Show in 1964), 1855 Main Street, Santa Monica (Number 10 bus from Union Station). 1969-87, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Avenue, downtown. 1988-2001, Shrine Auditorium, 665. W. Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles. (Metro Silver Line to Figueroa/Washington, transfer to Number 81 bus; Elvis sang here on June 8, 1956.). 2002-present, Kodak Theater (which also hosts American Idol), 6801 Hollywood Blvd (Metro Red Line to Hollywood/Highland).
All of these still stand, except the Ambassador, demolished in 2005. The site of a legendary nightclub, the Cocoanut Grove, and filming site of a lot of movies, the last movie filmed there was Bobby, in honor of the building's most tragic event, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968. (Directed by Emilio Estevez, one of its stars was his father Martin Sheen, who may be the only actor ever to play both Jack and Bobby Kennedy, although not in this film.)
In addition to the above, Elvis sang at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium on June 7, 1956, the Pan Pacific Auditorium on October 28 & 29, 1957; the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino on November 12 & 13, 1972, and May 10 & 13, 1974; the Long Beach Arena on November 14 & 15, 1972 and April 25, 1976; and the Anaheim Convention Center on April 23, & 24, 1973 and November 30, 1976.
The Los Angeles area is home to a few interesting museums, in addition to those mentioned at Exposition Park. The Getty Center is an art museum at 1200 Getty Center Drive, off I-405. The Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, was founded by the Singing Cowboy and Angels founder-owner to celebrate and study the Western U.S. and Native Americans. (Metro Red Line, Hollywood/Western.) Also at Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory, at 2800 E. Observatory Avenue, should be familiar from lots of movies (including Rebel Without a Cause) and TV shows.
The Hollywood section of town (not a separate city) has a few interesting sites,and the studio tours may be worth it, but do yourself a favor and skip the tours of stars’ homes. You’re probably not going to see any of the celebrities. You’ve got a better chance of seeing one back home on the streets of New York. And stay away from the HOLLYWOOD sign. You might remember the shot of it in the ESPN film The Bronx Is Burning, when the Yankees went out to L.A. to play the Dodgers in the 1977 World Series, their shot of the sign was accurate: In 1977, it was falling apart, a genuine ruin. A year later, it was restored, but it’s still no big deal up close. It was meant to be seen from afar.
Grauman’s Chinese Theater, with its cemented signatures and footprints of stars, is the centerpiece of the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the legendary intersection of Hollywood Blvd. & Vine Street (6931 Hollywood Blvd., also at the Hollywood/Highland Metro stop).
If you’re interested in American history, especially recent history, Southern California is home to 2 Presidential Libraries. Richard Nixon’s is not far from Anaheim, built adjacent to the house where he was born in 1913 at 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd. in Yorba Linda, Orange County. (They are currently preparing commemorations of his 100th birthday for next year.) Metrolink Orange County Line from Union Station to Fullerton, then Number 26 bus to Yorba Linda. His “Western White House” at San Clemente can be reached by I-5 or by Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner to San Juan Capistrano (the former Spanish mission where, as the song goes, the swallows return on the first day of spring) and then transferring to the Number 191 bus; however, the house, which Nixon called La Casa Pacifica, is privately owned (not by the Nixon family), and is not open to the public.
Centennial celebrations were held last year at Ronald Reagan’s Library at 40 Presidential Drive in Simi Valley in Ventura County. (Reagan was born in 1911, in Tampico, Illinois, about 130 miles west of Chicago.) Unfortunately, it’s next to impossible to reach without a car. Reagan’s Western White House, Rancho del Cielo outside Santa Barbara, is owned by a private foundation that can be contacted for tours. Nancy Reagan still lives at their post-Presidential home in the Bel Air section of L.A., and while I’m no fan of the Reagans, I’ll respect Nancy’s privacy (she is 90 and has been recovering from broken ribs recently) and not list the address (or how to get there) even though it’s been published elsewhere. It’s been remarked that the ranch was his home, whereas anyplace they lived in “Hollywood” was hers.
Did I forget anything important? Oh yeah, Anaheim's original tourist destination. Most people I've talked to who have been to both Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World outside Orlando, Florida have said that the Florida one is a LOT better. Anyway, the address is 1313 S. Harbor Blvd. in Anaheim, and if you're staying in Los Angeles, just drive down I-5. Public transportation is possible, but it's a mile and a half from the closest bus stop to Disneyland's gates.
So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Yankee Fans in going coast-to-coast, and enjoy the Yanks-Angels matchup, and enjoy the sights and sounds of Southern California. In spite of the fact that this weekend may be one of those rare occasions where New York’s weather will be just as good.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
So if you do get the chance, you should go. The Yankees will go back out there for July 19 through 22, Thursday through Sunday, meaning that if you want to do it, your plans should be in place by the 4th of July. DISCLAIMER: I have never been to the Pacific Coast, so all of this information is secondhand at best, but much of it does come from the opposing teams' websites.
Before You Go. The San Francisco Bay Area has inconsistent weather. San Francisco, in particular, partly because it’s bounded by water on three sides, is the one city I know of that has baseball weather in football season and football weather in baseball season. Or, as Mark Twain, who worked for a San Francisco newspaper during the Civil War, put it, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” And the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum – currently named the O.co Coliseum (O.co being the marketing name of Overstock.com), but I’ll use the original name throughout for simplicity’s sake – has been known to be chilly early in the season. But, this being May going into June, that shouldn’t be a problem for you.
For this weekend, the Oakland Tribune website is predicting temperatures in the low 60s for daylight and the low 50s for night. However, they are also predicting thunderstorms for much of the day Friday. Saturday and Sunday should be dry – so a Friday rainout may produce a day/night doubleheader for one of the other days. SFgate.com, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle is agreeing with this forecast.
Getting There. It’s 2,914 miles from Yankee Stadium to the Oakland Coliseum. This is the longest regular Yankee roadtrip there is, unless some future Commissioner decides to create a World League of Baseball and the Tokyo-based Yomiyuri Giants come in. In other words, if you’re going, you’re flying.
You think I’m kidding? Even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days. Each way.
But, if you really, really want to, well, you’re too late for this series. But in the future... Get onto Interstate 80 West in New Jersey, and – though incredibly long, it’s also incredibly simple – you’ll stay on I-80 for almost its entire length, which is 2,900 miles from Ridgefield Park, just beyond the New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge, to the San Francisco end of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Getting off I-80, you’ll need Exit 8A for I-880, the Nimitz Freeway – the 1997-rebuilt version of the double-decked expressway that collapsed, killing 42 people, during the Loma Prieta Earthquake that struck during the 1989 World Series between the 2 Bay Area teams. From I-880, you’ll take Exit 37, turning left onto Zhone Way (no, that’s not a typo), which becomes 66th Avenue, and then turn right onto Coliseum Way.
The complex includes the stadium that has been home to the A’s since 1968 and to the NFL’s Oakland Raiders from 1966 to 1981 and again since 1995; and the Oracle Arena, a somewhat-renovated version of the Oakland Coliseum Arena, home to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors on and off since 1966, and continuously since 1971 except for a one-year hiatus in San Jose while it was being renovated, 1996-97. Various defunct soccer teams played at the Coliseum, and the Bay Area’s former NHL team, the Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals, played there from 1967 to 1976.
Not counting rest stops, you should be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5 hours, Nebraska for 7:45, Wyoming for 6:45, Utah for 3:15, Nevada for 6:45, and California for 3:15. That’s almost 49 hours, and with rest stops, and city traffic at each end, we’re talking 3 full days.
That’s still faster than Greyhound (70 hours, 15 minutes, changing buses 5 times, $470 round-trip, station at 2103 San Pablo Avenue) and Amtrak (80 hours, 40 minutes, $332 each way). Flying can be relatively inexpensive if you order enough in advance: Ordering round-trip fare on American Airlines, flying out on Thursday morning of the July 19-22 trip and flying back on the evening of the 22nd, will cost you $363 each way, although you'll have to change planes in Chicago. And while Oakland does have its own international airport, and it's not that far from the Coliseum (although not to the same effect you get with the planes from LaGuardia going over Metland), you're still better off dealing with San Francisco's airport.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway line has a Coliseum/Oakland Airport stop, which can be accessed from nearly every city in the Bay Area. It takes about 20 minutes to ride either the Green (Fremont) or Blue (Dublin/Pleasanton) Line from downtown San Francisco to the Coliseum stop, and it will cost $3.80 each way – a lot more expensive than New York’s Subway, but very efficient. From downtown Oakland, it will take about 10 minutes on the Fremont Line, and cost $1.75, cheaper than New York's (because, in this case, you would be staying not just on the Oakland side of the Bay but wholly within the City of Oakland).
Tickets. As a result of their cost-cutting, the A’s have been terrible the last few years, following a string of 5 Playoff berths in 7 years. As a result of that, they had the worst attendance in the major leagues in 2011, just 18,232 per home game, over 500 fewer than the next-worst Florida Marlins. So far in 2012, they’ve improved to 19,077, ahead of only the Cleveland Indians. Essentially, you can walk up to the gate at the Coliseum right before the first pitch and buy any seat you can afford.
Except for $175 Diamond Boxes, the most expensive seat in the house is $38. Many seats are a lot cheaper. You may be able to get Bleacher seats for as little as $9. The upper deck is mostly tarped-over (because they know they can’t sell those seats anymore), although three sections of upper deck seats right behind home plate are sold as Value Deck for $15.
Going In. The official address of the Coliseum is 7000 Coliseum Way. If you’re driving in (either having come all the way across the country by car, or in a rental), there are 4 major lots, and going clockwise from the north of the stadium they are A, B, C and D, each corresponding with an entry gate at the stadium.
If you’re coming from the BART station, there will be a walkway over San Leandro Street, which may remind you of the walkway from the Willets Point station into the parking lot of Shea Stadium and its successor Citi Field. That will drop you off at the due east side of the Coliseum, dead center field.
The Coliseum faces east, away from San Francisco, and is 6 miles northwest of downtown Oakland. From the outside, it won’t look like much, mainly because it was mostly built below ground. Above ground, you’ll be seeing only the upper deck. From 1966 to 1995, the Coliseum consisted of three decks wrapping from the left field pole around the infield to the right field pole, and bleachers in between. But the price of getting the Raiders to come back was an expansion, with new bleachers, named Mount Davis in “honor” of then-Raiders owner Al Davis. This ruined a lot of the atmosphere at A’s games, and Mount Davis stands as a bold green reminder of the man who stole one of the locals’ teams away, and then, in order to bring it back, screwed up a stadium that was already looking more and more inadequate with the building of every new retro-style stadium.
Food. San Francisco, due to being a waterfront city and a transportation and freight hub, has a reputation as one of America’s best food cities. Oakland benefits from this.
Aramark Sports & Entertainment, the successor corporation to the Harry M. Stevens Company that invented ballpark concessions, provides food and beverage services for the Westside Club, Eastside Club, Luxury Suites, and all of the Coliseum’s Premium Seating areas. Traditional ballpark fare is also offered throughout the stadium by Aramark. Specialty items such as BBQ, pizza, and garlic fries can also be found at specific concession stands. (The Giants have been known for their garlic fries, the A’s less so.)
Team History Displays. The tarped-over outfield upper deck displays the A’s history – or, rather, those parts of it they want you to see. In the left field corner of the main structure, they show the 4 World Series they’ve won in Oakland: 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1989; and the universally-retired Number 42 of Jackie Robinson. In the right field corner, they show the 5 World Series that the A’s won in Philadelphia: 1910, 1911, 1913, 1929 and 1930.
At the left field corner of the bleachers are three retired numbers: 9, Reggie Jackson, right field, 1967-75 with a return at the end of his career in 1987; 24, Ricky Henderson, left field, on and off 4 times 1979-98; and 43, Dennis Eckersley, pitcher, 1987-95. At the right field corner of the bleachers are two more numbers: 34, Rollie Fingers, pitcher, 1968-76; and 27, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, pitcher, 1965-74. Previously, the A’s also had an A logo for Walter Haas, the Levi Strauss heir who bought the team from Charlie Finley in 1981, saving the franchise from being moved (at least for one generation) before dying in 1995, at which point his heirs sold the team.
Reggie and Catfish began their careers with the A’s in Kansas City; but, while the A’s put up banners honoring their Philadelphia titles, they have not retired any numbers from their Philadelphia days. (The Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society honors these figures with a museum at 6 North York Road in Hatboro, a few miles north of Philadelphia. It features plaques that used to be part of the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame display at Veterans Stadium. I’ve been there, and it’s well worth a visit.)
The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF) is unusual in that its exhibits are spread over several locations, including the Coliseum. The ones honored there, on the walls of the Coliseum’s concourse, are: Reggie, Catfish, Fingers, A’s pitcher and Oakland native Dave Stewart, Billy Martin (the Yanks & A’s manager grew up in nearby Berkeley); Oakland-area natives Ernie Lombardi (Cincinnati Reds HOF catcher), Dick Bartell (New York Giants All-Star shortstop), Bill Rigney (Giants infielder, coach & manager), Frank Robinson, Curt Flood, Vada Pinson, Willie Stargell and Joe Morgan; and Raiders stars Jim Otto, George Blanda, Fred Biletnikoff, Art Shell, Willie Brown and Ken Stabler (the only one of these Raiders not yet elected to the Pro Football HOF, although he should be).
Don’t bother looking around the Coliseum for a display of the Raiders’ retired numbers: They don’t have any. In spite of their rich history, Al Davis never ordered the retirement of a player’s number – not even the never-again-used (not by the Raiders or any other NFL player) Number 00 of Jim Otto. (Get it, “aught-oh”?) Whether he didn’t want to share the spotlight with anyone, or he thought that it would detract from the team-is-everything ethos he preached, I don’t know. Still, it was almost sickening to see Stabler’s Number 12 being worn by Todd Marinovich.
Other A’s stars have been honored in the BASHOF, but their plaques are elsewhere: Eckersley and 1970s shortstop Bert Campaneris at San Francisco International Airport, and 1970s pitcher Vida Blue, who also pitched for the Giants, at their new home, AT&T Park, along with Giants HOFers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda; and San Francisco Seals star-manager Lefty O’Doul.
For those of you who are Jets fans, the Oakland Coliseum was where the Jets lost the "Heidi Bowl" to the Raiders on November 17, 1968 -- but the Jets ended up beating the Raiders in that season's AFL Championship Game at Shea.
It's worth noting that Elvis Presley sang at the Coliseum Arena on November 10, 1970 and November 11, 1972. It’s also worth noting that the Warriors have put together a plan to leave the Arena and move into a new arena on the San Francisco waterfront, 4 blocks from the Giants’ ballpark, for the 2017-18 season, 47 years after they last played on that side of the Bay. It’ s just as well: The Warriors are one of the most underachieving franchises in professional sports. Despite great support from a metro area that loves its basketball, they’ve won only 1 NBA Title since leaving Philadelphia half a century ago, pulling off a famous upset of the Washington Bullets in 1975; and haven’t even reached the Conference Finals since then – and only did so twice before that, losing to the Boston Celtics in 1964 and to their Philly successors, the 76ers, in 1967.
Stuff. The A’s have Team Stores in a few locations in the Coliseum. Additional merchandise locations and novelty kiosks are open throughout the stadium during all home games.
Having a fascinating (if occasionally controversial) history even if you only count the Oakland years, the A’s have had several books written about them, although they don’t always put the team in a good light. The ones about the “Swingin’ A’s” of the 1970s invariably mention then-owner Charles O. Finley’s successes and his excesses, including his cheapness and his pettiness. And players, including Reggie, often don’t come off much better in these books.
Michael Lewis’ Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, which came out in 2003, showcases the way general manager Billy Beane brought the A’s back in the 2000s, but it glosses over a glaring fact: The A’s have won a grand total of zero American League Championship Series games since George Bush was President. The father, not the son. If he’s been GM for 14 years (since 1998) and has never won a Pennant, how much of a “genius” can Beane be? Especially since he hasn’t been able to hold onto his players? (Put it this way: 2006 is the only season since 1990 in which the A’s have won a postseason series, and they then got swept in the ALCS by the Detroit Tigers. That was 6 years ago, and how many players are left from that team? None. Nevertheless, the book is sold at the Coliseum, and was recently made into a mediocre movie starring Brad Pitt as Beane. I don’t think having Angelina Jolie in it would have helped.
There is a DVD collection of the official World Series highlight films of 1972, ’73, ’74 and ’89, all won by the A’s (the 5 they won in Philadelphia came before there were official highlight films), but, as yet, there is Essential Games of the Oakland Athletics or Essential Games of the Oakland Coliseum DVD collection.
The Yankees and A's have played each other in 3 postseason series: The 1981 AL Championship Series and the 2000 and 2001 AL Division Series -- the Yanks winning all 3. Still, if you count the Philly titles (and you really shouldn't, but if you do), the A's have won 9 World Series, more than any AL team except the Yankees, and the only NL team with more is the St. Louis Cardinals (with whom the Philly edition of the A's split back-to-back World Series, the A's winning in 1930 and the Cards in '31.)
During the Game. Although the Raiders fans who show up for home games like to wear costumes ranging from biker gangs to sci-fi film villains – a guy in a Darth Vader mask was a regular in the Jimmy Carter years – and have been known to be the closest thing North American sports has to English-style football hooligans, you’ll probably be safe. Wearing Yankee gear to the game will probably not endanger your safety. True, A’s fans hate the Yankees, but you’ll probably get nothing more than a little bit of verbal abuse.
The A’s current slogan is “Green Collar Baseball.” If that’s supposed to be like “blue collar,” it’s a poor rewording of it. But the A’s have usually had a blue-collar image, from Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s of Reggie, Catfish and Rollie in the Silly Seventies to the McGwire-Canseco Bash Brothers of the late Eighties and early Nineties, to the Giambi Brothers, “Big Three” pitchers, Billy Beane “Moneyball” era of 2000-06.
The A’s don’t have a special “Get Loud” device, nor a special song played after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the 7th Inning Stretch, but they do play Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” after victories.
Back in 1905, when the 2 Bay Area teams were the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Athletics, they played each other in the World Series, and Giants manager John McGraw dismissed the A’s as a “white elephant.” A’s manager-owner Connie Mack went with this and had white elephants stitched on their gray jerseys. Finley dumped the elephant as a symbol when he bought the Kansas City edition of the team in 1960, replacing him with a “Missouri mule” that he named Charlie O after himself. But in 1990 the elephant logo was brought back. In 1997, the A’s created a new mascot, a man in an elephant suit named Stomper.
After the Game. Oakland has a bit of a rough reputation, but, since the Coliseum is an island in a sea of parking, you won’t be in any neighborhood, much less a bad one. But if you do want to go out for a postgame meal or drinks, be advised that some sections of town are crime-ridden. And, in this case, wearing Yankee gear might not be a good idea. It’s probably best to stay within the area from the 12th Street/Oakland City Center BART station and Jack London Square, center of the city’s nightlife.
There are three bars in the Lower Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco that are worth mentioning. Aces, at 998 Sutter Street & Hyde Street in San Francisco’s Lower Nob Hill neighborhood, is said to have a Yankee sign out front and a Yankee Fan as the main bartender. It’s also the home port of NFL Giants fans in the Bay Area. R Bar, at 1176 Sutter & Polk Street, is the local Jets fan hangout. And Greens Sports Bar, at 2239 Polk at Green Street, is also said to be a Yankee-friendly bar. Of course, you’ll have to cross the Bay by car or by BART to get there.
Sidelights. The San Francisco Bay Area, including the East Bay (which includes Oakland), has a very rich sports history. Here are some of the highlights, aside from the Oakland Coliseum complex:
* Emeryville Park. Also known as Oaks Park, this was the home of the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks from 1913 until 1955. The Oaks won Pennants there in 1927, ’48, ’50 and ’54. Most notable of these was the 1948 Pennant, won by a group of players who had nearly all played in the majors and were considered old, and were known as the Nine Old Men (a name often given to the U.S. Supreme Court). These old men included former Yankee 1st baseman Nick Etten, the previous year’s World Series hero Cookie Lavagetto of the Brooklyn Dodgers (an Oakland native), Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi (another Oakland native), and one very young player, a 20-year-old 2nd baseman from Berkeley named Billy Martin. Their manager? Casey Stengel. Impressed by Casey’s feat, and by his managing of the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers to a Pennant, Yankee owners Dan Topping and Del Webb hired Casey to manage in 1949. Casey told Billy that if he ever got the chance to bring him east, he would, and he was as good as his word.
Pixar Studios has built property on the site. 45th Street, San Pablo Avenue, Park Avenue and Watts Street, Emeryville, near the Amtrak station. Number 72 bus from Jack London Square.
* Seals Stadium. Home of the PCL’s San Francisco Seals from 1931 to 1957, the Mission Reds from 1931 to 1937, and the Giants in 1958 and ’59, it was the first home professional field of the DiMaggio brothers: First Vince, then Joe, and finally Dom all played for the Seals in the 1930s. The Seals won Pennants there in 1931, ’35, ’43, ’44, ’45, ’46 and ’57 (their last season). It seated just 18,500, expanded to 22,900 for the Giants, and was never going to be more than a stopgap facility until the Giants’ larger park could be built. It was demolished right after the 1959 season, and the site now has a Safeway grocery store. Bryant Street, 16th Street, Potrero Avenue and Alameda Street, in the Mission District. Hard to reach by public transport: The Number 10 bus goes down Townsend Street and Rhode Island Avenue until reaching 16th, but then it’s an 8-block walk. The Number 27 can be picked up at 5th & Harrison Streets, and will go right there.
* Candlestick Park. Home of the Giants from 1960 to 1999, the NFL 49ers since 1970, and the Raiders in the 1961 season, this may be the most-maligned sports facility in North American history. Its seaside location (Candlestick Point) has led to spectators being stricken by wind (a.k.a. The Hawk), cold, and even fog. It was open to the Bay until 1971, including the 1962 World Series between the Yankees and the Giants, and was then enclosed to expand it from 42,000 to 69,000 seats for the Niners. It also got artificial turf for the 1970 season, one of the first stadiums to have it – though, to the city’s credit, it was also the 1st NFL stadium and 2nd MLB stadium (after Comiskey Park in Chicago) to switch back to real grass.
The Giants only won 2 Pennants there, and never a World Series. But the 49ers have won 5 Super Bowls while playing there, with 3 of their 5 NFC Championship Games won as the home team. The NFL Giants did beat the 49ers in the 1990 NFC Championship Game, scoring no touchdowns but winning 15-13 thanks to 5 Matt Bahr field goals. The Beatles played their last “real concert” ever at the ‘Stick on August 29, 1966 – only 25,000 people came out, a total probably driven down by the stadium’s reputation and John Lennon’s comments about religion on that tour.
The Giants got out, and the 49ers are looking to do the same, having broken ground for a new stadium outside San Jose, hoping to open for the 2014 season. In the meantime, they’re still playing at Candlestick. Best way by public transport isn’t a good one: The KT light rail at 4th & King Streets, at the CalTrain terminal, to 3rd & Gilman Streets, and then it’s almost a mile’s walk down Jagerson Avenue. So unless you’re driving/renting a car, or you’re a sports history buff who HAS to see the place, I wouldn’t suggest making time for it.
* Kezar Stadium. The 49ers played here from their 1946 founding until 1970, the Raiders spent their inaugural 1960 season here, and previous pro teams in the city also played at this facility at the southeastern corner of Golden Gate Park, a mere 10-minute walk from the fabled corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets. High school football, including the annual City Championship played on Thanksgiving Day, used to be held here as well. Bob St. Clair, who played there in high school, college (University of San Francisco) and the NFL in a Hall of Fame career with the 49ers, has compared it to Chicago’s Wrigley Field as a “neighborhood stadium.” After the 49ers left, it became a major concert venue.
The original 60,000-seat structure was built in 1925, and was torn down in 1989 (before the earthquake, so there’s no way to know what the quake would have done to it), and was replaced in 1990 with a 9,000-seat stadium, much more suitable for high school sports. The original Kezar, named for one of the city’s pioneering families, had a cameo in the Clint Eastwood film Dirty Harry. Frederick & Stanyan Streets, Kezar Drive and Arguello Blvd. MUNI light rail N train.
* Frank Youell Field. This was another stopgap facility, used by the Raiders from 1962 to 1965, a 22,000-seat stadium that was named after an Oakland undertaker – perhaps fitting, although the Raiders didn’t yet have that image. Interestingly from a New York perspective, the first game here was between the Raiders and the forerunners of the Jets, the New York Titans. It was demolished in 1969. A new field of the same name was built on the site for Laney College. East 8th Street, 5th Avenue, East 10th Street and the Oakland Estuary. Lake Merritt BART station.
* Cow Palace. The more familiar name of the Grand National Livestock Pavilion, this big barn just south of the City Line in Daly City has hosted just about everything, from livestock shows and rodeos to the 1956 and 1964 Republican National Conventions. (Yes, the Republicans came here, not the “hippie” Democrats, although they did hold their 1984 Convention downtown at the George Moscone Convention Center.) The ’64 Convention is where New York’s Governor Nelson Rockefeller refused to be booed off the podium when he dared to speak out against the John Birch Society – the Tea Party idiots of their time – and when Senator Barry Goldwater was nominated, telling them, “I would remind you, my fellow Republicans, that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And I would remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” (Personally, I think that extremism in the defense of liberty is no defense of liberty.)
Built in 1941, it is one of the oldest former NBA and NHL sites, having hosted the NBA’s Warriors (then calling themselves the San Francisco Warriors) from 1962 to ’71, the NHL’s San Jose Sharks from 1991 to ’93 until their current arena could open, and several minor-league hockey teams. The 1960 NCAA Final Four was held here, culminating in Ohio State, led by Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek (with future coaching legend Bobby Knight as the 6th man) beating local heroes and defending National Champions California, led by Darrell Imhoff.
The Beatles played here on August 19, 1964 and August 31, 1965, and Elvis sang here on November 13, 1970 and November 28 & 29, 1976. It was the site of Neil Young’s 1978 concert that produced the live album Live Rust and the concert film Rust Never Sleeps, and the 1986 Conspiracy of Hope benefit with Joan Baez, Lou Reed, Sting and U2. The acoustics of the place, and the loss of such legendary venues as the Fillmore West and the Winterland Ballroom, make it the Bay Area’s holiest active rock and roll site. 2600 Geneva Avenue at Santos Street, in Daly City. 8X bus.
In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang at the Auditorium Arena (now the Kaiser Convention Center, near the Laney College campus in Oakland) early in his career, on June 3, 1956 and again on October 27, 1957; and the San Francisco Civic Auditorium (now the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove Street at Polk Street) on October 26, 1957.
* HP Pavilion at San Jose. Formerly the San Jose Arena, this building has hosted the NHL’s San Jose Sharks since 1993. If you’re a fan of the TV show The West Wing, this was the convention center where the ticket of Matt Santos and Leo McGarry was nominated. 525 W. Santa Clara Street at Autumn Street, across from the Amtrak & CalTrain station.
* New 49ers stadium. They’ve already broken ground at 4701 Great America Parkway at Old Glory Lane in Santa Clara, next to California’s Great America park, outside San Jose. They’re hoping to open it for the 2014 season. ACE (Altamont Commuter Express) to Great America-Santa Clara. * Stanford Stadium. The home field of Stanford University in Palo Alto, down the Peninsula from San Francisco. Originally built in 1921, it was home to many great quarterbacks, from early 49ers signal-caller Frankie Albert to 1971 Heisman winner Jim Plunkett to John Elway. It hosted Super Bowl XIX in 1985, won by the 49ers over the Miami Dolphins – one of only two Super Bowls that ended up having had a team that could have been called a home team. (The other was XIV, the Los Angeles Rams losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Rose Bowl.) It also hosted San Francisco’s games of the 1994 World Cup, and the soccer games of the 1984 Olympics, even though most of the events of those Olympics were down the coast in Los Angeles. The original 85,000-seat structure was demolished and replaced with a new 50,000-seat stadium in 2006. Arboretum Road & Galvez Street. Caltrain to Palo Alto.
* California Memorial Stadium. Home of Stanford’s arch-rivals, the University of California, at its main campus in Berkeley in the East Bay. (The school is generally known as “Cal” for sports, and “Berkeley” for most other purposes.) Its location in the Berkeley Hills makes it one of the nicest settings in college football. But it’s also, quite literally, on the Hayward Fault, a branch of the San Andreas Fault, so if “The Big One” had hit during a Cal home game, 72,000 people would have been screwed. With this in mind, the University is renovating the stadium, making it ready for 63,000 fans this fall. In the meantime, Cal shared AT&T Park with the baseball Giants. The old stadium hosted one NFL game, and it was a very notable one: Due to a scheduling conflict with the A’s, the Raiders played a 1973 game there with the Miami Dolphins, and ended the Dolphins’ winning streak that included the entire 1972 season and Super Bowl VII. 76 Canyon Road, Berkeley. Downtown Berkeley stop on BART. (Remember, until the fall, it’s still being renovated, so it could be messy.)
The 2012 U.S. Open golf tournament will be played at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, starting on June 14. The Fillmore Auditorium was at Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard, and it still stands and hosts live music. Bus 38L. Winterland Ballroom, home of the final concerts of The Band (filmed as The Last Waltz) and the Sex Pistols, was around the corner from the Fillmore at Post & Steiner Streets. And the legendary corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets can be reached via the 30 Bus, taking it to Haight and Masonic Avenue and walking 1 block west.
Oakland isn’t much of a museum city, especially compared with San Francisco across the Bay. But the Oakland Museum of California (10th & Oak, Lake Merritt BART) and the Chabot Space & Science Center (10000 Skyline Blvd., not accessible by BART) may be worth a look.
San Francisco, like New York, has a Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), at 151 3rd Street, downtown. The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is probably the city’s most famous museum, in Lincoln Park at the northwestern corner of the city, near the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge. (Any of you who are Trekkies, the Presidio is a now-closed military base that, in the Star Trek Universe, is the seat of Starfleet Command and Starfleet Academy.) And don’t forget to take a ride on one of them cable cars I’ve been hearing so dang much about.
So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Yankee Fans in going coast-to-coast, and enjoy the Yanks-A’s rivalry, even if it’s not what it was back in the late 1920s and early ‘30s when it was Ruth & Gehrig vs. Cochrane, Foxx, Simmons & Grove. Or even what it was at the dawn of the 21st Century, when it was Jeter, Rivera & Co. vs. the Giambis and the Big Three.