Monday, April 28, 2014

How to Be a Met Fan In Miami -- 2014 Edition

Stereotypically, South Florida in general, and Miami in particular, is where old Italian and Jewish New Yorkers go to retire. Along with the railroad and air-conditioning, New Yorkers essentially made that region possible.

And how has Miami thanked New York? Well, the Dolphins have made fools out of the Jets (not that the Jets have needed much help), the Marlins have beaten the Yankees in a World Series (2003) and tormented the Mets in 2 season-ending knock-'em-out-of-Playoff-contention games (2007 and '08), and the Heat have fought with the Knicks, figuratively and literally (1997 & '98).

But the Marlins' new ballpark is so sparsely populated these days that, starting this coming Monday night in a 3-game series, Met fans can do what Yankee Fans do in Tampa Bay: Take over the ballpark, and make it into the Sixth Borough.

DISCLAIMER: While I have been to Orlando and Tampa, I have never been to Miami; therefore, all of this information is secondhand. However, I have based it on information from local sources, including the Marlins’ own website, so it is presumably accurate and up-to-date.

Before You Go. It's South Florida: Presume that it will be hot, and that it will be rainy. This is why the new ballpark has a retractable roof. Most likely, it will be closed. Check the Miami Herald website for their local forecast before you go.

Currently, and the Herald is one of the few papers I've seen that extends its forecast more than a week in advance, they're saying that next week will have thunderstorms during the day (temperatures in the high 80s) and fog at night (high 60s). So, yuck. (If you don't mind me using a technical term.) But, as I said, the roof is likely to be closed, so while you might get rained on, you won't get rained out.

Miami is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to fiddle with your watch or the clock on your smartphone. And, while Florida was a Confederate State, and parts of Miami may seem like an extension of Cuba or the Dominican Republic, you won't have to bring your passport or change your money.

Tickets. Last season, the Marlins averaged 19,584 fans per game – dead last in the National League, and ahead of only Oakland and cross-State Tampa Bay in the American League. This season, so far, they're getting 21,865, 25th in the majors but still last in the NL. The novelty of the new stadium has worn off like a 24-hour virus, and the shattered expectations of new acquisitions that either flopped or, like Jose Reyes, have already been dumped has killed whatever buzz they had.

Although they opened strong as an expansion franchise in 1993 with 37,838, and were doing well in 1994 with 33,695 before the strike hit, only in their 1997 World Championship season, 29,190, and in their first season in Marlins Park, 2012, have they since topped 24,000. Even in their World Championship season of 2003, they averaged just 16,290. Although Sun Life Stadium (the 7th name the facility has had in its 24 years of operation) has 75,192 seats for football and, during World Series play, topped out at 67,498, much of the upper deck was tarped off, and official baseball capacity was 38,560, turning what could be the largest stadium in the majors into one of the smallest. And still, they couldn't sell it out.

Official capacity of Marlins Park is 36,742 -- meaning they're currently averaging 15,000 short of capacity. So getting tickets will probably not be problem: Pretty much anything you can afford will be available. As with any roadtrip, I advise ordering your tickets in advance, but you can probably get anything you can afford.

This would not, however, include the upper deck "Vista Boxes" and "Vista Reserved": These are not on sale for the Marlins vs. Mets series. My guess is, they're being tarped off, with the club thinking they can't sell them. Oh really, with all those older ex-New Yorkers living nearby?

Home Plate Box seats go for $70, Baseline Reserved are $25. Bullpen Reserved in right field are $10, and the upper-deck Home Run Porch seats go for only $7.50. In left field, the "Clevelander" section goes for $40.

Getting There. It’s 1,283 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown Miami. Knowing this distance, your first reaction is going to be to fly down there. This is not a horrible idea, as the flight is just 3 hours, but you’ll still have to get from the airport to wherever your hotel is. If you’re trying to get from the airport to downtown, you’ll need to change buses – or change from a bus to Miami’s Tri-Rail rapid transit service. And it is possible, if you order quickly, to find nonstop flights for under $600 round-trip.

The train is not a very good idea, because you’ll have to leave Penn Station on Amtrak’s Silver Star at 11:02 AM and arrive in Miami at 6:05 the next day’s evening, a 31-hour ride. The return trip will leave at 8:20 AM and return to New York at 11:06 AM, “only” 27 hours – no, as I said earlier, there’s no time-zone change involved. Round-trip, it’ll cost $427. And the station isn’t all that close, at 8303 NW 37th Avenue. Fortunately, there’s a Tri-Rail station there that will take you downtown.

How about Greyhound? There are 5 buses leaving Port Authority every day with connections to Miami, only one of them nonstop, the 10:30 PM to 4:20 AM (2 days later) version. The rest require you to change buses in Richmond and Orlando. (I don't know about changing buses in Orlando, but I have changed buses in Richmond, and I can tell you: It is not fun.) The ride, including the changeovers, takes about 30 hours. Round-trip fare is $363, but you can get it for $238 on advanced-purchase. The station is at 4111 NW 27th Street and, ironically, is right across 42nd Avenue from the airport. It’s worth the fact that it’ll cost twice as much to simply fly down. Plus, you might be reminded of the end of the movie Midnight Cowboy, and nobody wants to be reminded of that.

If you want to drive, it'll help to get someone to go down with you, and take turns driving. You’ll be going down Interstate 95 (or its New Jersey equivalent, the Turnpike) almost the whole way. It’ll be about 2 hours from the Lincoln Tunnel to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, 20 minutes in Delaware, and an hour and a half in Maryland, before crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, at the southern tip of the District of Columbia, into Virginia. Then it will be 3 hours or so in Virginia, another 3 hours in North Carolina, about 3 hours and 15 minutes in South Carolina, a little under 2 hours in Georgia, and about 6 hours and 15 minutes in Florida before you reach downtown Miami. Given rest stops, preferably in one in each State from Maryland to Georgia and 2 in Florida, you’re talking about a 28-hour trip.

Once In the City. A lot of people don't realize it, because Miami is Florida's most famous city, but the most populous city in the State is Jacksonville.  However, while Miami has about 425,000 people within the city limits, there are 5.6 million living in the metro area, making it far and away the largest in the South, not counting Texas.

Because Florida is so hot, and air-conditioning didn't become common until the mid-20th Century, Miami was founded rather late by the standards of the East coast, in 1825, and wasn't incorporated as a city until 1896. The name is derived from the Mayaimi tribe of Native Americans. Miami Avenue is the east-west divider, Flagler Street the north-south. 

The Herald is the only major newspaper left in the city, but the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale should also be available. And, considering how many ex-New Yorkers are around, you might also be able to get the Times, the Daily News, or, if you're really desperate (or really conservative), the Post.

The sales tax in Florida is 6 percent, but it's 7 percent within Miami-Dade County. Since 1984, Miami has had a rapid-transit rail service, Metrorail. However, the ballpark isn't all that close to it. You will need to take the Number 7 bus from downtown. The fare for the Metrorail and the Metrobus is $2.00.

Going In. The official address of Marlins Park is 1390 NW 6th Street. It's between 4th and 6th Streets, and 14th and 16th Avenues. Three of these streets have specialized names for the stretches that border the park: 16th Avenue is Marlins Way; 4th Street is Bobby Maduro Drive, after the Cuban baseball executive who was forced to flee his native land during Fidel Castro's revolution and had the old Miami minor-league stadium named in his honor; and 6th Street is Felo Ramirez Drive, after the legendary baseball and boxing announcer who has been the main Spanish radio voice of the Marlins from day one in 1993, and is a winner of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford Frick Award for broadcasters.

Due to South Florida’s climate – the city probably gets more rain than any other in the major leagues, including Seattle – the ballpark was built with a retractable roof, going from the 1st base side across to left field. The park points southeast, but is west of downtown, so you can't really see Miami's skyline from inside. Which is too bad, because Miami is undergoing a building boom, including the "Biscayne Wall" along the waterfront. The seats are all a bright blue.

Marlins Park has a natural grass field. The outfield distances are 344 feet down the left field line, 386 to left-center, 420 to the furthest point, the left-center "Bermuda Trinagle," 418 to straightaway center, 392 to right-center, and 335 down the right field line. Every bit as much as the Dolphins' stadium was in its baseball confiruation, this is a pitcher’s park. The longest home run in it is a 462-footer by Giancarlo Stanton in 2012. Andres Galarraga, as a Colorado Rockie, hit the longest in Miami's major league history, a 529-footer at Joe Robbie Stadium in 1997.

There's funky (or tacky, depending on how you look at it) artwork all over the place, including the tropic-themed Home Run Sculpture in left field. And then there's "The Clevelander." Something the Marlins captured during their 1997 World Series win over the Indians, maybe? Nope, it's something they call "South Beach Comes to the Ballpark!" They have a poolside bar and grill, restricted to fans age 21 and over. In other words, it's the Arizona Diamondbacks' right-center-field pool kicked up a notch. It's something that does not belong at a ballpark. (I don't know if there's a connection, but Julia Tuttle, the local booster who convinced railroad baron Henry Flagler to help her make a modern city possible in the 1890s, was from Cleveland. Because of her, Miami is sometimes called the only American city founded by a woman.)

Food. With a great Hispanic, and especially Cuban, heritage, and also being in Southeastern Conference country (hello, tailgating), you would expect the baseball team in Miami to have great food at their stadium. They certainly go heavy on the regional cuisine at Taste of Miami, behind Section 27: Cuban sandwiches, Pan con Lechon, Chicharron, Fish Ceviche, Cuban coffee and Mariquitas. This is not to be confused with the Miami Mex taco stand at Section 4.

Burger 305 (named for the city's original Area Code) has several stands, and includes a "Miami Shrimp Burger." There's 3 Sir Pizza stands -- after all, what would Miami be without Italian senior citizens? There is a Kosher Korner at Section 1 -- after all, what would Miami be without Jewish senior citizens? Brother Jimmy's BBQ, introduced to New York sports at the new Yankee Stadium, is at Section 8.

Team History Displays. Not much. The Marlins hang banners for their 1997 and 2003 World Championships, their only trips to the postseason, in the windowed area behind left field.

The only retired number they ever had was for Carl Barger, their team president, who organized the team for the start of the 1993 season and then died right before it. He was a friend of Joe DiMaggio, who lived in nearby Hollywood, Florida, and threw out the first ball at the Marlins’ first game. In Barger’s memory, and in connection with his friendship with the Yankee Clipper, Huizenga retired Number 5 for Barger, who never wore it – not even for fun. But upon the opening of the new park, it was unretired, and it is now worn by veteran outfielder Reed Johnson. So, now, the only retired number they recognize is the universally-retired Number 42 of Jackie Robinson.

The team did honor Barger with a plaque at the new park, but that's hardly the same thing, unless it's part of a team Hall of Fame display, which they don't have: Not a display, nor a team Hall of Fame. Nor even an all-time team as chosen by the fans, not even last year with the team celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Maybe they'll do that in 2018, for their 25th.

No player for the Marlins was named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Players in 1999. There are 2 players who played for the Marlins who are in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown: Miami native Andre Dawson, and former manager Tony Perez, both of whom currently work in the Marlin organization. It should be noted, though, that Perez never played for the Marlins, and Dawson only did so for the last 2 years of his career, a grand total of 121 games.  They have as many broadcasters "in the Hall of Fame" as they do uniformed personnel: Felo Ramirez, and Dave Van Horne, who came down from the Montreal Expos when Jeffrey Loria essentially moved the Expos' organization, if not its players, in 2002.

Stuff. The Marlins have team stores in the stadium, but nothing out of the ordinary: Caps, jerseys, T-shirts, bats, gloves, stuffed Billy the Marlin dolls.

A few books have been written for the Marlins, and may be available in the team stores. Dan Schlossberg, Miami Herald columnist Dave Barr, Kevin Baxter and Marlin star Jeff Conine collaborated on Miracle Over Miami: How the 2003 Marlins Shocked the World. Jenny Reese wrote The History of the Florida Marlins, published in 2010.

One book you will almost certainly not see in the stores is Dave Rosenbaum’s book about how original owner Huizenga “went all in” to win the 1997 World Series, then broke the team up, going from 92-70 that season to 54-108 the next, having practically come out and told everyone that a 100-plus-loss next season was likely. The title of the book? If They Don’t Win It’s a Shame. (Yeah, tell that to the Giants, who they beat in the NLDS and who had never yet won a Series in San Francisco; and to the Indians, who blew a 9th-inning lead in Game 7 of the Series and still haven’t won a Series since 1948.)

Although the Marlins have won 2 World Series and have been around for nearly 20 years now, there is, as yet, no commemorative DVD of their World Series highlight films, and no The Essential Games of the Florida Marlins DVD.

During the Game. South Florida is loaded with people who came from elsewhere, including ex-New Yorkers. The stereotype is that, when a New Yorker gets old, if he has enough money to do so, he moves to Miami. Especially if he’s Jewish. Or Italian. As a result, you may see a lot of Met fans, few of whom switched to the Marlins. You may run into a few Yankee Fans who adopted the Marlins as their “second team” or their “National League team,” although how many of them kept that status after the 2003 World Series is debatable. (Blast you, Jeff Weaver – Alex Gonzalez sure did.)

I don't know if your safety will be an issue. The new ballpark, on the site of the Orange Bowl, is in a questionable neighborhood. However, if you leave your car at the hotel and take the bus in, the police presence will probably mean you're protected from the local criminal element. As for the Marlin fans, you will almost certainly be fine. Miamians might fight if they’re at a Dolphins game -- or a University of Miami Hurricanes game, especially against the University of Florida or Florida State -- especially if provoked by visiting fans, but not at a Marlins game.

The Marlins’ mascot is Billy the Marlin, whose name was chosen by Huizenga because a Marlin is a “billfish” – and it has nothing to do with Billy Martin, in spite of the character’s large nose. Billy sometimes “water-skis” in behind a golf cart built to look like a boat. Any resemblance to Richie Cunningham driving the boat that allowed the Fonz to jump the shark on Happy Days is strictly coincidental.

Worse than a dopey mascot, the Marlins have cheerleaders. No, I’m not making this up: They are the one and only MLB team with cheerleaders. Or, as they would put it, a dance/cheer team. The Marlins Mermaids debuted in 2003.

As noted Phillies fan Bill Cosby would say, “Don’t ever say, ‘It can’t get any worse. It can  always  get worse!’” In 2008, the team debuted the Marlins Manatees, an all-male “dance/energy squad” who perform alongside the Mermaids. You want to blame the Yankees for having the grounds crew dance to “YMCA,” go ahead, that’s one “Yankee Tradition” I don’t like, anyway; but this, as noted Met fan Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman on The Odd Couple) would say, is as ridiculous as Aristophanes.

The Marlins 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 postgame victory song. It could be worse: They could play Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine. Worse yet, Miami-based discoteers KC and the Sunshine Band. Or, worst of all, Robbie Van Winkle, the suburbs-of-Dallas loser who, very briefly, tried (and failed) to fool us into thinking he was Miami gangbanger Vanilla Ice.

After the Game. As I said, the Marlins Park area is a bit rough. My advice is to get back downtown as soon as possible, and either look for a nightspot there, or get across the Causeways to Miami Beach, or stay in your hotel and try their bar.

I checked for area bars where New Yorkers gather, and found one for each of the city’s NFL teams. The South Florida Jets Fan Club meets at Hammerjack’s, at 5325 S. University Drive in Davie, 24 miles north of downtown, so it's a little far from a Marlins game hosting the Mets, although it's a plausible destination for Jets fans coming back from seeing them play the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.

American Social is the home of the local Giants fan club, and also caters to fans of the Yankees and Knicks. HammerJack's Sports Bar & Grille is the home of the South Florida New York Jets Fan Club, The problem is, they're both nearly 30 miles north of downtown Miami: American Social is  at 721 East Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale, while HammerJack's is at 5325 S. University Drive in Davie.

Sidelights. Miami’s sports history is long, but aside from football, it's not all that involved.  Marlins Park was, as I said, built on the site of the stadium known as Burdine Stadium from its 1937 opening until 1959 and the Miami Orange Bowl thereafter. It was best known for hosting the Orange Bowl game on (or close to) every New Year’s Day from 1938 to 1995, and the NFL's Miami Dolphins from their debut in 1966 until 1986.

It was home to the University of Miami football team from 1937 to 2007 (famed for its fake-smoke entrances out of the tunnel). It was also the home of, if you count the All-America Football Conference of the 1940s, the first "major league" team in any of the former Confederate States: The 1946 Miami Seahawks. But the black players on the Cleveland Browns would not accept being housed away from their white teammates in segregated Florida, and in that league, what the Browns wanted, the Browns got. So the Seahawks (in no way connected the NFL's Seattle team of the same name) were moved to become the Baltimore Colts after just 1 season.

The Orange Bowl also hosted the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl, a game involving the 2nd-place teams in each of the NFL’s divisions from 1960 to 1969, a charity game, a glorified exhibition. Also known as the Playoff Bowl, it was considered so lame that Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi publicly called it “the only game I never want to win” – and he didn’t. The stadium also hosted the Miami Toros of the North American Soccer League from 1972 to 1976.

And it hosted 5 Super Bowls, most notably (from a New York perspective) Super Bowl III, when the Jets beat the Colts in one of the greatest upsets in sports history, on January 12, 1969. Super Bowl XIII, in 1979, was the last Super Bowl to be held there; all subsequent South Florida Super Bowls, including the one the Giants won in 2012, Super Bowl XLVI, have been held at the Dolphins’ stadium.

The U.S. national soccer team played 19 matches at the Orange Bowl, from 1984 to 2004. They didn't do so well, though, winning only 2 of them, drawing 10 and losing 7. And the biggest crowd they could get was 49,000 -- you'd think that, being in a heavily Hispanic city, they could draw "futbol" fans. Instead, most of the Hispanics came to see them play Latin American teams, and root for those teams. It was also the home of the North American Soccer League's Miami Toros, before they moved up I-95 to become the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

The Orange Bowl was where the Dolphins put together what remains the NFL’s only true undefeated season, in 1972. The Canton Bulldogs had gone undefeated and untied in 1922, but there was no NFL Championship Game in those days. The Chicago Bears lost NFL Championship Games after going undefeated and untied in the regular seasons of 1932 and ’42. And the Browns went undefeated and untied in the 1948 AAFC season, but that’s not the NFL. The Dolphins capped their perfect season by winning Super Bowl VII, and then Super Bowl VIII. And yet, despite having reached the Super Bowl 5 times, and Miami having hosted 10 of them, the Dolphins have never played in a Super Bowl in their home region. (They’ve done so in New Orleans, in Houston, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and twice in the Los Angeles area.)

They also haven’t been to one in 30 seasons, which includes all of their history in their new stadium. Curse of Joe Robbie, anyone? Which brings me to...

* Sun Life Stadium. Better known by its original name, Joe Robbie Stadium, after the Dolphins' original owner (although legendary entertainer Danny Thomas also had a stake in the team in its first few years). The Marlins reached the postseason here twice, in 1997 and 2003, and won the World Series both times. In other words, they've never lost a postseason series. Contrast that with the Dolphins: Only once, in their first 27 seasons in the Dolphin Tank, have they even reached the AFC Championship Game (in January 1993, and they lost at home to the Bills).

But don't think that the stadium was better for the Marlins: It was a football stadium, with a baseball field wedged into it, and it wasn't really adequate for the horsehide game. It is, however, still regarded as one of the better stadiums in the NFL, despite having been built before Camden Yards rewrote the rules of stadium construction.

It's hosted a number of soccer games, including such storied names as Manchester United and A.C. Milan. The U.S. national team played Honduras there on October 8, 2011, and won -- but only 21,900 attended.

Now that the Marlins are out, the official address of the stadium is 347 Don Shula Drive, for the number of games that Shula won as an NFL head coach -- although that counts the postseason, and the games he won as boss of the Colts. (But not Super Bowl III, which he lost as coach of the Colts.) It's between NW 199th and 203rd Streets (199th is renamed Dan Marino Blvd.), and NW 21st and 26th Avenues. Take Metrorail toward Palmetto, and get off at the Martin Luther King Jr. station. (I doubt if a sports stadium in the Miami suburbs was a part of Dr. King’s dream, although stadiums and performing-arts venues with racially-integrated seating, particularly in the South, sure were.)

* Comfort Inn. This hotel, across 36th Street from the airport, was the site of the Playhouse, once considered one of South Florida’s finest banquet halls. It was here, on January 9, 1969, 3 days before the Super Bowl, at a dinner organized by the Miami Touchdown Club, that Joe Namath of the Jets was speaking, and some drunken Colts fan yelled out, “Hey, Namath! We’re gonna kick your ass on Sunday!” And Joe said, “Let me tell you something: We got a good team. And we’re gonna win. I guarantee it!” He was right. NW 36th Street between Curtiss Parkway and Deer Run. MetroRail toward Palmetto, to Allapattah Station, then transfer to the 36 Bus.

* Site of Miami Stadium. Also known as Bobby Maduro Stadium, this was the home of the original Miami Marlins, of the Florida State League. Seating 13,000, it was known for its Art Deco entrance and a roof that shielded nearly the entire seating area, to protect fans from the intense Miami weather.

The FSL team that played here was known as the Sun Sox from 1949 to 1954, the Marlins from 1956 to 1960, the Marlins again from 1962 to 1970, the Miami Orioles from 1971 to 1981, and the Marlins again from 1982 to 1988.  It was the spring training home of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1950 to 1957, the Dodgers in their first season in Los Angeles in 1958 (it can be said that “the Los Angeles Dodgers” played their first game here, not in California), and the Baltimore Orioles from 1959 to 1990. The FSL Pennant was won there 7 times: 1950, 1952 (Sun Sox), 1969, 1970 (old Marlins), 1971, 1972 and 1978 (Orioles).

It was demolished in 2001, and The Miami Stadium Apartments were built on the site. 2301 NW 10th Avenue, off 23rd Street. It’s just off I-95, and 8 blocks north and east from the Santa Clara MetroRail station.

* American Airlines Arena. The "Triple-A" has been the home of the NBA’s Miami Heat since 2000, including their 2006, 2012 and 2013 NBA Championship seasons. 601 Biscayne Blvd. (U.S. Routes 1 & 41), between NE 6th and 8th Streets, across Port Blvd. from the Bayside Marketplace shopping center (not exactly their version of the South Street Seaport) and the Miami outlets of Hooters, the Hard Rock Café and Bubba Gump Shrimp. The closest rapid-rail station is Overtown – ironically, the same stop for the previous sports arena…

* Site of Miami Arena. Home of the Heat from their 1988 debut until 1999 (the new arena opened on Millennium Eve, December 31, 1999), and the NHL’s Florida Panthers from their 1993 debut to 1998, this building was demolished in 2008. Only 20 years? Apparently, like the multipurpose stadiums of the 1960s and ‘70s, and the Meadowlands Arena and (soon?) the Nassau Coliseum, it served its purpose – getting teams to come in – and then quickly became inadequate.

Nevertheless, when the Overtown race riot happened in January 1989, just before Super Bowl XXIII, area residents took great pains to protect this arena from damage (and the Miami area from the public-relations nightmare that would have occurred had there been a riot during Super Bowl week), and succeeded. 701 Arena Blvd., between Miami Avenue, NW 1st Avenue, and 6th and 8th Streets. Overtown/Arena rail station.

* BB&T Center. The home of the Panthers since 1998, and there’s a reason the team is called “Florida” instead of “Miami”: The arena is 34 miles northwest of downtown Miami, and 14 miles west of downtown Fort Lauderdale, in a town called Sunrise. 1 Panther Parkway, at NW 136th. If you don’t have a car, you’d have to take the 195 Bus to Fort Lauderdale, and then the 22 Bus out to the building, named for Branch Banking & Trust Corporation.

* Fort Lauderdale Stadium and Lockhart Stadium. Built in 1962, the Yankees moved their spring training headquarters to the 8,340-seat Fort Lauderdale Stadium after being assured that, unlike their spring home of St. Petersburg at the time, their black players could stay in the same hotel as their white players. The Yankees remained there until 1995, by which point Tampa was not only long since integrated, but was willing to pretty much anything city resident George Steinbrenner wanted, including build him a new spring home for the Yankees.

The Yankees' Class A team in the Florida State League also used it as a home field. After the Yankees left, the Orioles used it from 1996 to 2009. Although it no longer has a permanent tenant, or even a spring training tenant, it still stands, and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers use it as a practice facility. 1401 NW 55th Street.

Built in 1959, Lockhart is a 20,450-seat high school football stadium, across 55th Street from Fort Lauderdale Stadium, along 12th Avneue. It's been home to 4 different teams called the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, including the original NASL's version from 1977 to 1983, and the new NASL's version since 2011. It's hosted 3 games of the U.S. national soccer team, and also hosted Florida Atlantic University's football team from 2003 to 2010, after which their on-campus stadium opened. 5201 NW 12th Avenue.

For both stadiums, take MetroRail to Tri-Rail, then Tri-Rail to northbound to Cypress Creek. From there, it's about a 10-minute walk.

* Sports Immortals Museum. This museum is in Boca Raton, at 6830 N. Federal Highway (Route 1), 50 miles north of downtown Miami. It's got a statue of Babe Ruth, and some memorabilia on display. However, some people have reported that much of the memorabilia they sell has been judged to be fake by authenticators, so buyer beware. Theoretically, it's reachable by public transportation from Miami, but you'd need to take a bus to a train to a bus to a bus (32 to Tri-Rail to 70 to 1), and it would take about 3 hours. If you don't have the time to make for this, by car or otherwise, skip it.

* Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. For the last 30 or so years of his life, the Yankee Clipper lived in South Florida, and while he pretty much ignored his one and only child, son Joe Jr., he adored his grandchildren and children in general. He was a heavy donor to local hospitals, and the Children's Hospital named for him was established in 1992. There is now a statue of him there. 1005 Joe DiMaggio Drive, Hollywood. about 20 miles north of downtown Miami. 22 bus to Hollywood Tri-Rail station, then a mile's walk.

* Miami Beach Convention Center. Opened in 1957, it seats 15,000 people. The American Basketball Association’s Miami Floridians played here from 1968 to 1972. The 1968 Republican Convention, and both major parties’ Conventions in 1972, were held here. Why? Simple: They wanted to be away from downtown, putting water between themselves and wherever the hippies and another antiwar demonstrators were staying.

This building hosted the heavyweight title fights of 1961 (Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson III, Floyd won) and 1964 (Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston I, Clay winning and then changing his name to Muhammad Ali). Just 9 days before Ali forced his “total eclipse of the Sonny,” on February 16, 1964, the Beatles played their 2nd full-length U.S. concert here. (A photo exists of the Beatles visiting Ali at his Miami training center, and he knocks the 4 of them over like dominoes.) Elvis Presley gave a pair of concerts here on September 12, 1970.

Convention Center Drive between 17th Street and Dade Blvd. The Jackie Gleason Theater, where “The Great One” taped his 1960s version of The Jackie Gleason Show (including a revival of The Honeymooners) is next-door. This, and any other Miami Beach location, can be reached via the 103, 113 or 119 Bus, or car, over the MacArthur Causeway.

* Coconut Grove Convention Center. This former Pan Am hangar, attached to the Dinner Key Marina, has been used as a Naval Air Station, convention center, concert hall and sports arena (the Floridians played a few home games here). It’s also been known as the Dinner Key Auditorium. On March 1, 1969, The Doors gave a concert here, and lead singer Jim Morrison supposedly committed an indecent act there. (Yeah, he told the crowd, “I’m from Florida! I went to Florida State! Then I got smart and moved to California!”) Pan American Drive at 27th Avenue. Number 102 Bus to Number 48.

* Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. Formerly the Olympic Theater, Elvis sang here early in his career, on August 3 and 4, 1956. 174 E. Flagler Street, downtown.

Miami isn't a big museum city. The big two are the Miami Science Museum, at 3280 S. Miami Avenue (Vizcaya Station on Tri-Rail); ; and the Miami Art Museum, at 101 W. Flagler Street (downtown).

While no President has ever been born in Florida, or grew up there, or even had his permanent residence there, Miami has a key role in Presidential history. On February 15, 1933, President-elect Franklin Roosevelt and Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak were at a rally in Bayfront Park, when Giuseppe Zangara started shooting. FDR was not hit, but Cermak was, and he died on March 6, just 2 days after FDR was inaugurated. Bayfront Park station on Metromover.

More recently, the building where the votes for Dade County were supposed to be counted in the 2000 election was besieged by protestors, hired by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, so Miami was ground zero for the theft of the election by the George W. Bush campaign. The University of Miami's Convocation Center hosted a Presidential Debate between Bush and John Kerry in 2004. And Lynn University in Boca Raton hosted a Presidential Debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012. 3601 N. Military Trail. Tri-Rail to Boca Raton, then Bus 2.

The Kennedy family had a compound in Palm Beach, but sold it in 1995. It's still in private hands, and not open to the public. There was a "Little White House" in Key West (111 Front Street), used by Harry Truman (and, to a lesser extent, his immediate successors Dwight D. Eisenhower and Kennedy), and it's open to tours. But that's a long way from Miami: 160 miles, with no public transportation between the 2 cities, and Greyhound charges $110 round-trip for a 4 1/2-hour ride.

Several TV shows have been set in Miami. A restaurant called Jimbo’s Place was used to film scenes from Flipper and Miami Vice, and more recently CSI: Miami and Burn Notice. It’s at 4201 Rickenbacker Causeway in Key Biscayne, accessible by the Causeway (by car) and the 102 Bus (by public transportation). Greenwich Studios has been used to film Miami Vice, True Lies, There’s Something About Mary and The Birdcage. It’s at 16th Avenue between 121st and 123rd Streets, in North Miami, and often stands in for Miami Beach for the TV shows and movies for which it’s used. 93 Bus.

If you’re a fan of The Golden Girls, you won’t find the house used for the exterior shots: It’s actually in Los Angeles. If you're a fan of those not-quite-golden girls, the Kardashian sisters, the penthouse they use to tape the Miami edition of their "reality show" is on Ocean Drive between 1st and 2nd Streets in Miami Beach.

*

You don't have to be old to be a New Yorker in Miami -- but it helps to be a sports fan. Who knows, the Mets might even get a little bit of revenge for those season-ending series of 2007 and '08.

Thanks, Orange County Angels of Anaheim!

At first, last night's rubber game at Yankee Stadium II, between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the New York Yankees of The Bronx, was going to be a typically 2013 game for the Yankees: Decent pitching, not enough offense to sustain it.

Masahiro Tanaka, who hadn't lost in his first 4 Yankee starts, struck out 11 batters in 6 1/3 innings, but it wasn't enough, because the Yankees weren't hitting. He was trailing 2-1 when he was taken out in the top of the 7th, and even the Yankee run didn't come on a hit: Mark Teixeira walked to lead off the bottom of the 5th, Kelly Johnson struck out, Brian Roberts doubled, Teix couldn't score because he's gotten slower, and Ichiro Suzuki got Teix home on a groundout.

Joe Girardi brought in Adam Warren to stop an Angel threat in the 7th, and it looked like Tanaka, who pitched well enough to win 80 percent of the time, would be tagged with his first Yankee loss.

But Teix led off the bottom of the 7th with a home run, his 2nd of the season, and the game was tied, 2-2. Tanaka was off the hook.

The winning run was scored in an inning that was bizarre enough to be a Yankees-Red Sox inning. With Michael Kohn pitching for the Angels, in relief of Garrett Richards, who'd pitched 7 strong innings, Jacob Ellsbury led off the bottom of the 8th with a walk. Kohn struck Derek Jeter out, but then he walked Carlos Beltran on 4 pitches: All 4-seam fastballs between 93 and 95 miles per hour.

It's the Kyle Farnsworth Rule (Met fans, take note, as Kerosene Kyle is now your closer): It doesn't matter how fast your pitches are, if they don't hit the strike zone. Angel manager Mike Scioscia figured this out, and, not beholden to a Binder like Girardi is, replaced Kohn with Nick Maronde.

The batter was Brian McCann... and Maronde's pitch got away from Angel catch Chris Iannetta, moving the runners up. Now the potential winning run could score on an out.

McCann was still up with a chance to win the game for the Yankees... and the chance was taken away from him, as Maronde, probably shaken up a little by the passed ball, threw a wild pitch! Ellsbury scored! To make matters worse for the Angels, Girardi challenged the call, saying the pitch hit McCann. The replay showed this to be true, and McCann was on 1st.

Thanks, Orange County Angels of Anaheim!

Scioscia pulled Maronde for Kevin Jepsen, who got Alfonso Soriano to ground into a double play, but the damage was done. 3-2 Yankees.

But would it be enough damage? You know David Robertson: He never makes it easy on us. He struck out Ian Stewart, but walked Iannetta: Tying run on 1st, potential winning run at the plate, only 1 out.

He got J.B. Schuck to ground out, but that got John McDonald, pinch-running for Iannetta, to 2nd. Scioscia was really gambling here, replacing his starting catcher, hoping he could get a win in the 9th, without going to extra innings.

And now, batting for Colin Cowgill (not to be confused with Colin Cowherd), was an old friend. Old as in over 40, friend as in saved the Yankees in the 2012 ALDS: Raul Ibanez. With that short porch in right field, and knowing what kind of lefty swing Ibanez still has, Yankee Fans were rightly worried. It could have gone from 3-2 Yankees to 4-3 Angels with one swing. I wonder, if Boone Logan were still on the Yankee roster (thank God and Brian Cashman he isn't), would Girardi have brought him in to face this one lefty batter?

We'll never know. Robertson struck Ibanez out swinging. Whew.

WP: Warren (1-1). SV: Robertson (4). LP: Kohn (1-10.

*

So, 4 weeks into the 26-week MLB season, here's how the American League Eastern Division stands:

YANKEES 15-10
Baltimore 12-12, 2 1/2 back
Toronto 12-13, 3 back
Boston 12-14, 3 1/2 back
Tampa Bay 11-14, 4 back

The division elimination numbers for the Sox and the Rays is 134. For the Jays, 135. For the O's, 137: Any number of Yankee wins and Oriole losses, the rest of the way, adding up to 137, and the Yankees win the American League East.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to The Bronx.

The Yankees have today off, before the Seattle Mariners come to town, with "King" Felix Hernandez (he's never been in a playoff race game, let along a playoff game), and Robinson Cano.

The Story of St. Totteringham's Day


Inside the M25, the highway that serves as London's "capital beltway," there are 12 soccer teams in England's Football League. Two of these are in North London, 4.7 miles apart: Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, a.k.a. Spurs (or the Spuds, or the Totts, or the Tiny Totts). In the immortal words of that great broadcaster of American football, Keith Jackson, "These two teams just... don't... like each other!"

Tottenham will forever be in Arsenal's shadow. Arsenal have won the League 13 times, Tottenham only 2. Tottenham have twice won the League title at their home ground, White Hart Lane, both times, beating Sheffield Wednesday. Arsenal have also twice won the League at White Hart Lane, both times, against Tottenham.

Arsenal fans celebrate three "holidays": St. Michael's Day, May 26, the anniversary of the day Michael Thomas scored the title-winning goal away to Liverpool, ending an 18-year drought in the last minute of the last game of the season; Invincibles Day, the day when the last unbeaten team in the Premier League loses its first game, thus insuring that Arsenal's feat of going through the League unbeaten in 2003-04 remains unique; and St. Totteringham's Day, the day when it becomes mathematically certain that Arsenal will finish above Tottenham in the League.

Of course, Tottenham can prevent there being a "St. Tott's" (or "St. T's"), simply by finishing ahead of Arsenal in the League.

This has not happened since the 1994-95 season. That's 19 years.

*

Julian Schuman was the Arsenal fan who first thought up the idea of St. Totteringham's Day. Since celebrating the occasion is a relatively recent phenomenon, Arsenal fans have looked back to see when it would have been celebrated.

Between 1893-94 (Arsenal's first season in the old Football League, having been founded in the 1886-87 season) and 1907-08 (Spurs' last season before joining the League), Spurs were not in the league and Arsenal were. In 1908/9 Spurs were in Division 2, and Arsenal in the top flight. In 1909-10, Arsenal had a bad year and finished below Spurs. So the first St. T's was on April 22, 1911, when Arsenal beat Blackburn Rovers 5-1.

May 5, 1923 was the first St. Totteringham's Day in 11 years, due to Arsenal having been relegated in 1913 (the only time the club have ever gone down), followed by a stretch when Tottenham were in Division One and Arsenal in Division Two (including the stretch where football was called off due to World War I, from 1915 to 1919).

Tottenham have been relegated more frequently, so, technically, The Arsenal could celebrate two St. Totteringham's Day in one season: The day that season's finishing ahead of Spurs is assured; and the day Spurs are relegated, thus assuring that Arsenal will finish ahead the next season. Example, from the last time Spurs were relegated, Arsenal clinched a better position on April 23, 1977 (St. T's Day '77), and Spurs were relegated on May 14, 1977 (St. T's Day '78).

On 9 occasions, it's come down to the last day of the season: April 27, 1912; May 5, 1923; May 7, 1927; May 12, 1984; May 5, 1996; May 7, 2006; May 9, 2010; May 13, 2012; and May 19, 2013.

March 22, 1935 would be the earliest St. T's Day for a long time to come, with the now-dormant website Arseweb calling it a "perfect season": Arsenal won the League, and Spurs were relegated. Between World War II (again, play suspended from 1939 to 1946), Spurs being in Division Two, Spurs winning the League in 1951 (1st time ever for them), and Arsenal blowing it on the final day in 1952, 1953 was the first St. T's Day since that 1935 title-winning season -- and 1953 was another title-winning season for Arsenal.

As the 1950s wore on, both teams went into decline. Tottenham snapped out of it much sooner, winning the League and the FA Cup in 1961 -- "doing The Double," the first time any club had won both since 1897. From 1960 to 1968 (a period in which Spurs won 3 FA Cups and the European Cup Winners' Cup, and got to the Semifinals of the European Cup), there were no St. Totteringham's Days.

But in 1971, Arsenal won The Double, and clinched at White Hart Lane, not easy because Spurs finished a strong 3rd that season, behind only Arsenal and Leeds United, and won the League Cup. On April 26, 1975, for the first time ever, St. Totteringham's Day came in an actual Arsenal-Spurs match, with former Manchester United star Brian Kidd notching the only goal of a "One-nil to The Arsenal" win.

Both teams went into decline from their strong early 1970s showings, and in 1977 Spurs were relegated, though they jumped right back up the next season. Arsenal won the FA Cup in 1979, but the next few years were mostly Spurs: They won the Cup in 1981 and '82 and the UEFA Cup in 1984.

In 1987, Spurs threatened a historic treble: League, FA Cup and League Cup. But they failed to win the League (Everton, the "blue club in Liverpool," won it), they choked in the FA Cup Final against Coventry City, and Arsenal stunned them with a late come-from-behind, 1-0 to 2-1, win at White Hart Lane in the League Cup Semifinal, before beating Liverpool in the Final. Spurs' only consolation is that they finished ahead of Arsenal in the League, hence no St. Totteringham's Day that season. (To this day, no club has won the League and both domestic cups in the same season. Arsenal won both domestic cups in 1993, Liverpool in 2001, and West London's Chelsea in 2007, but none won the League in the same season.)

Arsenal finished ahead of Tottenham in 1988, and from that point onward, there have been more seasons that Arsenal finished ahead of Tottenham than vice versa. In 1989 and 1991, Arsenal won the League, but finished behind Tottenham in 1990. In 1991, despite Arsenal winning the League, Tottenham beat them in the FA Cup Semifinal, before beating Nottingham Forest in the Final -- to date, the last time Spurs have even qualified for the Final, 23 years ago.

Arsenal finished ahead of Spurs in 1992, but a loss to them on the last day of the 1993 season meant that, in spite of winning the Cup Double, they finished behind Spurs. It would be the last time Spurs won away to Arsenal for 17 years, the last time at Arsenal's former home of the Arsenal Stadium, a.k.a. Highbury. Arsenal finished ahead in 1994, but collapsed in 1995, finishing 12th, behind Spurs.

That was it: Spurs have not finished ahead of Arsenal since. Arsenal won The Double in 1998, and St. T's Day came on March 28, the earliest since 1959. In 2002, Arsenal won a third Double, and St. T's Day came on March 18, a new record for earliest date.

In 2004, a new record was set: March 13. But that was not the most significant date in the Arsenal-Spurs rivalry for that season. That would be April 25, 2004 -- 10 years ago this week. On a Sunday afternoon, Chelsea's defeat in the early game meant that Arsenal needed only a draw to clinch the Premier League title at White Hart Lane. They jumped at the chance, with Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires each scoring a first-half beauty. But Jamie Redknapp -- whose father Harry would later cause Arsenal some trouble as a manager -- hit a screamer of his own. In stoppage time, there was a dive in the box, and referee Mark Halsey stupidly (or corruptly?) awarded a penalty. Robbie Keane took it, and it was 2-2.

Before the game, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had told his players that, if they got the point they needed, they should not celebrate on the pitch, but rather wait until they were in the dressing room. But, as Henry later said, after the equaliser, the Spurs fans "celebrated like they won the World Cup Final." (As a part of the France team that did just that in 1998, he would know.) Play resumed, and when Halsey almost immediately blew his whistle, the Gunners basically said, "Fuck it, we're the Champions," and partied along with the 3,000 or so Arsenal fans who'd made the 4 1/2-mile trip up the Seven Sisters Road to celebrate. The song, dating back to 1971, went up, to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In" (a song Tottenham fans had previously appropriated as "When the Spurs Go Marching In"):

We won the League (We won the League!)
at White Hart Lane! (at White Hart Lane!)
We won the League at White Hart Lane!
We won the League at the Shithole!
We won the League at White Hart Lane!
Yes, White Hart Lane is a shithole. Opposing fans from Aston Villa (which is in Birmingham, often called "England's Detroit"), Stoke City (in bleak Staffordshire) and Sunderland (in the dreary North-East) have all sung, to the tune of "Sloop John B," without the slightest trace of irony:

Let me go home!
I wanna go home!
Tottenham's a shithole!
I wanna go home!

*

May 7, 2006. One does not simply discuss the history of the Arsenal-Tottenham rivalry without talking about this day. It is folly.

Arsenal had their best European Cup/Champions League campaign ever, reaching the Final.  But the 2005-06 season was the last season for Highbury. The new Emirates Stadium -- some call it The Emirates, some by the area's former name Ashburton Grove, some cheekily call it New Highbury -- was going up, 500 yards away, and would open in the summer. Arsenal wanted very badly to end the last game at Highbury with a win.

But it wasn't just sentiment: Arsenal went into the season's League finale in 5th place, with Tottenham in 4th. All Spurs had to do in their game, away to East London club West Ham United, was match Arsenal's performance at home to Wigan Athletic, on that final day of the Premiership season, and not only would Spurs finish ahead of Arsenal (thus preventing St. Totteringham's Day for that season), it would be Spurs in the 2006-07 Champions League, with Arsenal "relegated" to the UEFA Cup -- unless, of course, Arsenal could win the CL Final.

The night before, Tottenham manager Martin Jol had secluded his players at a hotel, the Marriott Canary Wharf, in London's financial district, a.k.a. The City. This is not unusual: Many managers do things like this, even before home games. American football head coaches, in both the professional and the collegiate ranks, also do this. The players would have a nice dinner the night before the game, and get a good night's sleep, and would have a nice short bus ride to the stadium, all away from the prying of fans and the media.

What did Scottish poet Robert Burns say? Translated into modern common English, "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray." (Somewhat appropriate, since, early in the film version of Fever Pitch, Colin Firth's character is shown teaching John Steinbeck's novel that takes its name from that quote, Of Mice and Men.)

In the middle of the night, 10 Spurs players woke up, vomiting, and/or having diarrhea. Someone decided to blame the lasagne they'd eaten for dinner that night, and after the whole thing was over, some Spurs fans started a conspiracy theory that the Marriott chef was an Arsenal fan and had purposely poisoned the Spurs players! It became known as Lasagne-gate.

In the morning, several Spurs players were still, uh, indisposed. So club chairman Daniel Levy called the League office, and asked League chairman Richard Scudamore to postpone the game. Nothing doing: With 1 League game to go, all teams were to play their games at the same time, 3:00 PM. (This was a change from past policy, to avoid teams whose League place had already been decided from laying down on the job, thus giving gamblers some easy pickings and paying customers a less than honest performance.) In the end, the game kicked off on time, at 3:00, and only one of the affected players, the backup goalkeeper, did not make it into the game, although 3 affected players had to be subbed off in the 2nd half.

That season was Wigan's first-ever season in the Premiership, and they had achieved midtable respectability, finishing 10th. An Arsenal win shouldn't have been assumed, but it was well possible. West Ham were about Wigan's equal, finishing 9th, and were hosting Spurs -- hence the Canary Wharf hotel, not far from the Hammers' Boleyn Ground, a.k.a. Upton Park.

Pires scored the Highbury opener, and, for the last time at that ground, the song "One-nil to The Arsenal" was sung -- by both Arsenal fans at Highbury and West Ham fans, learning by radio and text message, at Upton Park.

But Wigan struck back, and led 2-1. Spurs fans, getting calls and messages on their mobile phones, found out, and were ecstatic. And when Jermaine Defoe scored in the 35th to match Darren Fletcher's goal for the Hammers in the 10th, meaning Spurs were looking at a draw while Arsenal were losing, it looked like it would be Spurs' day.

It wasn't. Thierry Henry scored a hat trick, forging a 4-2 Arsenal win. And West Ham came from behind, and won 2-1 on a goal in the 80th minute by Yossi Benayoun. Arsenal finished 4th, 2 points ahead of Tottenham, and qualified for the Champions League; Tottenham, finishing 5th, went to the UEFA Cup.

The supposedly offending lasagne was sent to a laboratory, and tested. As it turned out, there was nothing wrong with it, at least not medically. The virus that spread among the Spurs players was real, but it had nothing to do with food. Still, Spurs fans blame that lasagne, and the chef that served it. Just like the Yankees-Red Sox "Curse of the Bambino," the lasagne contagion never really existed, but it has taken on a life of its own, because the afflicted team's fans believed it. And so, to spite them, ever since, Arsenal fans have sung, to "Volare":

Lasagne, whoa!
Lasagne, whoa!
We laughed ourselves to bits

when Tottenham got the shits!

Which matches another Arsenal chant. I don't know how far back it goes, but it was already in place in early 2007:

Q: What do you think of Tottenham?
A: Shit!
Q: What do you think of shit?
A: Tottenham!
Q: Thank you!
A: That's all right! We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham! We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham! We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham! We are the Tottenham haters! (Usually followed by a variation on the Y-word.)
*

Tottenham would beat Arsenal in the 2008 League Cup Semifinal, and go on to win that trophy, meaning they've won a trophy more recently than Arsenal -- their last, so far, is the 2005 FA Cup. But since Spurs' last FA Cup win in 1991, all they've won is the 1999 and 2008 League Cups. Over that same stretch, Arsenal have won the League 3 times and the FA Cup 5 times. But in that 2008 season, although Arsenal didn't come close to winning the League, they set a new record for earliest St. Totteringham's Day: March 9.

Arsenal slumped in the 2009-10 season, after staying in the League race until April. And an inspired Tottenham team clinched 4th place and a CL berth, while Arsenal only clinched 3rd, and a finish ahead of Spurs, on the last day.

In August 2011, riots broke out all over England. The first of them, and, in terms of property damage, the worst of them, was in Tottenham. While White Hart Lane itself had been spared any damage, the surrounding area had not. As a result, when the League season began 2 weeks later, the Premier League suspended Spurs' season opener. This would have consequences later, as the fixture list piled up (partly due to a bad winter postponing some games).

By February 26, 2012, about the two-thirds point of that season, Tottenham were 10 points ahead of Arsenal in the League, and Spurs fans spent weeks reminding Gooners, in the words of message on the trains of the London Underground, to "Mind the gap." (In America, it's usually "Please watch the gap.") And it was Derby Day. Arsenal fell behind 2-0, but stormed their way to a 5-2 win.

On May 13, in a reverse of 2006, Arsenal needed to match Tottenham's performance on the final day of the League season to guarantee 4th place and a CL place for next season, but were away, while Tottenham are home. It would either be the latest-ever St. Totteringham's Day, or there would be none at all that season. And, sure enough, Tottenham beat fellow London club Fulham, 1-0. But, thanks to a goal by 2006 Spurs tormentor Yossi Benayoun, and a great late clearance by left back Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal beat Wigan, 3-2, and clinched 4th.

Spurs fans, yet again, got their hearts broken. Of course, this latest Spurs disaster wouldn't have happened if their fixture list hadn't been so congested, wearing their players down over the late winter and the spring. And that might not have happened if their first League game hadn't had to be rescheduled. And that wouldn't have happened if the Tottenham bastards hadn't "burned their own town." They screwed themselves, and they screwed their club. This was like the Chicago Cubs losing a Pennant because of Steve Bartman -- except Bartman was just one man doing something he was legally entitled to do. The rioters were hundreds of people committing actual crimes.

2012 was the year singer Adele, a Tottenham native, would break out as a major star. She is known for singing songs of heartbreak, and she is a Spurs fan. Gee, do you think there's a connection?
Arsenal beat Spurs 5-2 at the Emirates again on November 17, 2012. But on March 3, 2013, Tottenham won the rematch at The Lane, 2-1. This put Spurs 7 points ahead of Arsenal. Their manager at the time, Andre Villas-Boas, said that Arsenal were in "a downward spiral." But Arsenal didn't lose a match for the rest of the season. And, on May 19, yet another record for latest St. Totteringham's Day (if they could do it), in another "Groundhog Day," they simply had to match Tottenham's performance on the final day to ensure that they finish 4th and Tottenham 5th.

Arsenal were away to Newcastle United, while Spurs were home to, oddly enough, Newcastle's arch-rivals, Sunderland. Defender Laurent Koscielny scored in the 52nd minute, and it was One-nil to The Arsenal. Somehow, fans at The Lane got the message that Newcastle hade equalised, and that all Tottenham had to do was get one goal, and they would finish 4th. And they got that goal, and beat Sunderland, 1-0. But Newcastle had not equalised, and Arsenal won, 1-0. "Have Newcastle equalized yet?" joined "Lasagne" and "Mind the Gap" as a Gooner catchphrase, much as "Power shift in North London" had become a Spurs catchphrase -- falsely, as it turned out.

*

The 2013-14 season was a milestone: For the first time, Arsenal won 3 games against Tottenham without losing any: Both League matches, and in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup. (In 1987, Arsenal won 3 games against Tottenham, but also lost one and drew one, as a result of the FA Cup Semifinal going to a replay after the two-legged regulation semifinal.)

Today is April 28, 2014. Going into today, Arsenal are in 4th place, with 70 points, with 3 games left to play; Tottenham are in 6th place, with 66 points, with 2 games left to play. This means that the most points Tottenham can end up with, if they win their last 2, is 72. All that needs to happen for Arsenal to finish ahead of Tottenham is for Arsenal to win 1 of their last 3 -- or for Tottenham to drop points (either lose or draw) in 1 of their last 2.

Today, Arsenal host Newcastle -- and a mere equalizer by Newcastle won't help Tottenham or their fans much. If Arsenal win, it will be St. Totteringham's Day -- the earliest in 5 years, since April 11, 2009.

Come on you Gunners!

UPDATE: Arsenal beat Newcastle, 3-0. Happy St. Totteringham's Day!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bernard Malamud at 100: Why He Had Roy Strike Out... and Why the Movie Didn't

April 26, 1914, 100 years ago: Bernard Malamud is born in Brooklyn. "All men are Jews, though few men know it."

Although it was his novel The Fixer (not about sports, but about anti-Semitism in Czarist Russia) that won him the Pulitzer Prize, it's The Natural for which he is best known.
He wanted to tell the story of King Arthur as a baseball player. The symbolism is hard to miss, from the team being called the Knights to Roy's bat Wonderboy standing in for Arthur's sword Excalibur.

And (SPOILER ALERT), just as Arthur lost in the end, so, too, did Roy Hobbs fall -- due, in large part, to his own failings.
But when the movie was made, they couldn't have Roy -- certainly couldn't have Robert Redford -- strike out in the end.
The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Bernard Malamud For Having Roy Hobbs Strike Out
5. The Source Material. Although King Arthur is held up as an exemplar of kinghood, knighthood and chivalry, nearly every version of his story (the 2004 film King Arthur starring Clive Owen is a notable exception) has Arthur dying at the Battle of Camlann, and his kingdom of Camelot falling.
4. Ernest Thayer. Although there isn't much relationship to the Arthurian legend, Thayer was the first person to put the failure of an admired baseball player into popular culture, in his poem Casey at the Bat, in 1888:
Oh, somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining bright.
And somewhere, bands are playing; and somewhere, hearts are light.
And somewhere, men are laughing; and somewhere, children shout.
But there is no joy in Mudville: Mighty Casey has struck out!
3. His Mother's Suicide. Bertha Malamud attempted suicide in 1927, when Bernard was just 13, and she never recovered from the effects, dying 2 years later. If she had lived, he would have been a very different person, with perhaps a different outlook on life.

2. The Brooklyn Dodgers. Malamud grew up in Brooklyn, and while the Dodgers won Pennants in 1916 and 1920, and finished 2nd in 1924 (when he was 2, 6 and 10 years old, respectively), for most of his youth, they were terrible. On the field, they were incompetent, often laughably so, nicknamed "the Daffiness Boys" before they were known as "Dem Bums" -- the true precursors of the original, early 1960s Mets.

Off the field, they were financially strapped, often on the edge of bankruptcy. That's how Walter O'Malley came to own a part of the Dodgers, before he became sole owner: He was the man the Brooklyn Trust Company, a bank that saved them from ruin, put in charge of their 1/4 share. It was between him and a younger lawyer named William Shea -- the same Bill Shea who later led the effort to replace the Dodgers and Giants with the Mets, and was honored with their stadium being named for him.

The Dodgers' money troubles were reflected in the fact that the New York Knights were owned by manager Pop Fisher, but he had to sell half a share to "The Judge" to keep the team afloat in the Great Depression. But it's also reflected in the fact that, while the Dodgers exist in the world of The Natural, the New York Giants don't: The Dodgers' already-old, storied rivals are replaced by the luckless Knights. A little bit of payback from Brooklyn to Manhattan, I suppose.

1. Failure Is More Remembered Than Success. We remember Fred Merkle for his "Boner," but do you remember the name of the player who made the play? You might have to think about it before you come up with the name of Johnny Evers. Ralph Branca is as famous as Bobby Thomson. True, many books have been written about the Yankees, but at least as many are written about the Red Sox, the Cubs, and the Brooklyn edition of the Dodgers.

As Roger Kahn wrote in the ultimate Brooklyn Dodger book, The Boys of Summer:

You may glory in a team triumphant, but you fall in love with a team in defeat. Losing after great striving is the story of man, who was born to sorrow, whose sweetest songs tell of saddest thought, and who, if he is a hero, does nothing in life as becomingly as leaving it.

Or, as his contemporary, but a Giants fan instead, Roger Angell, put it, "There's much more losing than winning in life."

"Life is a tragedy full of joy," Malamud has been quoted as saying.

*

Ah, but...

The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame the Film Version of The Natural For Having Roy Hobbs Hit a Home Run

5. Strikeouts Are Boring. In 1952, at the peak of his fame as an actor, Ronald Reagan played Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander in The Winning Team. In the 1926 World Series, pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals, Alexander struck out Tony Lazzeri of the Yankees, the most famous strikeout in baseball history. This event was the climax of the movie.

But while a game-ending strikeout (not that Alexander's was, there were 2 more innings to go) can be exciting in person, it's just not the same in a movie, and The Winning Team isn't as well-remembered as some other baseball films. Indeed, had Reagan not gone on to become President -- or had an actor who didn't go on to become President been cast instead -- the movie might be forgotten entirely by people who aren't Cardinal fans.

As Kevin Costner said to Tim Robbins in Bull Durham: "Don't try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls. It's more democratic." Translation: Strikeouts are all about the pitcher throwing them, all about the overpowering executive; while ground balls require involving your teammates.

4. Chicks Dig the Long Ball. Since it was Redford, one of Hollywood's biggest heartthrobs, The Natural was one of the first baseball movies that seemed sure to bring in women as much as men. And women wanted Roy to win, because he was played by Redford. And he did win.

Speaking of whom...

3. Robert Redford. Yeah, he was too old to play 19-year-old Roy -- hell, at 47 at the time of filming, he was too old to play 35-year-old Roy. But he is one of Hollywood's biggest heroes. And, just as Elvis Presley had it written into his contract that he could never die in a movie again, after his fans were so upset to see him do so in his debut, Love Me Tender, Redford had already died at the end of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, and nobody wanted to see their beloved Bob Redford fail again.

2. The Magic of Hollywood. Everybody loves a happy ending. We go to the movies to see the good guys win and the bad guys lose.

Except for those Dark Hipsters who think the best Star Wars movie is The Empire Strikes Back (the film ends with the Empire unquestionably on top). These are people who root for the Witch in The Wizard of Oz, for Barzini in The Godfather, for the government in E.T. No, these people can, in the words of the old Giants shortstop Alvin Dark, "Take a hike, son."

1. America Loves a Winner. Simple as that, baby. Besides, the movie was not only released in the Reagan years, 1984, but took place during FDR's New Deal, 1939. In each case, it was a time for triumphs. Had it taken place in, say, 1975, when inflation was out of control, a President had recently resigned due to being a crook, our international prestige was waning, and our cities were burning pits of crime and being told by the new President to "Drop dead," it might have been, literally, a different story.


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So what did Malamud think of the movie? He did live long enough to see it (he died in 1986), and his daughter, writer Janna Malamud Smith, said on one of the DVD extras for the film that her father had seen it, and his take on it was that it had "legitimized him as a writer."

He understood: "Without heroes, we would all be plain people, and wouldn't know how far we can go."

J.R. Murphy's Law Convicts Angels With Dirty Faces

The Yankees needed to bounce back from last night's 13-1 pasting by the Los Angeles Angels of Katella Boulevard, Anaheim, Orange County, California, United States of America, North America, Western Hemisphere, Earth, Sol System, Sector 001, United Federation of Planets, Milky Way Galaxy, Local Galactic Group, Known Universe.

And starting Vidal Nuno was not a good idea. Suffice it to say that I wouldn't leave him in the Ivan Nova slot in the rotation on a permanent basis. As Hiroki Kuroda did not last night, Nuno did not get out of the 5th inning, allowing 3 runs.

Fortunately, the bullpen stepped up. Dellin Betances pitched 2 innings, Shawn Kelly an inning and a third, Matt Thornton a third, and David Robertson 1 -- all scoreless.

That allowed the bats the chance to make the difference. With 1 out in the bottom of the 2nd, and the Angels up 1-0 on a home run by the pride of South Jersey, Millville native Mike Trout, Angel starter Hector Santiago hit Mark Teixeira with a pitch. He then allowed a single to Brett Gardner, and walked Brian Roberts on 4 straight pitches to load the bases. He got Kelly Johnson to fly to left, and Teix couldn't score. Another Yankee RISPfail?

Nope: Santiago balked, and that scored Teix. The batter was J.R. Murphy, a Princeton University graduate from Florida, about to turn 23, called up as a backup catcher, wearing Number 66. And he singled home Gardner and Roberts. 3-1 Yankees.

The Angels tied it in the 4th, but John Ryan Murphy, leading off the bottom of the 5th, hit his first major league home run, and that made the difference. Murphy laying down the law. (But not -- yet -- laying down a bunt.)

The Angels threatened in the 9th, with Trout singling off Robertson, but he got Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick out to end the threat.

Yankees 4, Angels 3. WP: Betances (1-0). SV: Robertson (3). LP: Santiago (0-4).

As I write this, the Yankees are 14-10, 2 games ahead of Baltimore, 2 1/2 ahead of Boston, 3 ahead of Toronto, and 3 1/2 ahead of Tampa Bay.

The series concludes tomorrow night, as the Sunday night ESPN game. Masahiro Tanaka starts against Garrett Richards. Then, the Yankees have a day off, before the Seattle Mariners come to town.

How to Be a Met Fan In Colorado -- 2014 Edition

The Mets are heading out on a roadtrip next week: Philadelphia to play 2 against the Phillies, Denver to play 4 against the Colorado Rockies, and Miami to play 3 against the Marlins.

DISCLAIMER: I have only been to Denver twice, and that was to change planes going to and from Las Vegas many years ago. I have never set foot outside the old, now-defunct Stapleton International Airport, much less visited Coors Field. But it does look like one of the best ballparks, so I would like to visit and recommend it.

Before You Go. The Denver Post is predicting rain for most of next week, and temperatures in the mid-50s during the day, the low 40s or high 30s at night. That chill will be on top of weather that could lead to postponements. So unless you're doing the All 30 Ballparks thing, you may want to skip this series, and stay home and watch it on television. This will be the Mets' only trip out to Denver this season, but if you don't want to take a chance on the weather, then the old adage "Wait 'Til Next Year" comes into play.

The Post is a good paper, but don't bother looking for the Rocky Mountain News: It went out of business in 2009.

Denver is in the Mountain Time Zone, so you’ll be 2 hours behind New York time. And there’s a reason it’s called the Mile High City: The elevation means the air will be thinner. Although the Rocky Mountain region is renowned for outdoor recreation, if you’re not used to it, try not to exert yourself too much. Cheering at a sporting event shouldn’t bother you too much, but even if the weather is good, don’t go rock-climbing or any other such activity unless you’ve done it before and know what you’re doing.

Tickets. When the Rockies began play in 1993, there had never been a major league team in the entire Mountain Time Zone, and the Denver Bears and their successors the Denver Zephyrs had been among the best-attended teams in the minor leagues. That, plus the huge capacity of Mile High Stadium, allowed Colorado fans to set several major league attendance records that are unlikely to be broken in my lifetime, including most fans for an Opening Day game (80,227), most fans for a single regular-season game (same), most fans in a single season (4,483,350 in that first season of 1993) and most fans per home game (56,094 in the strike-shortened 1994 season).

When Coors Field opened in 1995, with a capacity around 47,000 (now officially 50,480), every game was still sold out, until 1999. The Rockies have gone downhill since their last Playoff berth in 2009, but still averaged 34,492 for the 2013 season. So tickets may not be easy to come by.

For tickets that are available: Infield Boxes are $62, Baseline Boxers are $48, Outfield Boxes are $38, Upper Reserved Infield seats are $25, Upper Reserved Outfield seats are $17, Pavilion (left field bleacher) seats are $25, Upper Rightfield Reserved are $17, and the center field "Rockpile" seats -- a holdover from the bleachers of that nickname at Mile High Stadium -- are the cheapest seats in Major League Baseball, just $5. That's right: Five dollars. For a Major League Baseball game. In the 21st Century.

Getting There. It’s 1,779 miles from Times Square in New York to the Denver plaza that contains the State House and the City-County complex, and 1,790 miles from Citi Field to Coors Field. You’re probably thinking that you should be flying.

The good news: Flying to Denver, considering how far it is, is relatively cheap. You can get a round-trip flight for Thursday morning, and buy it today, for a little over $600, depending on what time you want to fly. More likely, it'll be around $800, but that's still a decent price per mile.

The bad news: It won’t be nonstop. While Stapleton International Airport (named for 1923-47 Mayor Benjamin F. Stapleton) was a major change-planes-here spot for going to the West Coast and Las Vegas, the new Denver International Airport isn’t. You want to fly there, you’ll have to change planes, most likely in either Chicago or Dallas.

Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited leaves Penn Station at 3:40 PM Tuesday, arrives at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Wednesday (that’s Central Time). The California Zephyr leaves Chicago at 2:00 PM Wednesday and arrives at Denver’s Union Station at 7:15 AM Thursday. The return trip would leave Denver at 7:10 PM Sunday (after the series' afternoon finale), arrive in Chicago at 2:50 PM Monday, leave Chicago at 9:30 PM Monday, and get back to New York at 6:35 PM Tuesday. The round-trip fare is $434.

Conveniently, Union Station is at 1700 Wynkoop Street at 17th Street, just 3 blocks from Coors Field. The front of the building is topped by a clock, framed by an old sign saying UNION STATION on top and TRAVEL by TRAIN on the bottom.

Greyhound allows you to leave Port Authority Bus Terminal at 4:00 PM Tuesday, and arrive at Denver at 10:50 AM on Thursday, a trip of just under 45 hours, without having to change buses. That 44:50 does, however, include layovers of 40 minutes in Philadelphia, an hour and a half in Pittsburgh, an hour in Columbus, an hour in Indianapolis, 2 hours in St. Louis, half an hour in Salina, Kansas, and another half-hour in Burlington, Colorado; plus half-hour meal stops in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Kansas. Round-trip fare is $376, but you can get it for $287 on advanced-purchase. You can get a bus back at 7:10 PM Sunday and be back in New York at 3:50 PM Tuesday. The Denver Bus Center is at 1055 19th Street, 5 blocks from Coors Field.

If you actually think it’s worth it to drive, get someone to go with you, so you’ll have someone to talk to, and one of you can drive while the other sleeps. You’ll be taking Interstate 80 most of the way, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska, before taking Interstate 76 from Nebraska to Colorado, and then Interstate 25 into Denver. (An alternate route: Take the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Turnpikes to Interstate 70 and then I-70 through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado into downtown Denver. It won’t save you an appreciable amount of time over the I-80 route, though.)

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Illinois, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Iowa, 6 hours in Nebraska, and 3 hours and 15 minutes in Colorado. Including rest stops, and accounting for traffic (you’ll be bypassing Cleveland and Chicago, unless that’s where you want to make rest stops), we’re talking about a 40-hour trip.

Even if you’re only going for one game, no matter how you got there, get a hotel and spend a night. You’ll be exhausted otherwise. Trust me, I know: Trains and buses are not good ways to get sleep.

Once In the City. Founded in 1858 as a gold rush city, and named for James W. Denver, then Governor of Kansas Territory from which Colorado was separated, Denver is a city of 630,000 people, in a metro area of 3.2 million -- roughly the population of Brooklyn and Staten Island combined. It's easily the biggest city in, and thus the unofficial cultural capital of, the Rocky Mountain region.

Broadway is the main north-south drag, separating East addresses from West. But the northwestern quadrant of the street grid is at roughly a 45-degree angle from the rest of the city, and this area includes the central business district, Union Station and the ballpark.

The sales tax in the State of Colorado is 2.9 percent, however, the City of Denver adds a 3.62 percent sales tax, for a total of 6.52 percent.

Bus and light rail service in Denver goes for $2.25 for a single ride, and $6.75 for a DayPass.

Going In. Coors Field is in the Lower Downtown, or LoDo, section of Denver, a mile and a half northwest of Civic Center Park, the government center which contains the City & County Building and the Colorado State House. The Number 60 bus will get you to within 3 blocks of the ballpark. Denver has a light rail system, RTD, but chances are your hotel will be downtown, and you’d have to change trains at least once, so the 60 bus is the way to go. If you're driving, parking is $13.

The mailing address is 2001 Blake Street. Blake bounds the 1st base side, 20th Street the 3rd base side, 22nd Street the right field stands, and Wewatta Street and the light rail tracks the left field side.

Most likely, you’ll enter through the home plate gate, at 20th & Blake. I like that: All visits to the ballpark should make your first view of the field from behind home plate. This was rarely possible with the old New York ballparks: The stadiums pointed east, and both subway exits put you at the right field corner (if you entered Yankee Stadium from the 157th Street plaza, or the left field corner if you came down 161st Street). In the case of Coors, it’s just more convenient.

The field is natural grass. Outfield distances are 347 feet to left field, 390 to left-center, 415 to center, 375 to right-center, and 350 to right. Why so far? To counteract the easy home runs that were hit at Mile High, due to the thin mountain air. A line of purple seats across the upper deck shows the exact point at which the elevation of the park is 5,280 feet above sea level, making it “a mile high.”

After years of opposing teams complaining that the highest elevation in MLB history resulting in too many home runs, prior to the 2002 season the team ordered a study to determine if the elevation was the cause. As it turned out, the study suggested it was not thin air, but dry air that was doing it. So a giant humidor – a room-sized version of the kind of box where a smoker would store his cigars – was put into the ballpark, and the baseballs were stored there. As a result, the ball is no longer going as far as it once did, although the thin air does make it go farther than at most ballparks. The thin air also makes curveballs curve less, which means it’s still not a good park for pitchers. Nevertheless, the team’s pitching staff can no longer be called, as it once was, “the Rocky Horror Pitching Show.” The longest home run was by Andres Galarraga, a 529-footer in 1997.

Food. Being a “Wild West” city, you might expect Denver to have Western-themed stands with “real American food” at its ballpark. Being in a State with a Spanish name, in a land that used to belong to Mexico, you might also expect to have Mexican food. And you would be right on both counts.

A stand called Buckaroos is at Section 148, Burritos is at 134, the Helton Burger Shack (named for Rockies star Todd Helton) at 153, a full-service bar called the Camarena Loft behind 201, another called Margaritas at 330, 3 Monster Nacho stands, and, for club-seaters, the Mountain Ranch Club Bar.

There’s also stands with baseball-themed names, including several Fan Fare stands, Fair Territory in 106, and Yard Ball Yogurt at 330. There’s a Starbucks-type place called Madeline’s at 151, a pair of sandwich bars called the Club Carvery behind 219 and 238, a coffee bar call Java City at 223, a Chinese-themed Wok in the Park at 150, and a Blue Moon Brewing Co. outlet at 111.

Buckaroos has “Dinger Nuggets,” which I’m hoping is standard chicken nuggets, not dinosaur meat. (I’ll get to that in “During the Game.”)

Team History Displays. The Rockies’ history is short. They have made the Playoffs 3 times, won just one Pennant, and have won a grand total of zero World Series games. As yet, they have no members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. No Rockies players were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Players in 1999.

However, there are 4 men with Rockies connections in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, whose display is at the new Broncos' stadium: Original owner Jerry McMorris, original manager Don Baylor, and early stars Andres Galarraga and Larry Walker. (UPDATE: Todd Helton has become the 5th.)

And while Walker’s Number 33 has not been reissued, officially, their only retired number is the universally-retired 42 for Jackie Robinson, who died over 20 years before the Rockies ever played a game. This coming August 17, they will retire the Number 17 of the recently retired Todd Helton.

Robinson's 42 and the 2007 Pennant are displayed on the outfield wall. The 1995 NL Wild Card banner used to be on the wall, but once a Pennant was won, it seemed a bit silly. (Nevertheless, the Mets still have that 1999 Wild-Card display on the third-base facing of Citi Field, along with their 2 World Championship, 2 other Pennant, and 2006 NL East stanchions.) There is no mention, anywhere in the stadium, of the Pennants won by the Rockies' minor-league predecessors, the Denver Bears (also briefly known as the Denver Zephyrs).

Stuff. Coors Field has the standard team stores to sell Rockies gear. I don't know if that includes cowboy hats with team logos on them, to tie in with the State's Western heritage.

Don’t look for old Rockies videos on DVD – there aren’t any. Unless you want to find the official highlight film of the 2007 World Series, in which the Rockies got swept by the Boston Red Sox. You’d think that, having won 14 of their last 15 regular-season games, making it 21 out of 22 counting the Playoffs, winning their first-ever Pennant, and setting a major league record for highest team fielding percentage (.989), there would be a commemorative DVD. But there isn’t.

There are, however, a few books about the team, including A Magical Season: Colorado’s Incredible 2007 Championship Season, by the staff of the Denver Post. You can also pick up Colorado Rockies: The Inaugural Season, by Rich Clarkson, which came out right after that 1993 season ended.

The first-year Rockies probably got more respect than any 67-95 team ever. To compare, the 1969 Seattle Pilots went 64-98. They also played in a stadium that was inappropriate for the major leagues – albeit because it was an expanded 1930s Triple-A park, not a 1940s Triple-A park converted into a 1970s football stadium like Mile High. They got fewer fans in a homestand than the ’93 Rox got in their home opener, got moved to Milwaukee right before their second season started, and today are remembered only for being in Jim Bouton’s book Ball Four. Even Seattle fans would prefer to believe their major league history started with the Mariners in 1977.

During the Game. Coloradans love their sports, but they’re not known as antagonistic. Although the Jets came within a half of derailing a Bronco Super Bowl in 1999 (1998 season), and the Devils came within a game of short-circuiting their Stanley Cup run in 2001, the people of the Centennial State don’t have an ingrained hatred of New Yorkers. As long as you don’t wear Kansas City Chiefs or Oakland Raiders gear, you’ll probably be completely safe. (But, as always, watch out for obnoxious drunks, who know no State Lines.)

When construction workers were excavating to build Coors Field, they found dinosaur bones. So the Rockies’ mascot was made a dinosaur. In honor of the thin air’s propensity for allowing home runs, the mascot was named Dinger the Dinosaur. Great idea, right? Well, a Tyrannosaurus Rex (or even a “Tyrannosaurus Rox”) would probably scare kids, so Dinger is a purple triceratops. Think of him as Barney’s cousin from the weird side of the family.

The Rockies play Bruce Channel’s song “Hey! Baby” after “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the 7th inning stretch. Why? I have no idea. Channel isn’t from Colorado, or any other Rocky Mountain State (he’s from Texas). Why not a Colorado singer’s song? You got me. I guess “Rocky Mountain High” – whose singer used the stage name John Denver, for crying out loud – isn’t particularly rousing. Nor is “How to Save a Life” by The Fray, who, unlike John, are from Denver. Sometimes the Rockies play "Get Free" by the Australian rock band The Vines, but they do not have a postgame victory song.

After the Game. Denver has had crime issues, and just 3 blocks from Coors Field is Larimer Street, immortalized as a dingy, bohemian-tinged, hobo-strewn street in Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road. But that scene was written in 1947, and LoDo has become, with the building of Coors Field and the revitalization of Union Station, a sort of mountain Wrigleyville. So you’ll probably be safe.

LoDo is loaded with bars that will be open after the game, including Scruffy Murphy’s at Larimer & 20th, and an outlet of the Fado Irish Pub chain at Wynkoop & 19th. But the only baseball-named place I can find anywhere near Coors is Sandlot Brewery, at 22nd & Blake, outside the park’s right-field corner. Behind home plate, at 1930 Blake Street, is The Sports Column, hailed by some as the best sports bar in the State of Colorado.

Perhaps the most famous sports-themed restaurant near Denver is Elway’s Cherry Creek, a steakhouse at 2500 E. 1st Avenue in the southern suburb of Cherry Creek. Bus 83L. It’s owned by the same guy who owns John Elway Chevrolet in another southern suburb, Englewood.

About a mile southeast of Coors Field, at 538 E. 17th Avenue in the Uptown neighborhood (not sure why a southern, rather than northern, neighborhood is called “Uptown”), is The Tavern, home of the local New York Giants fan club. Jet fans gather at Chopper’s Sports Grill, possibly named for Chopper Travaglini, at 80 S. Madison Street at Bayaud Avenue, 3 miles southeast of downtown, in the Pulaski Park neighborhood. Bus 83, then a mile’s walk.

Sidelights. Sports Authority Field at Mile High, formerly Invesco Field at Mile High, has been the home of the NFL's Denver Broncos since 2001. Everyone just gives in the same name as the old facility: "Mile High Stadium." It includes the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, and the Broncos’ Ring of Fame.

It was built on the site of the McNichols Sports Arena, home to the NBA’s Denver Nuggets from 1975 to 1999, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche from 1995 to 1999, and the first major league team called the Colorado Rockies, the NHL team that became the Devils, from 1976 to 1982. It hosted the NCAA Final Four in 1990, with UNLV (the University of Nevada at Las Vegas) clobbering Duke.  (The University of Colorado, in Boulder, made the Final Four in 1942 and 1955, although it wasn't yet called the Final Four.  No other Colorado-based school has made it, and none has won a National Championship -- not in basketball, anyway.)

When the time came to play the final concert at McNichols, the act that played the first concert there was brought back: ZZ Top. This fact was mentioned on a Monday Night Football broadcast, leading Dan Dierdorf to note the alphabetic distinction of the long red-bearded men, and say, “The first one should have been ABBA.” Which would have been possible, as they were nearly big in the U.S. at the time. However, the fact that the arena only lasted 24 years, making it not that hard for the act that played the first concert there to also play the last, says something about America's disposable culture. (It was recently announced that Paul McCartney will play the last concert at San Francisco's Candlestick Park -- having played in its first, with the Beatles, that also being the Beatles' last, unless you count the Apple rooftop.)

The old stadium was just to the north of the new stadium/old arena. The current address is Mile High Stadium Circle, but the old intersection was W. 20th Avenue & Bryant St. (2755 W. 17th Avenue was the mailing address.) It was built in 1948 as Bears Stadium, an 18,000-seat ballpark.

When the American Football League was founded in 1960, it was expanded to 34,000 seats with the addition of outfield seating. The name was changed to Mile High Stadium in 1966, and by 1968 much of the stadium was triple-decked and seated 51,706. In 1977 – just in time for the Broncos to make their first Super Bowl run and start “Broncomania” – the former baseball park was transformed into a 76,273-seat horseshoe, whose east stands could be moved in to conform to the shape of a football field, or out to allow enough room for a regulation baseball field. The old-time ballpark had become, by the standards of the time, a modern football stadium.

The biggest complaint when the Rockies arrived in 1993 wasn’t the thin air, or the condition of the stadium (despite its age, it was not falling apart), but the positioning of the lights: Great for football fans, but terrible for outfielders tracking fly balls. But it was only meant to be a temporary ballpark for the Rockies, as a condition for Denver getting a team was a baseball-only stadium. What really led to the replacement of Mile High Stadium, and its demolition in 2002, was greed: The Broncos' desire for luxury-box revenue.

At Bears/Mile High Stadium, the Broncos won AFC Championships in 1977, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1997 and 1998, winning the Super Bowl in the last 2 years after losing the first 4 in blowouts.  (They've now won an AFC title at the new stadium, but not a Super Bowl.) The Denver Bears won Pennants while playing there in 1957 (as a Yankee farm team), 1971, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1983 and 1991 (winning the last one under the Denver Zephyrs name).

The U.S. national soccer team played a pair of games at Mile High Stadium in the 1990s, and beat Mexico at the new stadium in 2002 (the only game they've played there so far).

The Red Lion Hotel Denver and the Skybox Grill & Sports Bar are now on the site of the old stadium. At McNichols, the Nuggets reached the ABA Finals in 1976, and the Avalanche won the 1996 Stanley Cup (albeit clinching in Miami). The Denver Dynamite won the 1st ArenaBowl in 1987. and again in 1989, 1990 and 1991, before finances forced them to fold anyway. Mile High Station on the light rail C-Line and E-Line.

The Pepsi Center, new home of the Nugs and Avs, is 6 blocks up Auraria Parkway and one stop away on the C-Line and E-Line. The intersection is 11th Street & Auraria Parkway, but the mailing address is 1000 Chopper Circle, named for Robert “Chopper” Travaglini, the longtime trainer (and amateur sports psychologist) of the Nuggets. He was actually a Jersey Boy, albeit from Woodbury on the Philly side. He died in 1999, age 77, right before the new arena opened.

The Nuggets have usually made the Playoffs since moving in, but have never reached the NBA Finals. The Avs won the 2001 Stanley Cup on home ice (beating the Devils, rats). The Democratic Convention was held at the Pepsi Center in 2008, although Senator Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech outdoors in front of 80,000 people at New Mile High Stadium.

The Nuggets, known as the Denver Rockets until 1974, played at the Denver Auditorium Arena, at 13th & Champa Streets, from their 1967 inception until McNichols opened in 1975. It was also the home of the original Nuggets, who played in the NBA from 1948 to 1950. It opened in 1908, and its seating capacity of 12,500 made it the 2nd-largest in the country at the time, behind the version of Madison Square Garden then standing. It almost immediately hosted the Democratic National Convention that nominated William Jennings Bryan for President for the third time – although it’s probably just a coincidence that the Democrats waited exactly 100 years (give or take a few weeks) to go back (it’s not like Obama didn’t want to get it right the first time, as opposed 0-for-3 Bryan). It hosted Led Zeppelin’s first American concert on December 26, 1968.

It was demolished in 1990 to make way for the Denver Performing Arts Complex, a.k.a. the Denver Center. Theatre District/Convention Center Station on the light rail’s D-Line, F-Line and H-Line.

The Denver area's Major League Soccer team, the Colorado Rapids, plays at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City. The U.S. national team has played there twice, winning both times. 6000 Victory Way. Number 48 bus to 60th Avenue & Dahlia Street, then Number 88 bus to 60th & Monaco. Then they make you walk 10 blocks on 60th to get to the stadium.

Denver has some renowned museums, including the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (their version of the Museum of Natural History) at 2001 Colorado Boulevard at Montview Boulevard (in City Park, Number 20 bus), and the Denver Art Museum (their version of the Metropolitan Museum of Natural History), at 100 W. 14th Avenue Parkway at Colfax Avenue (across I-25 from Mile High Stadium, Auraria West station on the C-Line and E-Line).

Denver’s history only goes back to a gold rush in 1859 – not to be confused with the 1849 one that turned San Francisco from a Spanish Catholic mission into the first modern city in the American West. The city isn’t exactly loaded with history. There’s no Presidential Library – although Mamie Doud, the eventual Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower, grew up there, and her house is now a historic site. Mamie and “Ike” were married there, their son John (a future General, Ambassador and military historian) was born there, and the Eisenhowers were staying there when Ike had his heart attack in 1955. The house is still in private ownership, and is not open to the public. However, if you’re a history buff, or if you just like Ike, and want to see it, it’s at 750 Lafayette Street, at 8th Avenue. The Number 6 bus will get you to 6th & Lafayette.

After his heart attack, Ike was treated at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center in nearby Aurora, 12 years after Senator John Kerry, nearly elected President in 2004 and now Secretary of State, was born there. It’s not a Presidential Birthplace, because Kerry narrowly lost. It is now the University of Colorado Hospital. The Fitzsimmons Golf Course is across Montview Boulevard – it figures that Ike would be hospitalized next to a golf course! 16th Avenue & Quentin Street. Number 20 bus from downtown.

The University of Denver’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts hosted a 2012 Presidential Debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. 2344 East Iliff Avenue, about 5 miles south of downtown. H Line light rail to University of Denver Station.

Denver doesn't have as many tall buildings as the nation's bigger cities, nor are they as interesting, architecturally. The tallest building in the State of Colorado is Republic Plaza, 714 feet high, at 17th Street & Tremont Place downtown.

The University of Colorado is in Boulder, 30 miles to the northwest. At Market Street Station, 16th & Market, take the BV Bus to the Boulder Transit Center, which is on campus. The ride should take about an hour and 20 minutes. Colorado State University is in Fort Collins, 65 miles up Interstate 25 north, and forget about reaching it by public transportation. The U.S. Air Force Academy is outside Colorado Springs, 60 miles down I-25.  As with Fort Collins, you'd need Greyhound. Unlike CSU, you might not be able to just go there: Some of the area is restricted.  It is, after all, a military base.

A few TV shows have been set in Denver, but you won't find their filming locations there. The old-time Western Whispering Smith and the more recent one Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman were set in old Colorado, but filmed in Southern California. Probably the most famous show set in Colorado is South Park, and that's a cartoon, so forget seeing anything from that. Not quite as cartoonish was Mork & Mindy, set in Boulder. The McConnell house actually is in Boulder, at 1619 Pine Street. But don't try to copy the opening-sequence scene with Robin Williams and Pam Dawber on the goalposts at the University of Colorado's Folsom Field.  You could fall, and end up saying, "Shazbot!"

The most famous show ever set in Colorado was Dynasty, ABC's Excessive Eighties counterpart to CBS' Dallas, starring John Forsythe as Blake Carrington, an oilman and a thinly-veiled version of Marvin Davis, who nearly bought the Oakland Athletics from Charlie Finley in 1978 with the idea of moving them to Denver, but the deal fell through. Right, you don't care about Blake, all you care about is the catfights between the 2nd and 1st Mrs. Carrington's: Krystle (Linda Evans) and Alexis (Joan Collins). The Carrington mansion seen in the opening credits is in Beverly Hills, but the building that stood in for the headquarters of Denver Carrington is at 621 17th Street, while the one that stood in for Colbyco is at 1801 California Street.

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Denver had been considered a potential destination for Major League Baseball many times: The Continental League planned a team for there for 1961, it was a finalist for expansion teams in 1969 and 1977, and, as I said, the A's came within inches of moving there for the 1978 season. When they finally got a team in 1993, they were embraced as perhaps no expansion team has ever been embraced -- even more than the Mets themselves in 1962. And, the way it's worked out, the Rockies' first-ever game was against the Mets (a Met win at Shea), and their first game at Coors was against the Mets (a Rockies win in 11 innings).

The Rockies have seen the bloom come off the rose, but they've also seen some real success. The experience of Coors Field should be a good one. Have fun!