Friday, September 30, 2016

The Yankees Did NOT Need to Rebuild. They Do Now.

Last night, the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 5-1 at Yankee Stadium II, clinching a series sweep, highlighted by the previous night's walkoff grand slam by the retiring Mark Teixeira.

It was the big 1st baseman's 206th "Teix Message" as a Yankee, and the 409th and probably last home run of a pretty good career, that includes 3 All-Star Games, 5 Gold Gloves, 6 postseason appearances, and the 2009 season in which he won the American League home run and RBI titles and the World Championship.

But the Baltimore Orioles also won, eliminating the Yankees from postseason competition.

The biggest deal of all last night, in the long run, was that this was the last time the big fat lying cheating bastard, David Ortiz, will ever play against the Yankees. He went 0-for-10 in this series. Would that he had gone 0-for-10 at any point in the 2004 American League Championship Series.

No player, not even his former Boston teammates Curt Schilling or Manny Ramirez, is more identified with beating the Yankees. And the North American sports establishment remains in operation of the Yankee Doodle Double Standard: They treat someone they know is corrupt like Donald Trump, a quirky entertainer who "knows how to win" and, with his Boston teammates, "made baseball great again"; while treating the Yankees the way the national media treats Hillary Clinton, as if every accusation, no matter how ridiculous, is absolutely true.

David Cone (who did pitch in Boston in 2001, but before Ortiz got there in 2003) and former teammate Jacoby Ellsbury gave him a leather-bound "book of farewells." Mariano Rivera gave him a painting of the new Yankee Stadium. (Not his own work. He only painted corners of the strike zone.)

What kind of tribute would I have given Ortiz? I would have had every Yankee Fan in The Stadium wait for him to be introduced, then get up, and turn their backs on him. Then, when he began to speak, get up and go to the bathroom, because his public statements thus far have been full of shit.

*

With 3 games left in the regular season, home to the Orioles, the Yankees are 9 games behind the Red Sox in the American League Eastern Division, which the Sox clinched on Tuesday despite the walkoff Teix Message. They are 4 out of the 2nd AL Wild Card. They are mathematically eliminated.

That they stayed in the race until September 29 is irrelevant. The purpose of the New York Yankees is not to stay in the race as long as possible. The purpose of the New York Yankees is to win the World Series. That general manager Brian Cashman did not give the team what it needed to do that is inexcusable, and he should be fired for it.

It could have been so much better. The Yankees had a chance. Since Cashman traded Aroldis Chapman on July 26, later trading the other great closer, Andrew Miller, and the team's best hitter through that point in the season, Carlos Beltran, they have gone 32-28.

Of those 28 losses, 9 were by 2 or fewer runs; 3 of those were to the Red Sox. If Chapman and Miller had been available, and would have prevented, say, just under half of those disasters, 4; and if Beltran had been available, and would have provided enough offensive production to prevent, say, 2; thus turning 2/3rds of those 9 1-run or 2-run losses, 6, into wins, including 2 of the 3 against the Sox (thus gaining us 2 games in the standings, not just 1)...

Then the Yankees would trail the Sox by 1 game with 3 to go, and would hold the 1st Wild Card slot (meaning they would host Game 163, as they did last season, for all the good it did them).

So don't tell me the Yankees were never in it. That's a lie.

With Girardi having to rely on his binder instead of on Miller and Chapman, the Yankees blew games they should have won on August 16 and September 24 and 25 vs. Toronto, August 22 vs. Seattle, August 29 vs. Kansas City, September 14 vs. the Dodgers, and September 15, 17 and 18 vs. the Red Sox. That's 9 games. The Playoffs should have been made, and the Division could have been won. (UPDATE: The Yankees finished 9 games behind the Red Sox, and 5 games behind the Orioles for the 2nd Wild Card).

Don't tell me the Yankees "had to rebuild." That's an even bigger lie. The Yankees' top 5 farm teams -- Scranton, Trenton, Tampa, Charleston and Staten Island -- all made their leagues' Playoffs. Charleston won a 1st-half Division title. Scranton won their Pennant.The Yankees' farm system was fine. It's the major-league team that needed help. They didn't get it.

You don't give away the store for "prospects" when you already have prospects. We did not need to "restock our farm system."

The problem is that Cashman didn't call up the prospects we already had when he should have. The most notorious example of this was letting Rob Refsnyder rot in Triple-A when Stephen Drew was struggling to reach a .200 batting average.

"Be patient"? Be patient for what? The "prospects" that Cashman got are 2 years away from Triple-A, at which point, Cashman will still be letting Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner block them. These "prospects," assuming they pan out enough just to get to Triple-A, will start feeling like Vic Power, wondering what might be the real reason they're not getting called up to the Yankees.

If I were in charge, I'd fire Cashman. I'd also fire Joe Girardi, who was bad enough with the bullpen when he could rely on Miller to pitch the 8th inning and Chapman the 9th, and was worse when it was Dellin Betances set to pitch the 9th, and a big 2-inning hole between the starter and Betances, all too rarely realizing that the starter could go more than 6 innings.

I would put Gene Michael, despite his age (78), back in the GM's office. I would let him make the necessary off-season deals. I would have him select the new field manager. And I would have him stay on as GM until next Opening Day, by which point he will have chosen his own successor as GM.

We cannot be patient and wait for these "prospects" to pan out. I'm still waiting for Steve "Bye-Bye" Balboni, Hensley "Bam-Bam" Meulens, Dan Pasqua, Scott Bradley, Jim Deshaies, Kevin Maas, Clay Parker, Kevin Mmahat and Brien Taylor to pan out.

(Yes, Mmahat, spelled with 2 M's at the beginning, and pronounced, "MOM-a-hot.")

When Cashman goes, and Girardi goes, then we can be optimistic again. Until then, I have to wonder if Cashman's next move won't be to trade Gary Sanchez for "prospects."

Sanchez and a few others could be part of the rebuilding job we didn't need before, but need now.

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September 30, 1399: Having deposed King Richard II, his 1st cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby and Northampton, Duke of Hereford and Duke of Lancaster, is proclaimed Henry IV, King of England and France, and Lord of Ireland.

Whether King Richard II should have been deposed -- and killed a year later -- is a separate debate. But the rise of King Henry IV set in motion what would become England's Wars of the Roses, between 2 branches of the House of Plantagenet: The House of Lancaster, whose symbol was a red rose; and the House of York, whose symbol was a white rose.

These 2 families, each representing one of England's historic counties, would fight on and off between 1455 and 1485, until King Richard III was killed in battle, ending the Yorkists' reign, and Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond and a direct descendant of King Edward III (grandfather of Richard II and Henry IV), was proclaimed King Henry VII, and reunited the houses by marrying Princess Elizabeth of York, daughter of Richard's brother, King Edward IV.

What does this have to do with sports? Well, Lancaster and York still harbor deep resentments toward each other, over 600 years since the start of the conflict and over 500 years since the Wars of the Roses. In sports, this is most evidence in soccer rivalries. Manchester United, now in the separate
"metropolitan county" of Greater Manchester but formerly in Lancaster (as was Liverpool, now in the metropolitan county of Merseyside), developed a rather nasty rivalry with the biggest team in Yorkshire, Leeds United.

Even the roses live on in soccer: Leeds United have a white rose in their crest, while Blackburn Rovers, one of the larger Lancashire clubs, have a red rose in theirs.

September 30, 1878: The baseball season ends, and the National League has its 1st Triple Crown winner. Paul Hines, a center fielder for the Providence Grays, led the NL in batting average with .358, home runs with 4, and RBIs with 50.

He would be the next season's batting champion as well, and help the Grays win the 1879 Pennant. He retired with a .302 average, and died in 1935, at the age of 80.

September 30, 1922: The University of Alabama defeats Marion Military Insitute of Marion, Alabama, in football, 110-0. It is the highest point total, and the highest margin of victory, in the long and glorious history of Crimson Tide football.

September 30, 1926, 90 years ago: Robin Evan Roberts is born in Springfield, Illinois. He was the captain of the basketball team at Michigan State University in 1950, but it would be in baseball where he would make his mark. He was the biggest reason the Philadelphia Phillies' "Whiz Kids" won the 1950 National League Pennant.

He was a 7-time All-Star, and 7 times won 20 or more games, 6 seasons in a row. In 1952, he won 28 games, a feat not achieved by any major league pitcher since, with 1 exception: Denny McLain with 31 in 1968. His career record, despite pitching for some terrible Phillies teams, was 286-246.

He is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the team halls of fame of the Phillies and the Baltimore Orioles. Phillies fans elected him their greatest all-time player in a 1969 poll, and named him to their Centennial Team in 1983. The Phillies made his Number 36 the 1st they ever retired, made him their 1st inductee into the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame (along with longtime Athletics owner and manager Connie Mack), and dedicated a statue of him outside Citizens Bank Park. A minor-league ballpark in Springfield is named Robin Roberts Stadium, and he is also in the Philadelphia Sports, Pennsylvania Sports and Michigan State University Athletics Halls of Fame.

He died in 2010, having lived to see their 1976-83 quasi-dynasty, the replacement of Connie Mack Stadium with Veterans Stadium, the replacement of The Vet with The Bank, the dedication of his statue, and their 2008 World Championship and 2009 Pennant.

He is not related to Robin René Roberts, the African-American ABC journalist who got her start doing sports on ESPN. She played basketball at Southeastern Louisiana University. Like Robin Evan (17), Robin René got her college basketball uniform number retired (21).

September 30, 1927: Babe Ruth hits a drive down the right field line at Yankee Stadium, off Tom Zachary of the Washington Senators. It is his 60th home run of the season, breaking the record of 59 that he set in 1921. The Yankees win the game 4-2. Herb Pennock is the winning pitcher, in relief of George Pipgras.

When Ruth gets back to  he dugout, he says, "Sixty! Count 'em, sixty! Let's see some other son of a bitch match that!"

This game is notable for another reason: It was the last major league playing appearance for Walter Johnson, the Senators pitcher who would, like Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson, be 1 of the 1st 5 players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Oddly, he did not appear as a pitcher, although he could have, had the Senators tied it and sent it to the bottom of the 9th: The Big Train pinch-hit for Zachary. He did not reach base.

Not until 1961 -- 34 years and 1 day later -- would another player match 60 home runs in a season. Roger Maris, also a right fielder for the Yankees, did, and surpassed it. Much is made of the small crowd when Maris hit Number 61, but when Ruth hit Number 60, only 8,000 showed up on a Saturday afternoon. It should be noted though that, in each case, the Yankees had already wrapped up the American League Pennant.

September 30, 1934: The regular season ends, with the Yankees losing 5-3 to the Senators at Griffith Stadium in Washington, despite a home run from Lou Gehrig. Babe Ruth goes 0-for-3, and it turns out to be his last appearance for the Yankees.

The Yankees finish 2nd in the AL, 7 games behind the Detroit Tigers. This is in spite of having players winning both the batting and the pitching Triple Crown.

Gehrig batted .363, with 49 home runs and 165 runs batted in. Lefty Gomez won 26 games (against just 5 losses, and no Yankee has matched those 26 wins since), had a 2.33 earned-run average, and struck out 158 batters. All of those figures led the League.

So why didn't the Yankees win the Pennant? Yes, the Tigers had a great team, but that didn't usually stop the Yankees between 1921 and 1964. Part of the problem was injuries. Center fielder Earle Combs hit his head on an unpadded outfield wall, played only 63 games, and was never the same. 3rd baseman Red Rolfe played only 89 games. And while Gomez and Red Ruffing were, as usual, the best lefty-righty combo in AL pitching, there wasn't really a good 3rd starter, let alone a 4th. Between them, center fielder Myril Hoag, 3rd baseman Jack Saltzgaver, and starting pitchers Johnny Broaca, Johnny Allen and Johnny Murphy (usually the team's top reliever) were not, well, Johnny-on-the-spot.

Gehrig was the 1st Yankee to win the Triple Crown. Only one has done it since.

September 30, 1936, 80 years ago: Game 1 of the World Series. George Selkirk hits a home run, but that's the only run Carl Hubbell, in the middle of his 24-game regular-season winning streak, allows, as the New York Giants beat the Yankees 6-1 at the Polo Grounds. Dick Bartell homers for the Jints.

Also on this day: Wayne Harrison Walker is born in Boise, Idaho. A linebacker, his Number 55 was retired by the University of Idaho, and he made 3 Pro Bowls for the Detroit Lions. (UPDATE: He died on May 19, 2017.)

September 30, 1939: For the 1st time, a football game is broadcast on television. W2XBS, the RCA-owned station that will become WNBC-Channel 4, sets their cameras up at Triborough Stadium on Randall's Island in New York, and shows Fordham University, of The Bronx, beat Waynesburg University of Southwestern Pennsylvania, 34-7.

Triborough Stadium was renamed J.J. Downing Stadium in 1955, and hosted Negro League games, the New York Cosmos in 1974 and '75, and the New York Stars of the 1974 World Football League. The 22,000-seat horseshoe was demolished in 2002, and Icahn Stadium opened on the site 2 years later.

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September 30, 1942: Game 1 of the World Series. Red Ruffing of the Yankees takes a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the St. Louis Cardinals, before Terry Moore breaks it up with 2 out. In the bottom of the 9th, the Cardinals score 4 runs, and then manage to load the bases, bringing Stan Musial -- then a rookie, a few years away from getting his nickname "Stan the Man," but already one of the game's top hitters -- to the plate as the winning run.

Yankee manager Joe McCarthy brings Spurgeon "Spud" Chandler in to relieve. He gets Musial to ground out. Final score: Yankees 7, Cardinals 4.

As historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, 3 months away from being born, would later say, "There's always these omens in baseball." Going into that bottom of the 9th, the Yankees led 7-0. Over the rest of the Series, including that bottom of the 9th, the Cardinals outscored the Yankees 21-11.

September 30, 1944: James Connolly Johnstone in born in Viewpark (now Uddingston), a suburb of Glasgow, Scotland. An outside right (a right winger in today's formations), Jimmy Johnstone, a.k.a. Jinky, played for hometown soccer team Celtic from 1961 to 1975, winning 9 League titles and 4 Scottish Cups, and was voted the club's greatest player ever by its fans.

In 1967, he was the big star of their team that became the 1st British side to win the European Cup (the tournament now known as the UEFA Champions League), defeating Internazionale Milano at Lisbon, Portugal (earning the team the nickname the Lisbon Lions). Later that year, he played for the Scotland national team that beat World Cup holders England, leading Scottish fans to proclaim their team "World Champions." (It doesn't work that way, as boxing does.)

In 1975, he played for the original San Jose Earthquakes, in the original North American Soccer League. He died in 2006.

September 30, 1945: John Sissons (no middle name) is born in Hayes, Middlesex -- now a part of West London. A forward, he was a member of the West Ham United team that won the 1964 FA Cup and the 1965 European Cup Winners' Cup. He briefly played in America, helping the Tampa Bay Rowdies win the 1975 North American Soccer League title. He is still alive.

September 30, 1946, 70 years ago: Bernardus Adriaan Hulshoff is born in Deventer, Netherlands. We know him as Barry Hulshoff. Playing for Amsterdam soccer team AFC Ajax, the centreback won 7 national league (Eredivisie) titles, 4 national cups (KNVB Beker), and 3 straight European Cups (the tournament now known as the UEFA Champions League), in 1971, '72 and '73.

Despite his playing pedigree, he only played 14 times for the Netherlands national team, and never made their World Cup squad. He later managed Ajax and several teams in the Netherlands and Belgium, but has been out of soccer since 2002.

September 30, 1947: Game 1 of the World Series. The Brooklyn Dodgers have won the Pennant, and, all together, Jackie Robinson and his 24 white teammates, stand on the 3rd-base line at Yankee Stadium, hearing the National Anthem. Jackie would write in his memoir I Never Had It Made that this was the highlight of his career: Not only that he had played in the white major leagues, but that he had been accepted by his teammates, and, together, they had succeeded. They were the National League Champions.

But they still had a World Series to play, in front of 73,365 people -- over twice the capacity of Ebbets Field. Dodger Captain Pee Wee Reese scores all the way from 2nd base on a wild pitch by rookie starter Frank "Spec" Shea in the 7th inning. But that's the only real highlight for the Dodgers, as the Yankees batter 21-year-old 21-game winner Ralph Branca for 5 runs in the 5th, and go on to win 5-3.

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September 30, 1950: Two new college football stadiums open. Byrd Stadium opens on the campus of the University of Maryland in College Park, outside Washington, D.C. Maryland defeats the nearby U.S. Naval Academy 35-21.

It still stands, but is now named Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. The playing surface's naming rights were sold, but the name of the stadium itself was changed upon objections to Harry "Curley" Byrd, who served the University as football coach, athletic director and eventually president, having been a segregationist.

I visited on September 26, 2009, and saw Rutgers beat Maryland 34-13. It rained all game long, and the steep grade of the stands and the rain made it treacherous. It may not be a bad stadium when it's dry, but if UMd wants to replace it, I won't mind a bit.

On this same day, Baylor Stadium opens in Waco, Texas, home to Baylor University. Baylor defeats the University of Houston 34-7. In 1988, it was renamed Floyd Casey Stadium, after Casey's son Carl donated the money needed to renovate it. Baylor moved into the new McLane Stadium in 2013, and the old stadium was demolished earlier this year.

On the same day, Lynn St. John dies in Columbus at age 73. He was Ohio State University's basketball coach from 1911 to 1919, its baseball coach from 1913 to 1928, and its athletic director from 1912 to 1947. Ohio State's arena was named for him in 1956, and he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1962.

September 30, 1951: After being 13 1/2 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers on August 11, the New York Giants think they have the Pennant won, as they beat the Boston Braves 3-2 at Braves Field in Boston. The hero, with a home run, is 3rd baseman Bobby Thomson.

But the Dodgers, having blown that huge lead, aren't done yet. At Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Jackie Robinson makes a sensational catch at 2nd base in the bottom of the 12th inning, then hits a home run in the top of the 14th, and the Dodgers beat the Philadelphia Phillies 9-8. There will be a best-2-out-of-3 Playoff for the National League Pennant, starting the next day.

A coin is tossed to determine home-field advantage. The Dodgers win the toss -- and elect to host Game 1 at Ebbets Field, thus letting the Giants host Games 2 and 3 at the Polo Grounds. This will turn out to be one of the greatest blunders in the history of baseball.

In the meantime, the American League Champions, the Yankees, wait to see whom they will face in the World Series. Rookie right fielder, and center fielder in waiting, Mickey Mantle asks his teammates who he should root for. He's told it should be the Giants, since Ebbets Field seats only 31,000 people, while the Polo Grounds seats 56,000, and the gate receipts, and thus the winners' share, will be much bigger if the Giants win.

September 30, 1953: Game 1 of the World Series. Gil Hodges, George "Shotgun" Shuba and Jim "Junior" Gilliam hit home runs for the Dodgers. It's not enough, as Yogi Berra and Joe Collins do the same for the Yankees, who win 9-5.

Johnny Sain is the winning pitcher. The Yankees gave up Lew Burdette to get Sain from the Boston Braves. Burdette would help the Braves, by then in Milwaukee, drive the Yankees crazy in the 1957 and '58 Series. But Sain helped the Yankees big-time, so it was an even trade.

September 30, 1955: Game 3 of the World Series. The Dodgers get back into the Series, thanks to the pitching of Johnny Podres and a home run by Roy Campanella. They beat the Yankees 8-3, and close to within 2 games to 1.

September 30, 1956, 60 years ago: The Detroit Tigers beat the Cleveland Indians, 8-4 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Wayne Belardi hits a home run, and Billy Hoeft wins his 20th game of the season.

The losing pitcher is Bob Feller, who falls to 0-4 on the season, and 266-162 for his career, with 2,581 strikeouts, despite missing nearly 4 full seasons due to military service. Nearly 38, this is the last major league appearance for perhaps the best pitcher of his generation. It is interesting that it happens on the 29th Anniversary of Walter Johnson's last appearance.

Also on this day, Mickey Mantle finishes a season in which he batted .353, hit 52 home runs, and had 130 RBIs. He led both Leagues in all 3 categories, and that hasn't happened since. He was the 2nd Yankee, after Gehrig, to win the Triple Crown. None has done it since. Babe Ruth didn't do it. Nor did Joe DiMaggio, nor Reggie Jackson, nor Don Mattingly, nor Derek Jeter, nor Alex Rodriguez.

September 30, 1962: Franklin Edmundo Rijkaard is born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The son of immigrants from the Netherlands' South American colony of Surinam (now an independent country), the Jheri-curled midfielder helped hometown club Ajax win 5 Eredivisie (Dutch league) titles and the 1995 Champions League.

This was in 2 separate stints with the club. In between, he played in Italy for AC Milan, along with fellow Dutchman Marco Van Basten and fellow Dutch-Surinamese Ruud Gullit. Together, they combined Dutch totalvoetbaal, South American samba, and Italian catenaccio defense to form perhaps the best club side in soccer history, winning 2 Serie A (Italian league) titles, and the European Cup in 1989 and 1990 -- still the last team to win the tournament now named the Champions League back-to-back.

The 3 Milan players also helped the Netherlands win their only international tournament to date, Euro 1988. Rijkaard also managed Barcelona to the 2005 and 2006 La Liga (Spanish league) titles and the 2006 Champions League. He and Carlo Ancelotti, another of his Milan teammates, are the only men to win the Champions League as both a player and a manager.

September 30, 1966, 50 years ago: The Yankees lose 6-5 to the Chicago White Sox in 11 innings at Comiskey Park. Roger Maris hits a home run, his last as a Yankee. But a single by Johnny Romano drives in ayne Causey, and makes a 20-game loser out of Mel Stottlemyre.

This drops the Yankees' record to 68-89, and assures that they will finish in 10th place in the single-division American League. This is the 1st time in 54 years that the Yankees have finished in last place. They have only done so once more, in 1990.

September 30, 1967: The Boston Red Sox host the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park on the next-to-last day of the season. They and the Detroit Tigers are all still eligible for the AL Pennant.

Oddly, NBC is not televising it as the Game of the Week. Fortunately, Boston's Channel 5, then WHDH, a CBS affiliate (it's now WCVB and part of ABC), is televising it, and keeps a copy. As far as we know, this is the earliest surviving entire color TV broadcast of a Major League Baseball game.

Twins starter Jim Kaat is cruising until the 3rd inning, when he is injured and has to leave the game. Jim Perry comes in, and holds the Sox off until the 5th. Reggie Smith leads off with a double, and Dalton Jones singles. Perry strikes out opposing pitcher Jose Santiago and Mike Andrews, but Jerry Adair and Carl Yastrzemski use back-to-back singles to turn a 1-0 Twins lead into 2-1 Red Sox.

The Twins tie the game in the 6th, but home runs by George Scott in the 6th and Yaz in the 7th make it 6-2 Sox. Harmon Killebrew homers for the Twins in the 9th, by Gary Bell (later to become famous as Jim Bouton's Seattle Pilots roommate in Ball Four) shuts the down, and the Sox win, 6-4.

The Sox and Twins are now tied. Whichever wins tomorrow will have at least a tie for the Pennant. The Tigers are rained out, and will play a doubleheader. If they sweep, a Playoff will be necessary. If they only split, the Sox-Twins winner takes the flag.

Also on this day, Philadelphia's new arena, The Spectrum, opens across from the north end zone at John F. Kennedy Stadium. To the north of The Spectrum, construction is underway on Veterans Stadium, to be the new home of MLB's Phillies and the NFL's Eagles.

The 1st event at The Spectrum is the Quaker Jazz Festival. Over the next few weeks, the NBA's 76ers and the NHL's Flyers will move in. Villanova University will also use it for games whose ticket demand exceed their on-campus arena. The building will be home to 4 championship teams: The back-to-back Stanley Cups of the Flyers in 1974 and 1975, the 76ers' 1983 NBA title, and Villanova's 1985 NCAA Championship.

It will be replaced as home of the Sixers, Flyers and 'Nova, and as the Delaware Valley's leading concert center, in 1996, by the building now known as the Wells Fargo Center, which will be built on the site of JFK Stadium. It will be demolished in 2010.

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September 30, 1971: The last Washington Senators game is played, against the Yankees at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. Team owner Bob Short, having already moved the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles in 1960, has announced he's moving the Senators to the Dallas area, to become the Texas Rangers. He complains about the low attendance, despite having the highest ticket prices in the American League, and no subway access to RFK Stadium. (Washington's Metro would not open until 1976.)

Frank Howard, the Senators' most popular player in their 2nd go-around of 1961-71, hits the last home run. Dick Bosman starts, and stands to be the winning pitcher as the Senators lead 7-5 with 1 out left in the 9th. All he has to do is get Bobby Murcer out.

But he can't, through no fault of his own. Angry fans from the "crowd" of 14,461 people storm the field. The umpires cannot restore order, and they forfeit the game to the Yankees.

The next April, Bosman also starts the team's 1st game as the Rangers. Major League Baseball will not return to the Nation's Capital, except for the occasional preseason exhibition game, until the 2005 season. Only 2 AL games have been forfeited since, both promotions that turned into fiascos: The Cleveland Indians' Ten-Cent Beer Night in 1974, and the Chicago White Sox' Disco Demolition Night in 1979.

Also on this day, the Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1 at Shea Stadium. Tom Seaver gets the win, his 20th of the season, and will go on to win his 2nd Cy Young Award. A young right fielder named Ken Singleton, who had grown up in New York as a Met fan, hits 2 home runs. But he will become better known for playing for the Baltimore Orioles, and broadcasting for the Yankees.

No one knows it at the time, but this is the last game the Mets will play with Gil Hodges as their manager. At the end of Spring Training in 1972, he suffers a heart attack and dies, not quite 48 years old.

September 30, 1972: The Mets lose to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 5-0 at Three Rivers Stadium. Roberto Clemente hits a double off Jon Matlack, for his 3,000th career hit. A quote, which may be apocryphal given what happened 3 months later, suggests Roberto's determination: "I have to get that hit this year. I might die."

Also on this day, Martin Stadium opens in Pullman, eastern Washington. Washington State University loses the 1st game at its new stadium, 44-25 to the University of Utah.

A new stadium was necessary because Wazzu's previous home field, Rogers Field, burned down on April 4, 1970. It was soon generally accepted that the cause was arson. The Cougars played the 1970 and '71 seasons at Joe Albi Stadium in nearby Spokane while Martin Stadium was built on the site of Rogers Field.

Clarence D. Martin Jr. donated the money necessary to build it, on the condition that it be named for his father, a former Governor of the State. Ironically, Clarence Sr. was a graduate of WSU's arch-rivals, the University of Washington. At 32,952 seats, Martin Stadium is the smallest football facility in the league now known as the Pacific-12 Conference.

September 30, 1978: Ed Figueroa becomes the 1st pitcher born in Puerto Rico to win 20 games in a season (and is still the only one), pitching a 5-hit shutout. The Yankees knock Cleveland starter Mike Paxton out of the box before he can get an out, and Rick Wise pitches the rest of the way, with Reggie Jackson homering off him in the 5th inning. (Mr. October was pretty good in September, too.) Given the boost, Figgy cruises to a 7-0 victory at Yankee Stadium.

The next day is the last day of the regular season. All the Yankees need to do is beat the Indians again, or have the Boston Red Sox lose to the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park, and the Yankees will win their 3rd straight American League Eastern Division title.

They didn't get the win, and they didn't get the Boston loss. It would go to a Playoff at Fenway. Well, we know how that story ends, don't we?

September 30, 1986, 30 years ago: Olivier Giroud (no middle name) is born in Chambéry, Rhône-Alpes, France, and grows up in nearby Froges, near the 1968 Winter Olympic city of Grenoble. The forward starred for local club Grenoble 38 Foot and Tours FC, before leading the national league, Ligue 1, in scoring in 2011-12, and leading his club, Montpellier, to an improbable title.

That convinced Arsène Wenger, manager of North London team Arsenal, to sign him. There are many Arsenal fans, for whom 2nd place is "failure" and 4th place (out of 20 in the English Premier League) is "midtable mediocrity," with constant complaints about him: That he doesn't score enough, that he isn't "world-class" or "clinical," and that he doesn't have enough "pace," and is "useless unless the ball is put right on his foot" (ignoring all the goals scored with what NBC Sports announcer Arlo White calls "the meaty French forehead of Olivier Giroud).

Nevertheless, the man known as Oli G has scored 57 goals in 137 appearances over the last 4 years. He also helped get the French national team to the Final of Euro 2016.

When he scores, the Arsenal fans sing, to the Beatles' "Hey Jude," "Na, na na, na na na na... Na na na na... Giroud!" They also sing, to "The Roof Is On Fire" by Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three, "Giroud! Giroud! Giroud is on fire!" He makes women swoon with his face and physique, and goalkeepers cry with his feet and his meaty French forehead.

September 30, 1995: The FleetCenter opens in Boston, right behind the Boston Garden. The new home of the NBA's Celtics and the NHL's Bruins is now named the TD Garden.

September 30, 1996, 20 years ago: His contract with Japanese soccer team Nagoya Grampus Eight having run out, Arsène Wenger is free to manage another team, and he officially takes charge as manager of Arsenal Football Club of North London.

Wenger wasn't much of a player, winning Ligue 1 as a defensive midfielder at his hometown club, Racing Club Strasbourg Alsace (usually just listed as "Strasbourg"), in 1979. But as manager of AS Monaco, which is in the French league even though Monaco is a separate (but tiny) country, he won Ligue 1 in 1988 and the national cup, the Coupe de France, in 1991. He led Nagoya to Japan's national cup, the Emperor's Cup, in 1995.

Just short of his 47th birthday, and already successful as a manager, he seemed like a good choice for The Arsenal, who had won 6 trophies from 1987 to 1994, but had struggled in the Premier League, finishing 10th in 1993, 4th in 1994, 12th in 1995, and 5th in 1996.

But, at the time, it was rare for a manager not from the British Isles to manage in England. One newspaper printed the headline, "ARSENE WHO?" No less a personage than Arsenal's captain, centreback Tony Adams, asked, "What does this Frenchman know about English football?"

He knew enough to know that Adams had recently made a public admission of being a recovering alcoholic. He straightened out the team's diet (including no booze the night before a game) and exercise program. He also brought in several European players, including fellow Frenchmen Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Nicolas Anelka, and Dutchman Marc Overmars. Together with already-present Dutch star Dennis Bergkamp, and the club's English core of Adams, David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn, Martin Keown, David Platt, Ray Parlour and the legendary striker Ian Wright, In 1997, he finished his 1st season in charge in 3rd place. In 1998, he won the Premier League and the FA Cup, a.k.a. "doing The Double."

He finished runner-up in both in 1999, and Anelka, only 19 years old, thought his performances demanded a big raise, or a sale to a bigger club. Wenger sold him to Real Madrid, and used half the profits to build a new training ground, and the other half to buy young French winger Thierry Henry, whom he converted into a striker, who broke Wright's club record for career goals. Wenger would also sign a great pair of wingers in Sweden's Freddie Ljungberg (in 1998) and France's Robert Pires (in 2000), develop great young defenders in Ashley Cole and Kolo Toure, and make the stunning acquisition (in 2001) of English centreback Sol Campbell, who had been captain of Arsenal's North London arch-rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

Wenger finished 2nd and lost the UEFA Cup Final in 2000, finished 2nd and lost the FA Cup Final in 2001, won The Double again in 2002, finished 2nd and won another FA Cup in 2003, and, in the 2003-04 season, did something that had not been done since the League had only a 22-game season: He went unbeaten. As the broadcaster said after it was achieved: "Played 38, won 26, drawn 12, lost exactly none!" He would win another FA Cup in 2005, and reach the Final of the UEFA Champions League in 2006.

But the Arsenal Stadium, a.k.a. Highbury after its neighborhood, only seated 38,000, and its east and west stands had been built in the 1930s. A modern stadium was needed if Arsenal was to compete, but paying for it meant that transactions needed to be made, perhaps sacrificing trophies for expediency. The new Emirates Stadium opened in 2006, and here's what happened: Arsenal lost the League Cup Final in 2007, finished 2nd in the League in 2008, reached the Semifinals of the Champion League and the FA Cup in 2009, lost the League Cup Final in 2011, just barely scraped into Champions League qualification in 2012 and 2013, were struck by several injuries in just about every season, and had to sell several players because of financial concerns: Vieira in 2005, Pires in 2006, Henry in 2007, Manuel Almunia and Gilberto Silva in 2008, Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor in 2009, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in 2011, and Robin van Persie in 2012.

But Wenger built another great team: Signing Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky in 2006, Bacary Sagna in 2007, Aaron Ramsey in 2008, Laurent Koscielny in 2010, Per Mertesacker and Héctor Bellerín in 2011, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla in 2012, Mesut Özil and Nacho Monreal in 2013, Alexis Sánchez in 2014, Petr Čech in 2015, Mohamed Elneny in this year's January transfer window, and, just this summer, Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Pérez. The result has been continuous Champions League knockout round qualification, and the FA Cup in 2014 and 2015.

Wenger is known for his clichés, which seem a little grammatically odd when they move from his French mind to his English words: A player who is good, "He has the quality"; if he's smart, "He has the mental strength"; if he's unsure of himself, "He lacks the confidence"; and dropping the qualifier "a little bit" into phrases, i.e., "He lacked a little bit the confidence." He doesn't like it when opposing players foul his, but when one of his players is charged, he tells the media, "I did not see it."

His critics like to say, "The game has passed him by," "His tactics are shit," and that it's time for him to go. But he has just about paid off the new stadium, meaning he can put the profits into the team for a change. And, despite the crunched finances, he has kept The Arsenal in contention for trophies. He is a remarkable man, an idealist in a cynical age. Whereas some managers want to win in the worst way, he wants to win in the best way. He's done it before. Turning 67 on October 22, I have no doubt that he will again.

September 30, 1997: Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium. What is expected to be a pitchers' duel between wily veterans David Cone of the Yankees and Orel Hershiser of the Cleveland Indians does not develop.

The Indians torch Coney for 5 runs in the 1st inning. In the bottom of the 6th, it is 6-3 Cleveland. But Tim Raines, Derek Jeter and Paul O'Neill hit 3 straight home runs, to win the game 8-6, with Ramiro Mendoza getting the win in relief.

*

September 30, 2006, 10 years ago: On Arsène Wenger’s 10th Anniversary in charge, Arsenal visit South London club Charlton Athletic, and win 2-1. Robin van Persie scores a wonder goal.

van Persie could have been an all-time legend at Arsenal if he had stayed, or at his hometown club, Feyenoord in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, had he stayed there. Instead, he got greedy, and demanded to be sold. He has moved on to Manchester United, where he won the League title in 2013, then saw manager Alex Ferguson retire, leaving the club in a bit of a mess. Now, he plays for Fenerbahçe in Istanbul, Turkey.

He could have been a legend. Instead, he has become a footnote in the history of every team for whom he's played. That is what he got along with that 1 League title. Was it worth it?

Also on this date, Julio Franco breaks his own record as the oldest player ever to hit a home run in a major league game. He's 48 years old as he takes Beltran Perz deep in the 2nd inning. David Wright, Shawn Green, Ramon Castro and Endy Chavez also homer for the Mets, who beat the Washington Nationals, 13-0 at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington.

The Mets are the Champions of the National League Eastern Division -- the only time they will finish 1st between 1988 and 2015. They are the favorites for the NL Pennant as the regular season comes to an end.

September 30, 2007: This is the game that got Tom Glavine branded "The Manchurian Brave" by Met fans. Having led the NL East by 7 games with 17 to go, the Mets have collapsed, but they go into the regular-season finale, against the Florida Marlins at Shea Stadium, needing a win or a Philadelphia Phillies loss to clinch their 2nd straight NL East title, and a win or a Colorado Rockies loss to at least win the 1 Wild Card available at the time.

Glavine starts. He walks Hanley Ramirez. He gets Dan Uggla to ground into a force play at 2nd base. So far, not terrible. But the roof caves in. He gives up a single to Jeremy Hermida. He gives up a single to Miguel Cabrera, scoring Ramirez. He gives up a double to Cody Ross, and when the ball comes back to him in the infield, he tries to throw Ross out at 3rd, and makes a bad throw, and he becomes the 3rd run of the at-bat.

He allows a single to Mike Jacobs. He walks Matt Treanor. He gives up a single to future Met Alejandro de Aza, loading the bases. He faces the opposing starting pitcher, Dontrelle Willis, and hits him, forcing Jacobs in. Manager Willie Randolph has seen enough, and removes him with the score 5-0. He'd faced all 9 batters in the Marlin starting lineup, and had gotten exactly 1 of them out.

Jorge Sosa is the new pitcher, and he strikes Ramirez out. But he allows a double to Uggla, who drives in Treanor and de Aza, both of whose runs are charged to Glavine. When he finally gets Hermida to ground to 1st, it is Marlins 7, Mets 0.

By the time one of the most traumatic days in Met history is over, the Mets have used 8 pitchers, and lost 8-1. The Phillies beat the Nationals, 6-1 at Citizens Bank Park, and win a Playoff berth and the Division for the 1st time in 14 years. And the Rockies complet their own amazing surge, beating the Arizona Diamondbacks, 4-3 at Coors Field. It's not enough to win them the NL West, but it's enough to get them a tie with the San Diego Padres for the Wild Card berth, instead of it going to the Mets.

"I'm not devastated," Glavine says after the game. "I'm disappointed, but devastation is for much greater things in life." Feeling pretty devastated themselves, Met fans never forgive him for this, and he never pitches for them again. He is released, and returns to Atlanta for a final season.

September 30, 2014: The current and former Kansas City teams face off in the American League Wild Card game at Kauffman Stadium. The Oakland Athletics score 5 runs in the top of the 6th inning to take a 5-2 lead over the Kansas City Royals, but the Royals score 3 in the bottom of the 8th to stun the A's and send the game to extra innings.

It looked like the A's have it won in the top of the 12th, as Josh Reddick leads off with a walk, gets bunted to 2nd by Jed Lowrie, advances to 3rd on a wild pitch by Jason Frasor, and then scores on a single by Alberto Callaspo.

But in the bottom of the 12th, Eric Hosmer triples with 1 out, and Christian Colon singles him home with the tying run. Colon steals 2nd, and Salvador Perez singles him home with the run that puts the Royals in the Playoffs proper, 9-8.

September 30, 2015: The Toronto Blue Jays clinch their 1st AL East title, and their 1st Playoff berth, since 1993. They beat the Baltimore Orioles 15-2 at Camden Yards. And the St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-1 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, to clinch the NL Central title.

September 30, 2016: Tonight, the Golden 1 Center opens in downtown Sacramento, built to save the NBA's Sacramento Kings from moving. They almost moved to Anaheim in 2012 and Seattle in 2013, before the deal to build this new arena, to replace the Sleep Train (formerly ARCO) Arena, was done in 2014.

How to Be a Giant Fan In Green Bay -- 2016 Edition

On Sunday, October 9, the Giants will be in Wisconsin to play the Green Bay Packers. This is a rarity in the NFL: These two teams have been trying to crush each other since 1925.

Before You Go. You've heard the legends of how cold it gets in Green Bay -- and, indeed, it is further north than Toronto, roughly as far north as Plattsburgh, New York and Burlington, Vermont, which are about 300 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. However, this is the middle of September, so the bitterly cold weather they sometimes get will not be a factor.

By the way, John Facenda, the longtime Voice of NFL Films, never said, on any highlight reel, the words "the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field." (They've checked.) It is now believed that ESPN's Chris Berman, doing an impression of Facenda, made it up. Though I did hear another announcer, talking about the 1967 NFL Championship Game, the legendary Ice Bowl, say it was "a day savage enough to make a Saint Bernard whimper," and add, "It is called Russian Winter: The kind of cold that made Napoleon and Hitler flee in terror from the doorstep of Moscow. But, in Green Bay, it is known as Packer Weather."

(In fact, Hitler's troops never quite got that far, and he didn't go with them. Napoleon, to his credit, did share his troops' hardships, and they did reach Moscow, but the locals had burned it, leaving it not worth keeping, and Napoleon and his Grand Army left.)

According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, on Sunday afternoon, the temperatures should be in the high 50s. But the game will be played on Saturday night, at 7:30 PM local time, when it is projected to be in the low 40s, maybe the high 30s. So while you might not need a winter jacket in daylight, you will need one at night, during the game.

Green Bay is in the Central Time Zone, 1 hour behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. Unless you've already got them, or want to pay through the nose to a scalper, forget it. Last season, the Packers averaged 78,413 fans per home game -- a sellout. These people loved their football even before Vince Lombardi came along. Once he did, well... The Ice Bowl? Attendance that day was 50,861. That was the capacity of Lambeau Field at the time. So, for the coldest game in football history (or so it's been said), there was not one empty seat in the house.

Having sold out every seat since Lambeau opened nearly 60 years ago, and having a waiting list that makes the traffic backup at the Meadowlands seem small by comparison, tickets are simply not available at the stadium window or on the team website. I do see tickets available from the NFL Ticket Exchange on Ticketmaster, but most seem to come in pairs (in other words, you'll have to buy both seats), and they're starting at around $100. Most of them are in the $150-250 range.

Getting There. Downtown Green Bay is an even 1,000 miles from Midtown Manhattan, and Lambeau Field is 990 miles from MetLife Stadium. If you don't want to take most of a day to get there, you'll want to fly.

Yeah, good luck with that. There is an airport in Green Bay, Austin Straubel International Airport, but it doesn't have nonstop flights from New York or Newark. In fact, getting a nonstop flight from home just to General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee is something you're probably not going to be able to do. Your best bet may be to fly to Chicago and rent a car for the last... 194 miles. That's right: Instead of flying or driving, you'd have to do both.

(Billy Mitchell was an Army General from the Milwaukee suburbs, and an early advocate for air power. Austin Straubel was an Army Air Force Major from Green Bay who was killed in action in World War II.)

Forget the train: Amtrak goes to Milwaukee, but not to Green Bay, and there's no secondary service such as New Jersey Transit, Metro-North or the Long Island Rail Road to connect Wisconsin's major city with its football city.

Bus? Greyhound does go there, but you'd have to leave Port Authority, change buses in Chicago and again in Milwaukee. And, the way the schedules work out, you'll probably need 2 nights in a hotel. I don't know what your chance is of getting a hotel room within a 50-mile radius of Green Bay on an Autumn weekend is, but I'm not optimistic. Round-trip bus fare: $198. The Greyhound station is at 800 Cedar Street, at Main and Van Buren Streets.

So your best bet really is to drive. It's far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is the key, until it merges with Interstate 94, which will merge with Interstate 43.

I-94 will split off from I-43 at downtown Milwaukee. Stay on I-43 North. Take Exit 180 to State Route 172 West. Exit onto State Route 32, and turn left on Pilgrim Way. You'll see a sign for Holmgren Way, named for the former Packer coach. On your right will be the Bay Park Square Mall. Turn right on Oneida Street. Before you reach Lombardi Avenue, you will see Lambeau Field on your left, and on your right, Green Bay's arenas: The old one, the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena; and the new one, the Resch Center (named for a local businessman, not Devils goalie-turned-broadcaster Chico Resch). The official address for the stadium is 1265 Lombardi Avenue.
The Brown County Arena, Shopko Hall (a concert venue)
and the Resch Center

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, an hour and a half in Illinois, and about 3 hours in Wisconsin. That's about 17 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Chicago, it should be no more than 23 hours, which would save you time on Greyhound, if not on flying.

Once In the City. As you might guess, Green Bay -- named for the body of water it's on, and incorporated as a French fur-trading village in 1754, making it older than most of the big Midwestern cities -- is by far the smallest city in any of the 4 major North American sports: 104,057 people at the time of the 2010 Census, making it the 3rd-largest city in Wisconsin after Milwaukee and the State capital of Madison.

Its "metropolitan area" (if you don't count it as part of Milwaukee's) has about 300,000 people -- by comparison, Milwaukee has a little over 2 million in its area, making it the smallest in Major League Baseball. If you combine the 2 into one "market," in the NFL, they'd still be 26th out of 32, ahead of only Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Nashville, Jacksonville, Buffalo and New Orleans.

So why did Green Bay survive as an NFL city, when larger, but still not big, cities didn't get out of the NFL's founding era (1920-32)? Cities like Providence, Rhode Island; Rochester, New York; Pottsville, Pennsylvania; Canton, Ohio; Muncie, Indiana; Rock Island, Illinois; and Duluth, Minnesota? At one point, after a rocky beginning to their relationship, starting a rivalry between the teams that continues to this day, Chicago Bears boss and NFL co-founder George Halas stepped in and had his fellow team owners chip in to bail the team out of a serious debt. Between this, and the fact that the Packers are publicly owned through stock sales (the only such team in the big 4 North American sports), and the expansion of Lambeau Field, means the Packers will never have to move -- not to "nearby" Milwaukee, not anywhere else.

Walnut Street divides Green Bay addresses into North and South, but the only major road dividing into an East and West is Walnut, divided at the Fox River, which bisects the city. While the Fox flows into the body of water named Green Bay, a New Yorker might appreciate this: The city also has an East River, which flows into the Fox, downtown.

The sales tax in Wisconsin is 5 percent. As you might guess, a city as small as Green Bay doesn't have a subway. Public buses are $1.50. ZIP Codes in Wisconsin start with the digits 53 and 54, and for the Green Bay area, 541, 542 and 543. The Area Code is 920.

Going In. Green Bay Metro buses offer free rides from downtown to the stadium, which is 3 miles southwest. Lambeau is an island in a sea of parking, which costs $18. Not surprising, considering that this is the Midwest, Big Ten County, tailgating is encouraged.
When it opened, 1957

All stadium gates open 2 hours prior to kickoff, and are accessible to fans with disabilities. Fans with seats in the South End (i.e. section numbers ending with the letter "S") must enter through the Shopko Gate on the south side of the stadium, which is for the exclusive use of South End ticket holders. Fans sitting elsewhere in the stadium are encouraged to use the gate suggested on their ticket for the most direct route to their seats.
Expanded by 1965, it looked like this through
the Vince Lombardi era.

For most of its history, Lambeau Field was not an architectural marvel. It looked like a typical American sports stadium of the post-World War II era: Functional, but nothing special. It was the Packers who provided the glory, but how the stadium looked was not a factor.
1996, the season the Packers won the Super Bowl
with Mike Holmgren, Brett Favre and Reggie White.

A recent renovation, which expanded capacity to 78,200 (officially, it's 80,735, however 78,200 is listed as the record attendance), also changed the exterior. Whereas it was built in 1957 as looking like an oversized high school football stadium -- with an appropriate name, City Stadium -- and by the 1980s had a green exterior on the sides that held up the luxury boxes, now it's surrounded by a red brick exterior, trying to copy the look of lots of "Memorial Stadiums" throughout the country, especially in the Midwest, built in the 1920s as memorials to World War I.

(These include those at the universities of Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, and the former stadium in Minnesota -- but not Indiana, as their Memorial Stadium was built after World War II and isn't nearly as classic-looking.)
This added exterior includes a new facility for the Packers Hall of Fame, and a bar called Curly's Pub, named for Earl "Curly" Lambeau, the Green Bay native and Notre Dame football star who founded the team, as a "company team" from co-workers at the Indian Packing Company, which was the team's initial sponsor.

(English soccer fans would call a company team a "works side." The arch-rival Chicago Bears were also originally a company team, based at the A.E. Staley Starch Company of Decatur, Illinois, and were known as the Decatur Staleys before moving upstate to Chicago.)

Lambeau played for the team from its 1919 founding until 1929, and coached it from 1919 to 1949. Like Bears founder George Halas, he was a good player, a very good coach, and, most importantly in the long run, a great administrator. The team wouldn't have gotten through the Depression, let alone to the post-merger era, without him, and without help from his rival Halas, who stood up for the NFL's last small-city team when that help was needed most. When Lambeau died in 1965, the new stadium was renamed for him.

(Halas stepped in again in 1955 to convince the other owners to chip in to build Lambeau Field. Perhaps this was his way of making up for almost killing the team in 1921, when he blew the whistle on them for using ineligible players.)

Stadium Tours are not available on game days. If you do stay overnight, you can take a tour on Saturday before the Sunday game. The Classic Tour includes the locker room, the field level, and a luxury box, lasts about an hour, and costs $11. The Champion's Tour includes the preceding, plus other amenities, lasts an hour and a half, and costs $19. The Legendary Tour offers more, takes 2 hours, and costs $28.

Don't scoff: The Packers are one of the few NFL teams that can legitimately do this, especially since they're 1 of only 2 teams that currently has a stadium that was in use, let alone hosting a championship team, prior to the start of the Super Bowl era in the 1966 season. For the next 3 seasons, the only other NFL stadium that's played host to Sammy Baugh, Sid Luckman, Steve Van Buren, Otto Graham, Norm Van Brocklin, Doak Walker, Chuck Bednarik and even Giants legend Frank Gifford, and the only one older than Lambeau (built in 1923 but not hosting an NFL game until 1937) is the Los Angeles Coliseum, which the returned Rams will use until their new stadium opens in 2019. (The next-oldest active NFL stadium is the Oakland Coliseum, which opened in 1966.)

Like most football stadiums, Lambeau is aligned north-to-south. Despite the cold weather, the field is natural grass. Knowing that the field tended to freeze, in 1967, Lombardi had a system of heating coils installed underneath. It was nicknamed Lombardi's Electric Blanket.

But on New Year's Eve, the morning of the NFL Championship Game, it was so cold (How cold was it?) that the heating coils' control system broke, and the field froze anyway, resulting in the Ice Bowl, and one of the greatest and most iconic football games ever played, pro or college -- and, as it turned out, Lombardi's last game at Lambeau, as he retired after the Super Bowl. (In his 1981 book Pro Football's Ten Greatest Games, John Thorn, who usually writes about baseball, called Bart Starr's winning quarterback sneak "the most famous touchdown in football history." Ahead of the 1972 Franco Harris "Immaculate Reception," although the Joe Montana to Dwight Clark "The Catch" happened a few months after publication.)

A better system was installed, and now, no matter how cold the air gets, the field is fine. Something for Canada to think about: Green Bay is further north than Toronto and Hamilton, and not much further south than Montreal and Ottawa, yet all 9 Canadian Football League stadiums have artificial turf, for the sole purpose of combating the cold.
Food. Tailgating not enough for you? As I said, Curly's Pub is now open, on the 2nd floor of the Lambeau Field Atrium. On game days, it is accessible only via a game ticket, from the inside of the stadium. The Atrium also offers Goin' Deep Pizza and, in a nod to the team's beginnings, the Meat Packing Company, a restaurant concept developed exclusively for Lambeau Field, featuring overstuffed sandwiches, giant bratwursts and desserts.

There are other concession stands throughout the stadium, but they stop serving entirely -- not just beer -- at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Team History Displays. No team has won more NFL Championships than the Packers, with 13: 1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1996 and 2010. (The Chicago Bears are next with 9, the Giants next with 8.) This includes 2 of the only 3 threepeats in NFL history: 1929-31 and 1965-67. (The other is the 1922-24 Canton Bulldogs.) It also includes Super Bowls I, II, XXXI and XLV (1, 2, 31 and 45). These titles, which gave rise to Green Bay's nickname of Titletown, are shown in yellow lettering on the green background of the skyboxes.
When this photo was taken, Super Bowl XLV hadn't yet been played.

On the other sideline's skyboxes are the team's officially retired numbers: 3, Tony Canadeo, running back, 1941-52; 4, Brett Favre, quarterback, 1992-2007; 14, Don Hutson, receiver-defensive back, 1935-45; 15, Bart Starr, quarterback, 1956-71; 66, Ray Nitschke, linebacker, 1958-72; and 92, Reggie White, defensive end, 1993-98. The Number 5 of Paul Hornung, running back, 1957-66, has not been officially retired, but it is rarely given out.
When this photo was taken, Favre's Number 4 had not yet been retired.

Outside the stadium are statues of the coaches (also general managers) who brought the 1st 11 titles, Lambeau (1929 through 1944) and Lombardi (1961 through 1967); and also of Starr, the only man to quarterback 5 NFL Championships. (And if Tom Brady becomes the 2nd, Starr will remain the only one to have done it honestly.)
Curly's hair wasn't all that curly. Then again,
he wasn't bald like Curly of the Three Stooges, either.

In addition to the preceding, the Packers have had the following players elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Quarterback Arnie Herber; running backs Johnny "Blood" McNally, Clarke Hinkle and Jim Taylor; receiver James Lofton; center Jim Ringo, guard Mike Michalske, and offensive tackles Cal Hubbard and Forrest Gregg; defensive tackle Henry Jordan, defensive end Willie Davis, linebacker Dave Robinson, cornerback Herb Adderley, safety Willie Wood, and kicker Jan Stenerud. Other Hall-of-Famers have played for the Packers, but these are the players generally considered "Packer Hall-of-Famers."
Lombardi's statue, based on what was
clearly a rare photo of him with his mouth closed.

The Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame has, along with a recreation of Lombardi's office, more inductees than any other team hall of fame in North American sports, 157. It recently reopened after its part of the continuing renovation of Lambeau Field. Members include:

* From the 1929-36 titles: Lambeau; backs McNally, Herber, Hinkle, Charlie Mathys, Verne Lewellen, Red Dunn, Swede Johnston, Hank Bruder and Bob Monnett; linemen Hubbard, Michalske, Cub Buck, Whitey Woodin, Jug Earp, Boob Darling, Lavvie Dilweg, Nate Barragar, Milt Gantenbein and Lon Evans. (Swede? Cub? Jug? Boob? Lavvie? Johnny Blood?They knew how to give athletes nicknames back then.)

* From the 1939 and 1944 titles: Lambeau; backs Canadeo, Joe Laws, Ed Jankowski, Cecil Isbell, Andy Uram, Charley Brock, Lou Brock (related to Charley but not to the baseball star), Larry Craig (no relation to the scandalous Senator), Ted Fritsch and Irv Comp; receiver Hutson; linemen Charles "Buckets" Goldenberg, Tiny Engebretsen, brothers George and Earl "Bud" Svendsen, Russ Letlow, Pete Tinsley, Carl Mulleneaux and Harry Jacunski.

(A personal note: The Jacunskis are from Connecticut, and Harry's son Dick moved to New Jersey. He, his wife, and their daughters lived next door to my parents when I was born, and what remains of each family is still close. I got to meet Harry a couple of times: Although football left him physically debilitated, and I never saw the man stand up, he was still mentally sharp into his 80s.)

* Between the Lambeau and Lombardi eras: Quarterback Tobin Rote, running backs Bob Forte, Fred Cone, Al Carmichael and Howie Ferguson; ends Bob Mann, John Martinkovic and Billy Howton; offensive tackle Dick Wildung; linebacker Deral Teteak, and defensive back Bobby Dillon.

* From the 1961-67 titles: Lombardi, assistant coaches Red Cochran and (Lombardi's much less successful successor as head coach) Phil Bengtson; quarterbacks Starr and Zeke Bratkowski; running backs Hornung, Taylor, Elijah Pitts, Donny Anderson and Travis Williams; receivers Gary Knafelc, Max McGee, Ron Kramer, Bowd Dowler, Marv Fleming and Carroll Dale; centers Ringo and Ken Bowman; guards Jerry Kramer, Fred "Fuzzy" Thurston and Gale Gillingham; offensive tackles Gregg and Bob Skoronski; defensive tackles Jordan, Dave Hanner and Ron Kostelnik; defensive ends Davis and Lionel Aldridge; linebackers Nitschke, Bill Forester, Dan Currie, Dave Robinson and Lee Roy Caffey; cornerbacks Adderley, Hank Gremminger and Bob Jeter; safeties Wood and Jesse Whittenton; and placekicker-punter Don Chandler.

Hornung and Anderson also did some kicking in this era. Thurston also played for the 1958, but not 1959, Baltimore Colts, while Gregg and Adderley also played for the 1971 Dallas Cowboys, making them the only 3 players ever to play on 6 NFL Championship teams. Lombardi called Gregg "the finest player I ever coached." It's not surprising, therefore, that he went on to become a successful coach, taking the Cincinnati Bengals to their 1st Super Bowl in 1982 (but losing), and then restoring the honor of his alma mater, Southern Methodist University, after their 1987 "death penalty.")

* Between the Lombardi and Holmgren eras: Quarterbacks Lynn Dickey and Don Majkowski; running backs John Brockington and Gerry Ellis; receivers Lofton and Sterling Sharpe; tight end Paul Coffman; center Larry McCarren; offensive tackle Greg Koch; defensive end Ezra Johnson; linebackers Fred Carr, Mike Douglass, John Anderson and Johnny Holland; cornerbacks Ken Ellis and Willie Buchanon; safeties Johnnie Gray and Mark Murphy; and kickers Stenerud and Chester Marcol.

* From the 1996 title: Coach Holmgren, general manager Ron Wolf, and team president Bob Harlan; Favre; running backs Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens and William Henderson; receivers Robert Brooks and Antonio Freeman; tight end Mark Chmura; center Frank Winters; guard Marco Rivera; offensive tackle Ken Ruettgers; defensive end White; defensive tackle Gilbert Brown; safety Leroy Butler; and placekicker Chris Jacke.

* Between the Holmgren and McCarthy eras: Running back Ahman Green and defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.

* From the 2010 title: Offensive tackle Chad Clifton and safety Nick Collins. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and anyone else will have to wait a while; since Clifton and Collins both retired in 2011 and got elected this year, it looks like 5 years after retirement is the eligibility, as with most sports halls of fame.

* Spanning the eras: Team executives George Calhoun, Frank Jonet, A.B. Turnbull, Fred Leicht, Emil Fischer, Lee Joannes, Lee Remmel (a sportswriter turned team executive who'd been involved with the club from 1944 until his death in 2015, linking the Lambeau, Lombardi, Holmgren and McCarthy eras), Jack Vainisi, F.N. Trowbridge, Jerry Atkinson, Dominic Olejniczak, Tom Miller and Robert Parins; team doctors Webber Kelly and E.S. Brusky, and trainer Carl Jorgensen; broadcasters Russ Winnie, Ray Scott and Jim Irwin; team attorney Gerald Clifford; team photographer Vernon Biever and video director Al Treml; journalist Art Daley; longtime band director Wilner Burke; team Hall of Fame founder William Brault; and one longtime fan, Al Schneider.

Hutson, Gregg, Nitschke and White were named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994. They, Starr, Adderley, Davis and Favre were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999. All of those men were named to the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players in 2010.
Starr's statue, with the city's new arena,
the Resch Center, in the background

Stuff. Lambeau Field opened a new Pro Shop in 2015, and, along with smaller souvenir stands, it includes the usual items you'll find at a football game. What you won't find anywhere else is one of those big yellow triangular foam "cheeseheads." "Cheesehead" has been a nickname for a Wisconsan for many years, and when the Packers got good again in the 1990s, someone decided to capitalize on the nickname, and it stuck. It's been copied by the archrival Bears (a triangular foam wedge made to look like a slice of deep-dish pizza) and the Philadelphia Eagles (a cheesesteak head, naturally), among others. (Could lobsterheads be far away for New England, or crabheads for Baltimore?)

There are lots of books about the Packers, most of them focusing on the Lombardi era. For a general look at the team's history, Lew Freedman (author of a lot of sports history books, mainly baseball) published The Packers Experience: A Year-by-Year Chronicle of the Green Bay Packers in 2014. Leroy Butler, inventor of the Lambeau Leap (more about that in a moment), wrote Packers Pride: Green Bay Greats Share Their Favorite Moments.

The 2 biggest names in Packer history -- and, no, they're not Paul Hornung and Brett Favre -- have recent biographies about them: Lambeau: The Man Behind the Mystique, by David Zimmerman; and When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, by David Maraniss (who has also written superb bios of President Bill Clinton and baseball legend Roberto Clemente).

On the lighter side -- and I doubt that the very Catholic "Saint Vincent" Lombardi would have allowed this -- Judy DuCharme recently published The Cheesehead Devotional: Daily Meditations for Green Bay Packers, Their Fans, and NFL Football Fanatics.

Available DVDs include The Complete History of the Green Bay Packers (not so complete anymore, it came out in 2003, before the most recent title), the Packers' entry into the NFL's Greatest Games series (6 games, including Super Bowl XXXI, but none prior to 1992), and the official Super Bowl XLV highlight film.

I expect that, as the year 2019 approaches, the team will begin preparations for their 100th Anniversary (the first NFL team to reach that milestone -- sort of, the Arizona Cardinals began as a Chicago social club in 1898), and more and better items connected with the Centennial will be released.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "The Most Obnoxious Fans In the NFL" ranked Packer fans 9th, just outside the top quarter, saying:

Packers fans like to present a welcoming aura of friendliness (tailgating at Lambeau pre-game is actually a fantastic time), but make no mistake, they will turn (on you or anything around you) in a HEARTBEAT if things go south for the Pack. Just look what happened to Brett Favre when he dared play for the Vikings. Which Green Bay now collectively pretends never happened. 

Hey, Jet fans would like to pretend Favre never played for them.

You do not have to worry about your safety at Lambeau Field. Maybe if you were a Bears fan, with the NFL's oldest rivalry taking hold; or possibly a Vikings fan, with the natural Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry kicking in. While the Packers have been playing the Giants since 1925, and the Giants have laid 2 famous Playoff knockouts at Lambeau on the Packers (they almost never lose at home in the postseason), the Packer Backers don't consider the Giants to be an enemy, either. Feel free to wear whatever Big Blue team gear you want.

The Packers hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. When the Packers receive their pregame introductions, and after every Packer extra point, their traditional fight song is played: "Go! You Packers! Go!" It was written in 1931, but the current recording is from 1992. When the Packers score a touchdown, instead of the fight song, they play Todd Rundgren's 1983 classic "Bang the Drum All Day." The usual Packer Backer cheer is "Go, Pack, Go," rather than the old-timey "Go, You Packers, Go."

Speaking of drums: The Packers now have a Tundra Line, a percussion group (not an entire band) that plays throughout the game. But the Lumberjack Band, so named for their flannel jackets, which entertained at Packer games starting in 1921, was disbanded in 1997. At least they got to play for the Holmgren/Favre/White title.

The Packers are one of 5 NFL teams that does not currently have a mascot. The others are the Giants, the Jets, the Washington Redskins and the San Diego Chargers. The Packers also no longer have cheerleaders.

In 1993, Leroy Butler returned a fumble for a touchdown. Seeing a fan in the south stands who had his arms out and, as Butler put it, seemed to be saying, "Hug me," he jumped into the stands. Thus was born the Lambeau Leap. I don't know what Curly or Lombardi would have thought of it, but Holmgren and his boys loved it. It became a Packer tradition, and, last season, outside the Pro Shop (outside the stadium), with Butler invited back to recreate the moment, the Packers dedicated the Leap Wall, a padded green wall with statues of 4 fans behind it (one waving a big foam "We're Number 1" finger).
Butler at the dedication

After the Game. You should be safe going out. As I said, Lambeau Field is in the middle of a parking lot, not in a neighborhood, good or bad. You might have a traffic issue, but not a safety issue.

The Stadium View, calling itself "Not Just a Bar & Grill," is a block away from the stadium, at 1963 Holmgren Way at Tony Canadeo Run. Shenanigans Pub, long owned by the late 1960s Packer guard Fred "Fuzzy" Thurston, is probably the most famous eatery or bar in town. 1279 Main Street at Irwin Avenue, almost right across the river from the site of City Stadium. A bar named Hagemeister Park, festooned with Packer memorabilia, now stands at 325 N. Washington Street between Main and Pine.

It's unlikely a city as small as Green Bay will have many expatriate New Yorkers, and would thus be a good place for visitors to take in. I also haven't been able to find a reference to any Milwaukee bar or restaurant that caters to New Yorkers.

If you visit during the European soccer season, believe it or not, despite being a small city, Green Bay has a place that shows the games: Gipper's Sports Bar & Grill, 1860 University Avenue, about 2 1/2 miles east of downtown. Unfortunately, there's no bus service at that time of the morning on the weekend.

Sidelights. Green Bay is a big town, but a small city. Aside from Packer-connected stuff, there isn't a whole lot to see there.

UPDATE: On February 3, 2017, Thrillist made a list ranking the 30 NFL cities (New York and Los Angeles each having 2 teams), and, due to its small size and comparative lack of options, Green Bay did indeed finish 30th and last:

This really isn't fair. Green Bay wouldn't even perform all that well on a ranking of cities IN WISCONSIN. Pitting it against the nation's great metropolises is like pitting opposing defenses against Aaron Rodgers. So yeah, it's a good thing the team is generally successful, because the town has all the personality of an AutoZone parking lot.

They're wrong about the personality. There are some things in town worth visiting:

* Site of Bellevue Park. The Packers played the 1923 and 1924 seasons at this minor-league baseball park. It seated just 5,000, and was east of downtown, across the East River. Although it probably saved the Packers in the short term -- any professional football team playing at a professional baseball park was considered to be of a higher class than one playing on a simple sandlot such as Hagemeister Park -- it was not a football stadium, and the Packers needed a real one. 1600 block of Main Street, by Franz Avenue.

The Brewers are the closest MLB team, 119 miles away; the Chicago Cubs, 204 miles; the Chicago White Sox, 209 miles; the Minnesota Twins, 278 miles. And the Brewers have a 75 percent stranglehold on Green Bay area baseball fans.

* Hagemeister Park and City Stadium. Owned by the long-gone Hagemeister brewery, Hagemeister Park was the Packers' first home, from 1919 to 1922. There wasn't much in the way of seating, and fans would often sit in their cars to watch games. George Calhoun, who founded the team with Lambeau, would get out and pass a hat for contributions at halftime, and that's the main reason the team lasted long enough to get a proper home stadium.

The park was cleared for the construction of a new building for East High School -- oddly enough, Curly Lambeau's alma mater. When the new East High School opened in 1923, on a triangle bordered by Walnut Street, Baird Street and the East River, City Stadium was built behind it. Originally seating 6,000, it was expanded into a 25,000-seat horseshoe, open at the south end.

Although the Packers won 6 titles there, it was seen as too small for the bigger game that pro football was becoming after World War II. Just as George Halas of the Bears saved them with the velvet glove 25 years earlier, in the mid-1950s he saved them with the iron fist, talking the other NFL owners into providing the funds to build a new stadium, or they would order the moving of the team, to Milwaukee or somewhere else. In 1956, the City Council voted to build new City Stadium, which opened the next year.
City Stadium, renamed East Stadium until the new one was renamed for Lambeau, remained the home field of East High School, and in 2008 was renovated, leaving no part of the original structure remaining. 1415 E. Walnut Street. It's within walking distance of downtown, unlike Lambeau Field.
* Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena. Across the street from Lambeau Field, this 5,248-seat arena opened in 1958, and from 1968 to 2002 was the home court of the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay basketball team. It's also hosted minor-league basketball and hockey (the Green Bay Bobcats played from 1958 to 1981, winning league titles in 1959, '60, '63 and '72), and pro wrestling. Elvis Presley gave one of his last concerts here, on April 28, 1977.

Other Wisconsin arenas to have been played by Elvis were the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium in La Crosse on May 14, 1956; the Milwaukee Auditorium on June 14 and 15, 1972; the Milwaukee Arena (the MECCA) on June 28, 1974 and April 27, 1977; and the Dane County Coliseum in Madison on October 19, 1976 and June 24, 1977(The Beatles played in Milwaukee, but not in Green Bay.)

The nearest NBA team is the Milwaukee Bucks, 115 miles away, easily beating the Chicago Bulls (206) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (278). The nearest NHL teams are the Chicago Blackhawks (206) and the Minnesota Wild (268). And the nearest MLS team is the Chicago Fire (216). However, due to (fairly) recent success for the Bulls, but not for the Bucks, the Bucks lead in popularity isn't as much as it is in nearby cities like Oshkosh and Sheboygan. Indeed, in Madison, the seat of the University of Wisconsin, the Bulls are more popular.

What else is there to do in Green Bay? Well, there's Bay Beach Amusement Park: 1313 Bay Beach Road at Irwin Avenue. There's a Botanical Garden: 2600 Larsen Road, off Packerland Drive. There's a zoo: 4378 Reforestation Road of Sunrise Road. And a National Railroad Museum, 2285 S. Broadway at Bosar Avenue -- ironic, considering that Amtrak doesn't go to Green Bay.

There have been plenty of TV shows and movies set in Wisconsin, but never in Green Bay. You would think that, by now, someone would have made a movie out of the Ice Bowl. In 1973, 3 years after Lombardi's death from cancer (like Babe Ruth, his funeral was at St. Patrick's Cathedral), ABC aired a TV-movie titled Etched In Granite, with Ernest Borgnine playing Lombardi. Eric Simonson wrote Lombardi, a play based on Maraniss' book, that ran on Broadway from October 2010 to May 2011, and while it got some good reviews, it failed to capitalize on the Pack's Super Bowl XLV win in February. Dan Lauria, best known as the father on The Wonder Years, played the coach; Judith Light, best known as the mother on Who's the Boss?, played his wife Marie.

And if you'd like to pay your respects at Lombardi's grave, surprise: You can do that almost anytime, because he's buried in New Jersey. He is so identified with Green Bay that a lot of people forget his New York Tri-State Area roots. He was from Brooklyn, went to Fordham, coached at the now-defunct St. Cecilia's High School in Englewood, at West Point and with the Giants, before becoming the Packers' head coach. Marie was from Red Bank, and they are buried across the Navesink River, at Mount Olivet Cemetery, on Chapel Hill Road off State Route 35 in Middletown. Lambeau, however, is buried in Green Bay, at Allouez Catholic Cemetery, 2121 Riverside Drive at Allouez Avenue. (The late Jets and Madison Square Garden boss Sonny Werblin is buried at a Jewish cemetery, almost right across Route 35.)

For Milwaukee sites, here's my 2016 guide for that city. The Packers played a game at Borchert Field (home of the old minor-league Milwaukee Brewers) in 1933, 2 games a year at State Fair Park in suburban West Allis from 1934 to 1951, 2 at Marquette Stadium in 1952, 2 at Milwaukee County Stadium from 1953 to 1977, and then 3 at County Stadium from 1978 to 1994. It was only in 1995 that they've played all their home games in Green Bay, save for 1 exhibition game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, home of the University of Wisconsin, 136 miles southwest of Green Bay.

Horlick Field opened in 1907, and hosted the Racine Legion from 1919 to 1924 (including 1922 to '24 in the NFL), the NFL's Racine Tornadoes in 1926, and the Racine Belles of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1943 to 1950. The current 8,500-seat stadium on the site hosts high school sports. 1648 N. Memorial Drive in Racine, Wisconsin, 29 miles south of downtown Milwaukee, and 70 miles north of Chicago's Loop. Amtrak from either to Sturtevant, then Bus 8.

The Kenosha Maroons played in the NFL in 1924, at Nash Field. The 5,000-seat stadium also hosts high school sports. 5909 56th Street in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Even though it's closer to Milwaukee (34 miles as opposed to 60), it can only be reached by public transportation from Chicago, riding the train from the Ogilvie Transportation Center (the former Northwestern Station) to Kenosha, then Bus 2.

The Sheboygan Red Skins played pro basketball from 1933 to 1952, winning the National Basketball League title in 1943 (making them, technically, if not officially recognized by the NBA, World Champions in the sport), and were merged into the NBA for the 1949-50 season.

Due to Sheboygan's small size (about 50,000 people, smaller even than since-abandoned NBA cities Syracuse, Rochester and Fort Wayne), the rest of the league wanted them out, and got their wish. They lasted only 2 years in their new league, and folded. But they are still winners of a World Championship. They played at the 3,974-seat Sheboygan Municipal Auditorium and Armory, 58 miles north of Milwaukee (Bus 916) and 67 miles south of Green Bay.

*

Essentially, the reason to go to Green Bay is for the Green Bay Packers. They are the most storied franchise in the National Football League. The Giants have many stories, some of them great, but the Packers have the most stories, and some of the best.

But, seeing as how it won't be "Green Bay cold," you should be able to have fun watching the Giants play the Packers at Lambeau Field.

How to Go to a New Jersey Devils Game -- 2016-17 Edition


I told myself I wouldn't begin my 2016-17 NHL how-to-go-to-a-game posts until the Yankees were eliminated from Playoff eligibility. Well, now they have been.

And my beloved, if frequently irritating, New Jersey Devils, open the season away to the Florida Panthers on Thursday, October 13, and their home schedule on Tuesday, October 18, against the Anaheim Ducks.

Despite the ongoing rebuilding project, a Devils game can still be a good time. Be warned, though: I am convinced that it's the Mulberry Street Marauders (adaptation of Meadowlands Marauders, both nicknames that I bestowed upon the team), rather than the Yankees, Rutgers football, or any other team that will give me the heart attack or stroke that puts me in the ground.

*

Before You Go. Newark's weather is practically identical to New York's. However, I should warn you that the Prudential Center is just 5 blocks from the Passaic River, which is very wide, and when the winter wind comes blasting in off it, it can make the walk into and out of the arena very cold. That shouldn't be a problem in October, but, later in the season, it will be. So check your local weather before you go, and dress accordingly.

Of course, crossing the Hudson, Hackensack and Passaic Rivers does not mean you cross a time zone. You can leave your watch, your phone, whatever else you have that tells time, alone.

Tickets. The Prudential Center is nicknamed "The Rock," after the symbol of Prudential Financial, Inc., the Rock of Gibraltar. It is often shortened to "The Prudential" -- never "The Pru," although that is the nickname of the Boston skyscraper and shopping mall complex also named the Prudential Center.

The hockey capacity of the arena is 17,625 seats, 1,415 fewer than the Meadowlands arena was. Nevertheless, and despite The Rock having several advantages over the Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airlines Arena/IZOD Center, the Devils have, sometimes comically, had trouble filling the place. The average attendance in the 2015-16 season was 14,969, 720 per game less than the previous season, 26th out of the NHL's 30 teams. Only Columbus, Arizona, Carolina and the Islanders did worse. It was 84.9 percent of capacity, ranking 27th, ahead of just Arizona, Columbus and Carolina.

Still, getting nearly 15,000 a game, when they haven't made the Playoffs in 4 straight seasons, and so failing while there's 3 relatively close teams that did make the Playoffs -- the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers -- is nothing to sneeze at.

Forget the lower bowl, the single-digit and double-digit sections. These seats are ridiculously expensive, going for $129 to $335. And people wonder why the Devils can't get sellouts. Actually, these seats usually get sold, but to corporations, who then have trouble giving them away to clients. Why watch a New Jersey team, even with 3 Stanley Cups in the last 20 years (3 more than the Rangers and Islanders combined), when you can watch a New York team, however spectacularly failed over the last generation, at Madison Square Garden, The World's Most Famous Arena? (As if Mark Messier, Willis Reed or Elvis Presley could help them now.) Lower bowl seats behind the goal can run between $96 and $178.

The second deck, the 100 sections, provide a better view anyway. Along the east and west sides, tickets can run $160, but closer to the goal are $103. The main end sections, north and south, run from $78 to $84. The third deck, the 200 sections above the east and west sides, are $46.

Getting There. The Prudential Center is 13.5 road miles from Times Square. Obviously, you're not going to be flying. You could take a train or a bus, but you won't need to spend the big bucks on Amtrak or Greyhound.

Taking New Jersey Transit by rail between the Penn Stations, New York's and Newark's, should take less than 20 minutes, and will cost $10.50 round-trip. Taking a bus in from Port Authority is also possible, but don't do it: The train is cleaner, faster, more frequent, has shorter lines, and you can bring a snack or a drink on the train, which you can't do on the bus.


The PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) train is cheaper, $5.50 round-trip, but it takes longer, 24 from World Trade Center to Newark Penn, and 33 minutes from 33rd Street (Herald Square) to Newark, and on that line you'd have to change trains at Journal Square in Jersey City. So NJT Rail, despite the fare, is the way to go if you're not driving (and you shouldn't, unless you come from a part of New Jersey that doesn't have bus or rail service to Newark Penn).


Newark's version of Pennsylvania Station.

When you come out of Newark's Penn Station, turn left, and walk a block to Market Street. Turn right on Market, and walk 2 blocks to Mulberry Street. The arena is a block away on your left.

If you're going to drive, there are plenty of parking lots available around the arena, and despite Newark's reputation for crime, especially car-related crime, these lots are well-policed. Most lots will charge around $15.

If you're coming from Midtown Manhattan, take the Lincoln Tunnel to the New Jersey Turnpike South. Take Exit 15E, and get on Interstate 280 West. From I-280, take Exit 15B (don't get the 2 exits confused), and turn left onto Broad Street. The Rock will be about a mile away, on your right.

If you're coming from Lower Manhattan, take the Holland Tunnel to "Truck Route 1 & 9" (at least until the Pulaski Skyway, regular U.S. Routes 1 & 9, gets its repairs finished, already past its presumed date of April 2016). When you get into Newark, follow the sign for Raymond Blvd. West. Cross under Penn Station and past the McCarter Highway (N.J. Route 21), and turn left on Broad Street. The Rock will be 4 blocks away, on your right. If you're coming from Brooklyn or Queens, or you're an Islander fan coming in from Long Island, get into Manhattan and follow the preceding directions.

UPDATE: The New Jersey Department of Transportation said in April 2017 that it would take until Spring 2018 to finally finish the work on the Skyway.

If you're coming from Staten Island, take Interstate 278 to the Goethals Bridge to the Turnpike North, to Exit 13A. Take N.J. Route 81 to U.S. 1 & 9, to the McCarter Highway, until you reach Lafayette Street. The Rock will be 2 blocks to your left.

If you're coming from Bergen or Passaic County, New Jersey, take Interstate 80 East to Exit 68 (the last one), onto Interstate 95 South, which becomes the Turnpike, then follow the directions from Midtown.

If you're coming from any other part of North Jersey, take any road that gets you to I-280 East, to Exit 14, and turn right on Broad Street.

If you're coming from the Lower Hudson Valley or Connecticut, take any road that will get you to the George Washington Bridge, and then follow the directions from Bergen County.

If you're coming from Central Jersey or further south, take the Turnpike North to Exit 13A, and then follow the directions from Staten Island.

The official address of the Prudential Center is 25 Lafayette Street, but that's new: It was previously 165 Mulberry Street, and putting either address into your GPS will get you there.

Once In the City. New Jersey is named for Jersey, one of the United Kingdom's Channel Islands, birthplace of Sir George Carteret, who in 1664 was granted the part of the former New Netherland across the Hudson River from what became New York. He gave the Colony of New Jersey freedom of religion. (The Borough of Carteret is named for him, the City of Elizabeth for his wife.) While the name was written as Caesarea in Latin, it is apparently not named for Julius Caesar: "Jers" comes from a word meaning "earl," and the -ey suffix denotes an Island, as with the other of the large Channel Islands, Guernsey.

Newark, founded in 1666 by Puritans unhappy with church conduct in Connecticut, was named after Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England. Having a population of over 450,000 in 1960, white flight to the suburbs dropped it to about 260,000 by 1990, but estimates now have it back up to 280,000, still the largest city in New Jersey. The population for the entire State is just under 9 million, meaning that, for the first time, it has exceeded that of New York City.
Newark's skyline, including the Raymond-Commerce Building, center,
the National Newark & Essex Building,
and the Prudential Building, right, gives it an appearance
of being a much larger city than it really is.

New Jersey's State sales tax is 7 percent, but since Newark is in an Urban Enterprise Zone, it's halved to 3 1/2 percent. The major newspapers in North Jersey include The Star-Ledger (based in Newark), the Jersey Journal (Hudson County), The Record (Bergen County), the completely separate Daily Record (Morris County), and The Herald News (Passaic County). In addition, Central Jersey has the Home News Tribune (Middlesex County), the Asbury Park Press (Monmouth and Ocean Counties), the Courier-News (Somerset County), and The Times and The Trentonian (Mercer County).

ZIP Codes in North Jersey tend to begin with the digits 07, including 071 for Newark and environs, 072 for Elizabeth, 073 for Jersey City, and 075 for Paterson. Central and South Jersey got ZIP Codes starting with the digits 08, including 084 for Atlantic City, 086 and 086 for Trenton, and 089 for New Brunswick and environs.

New Jersey's original Area Code was 201. 609 was split off in 1958, 908 in 1991, 732 in 1997, and 856 in 1999. Now, they serve as follows: 201, with 551 overlaid in 2001, serves only Bergen and Hudson Counties (including the Meadowlands, and thus MetLife Stadium, and Harrison, and thus Red Bull Arena); 609 serves Mercer County (including the capital of Trenton and Princeton University) and the Southern Shore region (including Atlantic City); 732, with 848 overlaid, much of Central Jersey (including Rutgers University) and the Northern Shore region; 856, the Delaware River region that serves as suburbs of Philadelphia; 908, the Counties of Union, northern Somerset, Morris and Warren; and 973, with 862 overlaid, the Counties of Essex (including Newark, and thus the Prudential Center) and Passaic.

Newark doesn't have a "centerpoint," from which all addresses go up from zero, but the city's main intersection is Broad & Market Streets, a block east and north of the Prudential Center. New Jersey Transit buses have a fare of $1.60 for 1 zone, $2.55 for 2, and $3.15 for 3.

Going In. The Prudential Center, named for the Newark-based insurance company, opened on October 25, 2007 with a Bon Jovi concert. Two days later, the Devils played their opener, and lost to the Ottawa Senators.

There are 2 escalator towers on the east/Mulberry Street side of The Rock: The Verizon Tower and the PNC Bank Tower. I guess naming the building after one corporation wasn't enough.
The lower level concourse has a nice touch: Jerseys of every high school hockey team in the State. It also has a mural showing past Devils greats.
Unlike the Meadowlands Arena (apparently patterned after the Nassau Coliseum), with its 2 levels of seats forcing people to jam onto 1 level of concourse to hit the concession stands or the restrooms, the Prudential Center has 3 levels of seats with 2 levels of concourse, making getting to and from your seats, concessions and restrooms a lot easier, even during sellouts.

The rink is aligned north-to-south. The Devils attack twice toward the north end, the end with the Stanley Cup and retired number banners. The press box is on the east side, so the Devils logo at center ice is seen right-side-up from the east stands. The south end is the stage end when the building hosts concerts.
Interior, before the 1st game, October 27, 2007.
The Devils lost to the Ottawa Senators.
Note that, at the time, there were fewer banners.

The arena is also the main home of the basketball team at Seton Hall University in nearby South Orange, and has hosted concerts and boxing. For a few years, it was home to the New Jersey Ironmen, an indoor soccer team run by Tony Meola, the longtime U.S. goalie from across the river in Kearny. Because "ultimate fighting" is illegal in the State of New York, UFC can't hold events at Madison Square Garden, the Barclays Center, or the Nassau Coliseum. So they've made The Rock their main venue for the New York Tri-State Area.

Food. It's all over the place. For those of you with pricey tickets, the Goal Bar is at the north end, the Fire Lounge (lit up in red) is on the east side, and the Ice Lounge (lit up in blue) is on the west side. The food is all-you-can-eat with your ticket, and the soda is all-you-can-drink. However, beer will still set you back some money.

For those of you with less pricey tickets, there are lots of stands, but the main one is the Taste of Newark series at the south end, featuring everything from Italian to Polish to Portuguese dishes. You can also get Nathan's hot dogs and crinkle-cut fries. I've never liked Nathan's hot dogs (which is why people shoot me dirty looks in Brooklyn), but Nathan's crinkle-cut fries are the best fries in the world. There are also a few Carvel Ice Cream and Dippin Dots stands.
Team History Displays. At the northeast corner of the building, at Mulberry Street & Edison Place, the Devils have installed Championship Plaza, honoring their 1995, 2000 and 2003 Stanley Cup wins. It will be joined on October 22 by a statue of Martin Brodeur.
Championship Plaza as it currently stands

Inside the arena, the north end has the Devils' 3 Stanley Cup banners: 1994-1995, 1999-2000 and 2002-2003. (They put both entire years on them, not "2003" or even "2002-03.")
The north end also has their 4 retired numbers so far: 3, defenseman Ken Danyeko, 1983-2003; 4, defenseman Scott Stevens, 1991-2004 (although it's listed as 1991 to 2005); 27, defenseman Scott Niedermayer, 1991-2004; and 30, goaltender Martin Brodeur, 1992-2014 (although it's listed as 1990 to 2014).
The south end has their other banners: 1988 Patrick Division Playoff Champions; 1995, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2012 Eastern Conference Champions; 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010 Atlantic Division Champions. Note, however, that the last banner was 5 seasons ago (or will be by the time this new regular season ends in April 2017).

The south end also has banners for the other team that calls The Rock home, the basketball edition of the Seton Hall Pirates. One is for their 1989 NCAA Final Four berth. Another is for the Pirates' 1953 NIT win. Others mark their 1991 Big East Tournament title, their 1992 Big East regular-season crown, and taking both in 1993. Another banner shows their 8 retired numbers: 3, Frank "Pep" Saul, guard, Class of 1949; 5, Walter Dukes, center, '53; 8, Bobby Wanzer, guard, '46; 11, Bob Davies, forward, '42; 12, Richie Regan, guard, '55; 24, Terry Dehere, guard, '93; 34, Glenn Mosley, forward, '77; and 44, Nick Werkman, forward, '64.

Saul, Wanzer and Davies were teammates on the 1951 NBA Champion Rochester Royals, the franchise now known as the Sacramento Kings, who also retired 11 for Davies. Regan played for the Royals later, and later still coached the Pirates. Saul also played on the Minneapolis Lakers titlists of 1952, '53 and '54. Dukes played for the Harlem Globetrotters, and in the 1955-56 season for the Knicks.

There are several murals around the building, all painted by local artists, including one on the upper level concourse featuring some Devils players, some Seton Hall players, stylized interpretations of other shows at The Rock, and other scenes from Newark, such as the gold-domed City Hall a couple of blocks away and the carousel at Branch Brook Park on the north side of town.

One in particular, on the east side of the lower level concourse, is the closest thing the Devils have to a team Hall of Fame. It includes all 3 of their Cup-winning head coaches, standing behind the team bench: Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson and the late Pat Burns. The players it shows, from left to right, roughly in order of their arrival in New Jersey, are: Goaltender turned broadcaster Glenn "Chico" Resch, defenseman Bruce Driver, defenseman Ken Daneyko, right wing John MacLean, center Peter Šťastný, right wing Claude Lemieux, defenseman Scott Stevens, defenseman Scott Niedermayer, left wing Patrik Elias, center Scott Gomez, and, out of the chronological order, so that the team is flanked by 2 goalies, Martin Brodeur.

There are 8 former Devils players in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Stevens, Niedermayer, Šťastný (4 seasons, elected mainly for what he did elsewhere)Viacheslav Fetisov (6 seasons, elected mainly for what he did elsewhere), Brendan Shanahan (4 seasons, elected mainly for what he did elsewhere), Doug Gilmour (2 seasons), Joe Nieuwendyk (2 seasons, including the Cup season of 2002-03) and Igor Larionov (1 season).

Former general manager Lou Lamoriello is also in the Hall. So are the 3 men who coached the Devils to Cups: Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson and Pat Burns, although all had contributions elsewhere, and only for Burns was the New Jersey contribution pivotal to election. Herb Brooks coached the team for the 1992-93 season, but is in the Hall for being the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" coach. Adam Oates was already in the Hall as a player before his brief tenure as a Devils assistant coach. Broadcaster Mike Emrick is a winner of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, tantamount to election to the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster.

In 1998, The Hockey News celebrated its 50th Anniversary by naming its selections for the 100 Greatest Hockey Players. Since Brodeur was still active, they didn't choose players whose best years were outside North America and thus excluded Russian legend Fetisov, and, for whatever reason, they didn't choose Stevens, either, the only former Devil they selected was Šťastný.

Mark Johnson, Neal Broten and Jack O'Callahan of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team went on to play for the Devils. So did Bill Baker and Steve Janaszak when the team was still the Colorado Rockies. Broten and Ken Morrow were the only members of that team to go on to win a Stanley Cup: Morrow did so immediately, becoming a part of the Islander dynasty; Broten, whose brothers Aaron and Paul also played for the Devils (Aaron was the last original 1982-83 Devil still with the team, in 1989), took 15 years to do it, but scored 2 goals, including the game-winner, in Game 4 of the 1995 Finals to clinch the Devils' 1st Cup.

The Lester Patrick Trophy, for service to hockey in America, has been awarded to Brooks, Johnson, Broten, Lamoriello, Emrick, and former Devils assistants Max McNab and Lou Vairo, both of whom won it for their contributions elsewhere. Niedermayer, Johnson, Šťastný, Fetisov, and Alexei Kasatonov, a Russian who arrived with Fetisov but was a bust in the NHL, have been elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame.

UPDATE: The Devils have now announced the foundation of a Ring of Honor. Founding owner John McMullen will be the 1st inductee. And Shanahan, Šťastný, Stevens, Brodeur and Niedermayer were named to the NHL's 100th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players in 2017. And it has been announced that Elias' Number 26 will be retired during the 2017-18 season.

Stuff. There are several souvenir stands, with a main team store, the Devils Den, on the ground floor behind the north end. It is open on non-game days, but on game days, you need a game ticket to get in.
The stores do sell a lot of devil-themed merchandise, including plastic horns, plastic pitchforks, and devil masks, looking a lot more like interpretations of the Devil than the mythical Jersey Devil for which the team was named, or like N.J. Devil, the somewhat mischievous creature used as a representation of the team and as its mascot.

They also sell a lot of merchandise geared toward women ("The Devil In Her"), and for kids and babies ("Little Devils"), knowing that, with the Rangers just 13 road miles away and still having a bit of a hold over the northern half of New Jersey (that's geographically, more like 2/3rds in terms of population), they need all the fans they can get, not just the stereotypical drunken 21-to-35-year-old guy trying a little too hard to be macho.

If you're looking for team videos, you're out of luck. The 3 Stanley Cup wins are available in highlight packages, but the titles aren't all that imaginative: Heaven: The New Jersey Devils' 1994-95 Champion Season; Second Heaven: New Jersey Devils 2000 Stanley Cup Champions; and New Jersey Devils Stanley Cup 2002-2003 Champions. There was no official team history video to commemorate their 10th, 20th, 25th or 30th Anniversary (1992, 2002, 2007 and 2012).

Despite having now played for a third of a century, the Devils don't have very many books written about them. Mike Kerwich and Chico Resch edited Tales from the New Jersey Devils Locker Room: A Collection of the Greatest Devils Stories Ever Told. And Martin Brodeur wrote the memoir Brodeur: Beyond the Crease.

But for a retrospective of the team's history, the best is probably 25: The History of Devils Hockey In New Jersey, by the Star-Ledger sportswriting staff, taking the team from the negotiations to bring the former Colorado Rockies (not to be confused with the current baseball team of that name) to New Jersey in 1982 through 2007, which marked both the team's 25th Anniversary and the opening of the Prudential Center. That book is available at the team stores.

During the Game. A November 19, 2014 article on The Hockey News' website ranked the NHL teams' fan bases, and listed the Devils' fans 21st -- in the bottom 1/3rd of the League, well below the Rangers and the Flyers, but 1 place ahead of the Islanders. The article cited the Devils' low attendance regardless of the team's record.

Devils fans hate the New York Rangers and their fans. (Can you blame them?) And the Philadelphia Flyers and their fans. (Ditto?) And since a lot more Devils fans are Yankee Fans than Met fans, they also tend to hate the Boston Bruins and their fans. But we are not Ranger, Flyer or Bruin fans. And while New Jersey has a rough reputation, not helped by Mob stories, both real and imagined, you do not need to fear for your safety, inside The Rock or out on the streets: We do not start fights, and the Newark Police are very thorough, knowing that their city has an image that they have to alleviate.

When the Devils are introduced, a natural song is played: "Hell's Bells" by AC/DC. (But no one has suggested renaming the McCarter Highway "the Highway to Hell.") The National Anthem is (or, if a Canadian team is the opponent, the National Anthems are) usually sung by Arlette Roxborgh, who uses only her first name professionally. She released her 1st album in 2014, after 20 years as a lounge singer, and about 15 years as the Devils' anthem singer. (In other words, she predates the 2nd and 3rd Cups, if not the 1st, and she did sing at the Meadowlands.) She's from the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad, but has lived in Brooklyn and Staten Island as an adult.

With the arena in Newark, and staffed by people living nearby, it's not so strange to see black people at a Devils game. She wears a Devils jersey when she sings, with the name ARLETTE and the Number 1, which has rarely worn by a Devils goalie since the arrival of Brodeur, although Keith Kinkaid wears it now.
It was another black female singer, Irvington native Queen Latifah, who was the 1st person, other than a Devils player, to wear a Devils jersey on television, on her sitcom Living Single. On the back, she wore the Number 1, and the name was the name of the magazine her character, Khadijah James, owned and published: FLAVOR.

The mascot is N.J. Devil, a guy in a foam costume, with a stereotypical thin mustache and a goatee, but also a big, un-fanged smile, as if that makes "the Devil" look more kid-friendly.
N.J. is a commuter.

Indeed, the team name doesn't make sense: Aside from offending people of faith by making them think of Satan, the legend of the Jersey Devil comes from the Pine Barrens of South Jersey. That's Flyer territory. To make matters worse, there was a longtime hockey player from Slovakia named Miroslav Šatan (pronounced "Sha-TANN"), and the Devils never tried to acquire him. They should have, because he usually played well against them, and scored 363 goals in 15 NHL seasons.

For years, the Devils' goal song was "Rock and Roll Part II" (a.k.a. "The Hey Song") by Gary Glitter. Following a conviction on what would once have been quaintly called "a morals charge," they dropped it in favor to soccer staple "The Ole Song." When Glitter was released from prison, the Hey Song returned, but after another conviction, the team dropped it again, in favor of "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes. This also means that the chant, while pointing at the goalie who let the goal in, of, "Hey -- you suck!" has been replaced by, "Oh, whoa oh ah oh, whoa... you suck!"

But "Seven Nation Army" didn't really catch on with the Jersey faithful, and so local musician Rich Andruska has written a new song, "Devils Rule," and given it to the team. It is catching on.

Like Islander fans before us, Devils fans will start a whistle, and punctuate it with the entire crowd (except for those rooting for the visiting team -- and, depending on the team, sometimes even them, as the Rangers are not admired around the NHL) yelling, "Rangers suck!" What we add to the old Islander chant is a reminder that "suck" used to mean not, "They are very bad," but, "They perform perverted sex acts," is, "Flyers swallow!" A lot of people bring children to the games, and I don't want to have to be the one to explain that chant.

This chant will usually start from the east side balcony, from Section 232, home of the 232 Crazies. They used to be the 228 Crazies at the Meadowlands, but, like the Bleacher Creatures having to move from Section 39 to Section 203 at the new Yankee Stadium, they had to change their number. They're rowdy, but they're not that crazy -- unless you're a Ranger or Flyer fan who wants to start something.
They should not be confused with the Devils Fan Club, who sit in Section 11 in the southwest corner of The Rock.

After the Game. Since the Prudential is so close to Newark Penn Station, a major transportation hub, they have a feature which, I think, is unique: Video screens posting New Jersey Transit train times out of the station. You would think that Madison Square Garden, built on top of New York's Penn Station, and the TD Garden, built (like its predecessor) on top of Boston's North Station, would also have this, but they don't.

As I said, the police have a significant presence outside. Your walk back to your car, or to Penn Station, will be completely safe. If anyone does try to hassle you, a cop to complain to will not be far away.

There are quite a few places to eat and drink nearby. Across Lafayette Street from The Rock is Edison Ale House. A block away, at 224 Market Street, is Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. If you've got a little extra to spend, the renowned Chateau of Spain is 2 blocks south of the arena, at 11 Franklin Street.

Across the railroad, ringed by rails and the Passaic River, is the Ironbound section of Newark, a famous Portuguese neighborhood. Several bars and restaurants, many along Market Street with a Spanish and/or Portuguese theme, cater to fans of the Devils and, across the River in Harrison, the New York Red Bulls.

These include MMMBello's at 376, Spain Restaurant at 419, Titanic at 486, and Catas at 538. (R.I.P. El Pastor, at 570: One of the best eateries in the neighborhood, and a major gathering place for Red Bulls fans, the place went out of business, and the building has been demolished. Now I'm sad.) Ferry Street includes Forno's of Spain at 47, and the castle-resembling Iberia at 80. There are others, including some Portuguese bakeries with tasty treats, but they may not be open late at night after a Devils home game.

Because New Jersey bars tend to not open until 11:00 or 11:30 AM, finding a place to watch your favorite European soccer team is difficult. The Ironbound bars will show games starting later than that, but for a typical starting time -- 10:00 AM Saturday in England (3:00 PM London time), 9:00 AM Sunday in Italy (3:00 PM Rome time), 9:30 AM Sunday in Germany (3:30 PM Berlin & Munich time), they won't. So your best bet is Mulligan's On First, at 159 1st Street in Hoboken. PATH train to Hoboken.

Sidelights. The North Jersey portion of the New York Tri-State Area's sports history isn't especially long, but it's had more success than the rest of the Area (minus The Bronx).

* Meadowlands Sports Complex. The complex, run by the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, opened with the opening of the Meadowlands Racetrack, a.k.a. The Big M, on September 1, 1976, hosting only harness racing for a year, until it began hosting thoroughbred racing in the fall of 1977. Since 1981, it has been home to the Hambletonian Stakes, one of harness racing's biggest events and the 2nd leg of its Triple Crown. (It was previously held at several locations, including Yonkers Raceway, before its previous "permanent" home of the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds Racetrack in southern Illinois from 1957 to 1980.)

Giants Stadium opened on October 10, 1976, with the Giants losing to the Dallas Cowboys. Still, the stadium not only served as a new beginning for a football team that had been all but irrelevant for years, but as a coming-out party for New Jersey sports. In a year, the Rutgers Athletic Center would open, home to both the Rutgers basketball team and the former New York Nets.

It would "welcome" the USFL's New Jersey Generals from 1983 to 1985, the Jets starting in 1984, the New York/New Jersey Knights of the World League of American Football in 1991 and '92, and he New York/New Jersey Hitmen of the ill-advised, ill-mannered, ill-performing, ill-fated XFL in 2001. The 1985 USFL Championship Game, played at Giants Stadium and won by the Baltimore Stars over the Oakland Invaders, turned out to be the last-ever USFL game. Despite lasting only 34 seasons, due to hosting both Big Blue and Gang Green, no other stadium has hosted more NFL regular-season games: 466.

Rutgers played several home games there, due to the original Rutgers Stadium seating only 23,000, and played their entire 1993 schedule there while their stadium was rebuilt. Princeton also played a home game there in 1997, while their stadium was rebuilt. It hosted 4 Army-Navy Games.

Giants Stadium hosted the North American Soccer League's New York Cosmos from 1977 to 1984, including icons Pele and Franz Beckenbauer; and the New York-New Jersey MetroStars of Major League Soccer starting in 1996, changing their name to the New York Red Bulls in 2005. It hosted several international soccer matches, including 7 matches of the 1994 World Cup, among them a Group Stage match between Ireland and Italy (which certainly made sense, given the Tri-State Area's ethnic makeup), Bulgaria's Quarterfinal win over Germany, and Italy's Semifinal win over Bulgaria. (Italy would lose the Final to Brazil at the Rose Bowl.) It hosted the 1st 2 MLS All-Star Games in 1996 and '97, and 4 games of the 1999 Women's World Cup, including America's win over Denmark. The men's U.S. National Team played there 9 times.

Despite a rainstorm, Pope John Paul II delivered Mass there on October 5, 1995. The crowd of 82,948 was a stadium record, surpassed only by a U2 concert in 2009, 84,472. Other major musical events there included the Jacksons' Victory Tour in 1984, Freehold, New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen's Born In the U.S.A. Tour in 1985, the 1986 Amnesty International "Conspiracy of Hope" show, and a 1988 Guns 'N Roses show that was filmed as the video for their song "Paradise City."

The Giants, Jets and Red Bulls played their final seasons at Giants Stadium in 2009, with the Jets playing what turned out to be the final event, a Playoff-clinching win over the Cincinnati Bengals, on January 3, 2010. A limit on how many luxury boxes could be added was the reason for its replacement, rather than the awful artificial turf or the nasty wind, a.k.a. "The Hawk," that chilled spectators and made placekicking and punting difficult.

The 82,566-seat MetLife Stadium opened on April 10, 2010, with, of all things, a college lacrosse tournament. The Red Bulls had already moved into Red Bull Arena, and have never played at MetLife. The Giants and Jets moved into the place, then still called the New Meadowlands Stadium, in September. They own the stadium 50/50, and the exterior lighting can be changed to either Giant blue or Jet green, depending on who is at home. For the first time -- not at Shea Stadium, and certainly not at Giants Stadium -- the Jets can feel as though they are at home, while the Giants have gone on as before.

The U.S. National Team has played there twice: A loss to Brazil on August 10, 2010, and a draw with Argentina on March 26, 2011. (I was there for the Argentina match.) And Super Bowl XLVIII was held there in 2014, with the Seattle Seahawks crushing the Denver Broncos, 43-8. It probably earned the right to host another Super Bowl, and if the U.S. ever gets to host another World Cup, it will certainly be a host site and may even host the Final.

The arena, originally known as the Brendan Byrne Arena for the Governor who got it built (and successor of William T. Cahill, who got the rest of the Complex built), opened on July 2, 1981, with a Springsteen concert. The New Jersey Nets soon moved in, and stayed until 2010, when they spent 2 years in the Prudential Center before moving to Brooklyn in 2012. The Devils arrived in 1982, and stayed until 2007 when the Prudential Center opened. Capacity for basketball is 20,089; for hockey, 19,040.
The Arena under its original name.

The arena saw the Devils clinch the Stanley Cup on home ice on June 24, 1995, and again -- by this point, renamed the Continental Airlines Arena (leading Byrne to say, "I was immortal for 15 years") -- on June 9, 2003. (They also clinched the Cup away to Dallas on June 10, 2000.) It hosted many NCAA Basketball Tournament games, including the 1996 NCAA Final Four, won by Kentucky over Syracuse.

With no pro teams still calling it home starting in 2010, the Izod Center (that name took hold in 2007 after the Devils left) mainly hosted concerts, circuses, and various family-friendly shows like Sesame Street Live, until this past January 15, when the NJSEA shut it down. The current plan is to demolish the Devils' 1st home in 2018.

The Complex is at the intersection of the Western Spur of the New Jersey Turnpike (Exit 16W), and New Jersey Routes 3 & 120. It can be reached by New Jersey Transit bus route 320 from Port Authority. On NFL game days only, it can also be reached by NJT rail when you transfer at Secaucus Junction.

According to a May 12, 2014 article in The New York Times, the Nets' failure in New Jersey has left them the 2nd favorite NBA team in most of the State, behind the Knicks, and sometimes 3rd behind the Los Angeles Lakers. In most Counties, the Knicks have about 25 percent of NBA fans, while the Nets average around 14 percent.

The Jets are only slightly luckier. According to a September 5, 2014 article in The Atlantic, they tend to have a better percentage of local fans than the Nets, or the Mets, but there is no place at all in the world where they have a majority. The last one where they did was their former headquarters of Nassau County. The Giants' 8-year head start at the Meadowlands made them "Jersey's Team" well before the Devils started marketing themselves with that slogan, even though the Giants have never used "New Jersey" in their name.

* Site of Ruppert Stadium. The original Newark Bears, of the International League, played here, built in 1926 as David's Stadium, before Jacob Ruppert bought it and the team and brought it into the Yankee organization. He also expanded the capacity from 12,000 to 19,000, making it larger than most minor-league stadiums (and larger than Philadelphia's Baker Bowl, and nearly as large as Cleveland's League Park). The Negro Leagues' Newark Eagles started playing there in 1936. In the original American Football League, of 1926, a football team called the Newark Bears played there.

With Yankee resources at their disposal, the Bears won 5 IL Pennants: 1932, 1937, 1938, 1940 and 1945. Future Yankee stars Joe Gordon, Tommy Henrich and Yogi Berra played for them. The Eagles, owned by Effa Manley, the first woman elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and led by future Hall-of-Famers Leon Day, East Orange native Monte Irvin, Paterson native Larry Doby, Willie Wells and Ray Dandridge, plus Don Newcombe, a Madison, New Jersey native who should be in the Hall, the Eagles won the 1946 Negro World Series. In 1948, Tony Zale regained the Middleweight Championship of the World there by knocking out Rocky Graziano.

However, the raids of black teams' rosters by the white majors began the decline of their leagues, and the Eagles left Newark after the 1948 season. The growth of television meant that fans could stay home and watch the Yankees, Giants or Dodgers for free, instead of going out to the Ironbound and paying to watch the Bears, and they left after 1950.

Ruppert Stadium was demolished in 1967, and a meat wholesaler's plant occupies the site now. 258 Wilson Avenue, southeast corner of Wilson and Avenue K. Number 25 bus. This is an industrial area, right underneath the elevated Routes 1 & 9, and I would advise avoiding it at night.

* Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium. Named for both of Newark's historical baseball teams, this new ballpark opened in 1999, for the new Bears of the independent Atlantic League. Newark native, Seton Hall graduate and former Yankee catcher Rick Cerone was the 1st owner. The team had legends Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco trying to work their way back to the majors, and also Jose's twin brother Ozzie, and featured ex-Yankees Jim Leyritz and Ramiro Mendoza, and ex-Mets Edgardo Alfonzo and Armando Benitez. Managers included Bill Madlock, Tim Raines and Garry Templeton.

The Bears won a Division title in 2001, and Atlantic League Pennants in 2002 and 2007. The latter was particularly satisfying, defeating their arch-rivals, the Somerset Patriots, the team with the multicultural urban fan base beating the team of conservative suburbanites who foisted Republican Governors named Christie on the State (Christine Todd Whitman and Chris Christie).

But they were forever short of money, never promoted themselves well, always struggled for attendance, nearly went bankrupt in 2008, shifted to the Can-Am League where there was a built-in rivalry with the New Jersey Jackals, only made the CAL Playoffs once (in 2009), and folded after the 2013 season. The rights to the team, its records and its trademarks are currently for sale, and the ballpark is now targeted for demolition and replacement by housing, for commuters for NJ Transit's Broad Street Station, across the street.

450 Broad Street, at Division Street. Light Rail (formerly the Newark City Subway) from Penn Station to Riverfront Stadium Station. The ride takes 7 minutes.

* Harrison Park. Although the Indianapolis Hoosiers won the 1st Federal League Pennant in 1914, they lost money, so they moved east. Blocked by the major league teams from establishing a base in Manhattan, and unable to use Brooklyn because another FL team was already playing there, they built 21,000-seat Harrison Park across the River, in Harrison, Hudson County. Calling themselves the Newark Peppers, they are the only major league team ever to officially call New Jersey home.

They featured center fielder Edd Roush, later a Hall-of-Famer for the Cincinnati Reds; 3rd baseman Bill McKechnie, later a Hall of Fame manager; and former Chicago Cubs pitcher Ed Reulbach. But they went just 80-72, finishing 5th. The FL went out of business after the season, and only briefly has Major League Baseball returned to New Jersey. Indeed, the last Peppers game was on October 3, 1915 -- 100 years ago today.

Harrison Park continued to be used by minor-league and local teams, before being destroyed by a fire in 1923. Home plate was at the southeast corner of 2nd & Middlesex Streets (Middlesex is now Angelo Cifelli Drive), and the park was also bounded by 3rd & Burlingston Streets. Warehouses are on the site now. The Harrison PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) station is adjacent, making it easily accessible from Newark's Penn Station. Red Bull Arena, the soccer stadium, is a 5-minute walk away.

* Red Bull Arena. Home to the New York Red Bulls since it opened in 2010, this 25,000-seat facility is probably the best soccer-specific stadium in America. The Red Bulls have made the MLS Playoffs every year since it opened (including 2016). Led by Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, former Everton star Tim Cahill, and short but wily midfielder Dax McCarty, "Metro" (the nickname a holdover from their MetroStars days) won the Supporters' Shield, the trophy given to the team with the best overall record in the League, in 2013. Led by McCarty and Bradley Wright-Phillips, son of Ian Wright (whom Henry replaced as Arsenal's all-time leading scorer), they won the Supporters' Shield again last season. However, they have never won an MLS Cup, it took them 18 seasons to get that 1st trophy of any kind, and some fans think the team is jinxed.

The Arena has hosted 2 U.S. national team matches: A win over Ecuador on October 11, 2011, and a draw with Turkey on June 1, 2014.

The U.S. national team has also played 3 matches within the confines of the City of Newark, in the early days, between 1885 and 1935; however, the locations have not been recorded. It may have been Dreamland Park, where the football Giants played their 1st game in 1925. The infamous Seth Boyden Houses project is on the site now, at Freylinghuysen Avenue (N.J. Route 27) & Seth Boyden Terrace, near Weequahic Park. Bus 59. It could also have been at the recently demolished and rebuilt Newark City Schools Stadium. More about that in a moment.

Red Bull Arena's official address is 600 Cape May Street, at Pete Higgins Blvd., in Harrison. PATH to Harrison is the most common way to get there if you're not driving. The most fun way is to go to Penn Station, walk out the east entrance, make a "pub crawl" down Market Street, and then join the various "ultra" groups as they walk across the Jackson Street Bridge, over the River, to the stadium.

Yes, ultras. Not hooligans: While incredibly enthusiastic, and will defend themselves if attacked, as they had to do recently with fans of expansion New York City F.C. (taking up temporary residence at the new Yankee Stadium) they will never instigate violence.

* Site of Roosevelt Stadium. Named for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose Works Project Administration (WPA) made it possible, this 24,000-seat stadium on Newark Bay, in the Droyer's Point section of Jersey City, hosted the International League's Jersey City Giants until 1950. It also briefly hosted the IL's Jersey City Jerseys (yes, that was the name) in 1960 and '61, and the Eastern League's Jersey City Indians in 1977 and Jersey City A's in 1978.

The "Little Giants" won Pennants in 1939 and 1947. On April 18, 1946, they hosted the Montreal Royals, in Jackie Robinson's debut in "organized ball."

In 1956 and 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers took advantage of its big parking lot -- something the larger Ebbets Field did not have -- to play 7 games a season, 1 vs. each of the other National League teams, at Roosevelt. It was a ploy by Walter O'Malley, to show that he would move the Dodgers a lot further west than New Jersey if he didn't get a new ballpark. Robert Moses, the City's construction czar, either thought O'Malley was bluffing, or that it wasn't worth keeping the Dodgers, and they moved to Los Angeles.

The 1st Dodger game there was on April 19, 1956, and the Dodgers beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-4. The last was on September 3, 1957, also against the Phils, who won 3-2. Average attendance for the Jersey City games: 18,432, better than the Dodgers were doing at Ebbets Field. Despite this, since September 3, 1957, no MLB games have been played in the State of New Jersey.

In his first fight after regaining the Middleweight title at Ruppert Stadium in 1948, Tony Zale lost it at Roosevelt Stadium, beaten by Marcel Cerdan. In 1950, Sugar Ray Robinson defended the Welterweight Championship there. The Grateful Dead played 6 shows there in the 1970s. Today, Roosevelt Stadium is probably best remembered for its Thanksgiving Day high school football games, with the field laid out from 3rd base to right field (north to south).

It was demolished in 1985, and a gated community, named Droyer's Point for the old neighborhood, and a shopping center called Stadium Plaza have been built on the site. Danforth Avenue & N.J. Route 440. PATH to Journal Square, transfer to the Number 80 bus.

According to an April 24, 2014 article in The New York Times, the Yankees now have an absolute stranglehold on the baseball fandom of New Jersey. Percentage wise, the Yankees lead the Mets as follows, County by County: 66-14 in Bergen, 65-10 in Morris, 65-12 in Passaic, 65-14 in Sussex, 64-14 in Somerset, 63-10 in Essex (including Newark), 63-12 in Hunterdon, 63-16 in Middlesex, 60-13 in Ocean, 60-14 in Hudson, and 59-17 in Monmouth. In Warren County, bordering Pennsylvania, it's Yankees 42, Phillies 28, Mets 11. In Mercer, home of State capital Trenton, and accessible to Philadelphia by rail, it's Yankees 41, Phillies 27, Red Sox 10 -- the Mets are actually 4th in that County.

* Site of Boyle's Thirty Acres. This was a temporary stadium built by boxing promoter George "Tex" Rickard to host the July 2, 1921 Heavyweight Championship fight between titleholder Jack Dempsey and French fighter Georges Carpentier, the Light Heavyweight Champion. Why there? Because, at the time -- and for 2 more years -- boxing would be illegal in the State of New York.

On 34 acres owned by paper manufacturer John Boyle, and in a deal negotiated by Mayor Frank "I Am the Law" Hague (who later made the deal with the WPA to build Roosevelt Stadium), Rickard constructed a 90,000-"seat" facility, all wooden benches. (Had someone dropped a cigarette, and the stands caught fire, it could have made the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster in England look like a picnic.) The fight sold out, and Dempsey knocked the real-life World War I flying ace out in the 4th round.

Boxing was soon legalized in New York, and Rickard's promotion company staged fights at the 2nd Madison Square Garden, the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium. Rickard built the 3rd Garden, and turned it into "the Mecca of Boxing." (He also built the original Boston Garden.) All this made Boyle's Thirty Acres obsolete, and it was demolished in 1927. A housing project named Montgomery Gardens went up on the site in 1957, but the city demolish it this past August 29, and plans to replace it with new, better housing. Montgomery, Florence & Bright Streets & Corneilson Avenue. PATH to Journal Square, transfer to Number 6 bus.

* Hinchliffe Stadium. One of the few surviving stadiums to have hosted a Negro Leagues game, this 10,000-seat horseshoe, designed for football, was built by Paterson Mayor John Hinchliffe in 1932, above the city's Great Falls on the Passaic River. It hosted the 1933 Negro World Series, and hosted some (but not all) home games of the New York Black Yankees (yes, a team with that name did exist, though it wasn't nearly as successful as its white counterpart) and the New York Cubans (so named because so many natives of Cuba are the descendants of African slaves, so that, to many white people, "Cuban" came to be thought of as "black").

The stadium is home to both Eastside and John F. Kennedy (formerly Central) High Schools, and their Thanksgiving Day tussle is one of the biggest games in the State. Larry Doby, born in South Carolina but raised in Paterson, played there for both Eastside High and the Newark Eagles. It's in bad shape now, but efforts are underway to restore it. Maple & Liberty Streets. Number 72 bus from Newark Penn Station, then a 20-minute walk from Paterson's Broadway Terminal. Not to be visited at night.

* Newark Tornadoes. The 1st NFL team to play home games in New Jersey was the Orange Tornadoes, an offshoot of the Orange Athletic Club, founded in Orange, Essex County in 1887. They put a team called the Tornadoes in the NFL for the 1929 season, at Knights of Columbus Stadium at 54 Bell Street, site of the current Bell Stadium of Orange High School. Bus 21 from Newark Penn Station.

In 1930, the team was moved to Newark City Schools Stadium, and renamed the Newark Tornadoes. The timing couldn't have been much worse, as the stock market had crashed during their 1929 season in Orange, and the NFL lost several teams in the Herbert Hoover years. The team dropped out of the NFL, played semi-pro ball as the Orange Tornadoes back at K of C Stadium, were admitted to the American Association (a minor pro football league) in 1936, moved back to Schools Stadium and became the Newark Tornadoes in 1937 and the Newark Bears in 1939, and then folded after the U.S. got into World War II.

Newark Schools Stadium was a 25,000-seat horseshoe, open at the south end, built in 1925, hosting both baseball and football at the high school level, and the occasional NCAA Division III college football game. By the time I first saw it in 1988, a point at which the Newark school system was practically begging the State government for money, it was beginning to deteriorate. By 2006, it was outright condemned, and Central, Barringer and East Side High Schools began to share the smaller Untermann Field with West Side, while Malcom X Shabazz High School (the former South Side High had been renamed for Malcolm X  in 1972 but is usually just called "Shabazz") and Weequahic High continued to share Shabazz Stadium.

In 2009, a new Newark City Schools Stadium opened, seating 15,000, with a considerably more decorated outer shell than the old one, and a FieldTurf playing surface. In the North Ward, at Bloomfield & Roseville Avenues. Bus 11, 28 or 29 from Newark Penn Station. Also a short walk from the Bloomfield Avenue station on Newark Light Rail (formerly known as the City Subway).

* Army-Navy Game. The battle between the service academies has been played in New Jersey: At Osborne Field in Princeton (that was 2 stadiums ago for the Princeton Tigers) in 1905; and at Giants Stadium in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2002. It has not yet been played at MetLife Stadium, and, for the moment, there are no plans to host it there (it's scheduled through 2017).

* Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center and Yogi Berra Stadium. Few people get a museum in their honor while they're still alive. A group of Yogi's friends thought he deserved one.

It's hard to argue against it: He not only won more World Series than any other player, 10, and 3 American League Most Valuable Player awards, but he was also the only major league ballplayer who also fought in the D-Day invasion. He was also the 1st Yankee on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and The Dreaded SI Cover Jinx didn't seem to affect him. That, alone, may justify a museum! But then, as the man himself might have said if he'd thought of it first, "I don't believe in bad jinxes."

Since he lived in Upper Montclair until he and his wife Carmen began to fail and moved to a nursing home -- both have since passed away -- the museum was built on the campus of Montclair State University, straddling the towns of Montclair (in Essex County) and Little Falls (the museum is actually in Passaic County).

The Museum has exhibits about Yogi's life and career, the Yankees in general, and tributes to the Negro Leagues and ballplayers in military service. It goes out of its way to be kid-friendly, hence the "Learning Center." Check it out: As the man himself would have said if he'd thought of it first, "If you don't go, you won't know what you're not missing."

Admission is $6.00, $4.00 for students under age 18. They're open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5:00 -- or, as the website itself says, "We're open 'til we close." 8 Yogi Berra Drive (to match his uniform number), Little Falls. Easy driving access from U.S. Route 46. Or, take the Newark Light Rail to Broad Street Station, one stop from Riverfront Stadium, and take the Montclair-Boonton Line to MSU station. Or, take the NJ Transit Number 28 bus from downtown Newark to the MSU campus.

Attached to the Museum is Yogi Berra Stadium, home of the New Jersey Jackals of the American Association, formerly of the Northeast League and the Can-Am League (both now defunct, as the AA is named for a pair of defunct pro leagues). They've won 4 Pennants: 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2004, all in the Northeast League. While they haven't won a Pennant in 11 years, they've made their league's Playoffs in each of the last 7 years. Alumni include Pete Rose Jr., former AL Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa, former Met Timo Perez, and a Yankee prospect who never panned out, D'Angelo Jimenez. A skybox attached to the museum was built so that Yogi and his guests could watch the games.

* Colleges. The aforementioned Montclair State is NCAA Division III. Division I schools in the northern half of New Jersey are: Rutgers University in New Brunswick, 27 miles away; Princeton University in Princeton, 41 miles; Monmouth University in West Long Branch, 45 miles; Seton Hall University in South Orange, 4 miles; St. Peter's University in Jersey City, 6 miles; and Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, 19 miles.

Rutgers is easily the most popular college football team in North Jersey, although there's plenty of Penn State and Notre Dame fans. For shame. Indeed, Saint Joe Paterno University dominates West Jersey and South Jersey. Yes, even after the scandal. Old habits die hard.

Yogi Berra is buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery -- not the one in Westchester, where Babe Ruth and Billy Martin are laid to rest, but the one at 225 Ridgedale Avenue in East Hanover, Morris County. Not easily reachable by public transportation. Devils' founding owner John McMullen is buried at Mount Hebron Cemetery, 851 Valley Road in Montclair, a 20-minute walk south of Yogi's Museum and Stadium.

* Non-Sports Sites. The Newark Museum is worth a visit, at 49 Washington Street, off Washington Park. Use that stop on the Newark Light Rail. There are some other points of note in the city, and you can check out the city's website to decide which ones you want to see. Penn Station, built in 1935 in the Art Deco style so popular at the time, is a destination in and of itself. And don't forget all the nice places to eat in the Ironbound, the one section of Newark that actually smells good.

Branch Brook Park, on the north side of Newark, is home to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a carousel, a skating rink, and cherry blossom trees that light up the area in early April. Sacred Heart is at 6th Street & Clifton Avenue, across from Barringer High School (which happens to have been my father's alma mater). Park Avenue stop on the Light Rail. The rink is at 7th & Clifton; take the Orange Street stop.

The only President born in New Jersey was Grover Cleveland. His father was a minister, and the house where the future 22nd and 24th (non-consecutive terms) President of the United States was born was a church parsonage. 207 Bloomfield Avenue, Caldwell. Number 29 bus. (Not far away is the real-life house used as Tony's house on The Sopranos. However, it is privately owned, so leave them alone.)

Woodrow Wilson was the only New Jersey-based politician to become President, serving as Governor in 1911 and '12, and then elected President. At the time, New Jersey did not have an official Governor's Mansion. 72 Library Place, in Princeton. Not far away is Westland, the house where Grover Cleveland lived the last few years of his life. 15 Hodge Road. (Cleveland lived the beginning and end of his life in New Jersey, but lived most of his life in New York State.) Both residences, and Albert Einstein's house at 112 Mercer Street, are private residences, and not open to tours. NJ Transit rail to Princeton Junction, then take the Princeton Shuttle.

Elvis Presley never gave a concert in the State of New Jersey, not even at a smaller venue like Newark's Symphony Hall early in his career. By the time he started touring again in 1970, the only venue in the State that could have held him was Convention Hall, now known as Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, but he was never booked there. The Beatles were, on August 30, 1964. This happened right after President Lyndon B. Johnson was nominated for a full term at the Democratic Convention. A bust of John F. Kennedy, who was supposed to be renominated at that Convention, is across the Boardwalk from the Hall. 2301 Boardwalk at Mississippi Avenue. NJ Transit runs buses from Port Authority.

The tallest building in Newark is the National Newark & Essex Building, another Art Deco masterpiece, going up in 1931 and rising 466 feet, with the flagpole increasing its height to 578 feet. 744 Broad Street at Clinton Street, 1 block west and 2 blocks north of the Prudential Center.

It remained the tallest building in New Jersey until 1989, a distinction held since 2004 by the Goldman Sachs Tower, on the Jersey City waterfront (a.k.a. the Gold Coast). It's 781 feet high, and, from traffic on the Turnpike, could easily be mistaken for one of the towers of the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, across the Hudson River. 30 Hudson Street at Essex Street. PATH to Exchange Place, then 5 blocks south on Hudson Street. Also accessible via the Essex Street station on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and the Paulus Hook Ferry.

*

With the Giants, the Jets, the Red Bulls, and, yes, the 3-time Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils, North Jersey doesn't have to take a back seat to anybody. Indeed, from January 25, 1987 (Super Bowl XXI) onward, New Jersey has been home to 7 World Championships (Giants 4, Devils 3), New York City to 6 (Yankees 5, Rangers 1). New Jersey has also hosted a Super Bowl and World Cup matches since then, while New York City never has; and has hosted an NCAA Final Four, something New York City hasn't done since 1951.

Going to a Devils game is more fun than an Islander game because the Isles have become irrelevant. And it's more fun than a Ranger game because, well, the Rangers suck. Let's go, Devils!