Sunday, June 25, 2017

Yanks Can't Hit Bibens-Dirkx, Girardi & Clippard Are Jerkx

Luis Cessa, honoring his manager, Joe Girardi,
by wearing Girardi's IQ as his uniform number

Me, Friday afternoon: "Austin Bibens-Dirkx. He's a 32-year-old righthander from Oregon, who just last month made his major league debut, in his 12th season in the minors. A fine example of persistence, sure. But the proverbial 'pitcher the Yankees have never seen before.' And the game is on Fox. So you know what that combination means. It means the execrable Joe Buck will enjoy himself, and let us know it."

Unfortunately, I called it. How I wish I had been wrong. Here is what the Yankees got against the Texas Rangers yesterday afternoon at Yankee Stadium:

* 1st inning: Mason Williams walked to lead off the game, and stole 2nd base. Stranded.

* 2nd inning: Starlin Castro led off with a single. Stranded.

* 3rd inning: Williams singled with 1 out. Stranded.

* 5th inning: Austin Romine singled with 2 out. Stranded.

* 6th inning: Aaron Judge crushed a 439-foot home run to left-center field, his 26th and most meaningless dinger of the season.

* 7th inning: Didi Gregorius led off with a single. Erased on a double play.

That's what they got against ABD. They didn't get anything off Alex Claudio in the 8th or Keone Kela in the 9th, either.

On the Yankee side, Luis Cessa allowed 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks in 5 innings. He struck out 8, but who cares?

Still, it was only 4-1 Rangers going into the 9th. A comeback was still possible.

But because Joe Girardi is an idiot who doesn't know how to manage a bullpen, he put Tyler Clippard in to pitch the 9th inning. By the time Clippard finally got the last out of the inning, his earned run average had soared to 4.85 on the season.

He's a relief pitcher.

Deservedly, he got booed off the mound.

Rangers 8, Yankees 1. WP: Bibens-Dirkx (3-0). No save. LP: Cessa (0-2).

The Red Sox also lost, so the Yankees remain tied for 1st, a game ahead in the loss column.

Today is Old-Timers' Day. Ceremonies get underway at 12:00. The regular game is scheduled to start at 2:10. Michael Pineda starts against Nick Martinez.

I'm really hoping the Yankees don't embarrass their legends, as they have so many times before.
Because that's depressing.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

How to Go to an Edmonton Eskimos Game

Tonight, the Edmonton Eskimos begin the Canadian Football League season, against the BC Lions in Vancouver. This coming Friday night, they play their home opener, against the Montreal Alouettes.

Before You Go. At 53 degrees, 33 minutes North latitude, Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton is, if you count the CFL, the northernmost venue in North America's 5 major sports leagues. But since this is Summer, the legendary Canadian cold won't be an issue. The Edmonton Sun is predicting that temperatures will be in the mid-60s during the day and the low 50s at night, with a 30 percent chance of rain.

This is Canada, so you will need your passport. You will need to change your money. At this writing, C$1.00 = US 75 cents, and US$1.00 = C$1.33. And I advise you to call your bank and let them know that you will be in a foreign country, so they won't see credit or debit card purchases from a foreign country pop up and think your card has been stolen.

Also, remember that they use the metric system. A speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour means 62 miles an hour. And don't be fooled by the seemingly low gas prices: That's per liter, not per gallon, and, in spite of Canada being a major oil-producing nation, you'll actually be paying more for gas up there. So, in order to avoid both confusion and "sticker-shock," get your car filled up before you reach the border.

Edmonton is in the Mountain Time Zone, so they are 2 hours behind New York and New Jersey. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

And this is very important: If you need to go to the bathroom, don't ask anyone where the "bathroom" is. Ask for the "washroom."

Tickets. The Eskimos averaged 30,998 fans per home game last season, about 55 percent of capacity. Getting tickets shouldn't be hard. In the Lower Level, midfield seats are $89, sideline seats are $56, and end zone seats are $32. In the Upper Level, midfield seats are $68 and sideline seats are $44. that's in Canadian dollars, so they're probably a little less expensive to us than that.

Getting There. It's 2,425 miles from Times Square to downtown Edmonton (341 miles from the closest border crossing, at Babb, Montana). Naturally, your first thought would be to fly. So flying is easily the best way to get there. You can fly Air Canada from Newark to Edmonton and back, changing planes in Calgary, for just under $1,000 ($991).

Taking Greyhound takes almost 66 hours, and forces you to change buses twice going out, and a whopping 4 times coming back in:

Leave Port Authority 12:15 AM Wednesday
Arrive Toronto 10:30 AM Wednesday (2 hour, 30 minute layover, change buses)
Leave Toronto 1:00 PM Wednesday
Arrive Winnipeg 7:45 PM Thursday (45 minute layover, change buses)
Leave Winnipeg 8:30 PM Thursday
Arrive Edmonton 3:40 PM Friday

Game kicks off in Edmonton 8:00 PM Friday
Game ends around 11:30 PM Friday
(1 hour, 15 minutes to catch bus, unless you spend the night)

Leave Edmonton 12:45 AM Saturday
Arrive Winnipeg 9:45 PM Saturday (30 minute layover, change buses)
Leave Winnipeg 10:15 PM Saturday
Arrive Sudbury 11:50 PM Sunday (40 minute layover, change buses)
Leave Sudbury 12:30 AM Monday
Arrive Ottawa 7:25 AM Monday (35 minute layover, change buses)
Leave Ottawa 8:00 AM Monday
Arrive Montreal 10:30 AM Monday (45 minute layover, change buses)
Leave Montreal 11:15 AM Monday
Arrive Port Authority 8:35 PM Monday

New York to Edmonton is $543 round-trip. The Greyhound station is at 11041 105th Avenue NW at 111th Street.

The Toronto-to-Vancouver train runs only every other day, so you'd have this schedule if you went by train:

Leave Penn Station 7:15 AM Tuesday
Arrive Toronto 4:45 PM (5 hour, 15 minute layover, change trains)
Leave Toronto 10:00 PM Tuesday
Arrive Edmonton 6:22 AM Friday
Game kicks off in Edmonton 8:00 PM Friday
Game ends around 11:30 PM Friday (24 hours to catch train back out)
Leave Edmonton 11:59 PM Saturday (July 1, their national holiday)
Arrive Toronto 9:30 AM Tuesday (July 4, our national holiday)
(22 hour, 50 minute layover, change trains)
Leave Toronto 8:20 AM Wednesday
Arrive Penn Station 9:50 PM Wednesday

New York to Toronto is US$252. Toronto to Edmonton is C$987.72, or US$744.56. So the total price is $997, or roughly the same as flying. Yeah, forget the train. At any rate, the Edmonton station for VIA Rail Canada is at 12360 121st Street NW.

Would driving be better? You tell me: 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 now the key, through the rest of Ohio and Indiana.

Just outside Chicago, I-80 will split off from I-90, which you will keep, until it merges with Interstate 94. For the moment, though, you will ignore I-94. Stay on I-90 through Illinois, until reaching Madison, Wisconsin, where you will once again merge with I-94. Now, I-94 is what you want, taking it into Minnesota and the Twin Cities.

However, unless you want to make a rest stop actually in Minneapolis or St. Paul, you're going to bypass them entirely. Take Exit 249 to get on Interstate 694, the Twin Cities' beltway, until you merge with Interstate 494 to reform I-94. Crossing Minnesota into North Dakota, you'll take Exit 256 to U.S. Route 52 West, and take that up to the Canadian border.

Presuming you don't do anything stupid that makes Customs officials keep you out of Canada, U.S. 52 will continue as Saskatchewan Provincial Route 39. At Weyburn, you'll turn right on Provincial Route 35. At Francis, you'll turn left on Provincial Route 33. At the Provincial Capital of Regina, you'll take the Trans-Canada Highway, which you'll take to Provincial Route 11. Stay on that after it becomes Provincial Route 16. At Saskatoon, follow the signs to stay on Route 16, and take that into Alberta, where it will remain Provincial Route 16.

Turn left onto Fort Road NW, and stay on it until it flows into 80th Street. It will curve right into 115th Avenue. Turn left on 86th Street (with all these numbered streets, it may start to feel like Queens), which becomes Stadium Drive at 112th Avenue. The stadium will be on your right.

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 and a half hours in Indiana, an hour and a half in Illinois, 2 and a half hours in Wisconsin, 4 and a half hours in Minnesota, 6 hours in North Dakota, 13 and a half hours in Saskatchewan (believe it, it's over 800 miles), and 4 hours in Alberta. That's 45 hours and 15 minutes. Throw in rest stops, and we're talking closer to 62 hours -- 2 and a half days. You'd have to really love both driving and hockey, and not mind cold weather, to do that.

And, on October 14, 2016, President Obama finally ended the ban on bringing Cuban cigars into America. This also applies to rum, for which Cuba is also renowned. It is still considerably easier to buy these items in Canada than in America, but, now, you can bring them back over the border.

Once In the City. Located on the Saskatchewan River, Fort Edmonton, a fur-trading post, was founded in 1795, but not incorporated until 1892, making it the youngest city in all of North American major league sports. (The youngest of the U.S. cities with at least 2 teams is Phoenix, founded in 1881.) It is Alberta's Provincial capital.
Alberta Legislature Building

Named for a village in England's historic county of Middlesex (now a part of North London), the name meaning Eadhelm's Town, Alberta's capital and 2nd-largest city has over 930,000 people, but adding the suburbs only makes it 1.3 million -- a familiar pattern in Canada, except for its 3 biggest cities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Edmonton has East-West numbered Avenues and North-South numbered Streets -- the exact opposite of Manhattan. Anthony Henday Drive (named for an English explorer of Western Canada, effectively Canada's "Lewis & Clark") divides the city into North and South. But while there are streets with NW and SW suffixes, there's no NE and SE.

And the Alberta Legislature Building, roughly the focal point of the city, is at 97th Avenue NW and 107th Street NW. Go figure. That's like if New York City had the same street grid, but City Hall were at the Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, New Jersey. (A town named after American Revolution hero General Anthony Wayne, not Wayne Gretzky.)

The sales tax in the Province of Alberta is 5 percent, and it doesn't go up in the City of Edmonton. The city has buses and light rail, and a single fare is C$3.20 (which works out to about US$2.40, so it's cheaper than New York's).
The drinking age in Alberta is 18. Postal Codes in the Province start with the letter T. The Area Code is 780, with 587 and 825 as overlays for the entire Province.

Going In. Not to be confused with the football stadium of the same name at the University of Kentucky, Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium is at 11000 Stadium Road, at 112th Avenue, about a mile and a half northeast of downtown. Stadium station on the light rail. If you drive in, parking is $10.

Last year, The Brick Ltd., an Edmonton-based retailer of furniture, mattresses, appliances and home electronics, bought the naming rights, so it's now The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium.
It was built to host the 1978 Commonwealth Games, the mini-Olympics held every 4 years by the British Commonwealth, formerly known as the Empire Games. (Hence, Vancouver's old stadium was Empire Stadium.) Having once had a capacity of over 60,000, it's now at 56,302. The field runs north-to-south, and the real grass field was replaced with FieldTurf in 2010.

The Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos have played here since it opened, and have won 10 Grey Cups, the CFL's Super Bowl, since moving in. The team's green and yellow color scheme is installed in the seats, giving the stadium a weird look.
The Grey Cup has been played there 4 times: In 1984, 1997, 2002 and 2010. Like the Super Bowl, its site is chosen in advance, in the hope of getting a neutral site; but, with the CFL having only 9 teams, the chance of a host team playing in it is a lot higher than in the Super Bowl. However, the Esks played in only 1 of those 4, in 2002, and they lost to Montreal, who also won in 2010. Winnipeg won in 1984, and Toronto in 1997.

The Edmonton Oilers also hosted Montreal in a 2003 hockey doubleheader at Commonwealth Stadium, starting the NHL's "new tradition" of outdoor games, preceded by an old-timers' game between the 1980s Oilers and the 1970s Canadiens -- 11 Stanley Cups between them. The Oilers won the old-timers' game, but the Canadiens won the regular game, best remembered for Montreal goalie Jose Theodore wearing a "toque," or a ski cap, with a Canadiens logo, over his regulation helmet.

(Apparently, he checked with the NHL office, and was allowed to wear it during a game. The NHL appears to have less of a fetish for uniform restrictions than the NFL.)
Oilers fans at the original "Heritage Classic,"
November 22, 2003

The Edmonton Drillers of the old North American Soccer League played there, and FC Edmonton of the new NASL now uses it for games that exceed the capacity of Clarke Stadium. It was also one of the venues for Canada's hosting of the 2015 Women's World Cup.

Built in 1938, the adjacent Clarke Stadium was the first home of the Eskimos, from 1946 to 1977. They won 4 Grey Cups here: 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1975. So they won the 1st 3 Grey Cups after the CFL was founded, and the 1st 5 after they moved next-door into Commonwealth Stadium. (Maybe they should move again, so they can win again.)
The current Clarke Stadium

The original stadium was demolished, and a much smaller stadium, with 6,000 seats, was built on the site. FC Edmonton uses it for most home games, but would likely have to use Commonwealth if they want to think about moving up to Major League Soccer.

Food. The stadium website doesn't say much, only that, "Commonwealth Stadium offers a variety of food and beverage options sold through the many concessions located on the East and West Concourses." You might be better off eating before and after the game.

Team History Displays. The Edmonton Eskimos have won 14 Grey Cups. The 1st 4 were won at Clarke Stadium: 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1975. The last 6 have been won at Commonwealth Stadium: 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1993, 2003, 2005 and 2015. Yes, they won 5 straight titles, the only time it's happened in Canadian football, led by quarterback Warren Moon. Yes, that Warren Moon. However, there is no display honoring these titles in the fan-viewable areas of the stadium.

What the Eskimos do have is a Wall of Honour, displayed on the edge of the concrete separating the decks. Rather than retire these players' numbers, they keep them in circulation. They have honored 30 players thus far:

* From the 1954, '55 and '56 Grey Cups: 14, 2-way back Oscar Kruger; 18, 2-way back Rollie Miles; 24, running back and linebacker Johnny Bright; 27, quarterback and defensive back Don Getty ('55 and '56 only); 51, 2-way end Frank "Guts" Anderson; 52, guard and defensive tackle Frank Morris; 66, 2-way tackle Roger Nelson; 91, quarterback and defensive back Jackie Parker; 95, 2-way back Normie Kwong. In 2006, TSN (The Sports Network, Canada's version of ESPN), released the 50 Greatest CFL Players. Parker came in at Number 3, Bright at 19, Kwong at 34 and Miles at 48.
Jackie Parker

* From between the '56 and '75 Cups: 66, defensive tackle John LaGrone; 75, receiver Tommy Joe Coffey, who came in at Number 27 on the CFL 50 Greatest.

* From the 1975 Grey Cup: 12, quarterback Tom Wilkinson; 13, defensive back Larry Highbaugh; 26, kicker Dave Cutler; 42, linebacker Danny Kepley; 55, defensive tackle Ron Estay; 62, offensive tackle Bill Stevenson; 65, defensive tackle Dave Fennell; 76, receiver George McGowan (was still there in '78, but not after). Kepley came in at 11 on the CFL 50 Greatest, Fennell at 24, Highbaugh at 38.

* From the 1978, '79, '80, '81 and '82 Grey Cups: Wilkinson, Highbaugh, Cutler, Kepley, Estay, Stevenson, Fennell; 1, quarterback Warren Moon; 22, slotback Tom Scott; 63, offensive tackle Hector Pothier; 70, receiver Brian Kelly (not there until '79, and not the current Notre Dame head coach). Moon came in at 5 on the CFL 50 Greatest, Kelly at 20, and James "Quick" Parker, a defensive end from the '80, '81 and '82 Grey Cups, who is not on the Wall of Honour but is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (and is not related to Jackie Parker), at 21.
Warren Moon in the Battle of Alberta
with the Calgary Stampeders

* From the 1987 Grey Cup: Stevenson, Pothier, Kelly; 2, receiver Henry "Gizmo" Williams; 30, linebacker Danny Bass; 47, linebacker Larry Wruck; 67, center Rod Connop (was also there in '82). On the CFL 50 Greatest, Williams came in at 25, Bass at 44, and, not on the Wall of Honour but in the Hall of Fame, mainly for how they played elsewhere, quarterbacks Damon Allen at 14 and Matt Dunigan at 39.

* From the 1993 Grey Cup: Williams, Wruck, Connop; 11, kicker Sean Fleming; 39, linebacker Willie Pless; 60, guard Chris Morris (now the head coach at the University of Alberta, but still wearing green and gold). Pless came in at 16 on the CFL 50 Greatest.

* From the 2003 and '05 Grey Cups: Fleming, Chris Morris. Not on the Wall of Honour, but in the Hall of Fame and in the CFL 50 Greatest, running back Mike Pringle came in at 4, defensive end Joe Montford at 40, and slotback Terry Vaughn at 45, all mainly for what they did for other teams. No players have yet been honored from the 2015 Grey Cup.

Stuff. The Eskimos Team Store is located at the Recreation Centre in the stadium's south end. It is open on non-game days, and they recommend coming on Saturdays to avoid lines.

Books about the Eskimos are not exactly filling a library shelf. Graham Kelly wrote Grey Cup Glory! The Edmonton Eskimos' 2003 Championship Season. But nothing on their mid-1950s or late-'70s, early-'80s dynasties. There is a commemorative DVD: CFL Traditions: Edmonton Eskimos, but that came out in 2003, so it doesn't have the 3 most recent Grey Cup wins on it.

During the Game. If you were wearing a Calgary Stampeders jersey, you might have a problem. Maybe a BC Lions, a Toronto Argonauts, or an Ottawa Redblacks jersey. Other than that, I don't think Edmonton fans will bother you. You should be safe.

The Eskimos hold auditions for singing the National Anthem -- "O, Canada," of course, not "The Star-Spangled Banner." They have 2 mascots: Nanook, a polar bear, tying in with the Eskimo theme without insulting the "First Nations" (indigenous peoples -- never "Indians"); and Punter, a big football.
During the break between the 3rd and 4th quarter of each home game fans stand and sing the "Edmonton Eskimos Fight Song" to the "Washington and Lee Swing" fight song from the Virginia university of the same name:

We're cheering fight, fight, fight on Eskimos
We're marching right, right, right on Eskimos
We're charging down the field for all to see
and shouting rah, rah, rah, fight on to victory
We're fighting on till every game is won
The Green and Gold is bold and when we're done
we'll tell the world we're proud of Edmonton
and the Edmonton Eskimos!

After the Game. As long as you don't go out of your way to praise the Stampeders, you'll be safe on your way out. Edmontonians are good football fans, and not goons.

The End Zone Pub is across 112th Avenue from the north end of the stadium. Further east on 112th are a McDonald's and a Caribbean restaurant called Saffron's.

If your visit to Edmonton is during the European soccer season (now in the off-season, starting up again in mid-August), the best place to watch your favorite club is at The Pint Public House, 10125 109 Street NW, about a mile west of downtown. Light rail to Corona.

Sidelights. If Americans know one thing about Edmonton, it's Gretzky. If they know another, it's the world's largest mall. Except it isn't the world's largest anymore. Here are some things you should know about Edmonton, especially if you're a sports fan:

* Rogers Place. The new Oilers arena is at 10220 104th Avenue NW, at 103rd Street. The naming rights ties Canadian TV network Rogers Sportsnet, already with its name on Toronto's former SkyDome (Rogers Centre) and Vancouver's former General Motors Place (Rogers Arena) with AT&T for the most North American sports buildings with naming rights: 3.
It's already been nicknamed the "Rog Mahal."

It can be reached by light rail, at MacEwan Station, as it's adjacent to MacEwan University. So it's much more convenient than the old arena, beyond simply being newer and more comfortable. It claims the largest scoreboard in the NHL: 46 feet long by 46 feet wide by 36 feet high. It is shared by the Oilers and their top farm team, the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.

* Northlands Coliseum. Also known at various times as the Edmonton Coliseum, the Skyreach Centre and Rexall Place, the old Oliers arena is about 3 1/2 miles northeast of downtown.

The 501 light rail goes from Grandin Station to Coliseum Station, and takes 17 minutes. The address is 10220 104th Avenue NW, at 103rd Street NW. A shopping mall, Edmonton EXPO Center at Northlands, is across 118th Avenue.
It had also been home to the minor-league Edmonton Oil Kings, indoor soccer's Edmonton Drillers, concerts, pro wrestling, and events of the 1978 Commonwealth Games. (The Games are a mini-Olympics for nations in the British Commonwealth, including Canada. Previously known as the Empire Games, Vancouver's old Empire Stadium was built for them.)

* Site of Edmonton Gardens. Edmonton's 1st arena was across 118th Avenue from the Northlands Coliseum/Rexall Place, in what's now a parking lot for the Edmonton EXPO Center. It opened in 1913 and was demolished in 1982. It was home to a succession of minor league teams, including the Edmonton Oil Kings, who became and remain a farm club of the Oilers, who played their 1st 2 seasons there, 1972-74.
Despite years of complaints that it was outdated and "a disaster waiting to happen," two attempts to demolish the Coliseum by dynamite failed, and they had to use a wrecking ball. They knew how to build buildings in those days, especially sports venues. (The man who ran Detroit's Olympia Stadium in the Red Wings' last few years there said that he'd want to be inside it if The Bomb dropped.)

* RE/MAX Field. This 10,000-seat ballpark, formerly Edmonton Ballpark and Telus Field for Canada's largest phone company, opened in 1995, for the Edmonton Trappers of the Pacific Coast League. However, it has been without a permanent tenant since the close of the 2011 season. 10233 96th Avenue at Rossdale Road, at the southern edge of downtown, east of the Legislature. Number 9 bus.
The closest Major League Baseball team to Edmonton is the Seattle Mariners, and the closest Major League Soccer team is the Seattle Sounders. And those teams are not close: 790 miles away. The nearest NBA team is even further: The Portland Trail Blazers are 955 miles away. While FC Edmonton has pretensions to moving up to MLS, don't expect Edmonton to get a team in either MLB or the NBA: The metro area population is so low, they'd be 31st and dead last in each.

According to an article in the May 12, 2014 New York Times, the most popular NBA team in Edmonton is easily the Los Angeles Lakers, well ahead of runners-up the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics.

* Old Strathcona. Once the commercial core of the separate city of Strathcona, the area is now Edmonton's main arts and entertainment district, as well as a local shopping hub for local residents and students at the nearby University of Alberta. Many of the area's businesses are owner-operated, but chains have also made inroads in the neighborhood. A good proportion of Edmonton's theaters and live-performance venues are also located in the area. The district centres on Whyte Avenue, formerly 82nd Avenue.

The University of Alberta has won the University Cup, the championship of Canadian collegiate hockey, 15 times: In 1964, 1968, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1986, 1992, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2014 and 2015.

* Royal Alberta Museum. Just as the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is Eastern Canada's most important museum, so is the Royal Alberta Museum (RAM) the most important in Western Canada. Its natural history exhibits make it an analogue to New York's American Museum of Natural History. 12845 102nd Avenue NW at Wellington Crescent. Bus 1 or 5.

* Muttart Conservatory. This botanical garden is noted for its pyramid-shaped greenhouses. 9626 96A Street NW at 96th Avenue. Number 2 or 5 bus to 96th Street and Jasper Avenue, then walk across the North Saskatchewan River. Or it can be reached on foot, taking the Connors Road bridge over the river; between the bus and hoofing it, walking all the way would take about the same amount of time.

* West Edmonton Mall. From 1981 until 2004, this was the largest shopping mall in the world. It's still the largest in North America, ahead of even the Mall of America outside Minneapolis. It includes theme parks Galaxyland, World Waterpark, Sea Lions Park and an NHL-sized rink called the Ice Palace. The Oilers previously used it as a practice facility. 8882 170th Street NW. Number 2 bus.

Edmonton is not big on skyscrapers: The 15 tallest buildings in Alberta are all in Calgary. The tallest building in Edmonton is the EPCOR Tower, at 10423 101st Street NW at 103rd Avenue, and it isn't even 500 feet tall (490). However, the Stantec Tower is currently under construction, and when it opens (currently scheduled for 2019), it will be the tallest in Alberta, and the tallest in Canada west of Toronto, at 823 feet. 102nd Street NW and 103rd Avenue NW, a block south of Rogers Place.

Edmonton has never produced a Prime Minister. The Province of Alberta has, 3 of them. But 2, R.B. Bennett in the 1930s and the recently defeated Stephen Harper, represented ridings in Calgary, and Joe Clark was from Yellowhead, in the western part of the Province. So there's no historic site relating to any of them anywhere near Edmonton.

There have been a few movies with scenes shot in Edmonton, including the Ginger Snaps films and Good Luck Chuck. I didn't say they were good movies... (The latter starred Dane Cook, a comedian and a Red Sox fan, and not particularly funny at either. Even Jessica Alba couldn't save this movie.) And any TV shows set there would be shown on Canadian TV only, and would be unfamiliar to U.S. audiences.


Edmonton has hockey, a big mall, and the Royal Alberta Museum. That's about it. But you might have a good time there anyway, including at a football game.

Mileage: Rutgers Stadium to the Big Ten

Hit the road!

Seriously: It's fun. If you don't mind the big boys of the Big Ten beating Rutgers badly.

1. High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, New Jersey (from College Avenue): 2
2. Maryland Stadium, College Park, Maryland: 192
3. Beaver Stadium, State College, Pennsylvania: 229
4. Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio: 528
5. Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan: 613
6. Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan: 677
7. Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Indiana: 747
8. Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Indiana: 764
9. Ryan Field, Evanston, Illinois: 808
10. Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Illinois: 823
11. Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wisconsin: 936
12. Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa: 999
13. TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota: 1,195
14. Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska: 1,297

Mileage: Red Bull Arena to Other MLS Stadiums

Hit the road!

Seriously: It's fun. Probably more fun in soccer than in any other sport.

In Miles:

1. Red Bull Arena, Harrison (New York): 0
2. Yankee Stadium, New York: 22
*. MCU Park, Brooklyn (New York): 24
3. Talen Energy Stadium, Chester (Philadelphia): 107
4. Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, Washington: 218
5. Gillette Stadium, Foxboro (Boston): 219
6. Saputo Stadium, Montreal: 373
7. BMO Field, Toronto: 479
8. Mapfre Stadium, Columbus: 547
9. Toyota Park, Bridgeview (Chicago): 785
10. Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta: 872
11. Orlando City Stadium: 1,074
12. TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis: 1,185
13. Sporting Park, Kansas City (Kansas): 1,196
14. Toyota Stadium, Frisco (Dallas): 1,541
15. Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City (Denver): 1,760
16. BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston: 1,618
17. Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy (Salt Lake City): 2,169
18. StubHub Center, Carson (Los Angeles): 2,791
19. CenturyLink Field, Seattle: 2,844
20. Providence Park, Portland: 2,887
21. Avaya Stadium, San Jose (San Francisco Bay Area): 2,925
22. BC Place, Vancouver: 2,979

Mileage: Prudential Center to Other NHL Arenas

Hit the road!

Seriously: It's fun.

In Miles:

1. Prudential Center, Newark: 0
2. Madison Square Garden, New York: 13
3. Barclays Center, Brooklyn (New York): 14
4. Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia: 90
5. Verizon Center, Washington: 219
6. TD Garden, Boston: 228
7. PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh: 359
8. KeyBank Center, Buffalo: 363
9. Bell Centre, Montreal: 367
10. Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa: 430
11. Air Canada Centre, Toronto: 481
12. PNC Arena, Raleigh: 506
13. Nationwide Arena, Columbus: 526
14. Little Caesars Arena, Detroit: 604
15. United Center, Chicago: 782
16. Bridgestone Arena, Nashville: 873
17. Scottrade Center, St. Louis: 941
18. Amalie Arena, Tampa: 1,127
19. Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul (Minneapolis): 1,179
20. BB&T Center, Sunrise (Miami): 1,254
21. American Airlines Center, Dallas: 1,540
22. MTS Centre, Winnipeg: 1,642
23. Pepsi Center, Denver: 1,767
24. Saddledome, Calgary: 2,377
25. Gila River Arena, Glendale (Phoenix): 2,444
26. Rogers Place, Edmonton: 2,415
27. T-Mobile Center, Las Vegas: 2,511
28. Staples Center, Los Angeles: 2,783
29. Honda Center, Anaheim (Los Angeles): 2,773
30. SAP Center, San Jose (San Francisco Bay Area): 2,929
31. Rogers Arena, Vancouver: 2,978

Mileage: Madison Square Garden to Other NBA Arenas

Hit the road!

Seriously: It's fun.

Well, maybe not for Knicks fans these days.

In Miles:

1. Madison Square Garden, New York: 0
2. Barclays Center, Brooklyn (New York): 7
3. Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia: 101
4. TD Garden, Boston: 213
5. Verizon Center, Washington: 230
6. Air Canada Centre, Toronto: 492
7. Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland: 463
8. Little Caesars Arena, Detroit: 615
9. Spectrum Center, Charlotte: 647
10. Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis: 711
11. United Center, Chicago: 792
12. Philips Arena, Atlanta: 882
13. Bradley Center, Milwaukee: 883
14. Amway Center, Orlando: 1,081
15. FedEx Forum, Memphis: 1,099
16. Target Center, Minneapolis: 1,199
17. American Airlines Arena, Miami: 1,285
18. Smoothie King Center, New Orleans: 1,306
19. Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City: 1,450
20. American Airlines Center, Dallas: 1,553
21. Toyota Center, Houston: 1,629
22. Pepsi Center, Denver: 1,778
23. AT&T Center, San Antonio: 1,820
24. Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City: 2,173
25. Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix: 2,410
26. Staples Center, Los Angeles: 2,794
27. Staples Center, Los Angeles: 2,794
28. Golden 1 Center, Sacramento: 2,823
29. Moda Center, Portland: 2,895
30. Oracle Arena, Oakland (San Francisco Bay Area): 2,907

Mileage: MetLife Stadium to Other NFL Stadiums

Hit the road!

Seriously: It's fun.

In Miles:

1. MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford (New York): 0
2. MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford (New York): 0
3. Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia: 96
4. M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore: 188
5. Gillette Stadium, Foxboro (Boston): 208
6. FedEx Field, Landover (Washington): 219
7. New Era Field, Orchard Park (Buffalo): 358
8. Heinz Field, Pittsburgh: 370
9. FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland: 459
10. Ford Field, Detroit: 609
11. Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati: 640
12. Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte: 643
13. Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis: 708
14. Soldier Field, Chicago: 784
15. Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta: 878
16. Nissan Stadium, Nashville: 882
17. EverBank Field, Jacksonville: 938
18. Lambeau Field, Green Bay: 990
19. Raymond James Stadium, Tampa: 1,134
20. Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City: 1,182
21. U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis: 1,191
22. Hard Rock Stadium, Miami: 1,269
23. Superdome, New Orleans: 1,302
24. AT&T Stadium, Arlington (Dallas): 1,564
25. NRG Stadium, Houston: 1,633
26. Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver: 1,772
27. University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale (Phoenix): 2,453
28. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: 2,790
29. StubHub Center, Carson (Los Angeles): 2,795
30. CenturyLink Field, Seattle: 2,848
31. Oakland Coliseum, Oakland (San Francisco Bay Area): 2,900
32. Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara (San Francisco): 2,927

Mileage: Yankee Stadium to Other Ballparks

Hit the road!

Seriously: It's fun.

In Miles:

1. Yankee Stadium, New York: 0
2. Citi Field, New York: 10
3. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia: 108
4. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore: 201
5. Fenway Park, Boston: 203
6. Nationals Park, Washington: 237
7. PNC Park, Pittsburgh: 382
8. Progressive Field, Cleveland: 465
9. Rogers Centre, Toronto: 474
10. Comerica Park, Detroit: 618
11. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati: 649
12. Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago: 790
13. Wrigley Field, Chicago: 801
14. SunTrust Park, Atlanta: 883
15. Miller Park, Milwaukee: 887
16. Busch Stadium, St. Louis: 961
17. Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay): 1,167
18. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City: 1,194
19. Target Field, Minneapolis: 1,204
20. Marlins Park, Miami: 1,294
21. Globe Life Park, Arlington (Dallas): 1,575
22. Minute Maid Park, Houston: 1,637
23. Coors Field, Denver: 1,780
24. Chase Field, Phoenix: 2,418
25. Petco Park, San Diego: 2,587
26. Angel Stadium, Anaheim (Los Angeles): 2,788
27. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles: 2,796
28. Safeco Field, Seattle: 2,857
29. AT&T Park, San Francisco: 2,909
30. Oakland Coliseum, Oakland (San Francisco Bay Area): 2,910

Turning Point Game in Yankees' Favor?

Last night's opener of a 3-game home series with the Texas Rangers was the Yankee season thus far in a nutshell, and it may be a turning point in their favor.

Masahiro Tanaka started for the Yankees, and, flying in the face of his struggles, he laid down the best start any Yankee pitcher has had this season. He was actually trusted to pitch 8 full innings, to throw an even 100 pitches.

Then the closer, Aroldis Chapman, was brought in for the 9th inning, with the score tied, not a save situation.

I began to wonder if Joe Girardi had been fired -- or if he'd finally burned the damn binder. Either one would be fine with me at this rate.

Tanaka went 8 innings, allowing no runs on 3 hits and 2 walks, striking out 9. He was brilliant. It's as if someone had kidnapped him and tied him up in a basement, and had been impersonating him all season long, and he'd finally broken out and overcome the impersonator, and shown us the real thing.

The problem was, the Yankees weren't getting any runs, either. Against another Japanese pitcher, Yu Darvish, they wasted a leadoff single by Brett Gardner in the 1st inning, didn't get another baserunner until the 5th, wiped out a Gary Sanchez single when Didi Gregorius grounded into a double play, and the only other baserunner was Sanchez again in the 8th, hit by a pitch with 1 out, and then Gregorius and Chris Carter struck out.

Then came the 9th inning. Chapman struck Shin-Soo Choo out, but gave up a single to Elvis Andrus, hit Nomar Mazara with a pitch, and let Andrus steal 3rd base. With the dangerous Adrian Beltre up, Chapman threw a low fastball, and Beltre missed for strike 3 -- but Sanchez couldn't handle it. Passed ball. Andrus scored. 1-0 Rangers.

Chapman got Rougned Odor, the man with the worst name in baseball, to ground out, but all the air had been let out of the new Yankee Stadium.

With 1 out in the bottom of the 9th, Gardner came up against Ranger closer Matt Bush, and roped a drive to right field. It was measured at 343 feet. It was a genuine Yankee Stadium (any version) short-porch drive. But it counted just the same. Tie ballgame.

Girardi called on Chad Green for the 10th inning, but he didn't have it, and an error by Gregorius didn't help. Yankees Twitter was full of comments like, "I can't believe we're going to blow this game twice." Chasen Shreve was brought on, and he got the last 2 outs, including getting out of a bases-loaded jam.

Bottom of the 10th. Starlin Castro grounded to short. But Sanchez singled to center. Gregorius did the same, sending the normally slow Sanchez to 3rd with only 1 out.

The batter was Chris Carter. Because of course it was. Pretty much every Yankee Fan on Twitter knew he was going to strike out, instead of get the ball out of the infield to win the game. He did.

What no one seemed to know was that the 5-foot-8 (maybe), 155-pound Ronald Torreyes would loop one to center.

Cue John Sterling: "Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!" Yankees 2, Rangers 1. WP: Shreve (2-1). No save. LP: Bush (2-3).

With the win, the Yankees remain tied with the Boston Red Sox for the American League East lead, ahead by 1 game in the loss column.


So Girardi trusted his starter, instead of going reliever-to-reliever as his binder tells him. That's a step in the right direction.

He trusted his closer in a tie game. Also a step in the right direction, even if Chapman didn't have his best stuff last night.

And there was one more big development, which Yankee Fans have been demanding: Brian Cashman, the dumbest general manager in baseball, finally came to his senses, and designated Carter for assignment. That strikeout in the 10th was his last at-bat in a Yankee uniform.

The much-hyped Tyler Austin has been called up from Scranton. He only batted .241 in last season's callup (20-for-83), but with 5 home runs and 12 RBIs. He was batting .300 at Scranton, but Yankee Fans wanted him simply because he offered a ray of hope for replacing Carter. It was all about replacing Carter, and nothing about what Austin himself has actually done this far.

I approve, but, call me crazy, but, to me, actual major league performance is more important than hype about "prospects." We shall see about Austin.

But Carter, who led the National League with 41 home runs last season, makes it clear just how superior the American League is.

The series continues this afternoon. Luis Cessa starts for the Bronx Bombers, Austin Bibens-Dirkx for the Strangers.

Friday, June 23, 2017

How to Be a Yankee Fan In Houston -- 2017 Edition

Next Friday, the Yankees travel to Houston to start a series with the Astros, who have gotten off to a fantastic start, and have the best record in baseball.

The Astros are an iconic franchise, despite not having ever won a World Series, or even a World Series game. They were 0-7 in postseason series until 2004, took until 2005 (44 seasons) to win their 1st Pennant, got swept in the World Series by the Chicago White Sox, haven't won another postseason series (though they have won a postseason round -- regrettably, the 2015 American League Wild Card Game against the Yankees), and are 4-10 overall in postseason rounds.

They are iconic for good reasons, as the team of such legendary players as Rusty Staub, Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno, J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. And as the hosts of The Bad News Bears In Breaking Training. And as participants in some storied series, including the 1980, 1986 and 2005 National League Championship Series. And as having tied in with Houston's aerospace industry.

And, to their credit, while, upon their debut in 1962, they publicized themselves as the 1st Major League Baseball team in the South, they did not encourage racism, Confederate battle flags, the playing of "Dixie" or "rebel yells." They did lay the Texas-themed stuff on a bit thick, though, with the cowboy hats and the gun images, due to their original 1962-64 name, the Houston Colt .45's.

They are also iconic for bad reasons, as the 1st team to build a dome, as the 1st to install artificial turf, and for their garish 1970s "Rainbow Brite" uniforms. But they are remembered. Unlike certain other teams, who tend to drop out of the spotlight when they're no longer good, and make you forget that they exist (the other MLB team in Texas comes to mind), the Astros have stayed in the baseball fan's consciousness.

It still seems strange to me to see the Houston Astros in the American League, just as it's strange to see the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League. But, that's the way it is now.

Before You Go. At the moment, the Houston area, and the western part of the Gulf of Mexico, is being bombarded by Tropical Storm Cindy. By the time the series begins in 1 week, that will no longer be an issue; while the Gulf Coast gets hit by hurricanes, Houston hasn't had serious damage from one since Hurricane Isaac in 2012, and not one bad enough to be national news since Hurricane Ike in 2008. Indeed, when Hurricane Katrina wrecked New Orleans in 2005, it was Houston, including the Astrocomplex that was once home to the Astros, that served as temporary shelter for thousands.

Nevertheless, the weather is going to be bad. The Houston Chronicle is predicting low 90s for the afternoons, high 70s for the evenings, humidity over 60 percent all 3 days, "scattered thunderstorms" on Friday, and "PM Thunderstorms" on Saturday. Yuck! This won't matter during the games, since, knowing this forecast, the Astros will almost certainly keep the retractable roof closed the whole time.

But you won't be indoors for the entire visit, so bring an umbrella, and keep hydrated. Minneapolis has the Skywalk, and Montreal has the Underground City, to protect people from snow and extreme cold. Surely, Houston, with all its oil money, could have built a walkway system, either above or below ground, to protect people from rain and extreme heat and humidity.

Houston is in the Central Time Zone, so you'll be an hour behind New York time. Although Texas was a Confederate State, you won't need to bring your passport or change your money.

Tickets. The Astros are averaging 29,870 fans per game this season, up about 1,400 from last season. But then, even at their all-time peak, in 2006 and 2007, in the wake of the preceding 2 seasons being the first one in which they ever won a postseason series and the first one in which they ever won a Pennant, they topped out at 37,000 seats, leaving them nearly 5,000 short of the park's current listed capacity of 42,060 seats. Getting tickets should not be a problem.

In spite of using "Dynamic Pricing," due to it being the Yankees in town, tickets are considerably cheaper than we're used to in New York. Forget the Dugout Boxes, but Field Boxes Are $115, Mezzanine seats are $54, upper "View Deck I" seats are $40, and there is a special "Outfield Deck" section where seats go for only $23.

Getting There. It's 1,629 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown Houston, and 1,637 miles from Yankee Stadium to Minute Maid Park. You're probably thinking that you should be flying.

Flying to Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (that's named for the father, not the son) can be done for as little as $668. Considering how far it is, that is relatively cheap. Bus 102 will get you from the airport to downtown in an hour and 20 minutes.

There are 2 ways to get there by train. One is to change trains in Chicago, and then change to a bus in Longview, Texas. The other is to take Amtrak's Crescent out of Penn Station in New York at 2:15 PM Eastern Time 2 days before you want to arrive, arrive at Union Station in New Orleans at 7:32 PM Central Time the day before you want to arrive, stay in New Orleans overnight, and then transfer to the Sunset Limited at 9:00 AM, and arrive in Houston at 6:18 PM. (In other words, about 50 minutes before first pitch.) And it would cost you $862 round-trip. No, I'm not making any of that up. You don't want that -- and don't be fooled by the fact that Houston's Union Station and the ballpark are next-door to each other, because Amtrak uses a different station a mile away. So let's just forget Amtrak, and move on.

Greyhound allows you to leave Port Authority Bus Terminal at 8:15 PM tonight, and arrive at Houston at 1:25 on Tuesday, a trip of 42 hours and 10 minutes. But that would require changing buses in Richmond (an hour and 5-minute layover), Atlanta (also 1:05) and New Orleans (45 minutes). It also includes layovers of 25 minutes in Raleigh, 1:10 in Charlotte, and then there's Alabama, with half an hour in Montgomery and an hour and 10 minutes in Mobile. Then 20 minutes in Baton Rouge. And you'd have to leave tonight, Sunday, in order to make it by the Tuesday night game. It's $498 round-trip, but it can drop to as low as $3908 with advanced purchase. You're better off spending a little extra and flying. The Houston Greyhound station is at 2121 Main Street, a mile and a half from the ballpark.

If you actually think it's worth it to drive, get someone to go with you so you'll have someone to talk to and one of you can drive while the other sleeps. You'll be taking Interstate 78 across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania to Harrisburg, where you'll pick up Interstate 81 and take that through the narrow panhandles of Maryland and West Virginia, down the Appalachian spine of Virginia and into Tennessee, where you'll pick up Interstate 40, stay on that briefly until you reach Interstate 75, and take that until you reach Interstate 59, which will take you into Georgia briefly and then across Alabama and Mississippi, and into Louisiana, where you take Interstate 12 west outside New Orleans. Take that until you reach Interstate 10. Once in Texas, Exit 770 will get you to downtown Houston.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 3 hours in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in Maryland, half an hour in West Virginia, 5 and a half hours in Virginia, 3 hours and 45 minutes in Tennessee, half an hour in Georgia, 4 hours in Alabama, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Mississippi, 4 hours and 30 minutes in Louisiana and 2 hours in Texas. Including rest stops, and accounting for traffic, we're talking about a 40-hour trip.

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

Once In the City. Houston was founded in 1836 as Allen's Landing, and was renamed for Sam Houston, "the Father of Texas." There are 2.3 million people in the city proper (about the size of Queens), making it the 4th-largest in America, and 6.5 million in the metropolitan area, making it 5th.

The weather in Houston is so bad! (How bad is it?) A "bayou" (BYE-yoo) is a body of water, typically found in a flat, low-lying area, and can be either an extremely slow-moving stream or river, often with a poorly-defined shoreline, or a marshy lake or wetland. And Houston is known as the Bayou City.

When people talk about "the bayou," they usually mean Louisiana. But Southeast Texas is also bayou country, and it frequently leaves Houston hot, humid and muggy. It's a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The Astrodome had to be built not just to promote Houston, or to protect people from the heat, but to protect them from the bugs. Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers said, "Some of those mosquitoes are twin-engine jobs."

Fortunately, just as there's an overhead walkway system in Minneapolis, and an "Underground City" in Montreal, in their cases to protect pedestrians from their cities' notoriously cold Winter, there is a "Houston Tunnel System," begun in the 1930s, and inspired by New York itself, by the system under Rockefeller Center. Regardless of how much this may help, remember to stay hydrated.

The sales tax in the State of Texas is 6.25 percent, but in the City of Houston it goes up to 8.25 percent. The city doesn't appear to have a "centerpoint," where the address numbers start at 1, but there is a Main Street, running northeast/southwest. ZIP Codes in the Houston area start with the digits 77. The Area Codes are 713, with 281, 346 and 832 as overlays.

There is a light rail system, called METRORail, but you probably won't need it to get from a downtown hotel to the ballpark. One zone is $1.25, and the price rises to $4.50 for 4 zones, so a daypass is a better bargain at $3.00.
Going In. Minute Maid Park is in Downtown Houston. The mailing address is 501 Crawford Street. Parking is $15. METRORail to Convention District. Crawford Street bounds the left field side, Texas Avenue the 3rd base side, Hamilton Street the 1st base side and Congress Street the right field side. The ballpark points due north, but that won't matter, since its only "open" side, left field, has a window that doesn't face any neat-looking skyscrapers.
Unlike the Astrodome, "the Juice Box" has real grass. Also unlike its infamous predecessor, it is definitely a hitter's park. The left-field pole is just 315 feet from home plate, with the Crawford Boxes (named for the street) above. Left-center is 362, deep left-center is 404, center is 436 (the deepest current fence in MLB), right-center is 373, and the right-field pole is 326.
With roof open

Originally named Enron Field when it opened in 2000, the park was nicknamed Ten Run Field -- before Enron became the largest bankruptcy ever to that point, and Coca-Cola bought the naming rights and stuck the Minute Maid brand name, which it owns, on the stadium.

This change in the stadium name, but not in the propensity for offense, led Yankee broadcaster John Sterling, during an Interleague game there, to tell partner Charlie Steiner, "You know, Charlie, I understand that, at Minute Maid Park, the balls are juiced." To which Steiner said, "Ah, that's just pulp fiction."
With roof closed

Left field features a CITGO sign, but that and the 315-foot distance are the only things that will remind anyone of Fenway Park in Boston. While a rail line does go past Fenway, the Red Sox don't incorporate that into the park. Here, they do, with an old-style steam locomotive chugging past for each Astro home run. It pulls a boxcar loaded with oranges, presumably for Minute Maid production.
The ballpark's longest home run is a 486-foot drive by Prince Fielder in 2011. There's some dispute as to who hit the longest home run at the Astrodome: Eddie Mathews, Jimmy Wynn, Doug Rader and Mike Piazza have all been credited with it.

Center field features Tal's Hill, an incline in the mode of Cincinnati's old Crosley Field. It's named for Tal Smith, longtime Astro executive. And, like the pre-renovation old Yankee Stadium and Tiger Stadium in Detroit, the flagpole is on the field and in play. Above the Hill is the Phillips 66 Home Run Pump, a mockup of an old-style gasoline pump that displays how many Astro home runs have been hit there since the 2000 opening.

The foul poles have Chick-fil-A cows on them, reading "EAT MOR FOWL," as opposed to the chain's usual "EAT MOR CHIKN." When an Astro hits one of these "fowl poles" on the fly, every fan in attendance gets a coupon for a free chicken sandwich. Hunter Pence, now with the San Francisco Giants, was the first to hit the left-field pole, and former Met Kazuo Matsui was the first to hit the right-field pole.

The Houston College Classic is a baseball tournament that includes hometown schools the University of Houston and Rice University, and other schools, usually Texas schools. The ballpark has also hosted soccer, boxing and concerts.

Food. Being a "Wild West"” city, you might expect Houston to have Western-themed stands with "real American food" at its ballpark. Being a Southern State, you might also expect to have barbecue. And you would be right on both counts. They have Tex-Mex food at Goya Latin Cafe and La Cantina at Section 119, El Real Fajita at 131, Kickin' Nachos at 114 and 427, Maverick Smokehouse at 124 and 410, Taqueria and Grille at 216, and Rosa's Cantina at 411 (almost certainly named for the place in the Marty Robbins song "El Paso," even if that is on the other side of the State).

They work the train theme with All Aboard at 109, Union Station at 113, Dining Car Grill at 125, Whistle Stop Libations at 218 and Chew Chew Express at 416.

There's also stands with baseball-themed names: Baseball Bar at 207 and Little Biggs Slider Cart at 111. Chinese food is at Larry's Big Bamboo at 118 and Little Bamboo at 422, and there are 5 Papa John's Pizza stands. And there are several Blue Bell Ice Cream stands.

According to a recent Thrillist article, the best thing to eat at Minute Maid Park is the brisket at Texas Smoke, at 125 and 406. The company's owner, celebrity chef Bryan Caswell, is an Astros fan.

Team History Displays. The Astros, like the Mets, celebrated their 50th Anniversary season in 2012, so they now have plenty of history. However, also like the Mets, it's a very hit-and-miss history. They have made the postseason 9 times, but only won 1 Pennant, in 2005. Stanchions representing that Pennant, their NL Western Division titles of 1980 and '86, and their NL Central Division titles of 1997, '98, '99 and 2001 are on the left-field wall, underneath the train.
The club's retired numbers crown the scoreboard in right field. Officially, there are 9 of them: 32, 1960s pitcher Jim Umbricht, who died of cancer while still a young player; 40, 1970s pitcher Don Wilson, who also died while still active; 24, 1960s-70s outfielder Jimmy Wynn; 25, 1970s outfielder Jose Cruz; 49, 1970s pitcher, 1990s manager, and on-again-off-again broadcaster Larry Dierker; 34, 1980s pitcher Nolan Ryan, a Houston-area native; 33, 1980s pitcher Mike Scott; and the 2 men who got the Astros through their 1990s and 2000s postseason berths, 5, 1st baseman Jeff Bagwell, and 7, 2nd baseman Craig Biggio.
The universally-retired 42 for Jackie Robinson, who was already elected to the Hall of Fame before the Astros ever played a game, is also on that wall. This is somewhat appropriate, seeing as how the Astros were the 1st MLB team to play in a former Confederate State, and putting his number with the Astros' retired numbers is an effective acknowledgment that the arrival of Robinson and other nonwhite players was a good thing.

Not on that wall, and not officially retired, but neither have they been reissued, are the 17 of 2000s 1st baseman Lance Berkman, and the 57 of 1990s pitcher Darryl Kile, who died while with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2002. The Astros do not have a team Hall of Fame.

Statues of Bagwell and Biggio are located in the exterior of the ballpark, in a space known as The Plaza at Minute Maid Park. The Plaza also displays pennants for all Astros division and league championships, as well as several plaques to commemorate notable Astros and their achievements.
Ryan and Roger Clemens, born in Ohio but grew up in the Houston suburbs with Ryan as his hero, were named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999, although Clemens hadn't yet thrown a pitch for the Astros. That same year, they and Joe Morgan were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Baseball Players. Were that list to be done again, Biggio might make it, while Bagwell would have an outside shot. In 2006, Astro fans chose Ryan for the DHL Hometown Heroes poll.

Stuff. Minute Maid Park has a Team Store in the left field corner of the ballpark, selling standard team-store gear. This being Texas, cowboy-style hats with the team logo are available.

A 50th Anniversary (1962-2012) team video is available, and so is a CD of longtime Astro broadcaster Milo Hamilton (who is probably best known not for any of his Astros' calls but for calling Hank Aaron's 715th home run while with the Braves). But since the Astros have only been in 1 World Series (2005), and got swept in it, don't look for the official highlight video. The only way you'll see highlights of their 2005 Pennant run is on the anniversary DVD.

As for books about the team, Sara Gilbert (not the Roseanne actress) has published a 50th Anniversary retrospective, with the not-very-imaginative title of The Story of the Houston Astros. Jose De Jesus Ortiz and former Astro catcher Brad Ausmus commemorated the 2005 Pennant season with Houston Astros: Armed and Dangerous.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans" ranked Astro fans 27th -- that is, the 4th most tolerable. Having played 55 seasons without winning a single World Series game has dampened the traditional Texas arrogance: As the article puts it:

Despite being Texans, and thus genetically predisposed to boasting and scorning other people's brisket, the fanbase that supports the Astros evokes many of the same feelings as the -- gasp -- Brewers fans: long suffering, and non-threatening to opposing fans.

If you were wearing Dallas Cowboy gear to a Houston Texans game, or Texas Longhorns gear to a Texas A&M Aggies game (or vice versa), you might be in trouble. But Astro fans aren't especially hostile to New Yorkers, so safety should't be an issue. (Nor would it be if you were wearing Dallas Mavericks or San Antonio Spurs gear to a Houston Rockets game.)

The only promotion the Astros are holding during the series is on Wednesday night: $1 Hot Dog Wednesday, presented by Nolan Ryan Beef. (Made from cattle on the Express' ranch, perhaps? They won't have traveled far, which should help with freshness.)

The Friday game will feature postgame fireworks. The Saturday game will not have a promotion. The Sunday game will be PlayBall Ball & Bat Set Day.

Jim Sikorski is the Astros' longtime National Anthem singer. Their mascot is Orbit, a "little green man" alien, tying in with the Astrodome's space-age theme. When the new park opened, he was replaced with Junction Jack, a jackrabbit dressed in an old-time railroad engineer's uniform, tying in with the train theme. But fans wanted Orbit back, and in 2013, he returned and Jack was dumped.
Orbit is not touching Adrian Beltre.

During the 7th inning stretch, after playing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," the Astros play that classic Texan song "Deep in the Heart of Texas." Their postgame victory song is "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang.

After the Game. Houston is a comparatively low-crime city, and as long as you behave yourself, they'll probably behave themselves, win or lose.

Across Texas Avenue at Hamilton Street, opposite the home plate entrance, is -- yet another ordinary name -- Home Plate Bar and Grill. As far as I can tell, it's the only bar around the park with a baseball-themed name.

A block down Hamilton, at Franklin Street, is a place with a much better name: Joystix. Sadly (if you're looking to have drinks and fun after the game), this is a place that sells old pinball machines and video games, not a 1980s nostalgia place (which would tie in with the Astros' most successful period until 1997), not a combination 1980s-style mall (or beach boardwalk) arcade and modern bar. It's probably just as well: Can you imagine the combination of Pac-Man and beer (or worse, Missile Command and whiskey)?

Lucky's Pub appears to be the go-to bar for New Yorkers living in the Houston area. It is at 801 St. Emanuel Street at Rusk Street, 5 blocks from Minute Maid Park, adjacent to BBVA Compass Stadium, the new home of MLS' Houston Dynamo and the National Women's Soccer League's Houston Dash. Stadia Sports Grill, supposedly a haven for Jets fans is at 11200 Broadway Street in Pearland, but that's 15 miles south of the ballpark, and not reachable by public transportation.

If your visit to Houston is during the European soccer season (which gets underway in about a month), and you want to watch your favorite club play, the best place to do so, because of its early opening, is Bar Munich, 2616 Louisiana Street at Dennis Street, just south of downtown. METRORail to McGowen.

Sidelights. In 1965, the Astrodome opened, and was nicknamed "The Eighth Wonder of the World." It sure didn't seem like an exaggeration at the time: The first roofed sports stadium in the world. (Supposedly, the Romans built stadia with canvas roofs, but that's hardly the same thing.) The Astros played there until 1999, and then moved into Enron Field/Minute Maid Park for the 2000 season. The AFL/NFL's Oilers played at the Astrodome from 1968 to 1996, when they moved to Tennessee to become the Titans.
Once, the Astrodome was flashy enough to be the site of movies like The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training and Murder at the World Series. (Both were released in 1977. In the latter, the Astros, who had never yet gotten close to a Pennant, played the Series against the Oakland Athletics, who had just gotten fire-sold by owner Charlie Finley.)
The Astrodome also hosted the legendary 1968 college basketball game between Number 1 UCLA (with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then still Lew Alcindor) and Number 2 University of Houston (whose Elvin Hayes led them to victory, before falling to UCLA in that year's Final Four), the 1971 Final Four (UCLA beating Villanova in the Final), and the cheese-tastic 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, the "Battle of the Sexes."

In 1971, Evel Knievel sold the place out on back-to-back nights, jumping his motorcycle over 13 cars both times. He talked about jumping over the Dome itself, but that was one idiotic idea that was never attempted.

Elvis Presley sang there on February 27, 28 and March 1, 1970 and on March 3, 1974. It hosted Selena's last big concert before her murder in 1995, and when Jennifer Lopez starred in the film Selena, it was used for the re-creation of that concert. In 2004, the same year NRG (then Reliant) Stadium hosted the Super Bowl (which was won by... Janet Jackson, I think), the Astrodome was used to film a high school football playoff for the film version of Friday Night Lights, and the old Astros 1980 and 1986 division title banners can be clearly seen.

In 2002, the new NFL team, the Houston Texans, began play next-door to the Astrodome, at NRG Stadium, which, like Minute Maid Park, has a retractable roof. Suddenly, the mostly-vacant Astrodome seemed, as one writer put it, like a relic of a future that never came to be. (This same writer said the same thing of Shea Stadium and, across Roosevelt Avenue, the surviving structures of the 1964 World's Fair.)

Today, though, the Astrodome seems, like the Republican Party that held a ridiculously bigoted Convention there in 1992, stuck in the past, and not just because they renominated failed President George H.W. Bush. The former Eighth Wonder of the World is now nicknamed the Lonely Landmark, and while it served as a shelter for people displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, since 2008, when it was hit with numerous code violations, only maintenance workers and security guards have been allowed to enter.

The stadium's future is not clear: Some officials are worried that demolishing it would damage the new stadium and other nearby structures. There is now a plan to raise the stadium floor, and use the space underneath as a giant parking garage, which would certainly help the parking situation for the new stadium.
NRG Stadium hosted the Final Four in 2011 (Connecticut beating Butler in the Final), and earlier this year (Villanova beating North Carolina). In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and rendered the Superdome unusable for that season, it hosted the Bayou Classic, the annual Thanksgiving Saturday football game and battle of the bands between Louisiana's Grambling State and Southern University. It hosted Super Bowl LI this past February, when the New England Patriots launched by far the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, and cheated their way past the Atlanta Falcons for a 5th illegitimate title.

It was built roughly on the site of Colt Stadium, which was the baseball team's home in their 1st 3 seasons, 1962, '63 and '64, when they were known as the Houston Colt .45's (spelled with the apostrophe), before moving into the dome and changing the name of the team. The climate-controlled stadium was necessary because of not just the heat and the humidity, but because of the mosquitoes.
Later, seeing the artificial turf that was laid in the Astrodome for 1966 after the grass died in the first season, due to the skylights in the dome having to be painted due to the players losing the ball in the sun, Koufax, he of the mosquito quip, said, "I was one of those guys who pitched without a cup. I wouldn't do it on this stuff. And Dick Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies, looking at the first artificial field in baseball history, said, "If a horse can't eat it, I don't want to play on it."

The Astrodome hosted a 1988 match between the national soccer teams of the U.S. and Ecuador, which Ecuador won. NRG Stadium has hosted 3 such matches, a 2008 draw with Mexico, a 2011 win over Panama, and a 2016 loss to Argentina in the Copa America. The Mexico team has made it a home-away-from-home, playing several matches there.

The NRG complex, including the Astrodome, is at 8400 Kirby Drive at Reliant Parkway. METRORail to Stadium Park/Astrodome station.

The NBA's Houston Rockets played at the Summit, later known as the Compaq Center, from 1975 to 2003. Elvis sang at The Summit on August 28, 1976. It's been converted into the Lakewood Church Central Campus, a megachurch presided over by Dr. Joel Osteen. 3700 Southwest Freeway at Timmons Lane. Number 25 bus.

The Houston Aeros, with Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty, won the World Hockey Association championships of 1974 and 1975, while playing at the Sam Houston Coliseum, before moving into the Summit in 1975 and folding in 1978. Elvis sang there on October 13, 1956, and the Beatles played there on August 19, 1965. It was built in 1937 and demolished in 1998.

It replaced Sam Houston Hall, where the 1928 Democratic Convention nominated Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York, who thus became the 1st Catholic nominated for President by a major party. The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is now on the site. 801 Bagby Street, at Rusk Street, downtown. METRORail to Theater District station.

The nearest NHL team to Houston is the Dallas Stars, 242 miles away. If Houston had an NHL team, its metropolitan area would rank 10th in population in the NHL.

The Houston Oilers played at Jeppesen Stadium from 1960 to 1964. They won the 1960 AFL Championship Game there, won the 1961 title game on the road, and lost the 1962 title game there -- and, as the Oilers and the Tennessee Titans, haven't gone as far as the rules allowed them to since 1961. Built in 1942, it became Robertson Stadium, and was the former home of the University of Houston football team and the former home of MLS' Houston Dynamo. The new UH football facility, TDECU Stadium, has been built at the site. 3874 Holman Street at Cullen Blvd. METRORail to Robertson Stadium/UH/TSU station.

The Dynamo have moved to BBVA Compass Stadium, at 2200 Texas Avenue at Dowling Street. Within walking distance of downtown. On January 29, 2013, it hosted its first U.S. national team match, a draw with Canada.

The Oilers played the 1965, '66 and '67 seasons at Rice Stadium, home of Rice University. Although built in 1950 and probably already obsolete, it seated a lot more people than did the Astrodome, and so Super Bowl VIII was played there instead of the Astrodome in January 1974, and the Miami Dolphins won it -- and haven't won a Super Bowl since. It has been significantly renovated, and Rice still uses it. University Blvd. at Greenbriar Street, although the mailing address is 6100 S. Main Street. Number 700 bus.

Before there were the Astros, or even the Colt .45's, there were the Houston Buffaloes. The Buffs played at Buffalo Stadium, a.k.a. Buff Stadium, for most of their history, from 1928 to 1961, when the Colt .45's made them obsolete.
They were a farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals, and as a result, in its last years Buff Stadium was renamed Busch Stadium. The Cardinal teams of the 1930s that would be known as the "Gashouse Gang" first came together in Houston, with Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Joe Medwick, Pepper Martin and Enos Slaughter. Later Buff stars included Cleveland Indians 3rd baseman Al Rosen, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell, Negro League legend Willard Brown, Cardinal MVP Ken Boyer, and Phillies shortstop Ruben Amaro Sr. (father of later GM Ruben Amaro Jr.).

Wanting to lure in more customers, but also to beat the infamous Houston heat, lights were installed in 1930, 5 years before any major league park had them. The Buffs won 8 Texas League Pennants: 1928, 1931, 1940, 1947, 1951, 1954, 1956 and 1957. A martial arts school is on the site now. 1600 Cullen Blvd., at Leeland Street, about 2 1/2 miles southeast of downtown. Number 20 bus.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang at Hofheinz Pavilion on November 12, 1971; and June 4 and 5, 1975. He also sang at the City Auditorium on October 8, 1955 and April 21, 1956. It's better known as the venue where R&B singer Johnny Ace mistakenly shot himself before a show on Christmas Day, December 25, 1954. The Jones Hall for the Performing Arts replaced it in 1966. 615 Louisiana Street at Capitol Street, downtown.

Also, early in his career, Elvis sang in Houston at the Paladium Club (8100 S. Main Street, near the Astrocomplex) on November 26, 27 and 28, 1954; Cook's Hoedown (603 Capitol Street, around the corner from Jones Hall) on November 27 and December 28, 1954, and April 24 and August 7, 1955; Magnolia Gardens (12044 Riverside Street, no public transit) on April 24, May 22, June 19 and August 7, 1955; and Eagles Hall at 2204 Louisiana Street on January 1 and March 19, 1955 (2204 Louisiana Street, downtown). All of these have since been demolished.

Elvis sang near the University of Texas campus in Austin, 160 miles to the northwest, at Dessau Hall on March 17, 1955, the Sportscenter on August 25, 1955, the Skyline Club on January 18, 1956, and the Municipal Auditorium on March 28, 1977. And he sang near the Texas A&M campus, 100 miles to the northwest, at the Rodeo Grounds in Bryan on August 23, 1955 and the G. Rolle White Coliseum in College Station on October 3, 1955;

Elvis also sang in South Texas at the City Auditorium in Beaumont, 85 miles to the northeast, on June 20 and 21, 1955 and January 17, 1956; at the football stadium at Conroe High School, 40 miles to the north, on August 24, 1955; in Corpus Christi, 200 miles to the southwest, at the Hoedown Club on July 3, 1955 and the Memorial Coliseum on April 16, 1956; in Galveston, 50 miles to the southeast, at the City Auditorium on January 16, 1956; at the baseball field in Gonzales, 130 miles to the west, on August 26, 1955; at Woodrow Wilson High School in Port Arthur, 90 miles to the east on November 25, 1955; and at Southwest Texas State University (LBJ's alma mater, now "Texas State"), 165 miles to the west, on October 6, 1955.

There are other places that might be considered "South Texas" where he sang, but I'll include them with "West Texas" when I do this for the San Antonio Spurs.

The tallest building in Houston, and in all of Texas, is the JPMorgan Chase Tower, formerly the Texas Commerce Tower. It was built in 1982 at 600 Travis Street at Texas Avenue, downtown, and stands 1,002 feet tall, rising 75 stories above the concrete over the bayou. It is the tallest 5-sided building in the world.

Houston's version of New York's American Museum of Natural History is the Houston Museum of Natural Science, in Hermann Park, at Main Street and Hermann Park Drive. The Houston Museum of Fine Arts is at 1001 Bissonnet Street, just 5 blocks away. Both can be reached by METRORail via the Museum District station.

Of course, the name "Houston" is most connected with two things: Its namesake, the legendary Senator, Governor and war hero Sam Houston, and the Johnson Space Center, the NASA control center named after President Lyndon B. Johnson, who, as Senate Majority Leader, wrote the bill creating NASA and the Space Center, because he thought it would bring a lot of jobs and money to Houston (and he was right).

Most historic sites relating to Sam, however, are not in the city that bears his name. As for reaching the Johnson Space Center, it's at 2101 NASA Parkway and Saturn Lane. The Number 249 bus goes there, so if you don't have a car, Houston, you won't have a problem.

Although Houston is the post-Presidential home for George H.W. and Barbara Bush, his Presidential Library is at Texas A&M University, 100 miles away in College Station. I don't know the Bushes' address, and, in the interest of privacy, I wouldn't print it here if I did.

The Alley Theatre, downtown at 615 Texas Avenue, opened in 1968, and in 1976 hosted the Vice Presidential debate between Senators Walter Mondale and Bob Dole. This is where Dole named World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars as "all Democrat wars" -- forgetting that the Republicans wanted America to get into all but World War II, and didn't want that one because they liked the Nazis' anti-union status; and that it was actually the Republicans who got us into Vietnam.

There have been a few TV shows set in Houston, but the only one that lasted was Reba, starring country singer Reba McIntire. But it was filmed in Los Angeles, so if you're a fan, you won't find the house in Houston.

Films set in Houston, in addition to the sports-themed ones, include Brewster McCloud (which also used the Astrodome, and not to be confused with Dennis Weaver's show McCloud), Logan's Run (which used the Houston Hyatt Regency for some scenes), Telefon (set there but filmed in California), Terms of EndearmentReality Bites, and, perhaps most iconically, Urban Cowboy.


Houston can be hot, but it's a good sports town, and, best of all, it's not Dallas. So there can be a good old time in the hot town tonight.

Girardi Panics and Blows It Again

Me, yesterday afternoon: The 7-game losing streak is over, and Joe Girardi no longer trusts Tyler Clippard. Maybe he's finally learned a lesson.

Girardi, last night: Hold my beer...


For the 1st 6 innings, things went pretty well last night against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Luis Severino allowed a leadoff home run to Cameron Maybin, then settled down, and retired the next 7 batters. He ran into trouble in the 3rd, and allowed 2 more runs, then retired 7 of the next 8. He allowed another run in the 6th.

Angels starter Jesse Chavez walked Aaron Judge and Matt Holliday in the 1st, and Starlin Castro singled Judge home to tie it at 1-1. The Yankees small-balled a run home in the 2nd, and then Judge a monumental blast -- pun intended: It went over Monument Park, 425 feet. (To do that at the old Stadium, it would have had to go about 470.) 5-1 Yankees. It was still 5-4 Yankees going into the 7th.

The right thing to do would have been to let Sevy pitch the 7th, Dellin Betances the 8th, and Aroldis Chapman the 9th. Simple, right?

In fact, it was so simple, even Caveman Girardi figured it out. But Cliff Pennington led off the inning with a hit, and Maybin hit a grounder that Castro should have fielded easily, but he didn't. Certainly, Sevy can't be blamed for the error; and Castro had produced one of the Yankee runs, so we shouldn't be so hard on him. But now, it was 2nd and 3rd, tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, with nobody out.

The game could have been saved.

But because Joe Girardi is an idiot who uses a binder instead of his eyes to decide what to do with pitchers, and Severino had thrown 99 pitches, and the next batter, Kole Calhoun, is a lefthanded hitter, he panicked, and turned to his binder, and took Severino out, and brought in the lefthanded pitcher Chasen Shreve.

Calhoun flew to center, scoring Pennington. Tie game. Well, that's not really Shreve's fault. He did, after all, get an out, and now, there was no longer a man on 3rd with less than 2 outs, meaning a ball out of the infield would no longer be enough to score a run. The right thing to do would have been to leave Shreve in, hope he could preserve the tie, and save Betances for the 8th.

But because Joe Girardi is an idiot who uses a binder instead of his eyes to decide what to do with pitchers, and the next batter, the legendary Albert Pujols, is a righthanded hitter, he took Shreve out, and brought in the righthanded Betances.

Maybin tried to steal 2nd. Gary Sanchez tried to throw him out, and made a bad throw, and Maybin got to 3rd. Now there was a man on 3rd with less than 2 outs. Pujols singled him home to give the Angels the lead. Betances walked Yunel Escobar. He threw a wild pitch. He struck Luis Valbuena out, then allowed a 2-run double to Andrelton Simmons.

Domingo German allowed 2 more runs in the 8th, and the Yankees had just 1 baserunner over the last 5 innings. Final score: Angels 10, Yankees 5. WP: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0). No save. LP: Severino (5-3).

The loss really belongs to Girardi. That's 8 of our last 9 lost, and he is directly responsible for 6 of the 8.

The Yankees go into the weekend tied with the Boston Red Sox for 1st place in the American League Eastern Divison, albeit a game ahead in the all-important loss column.

Here's the pitching matchups for the weekend series, home to the Texas Rangers:

* Tonight, 7:05 PM: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Yu Darvish in an all-Japanese matchup. Can Tanaka snap out of his struggles?

* Tomorrow, 1:05 PM: Luis Cessa vs. Austin Bibens-Dirkx. He's a 32-year-old righthander from Oregon, who just last month made his major league debut, in his 12th season in the minors. A fine example of persistence, sure. But the proverbial "pitcher the Yankees have never seen before." And the game is on Fox. So you know what that combination means. It means the execrable Joe Buck will enjoy himself, and let us know it.

* Sunday, 2:05 PM: Michael Pineda vs. Nick Martinez. The game starts an hour later than usual, because it's Old-Timers' Day. And the Yankees have this nasty habit of embarrassing their legends.

Are we looking at 11 losses in 12 games? Oy vey...