These are the dog days of summer. The days when you buy chopped fruit from a street vendor, wear breathable shoes, snicker at people wearing cargo shorts, wear a light sweater at night, and perhaps even kiss a summer fling. There are blasts from boomboxes (cell phones) and people lounging and splashing in the river. There are people sitting on porches with a can of beer and with no hope of ever getting anything done that day. The days are getting shorter and the baseball season is slowly coming to an end, as if a lovely friend was planning a vacation for 6 months. When it ends it would have been a deep and complicated relationship full of thrills, contemplation, happiness, anger, and finally…heartbreak.
Recently my “baseball buddy,” Manny and I decided to take in Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League playoffs this past week with The Sacramento River Cats (S.F. Giants) squaring off against the Las Vegas Aviators. (Oakland A’s) I was particularly interested in this game because Daniel Mengden was on the hill and he and his handlebar mustache had spent a significant amount of time as a starter in Oakland this season, doing a pretty solid job before being sent down. There were, of course, a smattering of A’s prospects that I wanted to see in person although most had been called up when the rosters were expanded a few days prior.
Manny and I did our usual “pre-game” routine of a twelve pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the parking lot complete with the musical stylings of Slayer and the Circle Jerks. We stumbled into the stadium right around game time and settled into our seats a few rows behind home-plate. This game was announced around 48 hours earlier and was only attended by 3000 and change making the atmosphere close to a funeral. The catatonic-like atmosphere only got worse as the Aviators took a 6-1 lead in the third inning, turning anyone in the place not wearing green and gold into a virtual zombie. This was quite the opposite of an MLB playoff game in every way possible.
In a desperate attempt to liven up this experience, we had decided to walk around the stadium and take in the game from every angle possible every inning or so. This turned out to be fruitful as I had a moment of kismet when a ball was smoked down the left field line, arching foul and entering my outstretched hand on one hop moments before going over the fence. Manny returned from the bathroom and I told him he looked liked 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag moments before tossing him the ball.
“Can I have the ball, dude?”
Of course you can.
It was time to go. The game was in the bag and Manny had his foul ball. It was a beautiful, breezy night and I walked across the Sacramento River before biking home and immediately retiring to bed.
I’m not sure if I believe in chakras or not but mine certainly weren’t aligned Friday night as I stepped into Dodger Stadium to watch the Blue Crew take on the hated Anaheim (I refuse to call them Los Angeles as they don’t play in the city or even the county!) Angels. We sat in the right field all-you-can-eat section and loaded up on hotdogs, peanuts, popcorn and nachos. I immediately spilled nacho sauce down my shirt.
Japanese import Kenta Maeda was on the mound for the Dodgers so there were large groups of Japanese walking up and down the aisles with the men mostly wearing suits and ties and the women looking “smart for the office.” At one point a tiny Japanese girl walks by and spilled a hotdog right into my lap. My leg is now completely covered in mustard and relish. She apologized profusely in scant English and I felt really terrible for her. I told her everything was ok and went to clean myself off in the bathroom.
The Dodgers can’t do a darn thing and eventually lose 5-1.
It was fun watching the drunk guy in front of me entertain the crowd with some well-timed jokes, “Angels suck” chants and profuse booing of Albert Pujols. His wife cackled at every spectacle. A girl a few seats behind me vomited everywhere. My girlfriend was trying to get center fielder Joc Pederson to wave at her which he eventually did. She was smitten, and he just might be one of her new favorite Dodgers. (She’s a Dodgers fan.) I’ve always been a bleacher-creature kind of guy and the free food thrown in made this a really fun, yet grimy game. We got home around 11 o’ clock and I immediately threw my clothes in the washing machine.
Opening day is on Monday. Let’s go Oakland!
I drag my Dodgers loving girlfriend down to Anaheim once a year to see the A’s play the Angels because, well, the A’s are the greatest team on the planet, so fuck you. We do our usual pre- game routine of buying bottled water, sunflower seeds and other assorted bric-a-brac and then we’re off on the 45 minute drive south of Los Angeles to a place known as Anaheim. I’m not going to get into it here about my feelings on the O.C. (we get into that later) but let’s just say I think it’s homogenized crap.
We get to the stadium rather uneventfully and I say to the gfriend, “hmmm…the parking is much easier here than at Dodger stadium.”
“That’s because it’s in the middle of a city, this is a suburb!” she shoots back. Fair enough.
It’s 80 degrees outside. A perfect California night, and I’m feeling good as we begin to take the escalators to our upper deck seats. Now, there is a back story here. (Although readers Scott, Katrina, and Don “the cheese” will make fun of me unmercifully for this one.) I almost ALWAYS buy the cheap seats, wait the unwritten baseball rule of 3 innings, and then move to a better seat of my mood and choosing. (this has worked in Seattle, Oakland and San Diego) So I do this, buying 5 dollar seats off of some cynical asshole on stub hub and then pat myself on the head for a job well done. Dear readers, for future reference….THIS DOES NOT WORK IN ANAHEIM OR LOS ANGELES. These stadiums are not as “fan friendly” when it comes to common sense. Ahem. So my plan failed. Fuck you.
The game starts and the A’s scratch across 2 runs in the 2nd, and then a Howie Kendrick jack in the bottom half of the inning makes it 2-1. Ok, we got a ballgame.
gfriend: (who is proud of her Salvadorian heritage, mind you.)
” The vibe is different here, and the crowd is so…..white. All this red reminds me of Republicanism.”
No doubt, sweetheart. I hate the Angels and John McCain too.
Top of the 3rd: Jed Lowrie golfs a three run tater off Garrett Richards that barely clears the out of town scoreboard in left center for a 5-1 lead. I notice then that the Red Sox aren’t playing tonight. Tommy Milone does his best job of fucking it up in the bottom half, giving up a bases drunk double to Howie Kendrick to cut the lead to 5-4. I’m upset and even say a few un-choice words about Tommy boy under my breath, but I want to seem cool in the enemies ballpark, so I let it go. A few innings go by, and we make fun of everyone around us who seem to be checking Facebook on their phones.
Top 7th: “Boss” Moss hits one of the HIGHEST jacks I have ever seen into the Angels right field “shit dump,”
(I have no idea what it is…but it looks ghastly) to make it 7-4. I don’t know about you, but to me, this guy will be long remembered as one of my favorite Oakland A’s. Raw power and passion with a fucking red George Michael beard = bad ass mother fucker. The A’s bullpen effectively holds the Halos down, and they scratch together a few more runs to make it 10-5 as the Angels fans leave en masse to our delight (parking issues,dog!) Grant “gives me a fucking heart attack or puts me to sleep” Balfour comes in, walks a couple of guys, throws a shit load of pitches (his innings always seem as long as the first 8) and finally ends the game by striking out Hank Conger. There was a strange feeling that Angels fans had conceded. Even the victory was sort of bitter-sweet as I couldn’t wait for the playoffs, ergo the passion to start. We pass the strip club down the street and listen to oldies the rest of the way as the gfriend asks me about who I think the Dodgers will play in the playoffs.
sidenotes: Angel dogs are infinitely better than the Dodger dog. I will fight you if you disagree.
Tommy Milone has 12 wins. I can’t remember a pitcher who had so many wins and received so much criticism because he had “lost it” so quickly. The baseball gods are a fucking trip, man.
Howie Kendrick with a jack and 4 RBI’s. Always thought that dude was solid.
Josh Reddick has 55 RBI’s in a year that was a DISASTER with injuries. He’s going to be a special player when he gets right.
Daric Barton hasn’t been Mr. “look at a bazillion pitches” lately and he’s a better hitter for it.
A.J. Griffin was supposed to start this game. I was disappointed when he didn’t.
Two words: NO YO. bummer.
When the Rally Monkey crap started on the scoreboard, 2 Angels fans behind me said, “yeah, we’ll start our rally….in spring training next year!” Hilarious.
Mike Trout K’d 3 times. I’m lovin’ it.
I recently made a trip to Anaheim Stadium to catch the A’s play the Angels in a “must win” game for both teams; a place I hadn’t been to since I was a young boy living in Buena Park with my grandparents….a span of 20 plus years. My grandfather and I were A’s fans, yet we enjoyed quite a few games at the “Big A” in the days of Wally Joyner, Lance Parrish and Mark Langston. The old cowboy and Hollywood legend Gene Autry still owned the team, and 80 something year old Jimmie Reese, who was the conditioning coach, was still roaming the field. The old man was called up to the Yankees in 1930 and was Babe Ruth’s roommate on the road, or as Reese explained, “I roomed with the Babe’s suitcase.” Reese coached the ball- club for 22 years until he died in 1994.
Times had changed. All three of the old men in the paragraphs above were long dead, and I was back in the ol’ ballpark not ready to re-live memories, but to watch the Elephants kick some ass and take no prisoners. (there’s a playoff spot at stake for fuck’s sake) The stadium was vastly “improved” since I had been there; from the large idiotic Disney-esque rock formation in center field to the gigantic Jack in the Box sign beyond that. My girlfriend, (a Dodgers fan may I add) thought that the crass commercialism on the Jumbotron between innings was off-putting. “Even the hotdogs are better at Dodger Stadium,” she said. I agreed that this display of capitalism and homogenized commerce in the county known for its conservative Republican values was indeed off-putting. “Yes, but we hit more in this league,” I answered.
Yoenis Cespedes, the young Cuban who has one of the quickest bats I’ve ever seen hit a miraculous, long soaring jack to left center. The brilliance was confounded by super-rookie Mike Trout, and his attempt to rob him. Angels fans rose en masse, ready to see their new hero pull odd another amazing feat. He came up short. The wind went out of the stadium. The score was 1-0 and the desperation rose quickly. “How could a bunch of NOBODIES be doing this to us with our 126 million dollar payroll?” Angels fans seemed to be saying. By the time Brandon “The Boss” Moss hit a two run jack to left center in the 5th, we knew it was over. The fans were pleading for the man who had caught it to throw it back, but to no avail. Coco Crisp even added an inside the park job as creeky kneed, 35 year old, over- payed Torii Hunter couldn’t fish a ball out of the corner and it skipped passed him while Mr. Crisp jack-rabbited around the base paths to make it 6-2. Triple and E-9. Grant “The cardiac kid ” Balfour did his best to blow the game even yelling a few obscenities at the umpire on his way out with a 6-5 lead and a man on first and 3rd with no outs. I was yelling a few at Balfour myself and quickly felt vindicated as I had told a buddy of mine before the inning had started that Balfour was like a hooker at a truckstop… always getting rocked. The crowd stood the rest of the game as Jerry “Clutch” Blevins (as he will now be called) nailed down the game by striking out Kendrys Morales and getting Howie Kendrick to ground out 5-4-3 for the victory. There was no joy in Mudville that night….. nobodies indeed.