- For the first 4 or 5 years of my life, my family lived in the Los Angeles area. My dad was a big baseball fan, and he took us to ballgames at Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium fairly often. Or so I'm told. I don't remember any of these games, but my mom and my brothers tell me it's true.
- During the 1988 season when I was 7 years old, I decided that my favorite team was the Baltimore Orioles and that my favorite player was Cal Ripken, Jr. I don't know exactly why I decided Cal was my favorite player, but I'm pretty sure it's because I had more baseball cards of him than anyone else. Also, living in central California, equidistant from LA and San Francisco, I didn't feel any particular loyalty to any one team. (Though I have always had a soft spot for the Dodgers.)
- As a kid, I made it my mission to collect every single Cal Ripken baseball card ever made (ie, not just the regular issue Topps or Donruss or Fleer cards). It was a much too ambitious goal, especially since we weren't really in a position to buy too many baseball cards. Plus, I was collecting cards right when the hobby exploded and you could find five or seven cards of a single player in each set. Eventually, I had about 200 different Cal Ripken cards, but I mostly stopped buying cards by 1993 or so. These are pretty much the only cards that I still have from my youth.
- My baseball card collection consisted mostly of Topps and Donruss sets from 1988 through 1991. I had other cards from other years, but that was the prime collecting time of my childhood. My older brothers, however, had drawers of older cards from the early 1980s. At least once, I remember browsing through these cards and setting aside some of the better cards (Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs first and second year cards, for example) and then slyly putting them into my own collection. My heist wasn't successful for very long.
- As a kid, I played a game that my older brother invented. Basically, it was a simple version of Strat-o-matic or something, using playing cards to determine the outcome of every at-bat. A '2' was a groundout, a '4' was a double, a '9' was a ball, and so on. There was no strategy involved, but I would still manager match-ups and call for stolen bases and such. It was a lot of fun, and it helped us kill a lot of hours.
- In high school, I turned this game into an electronic game for my graphing calculator. My friends and I would play the game on my calculator during class instead of listening to the teacher. That killed even more hours, and it actually looked like we were working. I may still have some of the files somewhere. I was pretty proud of it.
- The first game that I remember attending for certain was this Indians-Angels game in 1989. I distinctly remember Jesse Orosco coming in from the bullpen and Lance Parrish nearly hitting a home run into our section (it ended up going foul). I also remember going to an Astros-Giants game that year. I remember it as being a Rick Reuschel-Mike Scott matchup, which would make it this game, but I could be mistaken. It may also have been this game.
- I didn't attend a major league baseball game again until 1999. My buddy and I flew up to Seattle to see the Orioles play the Mariners in the two-week-old Safeco Field. My uncle was able to get us tickets to two games that weekend. We sat about 12 rows up from the O's dugout that Friday night and then a little higher the next day. Cal Ripken, who was the reason I was there, played great over the two games, but went on the DL for a month the next day. He was sitting on 399 home runs that weekend, and barely missed hitting #400 by about two feet while I was there.
- During the game that Friday night, someone pointed out that Frank Robinson was sitting one section over from us. Somehow, I was brazen enough to walk over to him and ask him to sign the bill of my cap. He was pleasant to me, but I was obviously intruding on him. I'm glad I did it, but I do feel a little bad for bothering the guy. I'm not sure I would do the same thing today.
- Overall, I've been to twelve major league ballparks in my life: Dodger Stadium, Angel Stadium, Candlestick Park (old SF Giants), PacBell Park (new SF Giants), Oakland Coliseum, Safeco Field (Seattle), Camden Yards (Baltimore), Miller Park (Milwaukee), Wrigley Field (Cubs), US Cellular Field (White Sox), Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park (Boston). Pac Bell (or AT&T) Park is by far the nicest that I've seen. Safeco is quite nice too. I had a blast in Fenway. Yankee Stadium was overrated, but I'm glad I was able to learn that for myself. I love coming to Miller Park every week, though. It's a nice stadium, but what makes it so great is the affordability and the fact that it's full of real baseball fans every night. That's not always the case at some of the other parks I've been to.
- I attended Cal Ripken's final games in both Angel Stadium and Oakland Coliseum. He did not play well in any of those games, but at least I was able to see them. I stayed after the game in Anaheim to get an autograph (I was 20 years old, I know...). There was a huge line of people lined up on the right-field wall waiting for him. He went down the line and silently signed balls and cards and such. He totally skipped over my picture. In hindsight, I blame myself for choosing a fancy oversized card... he probably thought I was trying to get something signed that I could sell. That was a bummer.
- After graduating college, I visited my uncle's family in Germany for two months. On the way home, instead of flying into California, I flew into Washington DC so that I could go to an Orioles game that night. I had every aspect of the trip between the stadium and airport planned out (buses, trains, etc) except for where I would keep my one piece of luggage during the game. That ended up screwing me over. The only place I could find to keep it was in the train station's luggage room, which closed at 10pm. That meant I had to leave the game in time to get to the station before 10pm. It was a really slow, rainy game. By the time I left the game at around 9:30pm, it was only the 4th inning. Disgusting, huh? I was able to see a grand slam from Melvin Mora, though. In the end, I spent ~$300 and travelled for 48 straight hours to see 3.5 innings of baseball. Not exactly what I was hoping for.
- If it's up to me, I *never* leave a game early. Even in 12-1 blowouts. In high school, my buddy and I left a Fresno State Bulldogs game an inning early to walk to the car. The Bulldogs were losing by 5 runs when we left. By the time we got to the car, they had tied it up. It was a strong lesson. I'm not sure, but I'd guess that Jeff Weaver was pitching that day.
- I try to keep score at every game I go to. I love it.
- In the summer of 2004, I was paid to keep score at Fresno Grizzlies baseball games by a well-known stats company. During the second half of the season, I saw about 20 baseball games. I would drive to the stadium, park in the lot where I didn't have to pay, and then just walk into the ballpark. It was a fantastic way to spend a night. My tickets for the game were always in the same seats, but I would end up sitting anywhere I wanted. The best players I saw that summer were Xavier Nady and Chris Burke. I did have to score a 16 inning game one night. That was a long night.
- I think something that the internet is lacking is a way to catalog the games that you've attended. Kind of a "My Ticket Book" feature. In my vision, I would be able to check off every game that I've ever attended and the website would then give me each player's statistics for those games. Perhaps this is something I should talk to Sean Forman about (or maybe I should just learn the baseball-reference API).
- By the late 1990s, my favorite player of all-time was still Cal Ripken, but my favorite current Oriole was Mike Mussina (if that makes sense). I was really disappointed when he left to the Yankees, but I understood it.
- When Moose came within one pitch of a perfect game, I was watching the game on tv and actively rooting for him. This was in spite of my intense dislike for the Yankees. When Carl Everett broke up that perfecto with a 1-2 count and two outs in the ninth, it just gave me another reason to dislike the guy.
- I moved to Milwaukee in August 2005. With only six weeks left in the season, I was able to make it to six Brewers games (including the game where Ben Sheets went down for the season - how fitting).
- Over the next couple of years, I tried to maintain my loyalty to the Orioles. At some point, though, it became clear that I was now a Brewer fan. It feels a little weird at times, since I spent so much of my life as an O's fan, but I've made peace with it. It's hard not to become a fan of a team when you spend every day watching them and reading about them and going to 20 games a year.
- I met my terrific girlfriend during a clean-up of the Hank Aaron State Trail outside Miller Park one Saturday morning. We ended up going to the ballgame that afternoon and saw a great game, with the Brewers hitting five home runs in one inning. That was three years ago, and we've been to dozens of games together since then. I'm a lucky guy.
- My favorite baseball story is "The Night Manny Mota Tied the Record" by W.P. Kinsella. It's a short story in the collection The Thrill of the Grass. It asks a great question, and the setting was perfect.
- I started buying Sporting News and Athlon season preview guides in 1998 or so. Since then, it's become a little hobby to collect these old magazines and read through them to see what people were saying about the game and various players at the time. As of today, I have 55 magazines spanning 1974 to today.
- I bought my first season-ticket package last year, purchasing a 20-game "choose your own" package. When I chose the games, I very purposely got tickets to all three Cubs games for the final weekend of the season because of the possible playoff implications. By the time that weekend rolled around, those playoff implications were very, very real. Sadly, though, I was only able to go to one game that weekend, so I had to decide beforehand which game would be most worth going to. I chose to go to the Saturday game and sold the Sunday game to a friend of mine. It was the wrong choice. The Brewers clinched their first playoff game that Sunday, and not that Saturday. We did celebrate with a glass of champagne at the bar we were at at the time, though.
- I am very grateful to be living in an affordable major league baseball city with an exciting young team to root on. If I were to ever move, I don't know if I could ever again live in a city where there was no professional ball club, or where the price of the tickets make attending games nearly impossible.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
The popular thing these days seems to be the "25 Random Things About Myself" meme that is apparently making it's way around Facebook. Craig over at ShysterBall took the idea in a slightly different way and wrote "25 Random Baseball Things". The idea seems to have caught on, so who am I to fight it? Here are 25 Random Baseball Things About Me... (it's pretty long, so I understand if you don't make it all the way through)
Posted by lar at 8:22 PM