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2007 COOPERSTOWN ROAD TRIP Day 16: The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY

9 Jul

FINALLY!  The big day was here.  The culmination of 2 weeks of traveling was our visit to baseball’s Mecca:  Cooperstown.

Surprisingly, this was our first time renting a car during the entire trip.  After grabbing a quick bagel from the corner market across the street from our hotel, we picked up our rental car in Midtown.  Now normally, I’m a pretty laid back kind of guy, but when I got behind the wheel of our rental in Manhattan, I immediately assimilated to my surroundings.  I became as ornery as your stereotypical NYC driver, using my horn, yelling at people, etc.  It was the strangest phenomenon.  It was as if I was possessed.  And quite frankly, it scared the bejesus out of Blake.  In fact, when he politely offered to drive, I snapped back with, “No!  I’ve got this!”  What was even more strange, was that once we got through the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey, I was back to normal!

Our drive to Cooperstown was actually very delightful.  Blake and I traded driving shifts a few times.  We were both pleasantly surprised to find that New York had some of the cleanest rest stops we had ever seen.

When we finally arrived in Cooperstown, it was early afternoon.  We had about 3 hours to see everything, as the Museum closed early that day and we had to have our rental car back by midnight, or else we would not only be charged for an extra half day, but we would have been responsible for paying for parking in Midtown Manhattan for approximately 8 hours.

Blake is the right person with whom to visit a museum, as he takes the time to view everything in detail, rather than moving through quickly.  Unfortunately, there is just so much to see in Cooperstown.  The National Baseball Hall of Fame is not something you can see in 3 hours.  You really need a few days in Cooperstown to take it all in.  I made sure to monitor our time so that we could see as much as we could in our limited time.

We began on the second floor, which had rooms dedicated to the origins of baseball in the 19th Century, a 20th Century timeline, Babe Ruth’s career, women in baseball, African-Americans in baseball, and today’s game.  In the photo above, I am pictured with the bat the Babe used to hit his 714th home run.  In the picture to the left, I am pictured with the Angels’ locker in the Hall of Fame containing a number of items from the 2002 World Series including a pair of thunder stix, a Troy Glaus jersey, and Scott Spiezio’s bat from Game 6.

We ended up having to rush through the third floor in order to make it to the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery with enough time to view it and spend some time in the gift shop.  Again, three hours just wasn’t enough time for us to see everything the way we would have liked.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before a return visit.

After the Museum closed, we found a local gift shop that had “Cooperstown Road Trip” t-shirts.  We each purchased one, then grabbed some food for the road because we were going to attempt to find White Castle before we headed home to California.

The drive back was rather peaceful.  As we got closer to Manhattan, it became imperative for us to find a gas station in New Jersey to not only have a full tank, but also to avoid the high prices in the city.  It took a little bit of doing, but we finally found one.

Next came the task of finding White Castle in Harlem with enough time to return our rental car by midnight.  As it turned out, we had come within a block of it the day before.  When we finally found White Castle, it was 11:30 PM.  Fortunately for us, there was a drive-thru, and no one was in line.  Unfortunately for me, because of my behavior behind the wheel while in Manhattan that morning, Blake wouldn’t let me enjoy my fresh White Castle burger until we returned the car.  At least at 11:35 PM, there was no traffic in Manhattan and we were able to get from Harlem to Midtown in ten minutes.  We returned our rental car with fifteen minutes to spare, and I was finally able to sink my teeth into that first White Castle burger.

Before turning in, we began packing for the trip home, including bubble-wrapping twelve individual bottles of two varieties of Yuengling, and four cans of Ballentine’s . . .

 

2007 COOPERSTOWN ROAD TRIP Day 15: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium

8 Jul

Since it was a Sunday, I decided to let Blake sleep in while I went to morning Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  When I made it back, we grabbed some lox and bagels from the corner market across the street from our hotel before getting on the subway to head up to the Bronx.

When our train stopped on the Upper East Side, who happened into our car but the father and son Angels fans who sat across from us on our flight.  This was apparently the kid’s first trip to New York because he immediately started talking smack about the Yankees on a train full of Yankee fans.  Blake and I just kept our mouths shut, but the kid kept rambling on about Ervin Santana’s prowess.  When I heard that, something told me that Santana was going to get lit up.

This game gave us a different perspective, in more ways than one.  First of all, we were seated in the left centerfield bleachers, which was a nice angle to watch the game.  But as I feared, the match-up of Ervin Santana and Chien-Ming Wang proved to be very one-sided.  Santana only lasted 3 innings, serving up bombs to Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano, accounting for 5 of 9 earned runs allowed.  In the 4th inning, the hit parade continued with Alex Rodriguez hitting a 3-run blast off of Angels reliever Chris Resop.  In contrast, Chien-Ming Wang was dominant for 6 1/3 innings.  When the smoke finally cleared, the Yankees put a 12-spot on the board and shut out the Halos going into the All-Star Break.

We decided to lick our wounds by drowning our temporary sorrows in comfort food.  We knew that there was a White Castle somewhere on the east side of Harlem, so we tried exploring on foot to find it, only coming up empty.  After a quick stop at our hotel to change back into our civvies, we headed out for some grub.

Our opening parlay was appetizers at Gonzalez y Gonzalez, which admittedly was a stop for sentimental reasons as I had dined there a number of times with an ex-girlfriend.

But we left room for our main course which was Lombardi’s Pizza in Little Italy, the first pizzeria in America.  Lombardi’s is on my must-do list whenever I’m in New York.  Thanks to our buddy Philip Clinton for the recommendation.

Dessert was also a Philip recommendation, as we headed a few blocks away to Ferrara for cannolis.  Of course, the cannolis we had were far from enough for us, so we made plans to return before flying home on Tuesday.

Before turning in, we stopped off at the corner market by our hotel and picked up a few bottles of Yuengling and cans of Ballentine’s to help us unwind before the drive to Cooperstown the next morning . . .

 

2007 COOPERSTOWN ROAD TRIP Day 8: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

1 Jul

bobby-grich.jpgWe had another opportunity to sleep in on our second day in Baltimore, so our first order of business was to ship a bunch of our souvenirs home via UPS from our local Office Depot (hey, it was a Sunday, so no Post Office . . . it just means less to carry).

We were treated to a close game at Camden.  Angels starter John Lackey held the O’s to 3 runs.  Both Mike Napoli and Casey Kotchman went deep for the Halos to give us 4 runs on the board.  The O’s made it interesting in the bottom of the 9th, with Melvin Mora reaching 3rd base with 1 out off of Angels’ closer Francisco Rodriguez.  On the final play of the game, Mora tried to tag up on a fly ball hit to Angels’ right-fielder Vladimir Guererro.  Underestimating Vlad’s powerful throwing arm, Mora was gunned-down at the plate, not only ending the game on a 7-2 double play in a 4-3 victory for the Halos, but also putting both himself and Angels’ catcher Mike Napoli out of commission.  Napoli ended up on the 15-day disabled list later that afternoon.

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Overall, the Halos took the 3-game series 2 games to 1.  The only negative thing I have to say about the Baltimore fans was that a certain group of O’s fans in the centerfield seats displayed some tasteless behavior in chanting, “HGH!” when Gary Matthews, Jr. came to bat.

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On the way out of the park, we were able to catch a glimpse of Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer . . .

2007 COOPERSTOWN ROAD TRIP Day 7: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

30 Jun

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Okay, this was the day we were waiting for . . . our first Angels game on the road . . .

We made it into Baltimore with a few hours to spare. After dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we stopped in for a quick crabcake sandwich at Phillips before heading out to the Yard . . .

Camden Yards . . . what a beautiful retro park. I had actually been there once before, albeit only in the team store as it was the middle of January . . . One great place to see a ballgame. Our seats were in right centerfield, very close to the action. We were surprised to see a lot of Halos fans there, and that definitely put us at ease (add to that, the Halos had beat the Orioles 9-7 the previous night). Our friend Tamara had related an unfavorable pre-1994 strike Angels at Baltimore experience to us, so we went into this prepared for the worst . . . on the contrary, the Baltimore fans were great and didn’t give us a hard time at all. They were all rather nice, and we even had a great conversation with the fans seated directly behind us. Of course, the Halos do have one of the best records in baseball and the Orioles are having a horrible year.

One of the most consistent things we have seen in our East Coast travels is the passion of East Coast sports fans. The first thing that stood out to us was during the Star-Spangled Banner, all the Orioles fans yelled “O!” in unison at the beginning of “O, say does that Star-Spangled . . .”

Bartolo Colon got the start for the Halos and didn’t have his best stuff, going 6 innings and allowing 3 earned runs while striking out 6. The Halos stayed close, but Hector Carrasco allowed 3 earned runs of his own in just an inning of work. In the end, the Orioles had doubled up on the Halos 6-3.

oriole.jpgThe only negative comments we had about Camden Yards were: 1. The announcer didn’t always announce pitching or position changes, and 2. The scoreboard operator was WAY TOO SLOW (the scoreboard would still be reading 2 balls and 1 strike seconds after a batter was walked).

Concession-wise, Camden offers a decent hot dog, comparable to the dogs at Anaheim, but nothing special. Camden however wins the beer man award, as between every half-inning, at least three different beer-men made their way down to us with a multitude of choices including Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Light, Heineken, and Amstel Light . . . not great beers, but then again, when does beer man offer good beer?!

It was great to see the Angels fans out in force, and to be able to cheer our team on without having to worry about unruly home fans. Overall, a great baseball experience.

2007 COOPERSTOWN ROAD TRIP: The Adventure Awaits

21 Jun

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Last year my good buddy, bassist Blake Hunter joined me in Arizona for MLB Cactus League Spring Training.  We had such a great time that we decided to make it an annual event.

Later in the fall, shortly after the Cards won the World Series, Blake made the comment, “Wouldn’t it be great to go to every single ballpark?”  That got me to thinking.  I found out that in the next few years, Yankee, Shea, and RFK Stadiums would all be replaced with newer ballparks, making a northeast trip even more imperative.  As soon as the 2007 season schedules came out, I started running possible scenarios and came up with some interesting itineraries, that is, until I realized I needed to factor in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to make the trip all the more worthwhile . . .

Factoring the Angels into the equation resulted in not only catching them at both Camden Yards and Yankee Stadium for two games at each park, it also meant that one of those games at Yankee Stadium would be on my birthday and we’d be spending the Fourth of July in Washington DC.  Seven ballparks in sixteen days, plus a trip to the Hall of Fame to boot.  Not too shabby, huh?  The original plan was to take Amtrak everywhere, but interestingly enough, we found flights on Southwest and JetBlue which were cheaper (not to mention shorter) than trips on Amtrak.  Here’s the rundown:

6/25  St. Louis Cardinals vs. NY Mets @ Shea Stadium
6/27  Cincinatti Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies @ Citizens Bank Park
6/29  Washington Nationals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates @ PNC Park
6/30-7/1  LA Angels of Anaheim vs. Baltimore Orioles @ Camden Yards
7/3  Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals @ RFK Stadium
7/5  Tampa Bay Devil Rays vs. Boston Red Sox @ Fenway Park
7/7-7/8  LA Angels of Anaheim vs. NY Yankees @ Yankee Stadium
7/9  Baseball Hall of Fame @ Cooperstown, NY

It’s hard to believe the adventure is just days away.  I’ve been busy packing making sure I have everything I need–this has been one of the rare times I’ve been organized, yet I feel as if I’m nowhere near ready for the trip!  The biggest challenge for me will be travelling without a horn . . . when I come home, I have just two days to woodshed to be ready for a gig!

Actually, I take that back . . . the biggest challenge for me will be shaving my head.  That’s right . . . I’ve decided that since I have no one for whom to look good for 16 days, I’m going to shave my head bald.  At least I’ll be able to say that I did it once . . .

It just so happens I had a good appetizer for the trip:  last night I went to an Angels game with another bass-playing buddy, namely Bart Broadnax.  We caught the Halos and Astros in the rubber match of their 3-game series.  The Halos came from behind to score 6 runs on 1 hit in the bottom of the 7th to beat the Astros 8-4, the big blow being a 3-run dinger by Vladimir Guerrero . . .

Since so many of our friends have said, “I wish I was going with you,” we’ve decided to take you all along with us in spirit . . . we will be blogging regularly throughout the trip, as well as posting a variety of pictures.  You’ll be able to follow along without leaving the comfort of your own home!  Check in with us online each day as we share the adventure . . .