Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Not Your Typical Airport Layover

Not the worst way to spend time in an airport.

I usually don't mind a layover of an hour or two while traveling. But I confess that I was dragging on my way home from an education writers' conference in Houston last December.

The conference itself was very helpful, our hosts at the Houston Chronicle were awesome and the city itself was nicer than I imagined.

But I usually try to work a baseball adventure into each of my work-related jouneys, and this time I fell pretty short.

Minute Maid Park is downtown, but was a pretty good walk from where we were meeting, at least too long for a patented "got lost coming back from the mens room" side trips.

I made it to the yard 15 minutes before the gift shop closed. The clerk let me in, but wasn't particularly excited about it. I was able to snag an American League All-Star Game jersey on a clearance rack, but couldn't give the place the ususal once-over that I like. And the shop was closed the rest of the weekend.

The store entrance is off a nice-looking lobby of what I believe was Houston's old train station, but I couldn't get any photos of the field or inside the stadium. There were some interesting things outside, like statues of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, but it was getting dark and my photos were disappointing.

And while I like cruising through airports, the trip home isn't as exciting as the first time through, especially in Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport. I'd already ridden the underground train and explored all the gift shops and food courts. The only baseball items were related to the Braves, and you know I want no part of such crap.

So I was aimlessly wandering one of the terminals, and I saw one of the gates decorated with tons of red, white and blue balloons. I assumed there must have been some soldiers returning from Iraq, and thought it would be a nice pick-me-up to see our heroes getting off a plane and into the arms of their families.

But within a minute or two, there was an announcement over the public address system: "Delta Airlines, the official airline of the 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox, is proud to announce the arrival of a very special passenger, the 2004 World Series trophy."

From Pedro's hands to mine!

What? You gotta be kidding me! The actual World Series trophy?

And sure enough, after all the passengers deplaned, the pilot and co-pilot walked into the gate area holding the trophy high. They placed it on a table surrounded by balloons, and people were allowed to pose for photos.

It was actually the first time I saw a legimate use for those dopey cell phone cameras. Luckily, I had my own camera handy, and a Delta employee offered to snap the photo.

Officially known as the Commissioner's Trophy, it was first presented to the World Series winner in 1967, when the Cardinals beat the Red Sox in 7 games. The trophy features flags with each of the 30 teams on it and the World Series champion gets to keep it because a new one is made each year.

I've learned that the Red Sox's trophy was designed by Tiffany & Co and cost $15,000. It weighs about 30 pounds and is made from sterling silver. The trophy is 2½ feet high and 36 inches around the base.

I've always thought the World Series trophy was cool because it is very different from the lame Super Bowl and NBA championship awards. You know exactly what it is at first glance.

I must say it was quite a thrill. I got to touch it and everything, and looked for the little pennant with the Mets name on it.

The Mets 1969 trophy is unique -- it's the only one to have the Seattle Pilots on it.

Naturally I had a lot of questions, namely why in the heck was the World Series trophy making an appearance in the Atlanta airport? I had heard that the Sox were sending it on a tour of New England and even their spring training home in Fort Myers.

But the Atlanta airport? And they are trusting this prize with airline baggage handlers? Hey, there's a reason I try to carry on as much luggage as possible.

Not that these nagging details stopped me from having fun. Talk about good timing! And it just goes to show that you never know when a good baseball adventure can happen.

Now you know...

I covered Bishop Airport in Flint, Mich. for a year and learned something cool. You know the vast acreage of concrete where the planes hang out before they go on the runway? People call it the tarmac. But the airport director chastised me one day. A tarmac is a crushed stone temporary runway that the military builds to land planes in far-off places. The area that most of us -- even those in the media -- call the tarmac is actually called an apron. It's just not as fun to say. But now you know.


Jessica said...

Cute story.

Tony Hartsfield said...

Are you making fun of my airport?

deezofeezo said...

Awesome randomness!!!

I think the only professional sport trophy cooler than the Commissioners Trophy is The Stanley Cup...I am not a big Hockey Guy, but I have read about 300 stories about the debauchery that the cup goes through when a new team captures it. Apparently the Lord Stanley Cup held residence in Scores New York after the Rangers won it in 94.

My midget football team has won back to back titles, and my assistant coaches and I have repeatedly joked about getting our league trophy a lap dance...but we haven't had the stones to actually do it.

Kranepool said...

Great story. I see you like ballpark gift shop like I do. My family and I just spent a weekend in Lancaster PA and as we were driving to the resort we were staying at I see this ballpark called Clipper Magazine Stadium on my right. I found out it was the home of the Lancaster Barinstormers of the Atlantic League. So of course I had to buy a cap and t shirt to go with other 300 hats and 1,000 t shirts I have.

Darth Marc said...

Very cool story, infidel...