Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cleveland rocks!

I have a new favorite road trip destination -- Cleveland! My son and I picked the city on Lake Erie for our semi-annual bonding trip that included baseball, rock and roll and even a president.

And, of course, we had some adventures and even a nice encounter with some fellow Mets fans.

I like Cleveland. We had a nice visit back when the Indians played in the monsterously huge Cleveland Stadium, and I sat for a spell in the bleachers interviewing John Adams, the guy who bangs the huge drum. And Will and I returned in 1997, first for a game and later for the All-Star Game Home Run Derby, won shockingly by Tino Martinez.

And we toured the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Baseball Truth gang after the opening game of our 2003 weekend was rained out. There was a massive upgrade since my prior Hall visit, and we'll get into that in the next post.

We started with the Cleveland Hard Rock Cafe, which is located in a mall-hotel complex just two blocks from Progressive Field, the unfortunate new name for Jacobs Field.
If you've seen one Hard Rock, you've kind of seen them all, which is not a bad thing. We took turns walking around the restaurant checking out all the sweet rock and roll memorabilia on the walls. We also added to my son's collection of Hard Rock t-shirts and pins.

After our pulled pork sandwiches, we headed over to the ballpark. It was "Beach Weekend," and the Indians had all sorts of music and activities, including truckloads of sand. We had more than an hour before the gates opened, so we walked on down to the Rock Hall to plot our visit for the next day.

The Indians have some neat plaza art, with an impressive Bob Feller statue, and large letters spelling out "Who's on First?"
The Jake is a nice ballpark. Built at the start of the new wave of design, the team passed on the retro look for a sleek, modern look with lots of exposed white steel. It's already 14 years old, but doesn't look it. The video display on scoreboard is just incredible, and blows away what the Reds had to offer the week before.
It was cap night -- never a bad thing -- and I was impressed that small programs were handed out for free. But they lack a scorecard, so I picked one up at a concession stand, and learned that the yearbooks were half-price. A sale at a ballpark?
The gift store was more than adequate, with a charity section selling game-used jerseys for $175, and autographed tags that looked like locker signs for between $25 and $75, depending on the player.
Of course, I opted for the lower-end of the souvenir spectrum, buying an Indians Statue of Liberty pin to get change for the penny squishing machine.
I didn't notice of there were any specialty foods, but we were still full from our meal at the Hard Rock.

Strolling around, I discovered the Indians' Heritage Park in centerfield. It's basically a collection of plaques commemorating the team's greatest moments and players. It was nice, but a drastic step down from the Reds' over-the-top Hall of Fame from the week before.

The lower level had this plaque for Ray Chapman, the only player killed in a game. There also was a section for what appeared to be the 100 greatest Indians, with autographs etched into polished black stone. Ex-Met Carlos Baerga gets some love there.

I also ran into Slider, dressed in his beach party attire. We could not figure out what Slider is supposed to be, which makes him a bad mascot. Then again, not everyone can be Mr. Met.
Speaking of the Mets, I was wearing my 1994 Indians Eddie Murray jersey for the occasion. My son and I settled into our seats behind home plate in the upper deck, and in the middle of the second inning a man and a woman came and sat in the seats next to us.
I saw him looking the out-of-town scoreboard and say to his wife, "Oh no, the Mets are already down 4-0," in a perfect accent. Instinctively, I turned and said, "I guess Brandon Knight is getting roughed up in his debut."
"What are you, an Indian fan who also roots for the Mets?"
"No, I'm a Mets fan who collects jerseys. Where in New York are you from?"
"No. Freaking. Way. Massapequa Park!"
OK, so there are 38,500 people at this game and I'm lucky enough to get to sit next to a Mets fan from two towns over. I lead a blessed life.
Turns out my new friend was in the middle of a ballpark tour with his wife, seeing the Pirates the night before, then heading to Detroit the next day and over to Toronto before heading home. And he, too, was at the second game of the Subway Series, where Johan Santana was denied and my streak extended.
Naturally, we had all kinds of fun talking about our resurgent team and how Cleveland was a nice city. I warned him about Detroit.
We noticed that the Indians fans were very polite. The Twins rocked Fausto Carmona for 9 runs in two and a third innings, and he walked off the mound to a smattering of polite applause. That's not quite the response he would have gotten at Shea.
But we also had praise for our hosts. "I haven't seen a single person in Yankees gear all night," the wife testified. "I saw three people in Pittsburgh last night wearing Yankees stuff."
I say anyone who rates crowd intelligence by the lack of Yankee logos is pretty darn astute. And I pointed out that I saw a guy with a David Wright t-shirt and Mets backpack, plus my son was wearing his inherited Mets batting practice jersey. That's a good ratio.

There was a beautiful sunset and clouds on an absolutely perfect evening. I'm loving both Costco and my new camera for allowing me to capture this.
Here's an aside for some Costco love. My old camera -- old in relative electronic terms -- died in Key West in April, and we bought a new one from Costco.
Well, sometime in the glory of the steak snapping in Cincy, either I dropped the camera or someone stepped on it in my backpack because the viewing screen was shattered. There was much sadness.
I know Costco changed its electronics return policy, which we have used liberally after a series of iPod deaths. I thought we had 30 days to return something. But when I brought my shattered camera to the store to check into buying a new one, I discovered that you actually have 90 days -- and I was on day 85.
So I was able -- encouraged, actually -- to return the broken camera and get a replacement. Since they don't sell the model of the broken one any more, I had to upgrade to a model that features a much better zoom feature.
And this why all of my gold fish are named "Costco." But I digress.

The Twins eventually spanked the Indians 12-4, which I could enjoy as a neutral observer. We did have some angst following the progress of the Mets game. The team had caught up with the Cardinals, then lost the lead again.
We hit a place in The Flats and found ESPN showing the Mets had tied it up again and were deep into extra innings by the time our ballpark pretzels and dipping sauces were served. They didn't blow the game until after we got back to the hotel and took advantage of La Quinta's free wifi to follow the progress.
That was a lot of excitment for Day One. I'll return with the rest of our adventures.


JLC 1863 said...


Glad you warned the Wantagh couple about Detroit. I only wish somebody had warned us before my friends and I went in 2004. Whoa!!


PS Where has Timmy been? He has been unusually quiet. Maybe it was the picture he saw of me in a Namath shirt. :)

Anonymous said...

Don't worry mikie, I've got your true number!! Nothing like a closet Jet's fan, you will come out some day, it with be healthy for you!!
P.S. Don't forget, the only thing Tuna makes is BS, he did it in the past with the Pats, Jets, and Dallas; then he leaves(and takes the cash..... he's a great con man)!!
Have a good summer, it's going to be a tough "Fall".
Kind of funny, it's been a while since someone has called me Timmy, I think the last time was when my twin brother was alive. As a surgeon that isn't a prosaic comment, I kinda like it though, makes me feel younger, thanks!
Good luck,

PS Dave, sorry...nice post, looks like you guys enjoyed yourself, I hope Mikie can behave himself this year :). look forward to seeing you all on the cruise in November!!

JLC 1863 said...

Dr. Tim,

My apologies please. I am glad that you did feel younger though.

It's a kind of sad feeling here on LI with this being the Jets last camp at Hofstra. I must admit that I do go there each summer.

It is a great oppurtunity for my kids to see professional football players up close. Even if they are Jets.

Have a nice summer and let me know if you are on the Island during football season.

Countdown to Week 1.


Anonymous said...

Apology accepted, good luck this year!!