…So Reluctantly I Go
There are two kinds of people—those who like baseball,
and those who will when they stop being idiots…
According to the above line from the play, Honus & Me, I am an “idiot.” I am not a sports fan, and never will be. And baseball is a sport.
NOTE: This article/post reflects my response to the WordPress daily prompt for June 22, 2014—offside memories—(relate a) funny/harrowing/interesting memories from a sporting event you attended, participated in, or watched?
You have to understand three things. First, my husband Monte is enthusiastic about sports—especially football and hockey. He is ecstatic that Pittsburgh has two champion teams, the Steelers and the Penguins. Our son Nolan and his wife Tammy, and our son-in-law Michael are even more enthusiastic about sports, especially baseball-related games, while my daughter, Sandra, enjoys sports, but perhaps to a lesser degree.
Michael’s enthusiasm—or perhaps, compulsion—is evidenced by his collection of sports paraphernalia—especially items representing the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. His fanaticism has led him to purchase a cemetery plot in the newer part of the Jefferson Memorial Cemetery in Pleasant Hills so that he can sleep eternally as close as possible to where Honus Wagner now rests in peace. He keeps watch for an even closer site.
My grandson, Vince, age five, can tell you all about baseball. Last year his whole family celebrated his fourth birthday by accompanying him to a baseball game in Cleveland. My other grandson, Marcus, then two, claimed for himself our 2008 Christmas gift to their family —a baseball mitt snack bowl on which the dip section was a baseball. When the lid of the baseball opened to access the dip, a music box played “Take me out to the ball game.” Marcus had recently learned that ditty, and sang it with gusto—over and over—fingers raised energetically on the chorus, “and it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ball game.”
Second, Nolan and Tammy live in Cleveland Heights. They cheer for Ohio State and the Cleveland Browns, as well as for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Third, I have no desire to attend sports events. I’m much happier writing, reading, playing computer games or even participating in a fitness program at the Ligonier YMCA (as little as I enjoy the fitness room, it is better than attending a sports event!). Furthermore, I dislike traveling into Pittsburgh traffic, especially on a sports events day.
But I truly enjoy, however, spending time with my family.
Thus, when Monte came up with the idea to give his children and grandchildren tickets to the June 25 Pittsburgh Pirates/Cleveland Indians baseball game as a Christmas gift, I agreed to attend. Nice family competition, with Nolan’s family outfitted in Indians’ apparel and Sandy’s family dressed for the Pirates.
That is how I, a very reluctant sports fan, ended up attending that baseball game. Fortunately, I know more about baseball than I do football and hockey.
As the game date neared, I braced myself. I wasn’t looking forward to going. Shouldn’t someone who enjoyed baseball go instead?
My daughter drove. The ride in went smoothly—the outbound lanes filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic while the inbound lanes we were traveling were only jammed only before entering the tunnel. Ultimately, we were rewarded with fantastic views of the Pittsburgh skyline. The sky was overcast with haze and clouds, and sunrays stretched from the clouds to the ground. I noticed all the bridges were yellow, and asked Sandy if the bridges had been recently painted—I didn’t recall them being yellow on my last Pittsburgh visit.
As we approached PNC Park, we passed the new under-construction casino and the Science Center. Sandy drove to the “Old Fogies” parking lot, given this designation by Michael because most of the partying was in an adjacent lot. It cost $10 to park, which Sandy said was good, since most other lots charged $20-$30. Monte noted that it cost $35 to park for the Penguins games.
It was 5:55. We were to meet Nolan in front of the PNC Park, at the Honus Wagner statue, at 6:00.
We joined the growing crowd headed from the parking lot towards the PNC Park. The question regarding Honus Wagner’s claim to fame briefly flitted through my mind but remained unasked. While waiting for Nolan, I took pictures of people, on their cameras, in front of the statue. I was impressed as fans politely paused while I took about ten pictures. Not once did anyone walk between the camera I held and the people I photographed.
When Nolan arrived, I took family pictures in front of the statue. I, the reluctant fan, was the photographer, and thus not in the photos. Then we joined the throng entering PNC Park. Several of us had to go in the line where they checked bags. I gave my second bag (only one bag per person was allowed—did a purse count as a bag?) to Sandy’s daughter Jordan, and the ticket attendant briefly checked them.
As we entered the stadium, we were handed shirts with Slippery Rock on the back. A nice touch, since Slippery Rock was our hometown for the thirteen years Monte taught in the university’s physics department. It was also Sandy and Nolan’s original home.
We headed towards our seats—section 127, rows J and K (split up to provide better family togetherness), including the aisle seats. We had a nice view of the field. The city skyline across the field created an impressive backdrop for sports competitions, but the noise emanating from the scoreboard was so LOUD that we couldn’t socialize. There was the typical hawking of food: pink cotton candy, pop, beer, hotdogs. Items and payments were passed through the rows—again, with very polite behavior. (View a photo of three of our fans by clicking on: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3705206953/in/photostream/)
I took a picture of a woman named Sandra Ravenstahl on her camera, the field and skyline behind her, and wondered if she were related to Pittsburgh’s mayor, Luke Ravenstahl. Tammy took my picture.
A group of small birds flew within inches of some fans, reminding me of the incident I read about when birds flew through a Cleveland game, possibly influencing the outcome. Tammy said it looked worse than it was, and told me of another incident where a bird exploded when it flew into a pitched baseball. (To read about feral birds, click on: FERAL BIRDS: THE LATEST COMMUNITY HAZARD)
The weather was uncomfortably hot and steamy. At 7:00 large raindrops fell, we saw lightning over the Pittsburgh skyline, and we heard thunder. I pulled out a rain cape and opened the package, in readiness for the downpour Monte said the weather channel predicted. But the raindrops ceased, as did the lightning and thunder.
PNC Park provided a lot of visual and audio stimulation—the crowds, the constantly changing lit signs, the tolerable to unbearable noise level (mostly during the non-playing times), cheering fans. I found myself studying the people, talking to the grandkids, and basically ignoring the game. I was watching when Pirate Nyger Morgan made a first base run, and when the next player hit a ball into the stands. Soaring balls are fascinating to watch as they arc, seemingly in slow motion, towards their destination. This ball made its way into the stands and was caught not too far from us, but down closer to the field. The game ceased, waiting for the usher near us to ascertain if anyone was hurt. When he confirmed that all the fans were safe, the game continued.
At the end of the third inning the Pirate’s mascot, a costumed parrot, shot hot dogs to fans in the stands. But not near us.
In the fourth inning, the score was tied, 1-1. The sky remained overcast, with slightly threatening clouds. It was supposed to rain at 8:30, according to Monte. Freddy Sanchez did something at home plate, then Adam LaRoche was running. I was still not paying too much attention to the game, and left to take Marcus for a walk. As we wandered through the crowds by the concession stands, Marcus let it be known he wanted to ride the escalators—two sets—so we did. As we reached the top and walked around, we heard cheers that revealed that someone scored. A fan wearing Cleveland Indians apparel informed us an Indian, Victor Martinez, just hit a home run, making the score 0-2 in the Cleveland’s favor. I took a picture of the field below from high in the stands (to view, click on http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3706014384/in/photostream/ ).
Before leaving our seating area, I had thoughtlessly neglected to bring my ticket, cell phone or to remember the spot where our seat was. When Marcus and I arrived at the section I thought was ours we were fortunate to see Sandy and her daughter Jordan there. It was a relief to successfully return to our seats.
By now the game was in the bottom of the sixth inning. Andrew McCutcheon made a hit that took him to second base. The next batter, Nygen Morgen, was hit by the pitch after his first strike. The game paused when manager John Russell came out of the dugout to see if he was hurt, after which Russell argued with home-plate umpire Jerry Lane about his call. Lane’s decision, that it was a foul ball, stood—Michael explained that since Morgan has struck at the ball, it was considered a strike. When Morgan hit the ball, he ran and was struck out at his first base, but McCutcheon made it to third base. (To view photo, not necessarily taken at this point in time, click on http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3705207873/)
Sanchez came to bat, hit the ball, and made it to first base while McCutcheon completed a home run. Now the game was getting interesting.
Adam LaRoche (or, as Michael said, “Call him Stinky and we will know who you are talking about”) ended the sixth inning, after which the Parrot mascot shot shirts into the fans. Fans, including members of our group, stood in anticipation of catching one. (To view picture, click on http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3705206117/in/photostream/)
At the top of the seventh the Indians made a hit. Their player ran to first base. The second batters’ hit to left field was caught by Morgan, giving the Indians an out. Marcus chose this time for practice yelling, much of which was camouflaged by the noise of other fans. Meanwhile, the Indians made their third out.
At this time, Michael explained that he leaves the games at the beginning of the ninth inning to beat the crowd, thereby avoiding two hours of congested traffic. People from out of town don’t know the road patterns, he said.
At the bottom of the seventh inning, Branden Moss was on first base with Andy LaRoche on second base. The next hitter struck the first out. However, Moss advanced to second base and LaRoche advanced to third base.
Jack Wilson was up. He walked. The bases were loaded with Pirates. The next player’s hit to right field was caught by the Indians player Shin-Soo Choo. A second out. (To view another picture, not necessarily of this action, click on: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3706014824/in/photostream/)
When McCutcheon, the next hitter, was walked, LaRoche came home, tying the score at 2-2. The bases were still loaded with Pirates: McCutcheon on first, Wilson on second, Moss on third. The signs flashed: Make noise! And so the fans did, as Morgan came to bat. The third out occurred at second base—no more points for the Pirates as the score remained tied.
At the top of the eighth inning, Indian’s Victor Martinez walked to first base. Their next batter hit to the far left field, I was certain the ball would belong to another fan. But Morgan caught it at the fence, jumping high in the air to do so. An amazing catch, and I was actually watching. Next Ben Francisco, walked. When the next hitter walked, the bases were loaded, this time with Indians. Their next batter struck out. The Pirates were up. It was 9:30 p.m.
At the bottom of the eighth inning, as the announcer stated that there were 30,120 paid attendees, I wondered if we would still leave at the top of the ninth inning, or if we would stay so as not to miss the final excitement in a game that had become very interesting.
Pirate’s player Sanchez struck out. Adam LaRoche, the next batter, broke his bat, which Monte explained counted as a strike. LaRoche next hit a ball into the stands to our right. Everyone waited for the usher to give the “thumbs up” assurance that no fan was hurt.
At this point Michael informed me that there were two Pirate players named LaRoche. How was I to know? Later Monte explained that they were brothers.
Andy LaRoche was up to bat. Horns blew. The word “Charge” rang from the stands. Andy walked. The next hitter, Moss, also walked. The bases became loaded. Fans again obeyed the signs that ordered “Make noise!” Batter Jason Jaramillo’s hit resulted in two outs—at second and third bases. The game paused for a change of pitcher.
The weather was pleasantly breezy at this point. No rainstorm. The scoreboard had a cartoon of a train theme, ending with “Let’s Go Bucs!”
The Pirates hit their third strike. Both teams had missed the opportunity to score with bases loaded in this, the eighth, inning.
It was time for us to leave: the top of the ninth. While walking through the parking lot to our car, cheers rose from the stadium. Michael said it meant someone scored. Then we saw fireworks—a signal that the Pirates won the game.
As the fireworks cracked, lightning lit the sky and raindrops began to fall. It didn’t rain hard or very long, and we had an easy drive home.
I later E-mailed the picture I had taken of Sandra Ravenstahl on my camera. In her “thank you” reply she wrote: “It was a great game. The announcers say it was the best game this season.” She must have stayed for the ninth inning.
In the end, this reluctant baseball fan had an enjoyable evening. The final three innings were truly interesting. (To view photo of this reluctant fan, click on: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3705207569/in/photostream/)
I’m not promising that this report is totally accurate—I may have messed up on the names and plays. I am a non-expert just doing the best I can with this writing. You baseball fans can make corrections in the comment box below.
Nor am I saying that this experience created a baseball fan—far from it. Michael is probably grateful, since I probably drove him mad asking questions about the players and sometimes the plays.
The fun wasn’t over. It continued when Nolan, Tammy and the two boys spent Friday in Laurel Mountain Borough (PA) with us. I watched them practice baseball in my front yard. But then, that’s another story.
The weekend concluded with Sandy Michael, Jordan, Monte and I attending a Mountain Playhouse (Jennerstown, PA) production of Honus & Me, again with me attending as a reluctant sports person. But then, that too is another story.