Last week when the Cubs were in Cincinnati to play the Reds I had the day off and so I took the opportunity to drive down there, a little over 5 hours, to see the Cubs play. It was my first time at Great American Ballpark.
The drive wasn’t bad; the game was scheduled to start at 11:30, so I left my house at 4am. With one bathroom/coffee stop, I was in the parking lot near the stadium at 9:20.
The gates to the park were to open at 10am, so I went to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame first.
(You can click on this picture and all the other to see in full size)
The entrance to the Reds Hall is just outside “Nuxy’s Entrance” to the park, named after Reds pitcher and broadcaster Joe Nuxhall, who was the youngest pitcher to appear in a major League game when he pitched on June 10th, 1944 at the age of 15……………take that Bryce Harper. Also just outside that gate is a statue of Johnny Bench.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll happily say it again, Bench was my favorite player when I was a kid.
Inside the museum, the first exhibit is about the 1975-76 Champion Reds. It’s also the third, fifth, sixth, and ninth. I will just say this, everywhere you go in the museum and in the ballpark itself, you will find one reference or another to the Big Red Machine. Not that I blame them, they were a great team. I’m sure if the Cubs ever win a World Series that team will be celebrated for decades to come too.
There are plenty of jerseys and bios of all the players. I took a couple of pictures.
Here is a picture of game worn spikes from Johnny Bench.
Look at those things. I was playing Little League when Bench was wearing those spikes and I had a better pair. Those things look they should have been worn by Gabby Hartnett in 1930, not All-Star Johnny Bench in the 70’s.
Surprisingly, or not, I’m not sure, there is not as much Pete Rose stuff as I thought there might be. There is a jersey and some pictures, but not overdone. There is a wall that is covered with 4,256 baseball’s. Here is the plaque that goes next to it.
The wall itself is right along a three story staircase that takes you to an upper level of the museum. It’s nice as you walk up the stairs they highlight certain numbered balls that you can read about, but it makes it impossible to get a nice picture. However, from the third floor you can look out over the “Rose” garden.
UPDATE: I just found a video description of the Pete Rose Baseball Wall and Garden, and now with the ability to add MLB Video’s here it is:
Once you are on the third floor they have another Big Red Machine exhibit, just in case you forgot who won the 1975 WS.
To finish up the tour, you see the 1990 World Series Trophy…
….and the plaques of all the Reds Hall of Fame members. There are 72 players and 6 executives honored, and no, Pete Rose is not one of them. Here are two pictures.
It was now 10am, time for the gates to open.
As you can see, there were probably less than 100 people at the gate. As we waited there was some friendly banter going on back and forth between Cubs and Reds fans.
When the gates opened I went straight into the seating area and took this shot.
It was really kind of weird being one of the first people inside a huge empty stadium. I then went back into the concourse to look around. One of the first things I saw was an LED sign hanging overhead with the starting lineups for both teams. For people like me that like to keep score at the game, this is a great feature.
If fact, during the game I was shown on TV writing something into my score book.
BTW, this game featured two starting pitchers (Ryan Dempster and Homer Baily) that were celebrating birthdays that day. That was the first time in Major League history that that had happened.
As I started my walk along the concourse, guess what I saw first. Yes, it was a mural of the 1975 Reds.
With no batting practice that day, I had plenty of time to walk around the entire stadium, and I did. Here are just a few of the pictures I took.
I just walked around, taking pictures and talking with ushers. I was wearing a Cubs hat and jersey and almost every usher asked me if I drove down for the series, when I told them that I just drove in that morning for the game most thought it was crazy, but then they all wanted to tell me about “their” park. I’ve found that no matter where you go, baseball fans are proud of their park and when given the chance to talk about it with other baseball fans, they will gladly do so.
It was about 25 minutes before game time and I headed to my seat. I had a GREAT seat. Row 1 right behind the Cubs dugout. Here are two pictures of Soriano and Castro warming up right in front of me.
I took a few shots during the game, but I brought my cheap camera with me instead of the nice one and it doesn’t do very well with action shots.
Here is DeJesus leading off the game for the Cubs.
Here is Castro rounding third after hitting a first inning solo HR
I took this shot of Garza and Samardzija between innings
Somehow I get the feeling they weren’t looking into the crowd to see if they could spot dorks like me with a scorebook and camera in hand, they were probably doing a different kind of people watching.
Here is a shot of LaHair after a solo HR
In the middle of the game I went for a snack. First I had a hotdog. The women behind the counter asked if I wanted to get a red shirt also. At first I didn’t realize what she meant. I thought maybe it was a snack to go with the hotdog. Then I realized that she was talking about getting a Reds shirt instead of wearing my Cubs shirt, I laughed and said I was just fine the way I was. I ate the hotdog quickly and went looking for nachos to take back to my seat. I had to walk all the way out to the outfield concourse before I found them. I wished I hadn’t. I don’t know what kind of cheese that they use there, but it just didn’t taste that good to me.
The middle innings went fast and both pitchers were doing a good job.
The Cubs were leading the game 3-0 going into the eighth after hitting three solo shots early in the game. Then the Reds brought in Aroldis Chapman. I’ll just say this, he throws hard
The Cubs entered the bottom of the ninth leading 3-0. They lost the game 4-3 in ten innings. I could go through the gory details, but I’ll just let the pictures tell the tale.
After that is was back into the car for the 5 and a 1/2 hour drive home. Ugh.
Update: Thanks to Mark and MLBlogs Network for featuring my post on the front page. For all the new readers that have been directed to this page you can click HERE to read my most recent posts or subscribe to my page to receive email updates. Thanks for reading.
Losing 5 of the first 6 games of the season, particularly since they were at home, was not the way the Cubs had hoped to start. But an 8-0 win over the Brewers today is what Chicago needed as they head to St. Louis tomorrow to start the first road trip of the season.
Matt Garza was dominate today, striking out 9 Milwaukee hitters while allowing just 3 hits and 0 runs over 8.2 innings.
In fact; the Cubs starting pitching, save Paul Maholm, has been very good to start the season. In 7 games, the Chicago starters have a 2.89 combined ERA with 45 K’s in 46.2 innings.
The bullpen has been another story. Generally I hate to use small sample sizes to look at stats, good or bad, and 7 games is a small sample, but so far the Cubs bullpen has been shaky at best. Through the first 7, the relievers have a 6.19 ERA with 13 walks in 16 innings.
The Cubs offense also found a groove today with 8 runs on 13 hits, although the power outage continued as Chicago has hit just 3 home runs.
And so now the Cubs hit the road for 3 in St Louis and then to Miami where they will play the Marlins and the returning Ozzie Guillen.
Yesterday the Detroit Tigers announced that their star DH/Catcher, Victor Martinez, will probably be lost for the entire 2012 season after tearing his left ACL last week during a winter workout. The doctors will reexamine Martinez next week, but it is expected that he will have to have surgery.
Martinez joined the Tigers last year after 7 years with Cleveland and 2 with Boston. Despite missing some time with a groin injury, Martinez still had a great year, driving in 103 runs and hitting .330
Victor Martinez also provided protection for Miguel Cabrera in the lineup for a team that won the AL Central by 15 games. Even with Martinez out, Detroit will still be the favorite to win the division again in 2012, but they will have to replace that huge hole in the lineup if they hope to dominate as they did last year.
Several names have already been floated out there as potential replacements. They include in-house candidates like Clete Thomas and Jack Hannahan; or free-agents like Johnny Damon and Carlos Pena.
Another possible move would be to trade for a player. There were rumors last month that the Cubs and the Tigers were talking about a trade involving Matt Garza. If I was Jed Hoyer, I would use that already established report to call the Tigers up and see if they have any interest in Alfonso Soriano.
Despite the ire that Soriano has drawn from Cubs fans the past couple of seasons, mostly due to his contract and lack of defense, he can still hit for power (24 HR’s in 2010, 26 in 2011). However, it has become increasingly evident that Soriano is becoming more and more of a DH type player. 2011 Cubs manager Mike Quade would send in a defensive replacement for Soriano almost every time the Cubs had a late inning lead.
The problem of course is Soriano’s monster contract. The Cubs still owe Alfonso $54M over the next three years. That’s an M for Million. There is no way Detroit is taking on that kind of money. The Cubs would have to eat a huge portion like they did with Miami in the Zambrano deal. Is it worth it to the Cubs to pay $40M NOT to have Soriano play for them????
Trading Soriano would also free up the Cubs to play either Brett Jackson or Dave Sappelt.
Honestly, if I’m the Tigers. I either ask the Cubs for Soriano and Garza and cash; or I go out and sign Carlos Pena for 1 year $14M.
I feel like a broken record, singing the same line from the same song over and over. But there ain’t no Coup de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. <skip> But there ain’t no Coup de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. <skip>
Another home stand complete and another player goes on the DL. The Cubs placed Alfonso Soriano on the DL yesterday after he pulled a quad muscle on Monday running to first on a ground out. They also announced that Matt Garza would not be ready to return to the rotation this weekend after there had been talk that he might start on Saturday. And just to top it off, Aramis Ramirez got hit in the side of the face and mouth this afternoon when he dove for a ball down the third base line that took a funny hop and came up and hit him. Aramis suffered a lip laceration and will probably need stitches. Hopefully he won’t need to spend time on the DL.
The team as a whole didn’t fare any better. The Cubs were 3-3 after facing the Mets and Pittsburgh on this home stand before the Astros came in. Unfortunately the Astros outscored the Cubs 22-11 in the 3 games series and won all three. The biggest loss came Tuesday night when the Cubs and Carlos Marmol blew a ninth inning lead. It was Marmol’s worst performance as a reliever.
The Cubs have a much needed day off on Thursday before heading to St Louis for a three game series.
The Cubs currently stand a season low 8 games below .500 at 23-31, 9 games out of first place. Unless the Cubs came somehow go on a winning streak of 5 or more or maybe win 10 of 12 games, this is going to be a long summer.
Last weekend I went to Boston with my brother-in-law Fran, as well as the guy I share Cubs season tickets with and his wife. We went to the Sunday night game between the Cubs and the Red Sox, this is a recap of my trip and the game.
Let’s start with The Bad. The Cubs lost the game. Tim Wakefield was making a spot start for Boston and had his knuckle ball dancing like days of old. The Cubs were flaying away at pitches that were darting in and out, up and down. In 6.2 innings of work, Wakefield held the Cubs to just four hits and one run while striking out 3, walking none. Two Boston relievers, Daniel Bard and Jon Papelbon finished off the final 2.1 innings, yielding just 1 hit as they struck out 4 of the 8 batters they faced.
On the other side of the ledger, Jeff Russell was starting for Chicago. This leads us to The Worse. Russell was starting because Matt Garza was scratched with elbow tightness. Even though Russell has made a couple starts already this year, he is not a starter. In fact Jeff Russell pitched two innings and threw 40 pitches just two nights earlier in a relief appearance. That he went 4+ innings was actually a fairly credible performance under the circumstances. Unfortunately, just being able to work multiple innings in the big leagues isn’t enough, you have to get batters out. Jeff Russell gave up 2 runs in the fourth inning and another in the fifth on 7 hits and a walk. Mike Quade used four more relievers to finish the game. When it was all said and done, the Red Sox had 12 hits, including 4 by Adrian Gonzalez and a home run off the bat of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and they had beaten the Cubs 5-1.
And now for The Ugly. As I mentioned above, Matt Garza was scratched from his start. He was put on the Disabled List yesterday and now becomes the third Chicago Opening Day starting pitcher behind Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner to make a trip to the DL this year. The Cubs also lost centerfielder Marlon Byrd over the weekend for an extended period after he was hit in the face just above the left eye by a pitch from Boston rookie pitcher Alfredo Aceves Saturday night. Byrd sustained multiple facial fractures and will be on the DL for what at this writing is an undetermined amount of time. And just for good measure, Jeff Baker strained his groin while legging out a double to left on Sunday night.
All in all it was a brutal weekend for the Cubs with the only high point being a victory Saturday night.
So that was the team and the game, but now I want to tell you about The Good, my visit to Boston and Fenway Park.
I left Chicago on a flight out to Boston Sunday morning at 8am. My brother-in-law, Fran, and I were on the same flight and we landed in Boston just before 11am local. We weren’t going to meet the other two members of our party until later in the afternoon. We basically had 4 hours to “see” Boston. I had been in Boston one other time, but it was for just two hours and I didn’t see anything or remember much.
We decided to walk the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile long walking tour of some of Boston’s most historically significant sites. Most people start from the south and work their way north, but because of our time limitations and the location of our hotel, we started on the north end which meant starting at the Bunker Hill Monument.
Here is a picture of me there.
The great thing about the trail is you can’t get lost. There are several signs like the one below along the route, but the best thing is that the entire trail is marked in red. From The Boston Common in the south to Bunker Hill in the north, there is either a red painted strip on the ground or red bricks set into the pavement. All you have to do is follow the line and it will take you to all the sites. The arrow in the picture below points to the line.
I won’t bore you with all my pictures and details of each site, but if you ever get the chance to spend the day walking the Freedom Trail, I highly recommend it.
After walking for a couple hours and not having eaten since early in the morning, we stopped at the Union Oyster House for lunch. This restaurant is the oldest in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the United States. The sit down service area of the restaurant was packed and had an hour wait for a table, but we were able to get a seat at the bar which also serves food off a limited menu. Despite the bartenders repeated urgings to try “the best Lobster Roll” in town, I went with a bowl of clam chowder and washed it down with a couple of Blue Moon’s. Here I am outside “The Union”.
After lunch and another stop on the Freedom Trail we checked into the hotel and got ready for the game. We took a cab over to Fenway and meet the other two members of our party at 4 o’clock. We had the Fenway Park batting practice tour set for 4:30 and I had a chance to take a couple pictures outside the stadium before we went in. Here are a few of those shots.
The game was being broadcast on ESPN that night and I took a picture of Bobby Valentine walking down the street.
Now The Better. Our tour started at 4:30. Because this was the “batting practice” tour, the places they take you and things they show you are limited because the teams are getting ready for the game. But what you don’t get to see is made up for in other ways.
They start the tour by taking you into the stadium and leading you right down to the field behind the batting cages. Here is a shot of us walking down the aisle to the field.
See the black arrows? They are pointing to flat screen tv’s that are built into the wall in front of the first row seats behind home plate. Not only do the people sitting in those seats get great views of the game from right behind the plate, they get their own personal broadcast of the game. Nice.
Our tour guide led us onto the field where they took a photo of each group. They sell you the picture later in a package with a frame and magnet. I didn’t buy the photo, mainly because after they take their picture of you, they give you about 10 minutes to take as many pictures that you want.
Here is one looking up at the press box and suites.
This one is of me and Fran with the Green Monster in the background.
This one is looking into the third base dugout from the spot where you see me standing in the last photo. I was amazed at how small the dugout was.
After taking photos from the field, our guide led us up into the stands under the upper deck and down the left field line. We sat there for about 20 minutes while our guide provided us a history of the stadium. The next picture shows the field from those seats. I have also added two red arrows (click photo to see better) which point to the Ted Williams red seat in deep right field. I’ll get back to that seat later.
We then moved on to our next and last stop, the seats located on top of the Green Monster. These are good seats to watch the game from, and great seats to watch batting practice. Here is a view of the field from on top of the green monster. The arrow points to the seats we had for the game itself.
Batting practice started a couple minutes late; and because the tour only last a set amount of time and they have to get you back outside the stadium before the gates open for game, we only got to watch about 10 minutes of hitting.
Here is a picture of Jason Varitek walking into the cage…
And one of me waiting to catch a home run ball…..
I didn’t catch any. A few balls were hit up there in the time we had, but nothing that I could make a play on.
When the tour was over they send you out of the park and onto Lansdowne Street. It was 2.5 hours before game time. We were all a little thirsty, so we went to the Bleacher Bar. The bar is located underneath the centerfield bleachers and has a rolling “garage” door that was up so that you can look out onto the field. The bar has a strict no photography policy inside, so I wasn’t able to get any pictures. But I was able to get a few more Blue Moon’s.
We stayed in the bar for about an hour and then decided to head back out onto the street and get some food. One of the things that they are famous for there at Fenway is their Italian Sausage covered in grilled peppers and onions. We all had one and here is the photo of me practically eating half the thing in one bite.
After that Scooby snack we went into the park. We had great seats for the game, third row just beyond the third base bag. Here is a picture of Fran and I in the seats as I enjoy another one of Boston’s fine beverages, Sam Adams Summer Ale.
And another shot with the Monster in the background.
Here are a few game shots. They are taken with a new camera. We have a nice camera at home but I didn’t want to bring it/damage it, so I bought a new cheep compact digital camera. It probably takes great pictures for someone that knows how to use it, for me I ended up with a lot of blurry pictures.
After the game we went out to right field to sit in and take pictures of the Ted Williams Red Seat. Williams hit a home run in 1946 that landed in this seat. Read this short description and distance graphic to get a true measure of just how historic this shot was. I can tell you from sitting there, it’s a lonnnnnngggg way from home plate. Here are the photos that Fran took of me and that I photo shopped that show me sitting next to the Red Seat.
The last thing I want to mention is The Best part of the trip, the people of Boston. I know that this past weekend was big for a lot of Cubs fans and there were plenty of them in Boston. But it also seemed to be a big event for Red Sox fans, and they couldn’t have been nicer. Everywhere we went and everyone we talked to was very nice. The people we met in the bars and on the streets were great. Always asking if we were Cubs fan transplants or if we flew in for the game. They would ask us about Chicago and Wrigley Field and tell us about Boston and Fenway Park. And I know that they will never read this, but I want to thank the guys sitting next to us during the game. They are a couple of Boston season ticket holders and they made us feel right at home. We talked all game long about our teams and our home fields and they really made the entire game enjoyable.
It also has given me a lesson. I see lots of people at Wrigley wearing the shirts and hats and jerseys of the opposing team for that day. But to tell the truth I usually just assume that they are locals that come out to Wrigley when their team is in town. Now I will think about what my trip to Boston was like and how I was treated and make a greater effort to treat those fans in the same regard.
**Sorry for the delay in posting this, we have had a busy week with a family birthday, kids activities and we went to last night’s rain shortened game at Wrigley. I also have about 45 minutes of boring video from the trip that I’m trying to edit down to about 5 minutes of boring video. I will post that as soon as I’m done. Thanks for reading.
The spring hasn’t started as well as many Cubs fans had
hoped it would.
Chicago has gone 1-4 in their first five games (although
they are winning right now as I write this), they have had a fight in the
dugout, a team meeting by the manager, Matt Garza was lit up in his first appearance
and new first baseman Carlos Pena is 1 for 9.
I just hope that they are following the Bad News Bears script, dysfunctional at the beginning, but putting
it all together over the summer on their way to the championship game.
My only concern is that Buttermaker, I mean Quade, is being
just a little too loose with these guys. He’s acting like he’s one of the
players. He’s been taking ground balls with the infielders and shagging balls
in the outfield. Look, I know that the players don’t want a totalitarian
running the show like they had with Piniella, but you can’t go totally the
other way and stand on the field all day clapping hands and cheering on the
players like a Jim Essian. His
laissez-faire response to the dugout scuffle between Carlos Silva and Aramis
Ramirez can be interpreted by some as a manager that has no control over
players and that they (the players) have no consequences when they do break the
I’m not trying to be an alarmist this early in the spring,
but I’m also not thrilled with early results. Let’s face it, the Cubs were
horrible under Lou Piniella last season but seemed to turn it around under
Quade. The last 6 weeks of the year gave fans a lot of high hopes going into
this spring. Then you add the signing of a power hitting first baseman, a
proven starting pitcher arrives via trade, and a veteran Cub favorite comes
home to shore up the bullpen. People are excited. The last thing we need is a
losing spring. And I’m not talking about a 12-14 record, which would be fine,
just don’t drop an 8-22 on us.