Friday, September 20, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Eddie’s team, the Sailfish, lost their soccer game yesterday, 1-9, a tough defeat against a team that I thought was a little too aggressive for its age. One of the Sailfish parents served as a referee, (since the high-school-aged kid who was scheduled to do this didn’t show up? I don’t know). He tended to be a little bit loose with his calls, probably not wanting to appear partisan, letting the opposing team get away with two hand balls within the first two minutes of the game before he finally whistled a penalty. The kids on the opposing team used their hands a lot throughout the game, both to stop the ball and to push the Sailfish away from it. At the same time, though, Eddie and his teammates looked a bit lethargic. It was a warm, muggy day, unusual weather for the middle of September, and the game was played from 12 noon to 1 p.m. The missed at least three good scoring opportunities, including a penalty kick in front of the goal as a result of a blatant hand ball.

Andy’s team went down to defeat, a 14-0 shutout. JoAnna reported the offensive line was ineffective in making any holes for the running backs and in protecting their quarterback, who was sacked at least three times. Andy played fullback for much of this game, usually getting tackled at the line of scrimmage. At least they played better defense than the previous week.

The four of us made a trip to Milwaukee County Stadium yesterday. During the soccer picture-taking Saturday morning, I talked with someone who had taken his twin boys to the game the previous evening. He said they left Middleton at 5:00 and at twenty to 8 were still in traffic on I-94, the stadium barely in view. Inching their way to the parking lot, they listened to the game on the radio, and when Mark McGwire came up to bat in the 1st inning, hoped that he wouldn’t hit a home run. (He complied, hitting one later in the game once they had reached their seats.) We had already adjusted our departure time before this conversation, figuring we should be on the road between 3:30 and 4:00. We made good time all the way to the Milwaukee city line, experiencing heavy traffic at times but nothing that slowed the flow below 60 miles per hour. At the intersection of I-94,I-89, and U.S. 41, the traffic came to a standstill, no doubt backed up all the way from the stadium exit 2 miles ahead. We took U.S. 41 north to Bluemound Road, which parallels I-94 into the heart of Milwaukee. After a stop at a Subway to get something to eat, we resumed our trip to what we thought would be a quicker route to the stadium. Wrong! We hit stop-and-go traffic at 64th Street, our destination being a right-hand turn off 50th Street. It took us 45 minutes to travel 10 blocks, our right-hand, eastbound lane of Bluemound resembling a line of parked cars most of the time. To help pass the time, we listened to the radio and JoAnna and I read the books we had brought along. Around 54th Street, I noticed someone standing at the entrance to a church parking lot holding a large sign that advertised parking for $5. Luckily, I was able to quickly switch lanes and make a left-hand turn without causing an international incident. From here it was about a mile-long walk to the stadium. The parking lot we were looking for couldn’t have accepted us since it was filled to capacity. As we walked through it on the path to the stadium, the air with thick with the smell of charcoaled meat. People sat in large circular clusters of lawn chairs eating and drinking and talking while others were content to lean up against their vehicles and watch the passing parade of people. We had actually hoped to approximate the experience of tailgating by eating our submarine sandwiches and some other snacks we had brought along, but the boys and JoAnna ended up eating their subs en route. I wolfed mine down once we parked the van.

We had tickets in the upper box section, almost even with the foul pole down the third base line. We got to our seats about a half hour before game time, not in time to see any batting practice. It was obvious from the way the stadium seats were starting to fill up that this game was a sell-out, as was the entire 3-game weekend series. (Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs play at Milwaukee on Tuesday and Wednesday, so the Brewers are very likely to draw more than 250,000 fans during this five-game stretch.)

The Cardinals already had a 2-0 lead when McGwire stepped into the batter’s box for his first at-bat. The crowd cheered and rose en masse and stayed on their feet, eagerly anticipating home run #65. The first pitch was an inside fast ball. A collective, elongated “boo!” swirling through the stadium. The second pitch hit McGwire, and the crowd expressed its disappointment (more boos, that is) as the Cardinal first basemen trotted to first base.

So how did the evening proceed?

Let me put it in baseballese for you.

HBP. K. K. K. K.

McGwire batted again in the 2nd, 4th, 7th, and 9th innings. Each time the 54,000+ in attendance rose to their feet and cheered lustily. Each time, after his first at-bat anyway, McGwire struck out swinging, looking off-balance, confused, and, as he walked back to the dugout, a little forlorn.

Along with thousands of other fans, we bought a camera along. From our vantage point, McGwire, big guy that he is, will look like an insignificant speck in all of the pictures we get developed. I also took a few pictures of the new stadium rising impressively beyond the left-field bleachers. I found it interesting that the only brickwork in place is that which can be seen from the TV cameras placed behind home plate. I’m sure that was in intentional decision on Bud Selig’s part.

During McGwire’s at-bats, I tended to watch the seats on the right-field side of the diamond rather than keep my eyes on the batter. As soon as the pitcher released the ball, a multitude of camera flashes created a strobe-like effect. I wonder how many people ended up with pictures of the back sides of someone’s head?

Yesterday was also Fan Appreciation Day at County Stadium. Lots of prizes were awarded, including a new car. We stayed around through the end of the drawing, which meant that by the time we got back to the van, it was nearly midnight. We came close to winning once. I can’t remember what was being given away now, but the announcer called out upper box 28 – our section, JoAnna and I noted excitedly, exchanging hopeful glances – row 2. Our bubble burst. We sat in row 5.

I haven’t told you the final score yet, which gives you an indication of how insignificant the game was outside of charting McGwire’s progress into the record books. Brewers lost , 7-4. If this had been an ordinary game, if McGwire played for another team, for example, County Stadium would have been a quiet place, with probably not much more than 10,000 fans in attendance. We certainly wouldn’t have been there except for the draw of this season’s home run derby.

Leaving Milwaukee was a breeze. We encountered no delays at all. The boys conked out once we hit the Interstate. JoAnna returned to her book, one from her growing library of Civil War titles, the dome light on her sight of the van not interfering with my ability to see the road. She fell asleep during the last third of the trip.

Eddie’s had a busy day today. I’m surprised he’s not draggin’ his little tail yet since he was up so late last night and was out of bed before 7:00 this morning. He and JoAnna walked ion a parade in Monroe this afternoon, Eddie wearing this rollerblades actually. As soon as he returned home, he had to get ready for a soccer practice. Meaghan was here during the early afternoon but otherwise Andy was on his own, watching TV mostly, surfing between his favorite shows on the Disney Channel and whatever football games happened to be on. I finished reading a book I had started last weekend. Freedomland, by Richard Price, one of my favorite authors, his latest novel a variation of the Susan Smith story, the woman from South Carolina who blamed the death of her two children on two phantom black men but had actually drowned them herself by pushing her car into a lake. Price transfers the setting to Dempsey (actually Jersey City) New Jersey, where his previous novel, Clockers, took place. Then I started to read a 1994 novel by Rick Moody, The Ice Storm, which takes place in 1973 in suburban Connecticut. The book was well-reviewed and made into a highly praised movie last year, which I didn’t see. Neither of these books would likely appeal to your reading tastes, Mom.

I didn’t spend all day on my butt. I trimmed some branches off one of the silver maples in the front yard and did some cleaning and reorganizing in the garage. I went grocery shopping during Eddie’s soccer practice, taking advantage of some coupon specials in today’s paper. Supper was informal – feed yourself, basically. Andy and I played catch with the football for awhile this evening, until I complained of not being able to see the ball very well in the evening’s diminishing light.

Late this afternoon, JoAnna rearranged the living room so that the dining table is straight out from the fireplace and the area where the dining table used to be is now our “study”, the cherry desk and one of the upholstered chairs and the ottoman now located there. It’s an unusual arrangement, but we like it. The boys, too. It makes this area of the house look huge. How we need to repaint eh built-in cabinet doors and remove and replace our wine rack and glasses and tea sets with books to give the study more of a library feel. I’ll send you some pictures once we have the project completed.

Time to get the boys to bed. Then I think I’ll kick back on the couch, put on some music, and read for awhile.

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