Tag Archives: Chicago Cubs

July 4th in Oakland

Last week I spent a couple of days in the Bay area with my PSU friend Andy. On July 4th I drove to Oakland in the morning. It was a beautiful, sunny day in central California. I arrived at my first destination (the In-N-Out Burger at 8300 Oakport Street) at 10:30am, parked my car, and ate an early lunch. I stashed my car at an undisclosed location and walked to the O.co Coliseum (I still think of it as Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum). I think the line to get into the ballpark was the longest line I have ever waited in barring traffic jams. A blanket giveaway was responsible for the early crowds.

A flying Minion entertained those of us waiting in line.

A flying Minion entertained those of us waiting in line.

Despite being at the ballpark two hours early I still failed to be one of the first 10,000 persons through the gate. Before the game started I explored the park. The concourse was very roomy, yet the early crowd resulted in a human traffic jam. As I walked along I repeatedly got stuck and had to just stand in place until I had space to move ahead. It makes me wonder how bad the crowd is during Oakland Raiders games (when they have 60,000 fans instead of the 32,000 the Athletics draw).

The concourse at O.co Coliseum.

The concourse at O.co Coliseum.

Because the stadium was set-up for baseball that meant almost 30,000 seats were covered by tarps. Most of the upper deck was off limits.

A closed walkway.

Stairs leading to a closed section of the upper deck.

You can see those massive tarps in the picture below. The entire upper level that is seen in the photo has tarps covering it. I thought this stadium might remind me of Veterans Stadium since it is a concrete bowl. Alas, it did not. While it is very circular it is not fully sided, there are openings. A small view of hills appears in one of the gaps in right center field. At the Vet you never saw the outside world unless you climbed to the top of the 700 level.

The glimpse of hills in right center field.

The glimpse of hills in right center field.

From center field you can see the small open section in the upper deck that is situated behind the plate.

The view from center field.

The view from center field.

All around the stadium there were signs offering help if you would text “issue” and your location to a specific number. I might keep this number in my phone for future use.

I could use a number like this.

I could use a number like this.

Since it was July 4th the ballpark had a festive feel. A large flag was rolled out in center field. People were dressed up in patriotic attire.

Uncle Sam sat near me.

Uncle Sam sat near me.

During the announcement of the A’s starting line-up the theme from the A-Team played. I loved that.

When Andy arrived we talked about life for the remainder of the game. It was great to catch up. In some ways my time in Happy Valley feels like yesterday and in other ways it feels like an eternity ago.

The game was an interleague affair (an abomination). The Athletics beat the Cubs 1-0. The lone run scored on a passed ball. The last time that happened in MLB was 20 years prior to the day. Bizarre.

Josh Donaldson at the dish.

Josh Donaldson at the dish.

Many sources list O.co Coliseum as the second worst venue to watch an MLB game (ranking it only above Tropicana Field). The stadium lacks individuality and architectural interest, but it wasn’t as much of a disaster as I expected. It is a plain stadium, and the playing field is in very good shape. I won’t pile on the criticism.

After the game we tried to explore downtown Oakland but it was closed. It was eerie. Finally we found a small establishment called the Rosamunde Sausage Grill in Swan’s Marketplace. A beer sausage and a Moose Drool rounded out the day.

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Wrigley Field: Cubs vs Pirates

Last Wednesday I went to Wrigley Field with my friends Ryan and Sarah. It was an afternoon game, which was fitting. Wrigley Field was the last MLB ballpark to install lights (in 1988), so afternoon baseball used to be the norm. Ryan noticed that the Cubs fly flags in honor of their visitors near the marquee, which is a cool tribute.

Wrigley Field before a Wednesday afternoon game.

We arrived at the ballpark early, circled it, then found our seats. The grounds crew prepared the field; players stretched and conversed on the field.

A Wrigley Field panorama.

I was shocked at how comfortable the viewing experience was. Our seats were in the shade, and a pleasant breeze persisted throughout the game. It was definitely the most comfortable day game I have ever attended, potentially the most comfortable overall. I had been expecting more heat.

The view from our seats during the exchange of line ups.

Travis ‘Don’t Call Me Kerry’ Wood started for the Cubs. When Starlin Castro hit a home run in the 1st inning he had a lead to work with. Things looked good until the 3rd, when the Pirates scored 2 runs to take the lead. The go-ahead run scored on a balk.

Travis Wood on the mound.

Wrigley Field is wonderful. I enjoyed seeing the rooftop seats, the big scoreboard, the ivy, the bleachers, and many other things. The peacefulness of the park impressed me. The dominant music is organ-based, the PA system is not overly loud, and replays do not exist. I was struck by how small the park is, and how the rooftop seats and surrounding buildings make it look larger.

The ivy, the bleachers, the fans.

One story from Wrigley Field legend and lore involves Babe Ruth calling the location of a home run in the 1932 World Series. According to legend Ruth pointed to center field, then promptly smashed the next pitch from Charlie Root into the center field bleachers. Footage of the event clearly indicates Ruth gestured, though to me it appears he is threatening Root not to quick pitch him again. Regardless, it is a cool story.

I saw Alfonso Soriano pointing into the stands in Ruthian fashion. But he was pointing behind the plate.

Alfonso Soriano points.

He did not hit the ball there, but he does have a cool leg kick at the plate.

Soriano at the dish.

Andrew McCutchen has developed in to a legitimate star. It’s interesting to see the Pirates playing winning baseball.

Andrew McCutchen in center field.

Watching the guy in the scoreboard was entertaining.

The Wrigley Field scoreboard.

In the 8th the Pirates scored 5 runs. Cubs pitcher Shawn Camp gave up 7 straight hits to begin the inning (the first time I’ve seen that). The Cubs mounted a rally in the bottom of the 9th, but it was too late. They lost by a final score of 8-4. Ryan alerted me to the fact that a flag is flown after the game to alert fans riding the train of the outcome (of more importance before the advent of the smart phone). An L for a loss and a W for a win.

The L flag flies.

I really enjoyed Wrigley Field. It’s a great place to watch baseball (my opinion might have been different if my view had been obstructed by a support column). It seems right to see the Cubs play afternoon baseball and lose, there’s a long tradition involved.

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