My friend Steve and I made a quick guerrilla strike on the city of Cleveland last week, to watch the Cincinnati Reds do battle with the hometown Indians. Which, of course, is interleague play: something I don’t really condone. But, whatever. The tickets were kick-ass and free, and I never claimed to have integrity.
You see, I don’t like it when assholes tinker around with baseball. I still have a chip on my shoulder about the designated hitter rule, which I believe was implemented in the American League in 1974. And I also think of the Blue Jays and Mariners as the “new teams.” The ones that have come along since? I can’t even process it.
Interleague play is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, or something. The two leagues are supposed to exist alongside each other, and only intersect for the All-Star Game, and the World Series. But that’s all down the ol’ poop catcher now… Someone decided that 100 years of tradition is for suckers.
A few years ago I actually took a stand and turned down tickets to an interleague game. But last week’s trip sounded like fun, and I’m simply too burned-out and tired to have principles at this point. I’d never been to a game in Cleveland, it seemed like a good time, so fukkit. Norma Rae, I ain’t.
Today I’ll give you a brief overview of our first day on the road. Part 1 in a 2-part series… And tomorrow I’ll finish the story, with my report on the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and a visit to another, more unusual attraction.
I hope you enjoy it!
A little background information
Last year JeffInDenver emailed and said he’d relocated to Cleveland, and thought he could get me some tickets for the Reds and Indians, through his employer. But I had it in my tiny Duke head that Cleveland was way the hell on the other side of Ohio. Like where Toledo is… My inner-sensors told me it must be an eight or ten hour drive.
This year he offered again, and I mentioned it to Steve. He informed me it was more like a five hour trip. Maybe even less. I didn’t understand how this could be true – my inner-sensors are generally reliable – but Steve drives all over the place, and would know better than me.
We decided to take Jeff up on his offer, and learned that the seats are located on the Club Level – with all-you-can-eat food and beverages. Holy shit! This thing just kept getting better and better. I found myself getting excited, as the departure date approached.
Baseball and a bottomless pit of hotdogs and nachos? This was gonna be great!
The drive to Cleveland
Uneventful is a good way to describe it. I got up early and went to Steve’s house in Danville, parked the Camry there, and moved my bags to the trunk of his car. And we drove, talked, and listened to an 80s alternative station on Sirius for the next few hours. I’m happy to report that we didn’t hear “People Are People,” not even once.
Somewhere along the way we stopped at Arby’s, and had lunch. I could see that it used to be a Rax restaurant. Remember those? Their buildings had a distinctive look, and you still see them around — usually inhabited by some other fast food joint.
I ordered a sandwich that included roast beef, bacon, and liquefied cheese – on a radically buttered bun. They made me sign a document that said I understood the sandwich sometimes voids life insurance policies, and I dove into the bastard. It was fantastic.
We were in Pennsylvania for a long time, and as soon as we passed over into Ohio it seemed like we were already approaching Cleveland. Clearly, my sensors were horribly askew.
The GPS led us to the office where JeffInDenver works, and we had to sign-in, like we were entering the White House. I listed my “company” as TheWVSR.
A few minutes later Jeff greeted us, and we were led into the bowels of the operation.
We went to his office, which had a lot of sports-related paraphernalia in it, as well as an electric guitar and a fridge filled with beer. Nice. He offered us a couple of bottles, and we gladly accepted.
We sat and talked for a while, then he gave us the grand tour. Jeff reminded me he’d turned Brad’s now-famous “Where are my damn box scores??” voicemail into an mp3 for me. And Steve asked if he could maybe do the same thing with a voice message he had saved to his phone.
Steve made me listen to the thing while we were at Knoebels a few weeks ago, and it was hilarious. It was some unknown woman, her voice ravaged by millions and millions of Pall Malls. Thanks to Jeff’s studio wizardry, you can hear it here. I love how she powers through the phlegm at the beginning.
While Jeff was working on all this, inside a production studio, the message kept playing through Cheap Trick concert speakers, at an impossible volume. Funny as hell.
After we left Jeff’s place, we got stuck in a gigantic traffic jam on the way to the hotel, but finally made it. We stayed at a Raddison, almost literally behind the scoreboard of Progressive Field, where the Indians play. I already had visions of hotdogs with Bertman mustard dancing in my head.
The room was nice, and the beds were Sleep Number. I started monkeying around with my remote, and it made a revving sound. For some reason we both found this to be the height of comedy, and kept doing it. Yes, we’re 49. What of it?
Cleveland Indians vs. Cincinnati Reds
I thought we could have a couple of beers at one of the bars adjacent to the hotel, before the game. But the traffic ruined all that for us, and we went straight to the ballpark. It was a two or three minute walk.
Holy hell, was it hot… It was about 95 degrees, and super-humid. It’s the kind of weather I hate the most. But I was determined to have a good time. I wasn’t going to allow some oppressive ball of fire in the sky to ruin my evening.
We passed through doors in a wall of frosted glass to get to the club section of the park. There was even a friendly person there to greet us. And the whole concourse was air-conditioned. Awesome!
And it was roughly a million times better than what I expected. I mean this was fancy-ass stuff… They had a buffet with gourmet foods, a giant bar in the middle, and all sorts of other stations (ice cream, salads, subs, hotdogs/burgers, nachos, sodas, etc. etc.) It was a sea of greatness, and everything was free — except for the booze.
We went through the buffet line, and each of us had a plate of the highest quality food I’ve ever eaten in a baseball stadium. Then we hit the hotdog station, and made our way to our seats. They were outside the air conditioned space, and the heat hit me like an uppercut to the gut. Goddamn!
The seats were fantastic, and Jeff and his buddy Brian were beside us. We said our greetings, and settled in with our dogs. The sun was high in the sky, and it felt like we were under a broiler. By the time I’d polished off my latest round of food, I knew this wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d hoped. I felt like I was about to vomit, shit, or both.
While we watched the Reds lose the game, Jeff and I conceived a new TV show in which Bob Costas and Al Michaels are fed a good amount of booze, then asked to talk about baseball while the cameras roll. The alcohol is the key, you see, to insure long-winded tangents and off-the-topic diversions.
And we watched the sun, pleading for it to drop behind the buildings. It was so freaking hot. It went down, down, down…. then seemed to start going sideways. WTF?? No sideways!! We can’t have sideways! It was rough, and it was cramping my style. I didn’t feel like eating anything, or even having a beer. I just sat there, becoming one with my chair. Watching that freaking sun…
By the time it finally disappeared, the game was almost over. At 9 pm it was still bright daylight, and I felt like I was on Candid Camera. How could it be so bright, so late??
I had some peanuts, and about five cups of water. But that’s all I could muster. I wanted to go back to the real food, but just couldn’t do it. Puking was a distinct possibility. Those two hotdogs still seemed to be crushed into my esophagus, and my gut was gurgling and threatening to revolt.
After the game
Jeff and Brian left during the 8th inning, I think, and I hope I thanked him enough. His hospitality is sincerely appreciated. The seats were incredible, the food layout was amazing, and he didn’t have to do any of it. Thanks, man! It was great time.
When it became evident that the Reds had no chance, Steve and I left, as well. I wanted a beer or three, at this point. The sun was gone, and I thought I could return to the human race. So, we started walking around the neighborhood.
We happened upon a hipster area, filled with bars. We went into one, and immediately was told they were preparing to close. A hell of a greeting…
I wanted beer, but was also very thirsty. So, I ordered a Pabst tallboy in a can. Steve thought I was out of my mind, but that baby hit the spot. He ordered some sort of microbrew draft, but I needed cheap mass-market swill.
The bartender brought Steve’s in a hyper-extended fluted glass, and just slammed my can on the bar. “You don’t get a glass,” she said. “You’ve sealed your fate.” I don’t really know what that means, but I think she was trying to be funny.
They ran us off after one beer, so we went to a bar beside our hotel, called the Winking Lizard. There was a giant iguana — probably six feet long — inside a glass case near the front door. I jokingly asked the guy if they ever let him out, in the bar area, just to liven things up. And he said, “No.” Just as serious as eye cancer.
We had a couple more beers there, and shuffled back to the hotel. I felt like I was having some kind of out-of-body experience, because of the alcohol and the bludgeoning I’d taken by the impossible heat.
In the room I started playing around with the Sleep Number bed again — and laughing at the revving sound. Hey, I’m easily amused… And within minutes, I was out. Deader than Kelsey’s nuts.
Here are a few pictures I snapped during the evening.
And tomorrow I’ll finish this epic tale.
See ya then!