Thursday, February 21, 2013

No. 469 – Beautiful Day

Performer: U2
Songwriters: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.
Original Release: single, All That You Can’t Leave Behind
Year: 2000
Definitive Version: None

In fall 2000, I got a call from Dave saying the Brewers were selling chairs from the soon-to-be-demolished County Stadium in Milwaukee. You had to drive up and pick it up. Was I interested? Perhaps surprisingly, I wasn’t.

It wasn’t so much the price; I wasn’t interested in the cushion-back seats; I had a nice set from Comiskey Park and Municipal Stadium already and didn’t really have room for a third chair. Most important, I didn’t really have any feelings for County Stadium. I’d been to only one game there, and, as I documented, I left early. But I told Dave, I WAS interested in accompanying him on a road trip if he wanted the company.

He’d have Andrew, his usual traveling companion, but, sure, I could come. I suggested meeting up in Chicago, but he said, why not come all the way up? Dave recently had moved to Grand Rapids after taking a job at the Press, and it wasn’t that much out of the way, he said.

Well, of course, it was, but why not? I’d drive up to Grand Rapids, and then the three of us would drive to Milwaukee and back the next day. I’d then drive home that Monday before going to work. I bought new music for the drive: U2. After all, I’d hear Achtung Baby the first time we went to Gibraltar many moons ago.

I was pleased to see Dave’s Baseball Room had taken on an extra dimension now that he had half of the basement to himself (and that it wasn’t any more grandiose than mine), but I noticed that his long run of All-Star Game pennants that lined the staircase to the basement seemed to have a hole—one from 1995.

We left early the next morning. It was dreary weather-wise, and it never got better, even when we were on the other side of Lake Michigan—just a cold, rainy fall day. As we got close, we could see Miller Park rising like a giant spaceship out of the valley just west of downtown Milwaukee. County Stadium forlorn and forgotten off to the side.

Dave wasn’t sure of the protocol, so he pulled up to what appeared to be the offices at Miller Park. Leaving Andrew in the car, we went inside. Lights were on, but no one seemed to be there.

We tried a door, and it opened into a hallway. Again, lights were on, so, well, someone HAD to be there, but we didn’t know where to go, and we didn’t want to stray too far from the office. Then I noticed a sign that said, to the ballpark, with an arrow. Hey, Dave. Check this out.

He gasped as he grasped the meaning of the sign, and I turned the knob. The door opened … and we were standing on the concourse of the still-under-construction Miller Park. We were inside the stadium.

I stayed by the door as Dave snapped a pic or two. I couldn’t leave, because I noticed that the door locked from the other side, and we would have been stuck inside the ballpark. As we made our way back down the hallway delighted by our impromptu tour, someone showed up and told us we needed to go to the far parking lot, across the stream. OK.

Unlike in Cleveland, this was an organized, orderly process: You drove up, gave the worker your seat voucher and they loaded the seat(s) into your car. There wasn’t any selection. I wanted to get out and see about maybe grabbing maybe a wooden-chair slat, but they kept the remnants of torn-apart seats—junk, really—separate and unavailable.

Dave got his seat, and now it was time for lunch. The only possible solution was to stop in the open sausage concession stand in the parking lot. We got brats with the famous Milwaukee red sauce. Dave got a Diet Coke; I got a beer. Andrew got chicken tenders. Dave also presented me with a little sumthin-sumthin that he grabbed when no one was looking—a seatback from the junk pile. I got something from County Stadium after all.

After lunch we milled around a bit and noticed that Bernie Brewer’s Chalet from the old yard was there. Someone had purchased it, but photo ops still were available, so Dave and I snapped pics of us in the front door. We drove a bit around Miller Park and had another photo opportunity before leaving thanks to a piece of construction equipment that had been left unattended.

The drive home was fairly uneventful, although we stopped at the Mars Cheese Castle for treats for Dave’s wife, and we each picked up a Brewers Frisbee that had the sweet m-b glove logo on it.

All in all, it had been a beautiful day even if the misty rain never stopped, and a week or so later, Dave got a little sumthin-sumthin of his own in the mail—a 1995 All-Star Game pennant. Sure, it came off my wall, but helping someone complete a collecting run is more important than a mere decoration, and, besides, I had plenty more pennants I could replace it with anyway.

Hey, what are friends for if not for baseball road trips and memorabilia assistance?

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