Tuesday, July 2, 2013

No. 338 – Tom Sawyer

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Original Release: Moving Pictures
Year: 1981
Definitive Version: Any one that features the rocking rabbits in the background, so from the Presto or Roll the Bones tours.

When Dave, John and I headed to Baltimore for the next leg of our most excellent baseball adventure in summer 1991, we left the comfort of Dave’s home. We’d be hoteling it on this leg.

The game was an evening game, and during the day, John sprung a little surprise on us. He had called the Orioles—we all had press credentials for the game itself, like with the Mets—and arranged to have us taken on a tour of the new ballpark that was under construction downtown close to the harbor. Yes, for those of you wondering, that would be Camden Yards.

We were greeted by an hard-hatted Orioles employee, who gave each of us our own gear for the tour while construction crews worked around us. The shell of the park was done, and they were starting to work on the interior as well as the B&O Railroad building that would be not far beyond the right-field wall. We hiked all around what would be the concourse and then went to the upper deck.

A few seats had been installed there, no doubt for tours like ours, so we kind of could take in everything, such as it was at that point—the diamond was nothing but dirt, and not the infield kind. It was definitely in a state of dishevelment.

But, man, you could see it coming. Keep in mind, every ballpark for the past 20 years had been a glorified ashtray—completely circular and practically indistinguishable from the next. At least SkyDome—the latest new park—had a retractable roof, which at least was interesting.

But Camden Yards was going to be an unbelievable ballpark, as good as any of the old parks, like Fenway, although I don’t think any one of us grasped what a complete game-changer the ballpark was going to be. After Camden Yards opened in 1992, no one wanted an ashtray any more. They wanted … THIS.

After that, any game would’ve been fairly unmemorable, but the cool thing about seeing the Orioles was that the team’s manager at the time was Johnny Oates, whom I knew from Columbus but hadn’t seen since he was a coach for the Cubs and I was a mere cub student reporter at Northwestern. Just like in Florida many years later, Oates remembered me right away, and we caught up after talking a little shop. (I was an official member of the press after all.)

I remember nothing about the game—not who the Orioles played, not who won, not the press box, well, other than the fact that crabcakes were served in the chow line, which was pretty cool. But I remember the national anthem.

Dave knew about this; I didn’t, but in at Orioles games when they get to the line, “Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave”—written to commemorate a certain battle in Baltimore Harbor, of course—the crowd all yells out “O!” as in O’s, or Orioles. The song is a collection of quiet murmurings, then this huge “O” and then murmuring to finish it off. It was hilarious.

After spending the night, it was back to New York and Yankee Stadium, enemy territory for Dave. This time, John spent the night in Manhattan with his aunt, so I got a bed. That was a welcome development.

The game was a day game. It was fairly rainy, so Monument Park was closed, which was a bummer. The Yanks played the Mariners, which meant I could see Wonka center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. play. He didn’t do much as I recall. Neither did Dave as it turned out.

When we were seated in the press box—we were official members of the press, after all—Dave apparently was in the wrong place. He didn’t know it until the pressbox manager came in, took one look at Dave, pointed at him and said, “You, out!” No explanation, no “could you please move,” and no arguing, just, “You, out!”

That was pretty much everything you needed to know about the Yankees organization in a nutshell. Considering that the team sucked in 1991, you’d think they would’ve been a little friendlier. No, we’re the Yankees and you’re not. If that’s how the Yankees acted during a terrible year, imagine the arrogance and discourtesy during a great year.

After our time in the Bronx, the final leg of our trip would be to Boston. We weren’t able to get seats in the press box, but the team at least gave us seats (obstructed view) in the ballpark. So we’d be mere fans and not official members of the press for that game. Little did we know that we were about to have the biggest adventure of the entire trip.

No comments:

Post a Comment