Thursday, May 28, 2009

Leaving Trouble Behind

Once again it looks as though NCAA violations have found the school that John Calipari just left. Sound familiar UMass alums? The following column sums from Jeff Goodman sums up Coach Cal's character perfectly't-stick-to-Calipari. I love the reference to Teflon John. Now the Memphis hoops program will never be the same either. How do you think he knows exacrly what time to leave?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Beyond Disgraceful

This will be last comment on the franchise that took their dog and pony act to North Carolina. I go onto to their website today as they face elimination against Pittsburgh tonight in the Stanley Cup semifinals, and see that good seats are still available for the Hurricanes game tonight in Raleigh. It says it right on their website at BTW, Boston hasn't seen the Bruins go this far since 1992, and I highly doubt that the Garden wouldn't have been sold out under the same circumstances. I hear all the time about how Carolina has a great home ice advantage. Another instance where the reputation doesn't match reality. They are only professional franchise in their city, and they can't sell out a semifinal playoff game PITIFUL! It's good thing Red Sox fans weren't fair weather for Game 4 against the Yankees in 2004. Oh, and I wonder if the other 3 cities still alive in the NHL Playoffs Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh are having trouble selling tickets. Nice job Raleigh!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New Yankee Stadium

I know we all hate the Yankees here in Boston, but I had to see what 1 billion dollars buys you in a stadium. One thing it doesn't buy you is hospitality from Yankee employees. I went to two Yankee Clubhouse stores in Manhattan to buy a ticket for a tour. Both told me their ticket machines were down, but that I should be able to buy a ticket at the stadium, and that they usually don't sell out. Well of course that day's tour did sell out, and after waiting 20 minutes in line at the stadium, the one employee would not sell me a ticket for the next day. I called Ticketmaster and paid $10 in surcharges to buy a $20 tour ticket. Because I'm writing a magazine piece scheduled to run in October, the Yankees wanted me to go through their media relations department who wouldn't answer my calls or give me a free tour. Sure, I'll run my first draft by them after their next World Series victory(LOL). I can't imagine how I would have been treated if I gave the slightest hint that I am a Red Sox fan.

The tour was pretty good, although the first thing they was that there are"more don'ts than dos". In other words, no videos of any kind, flash photography etc.. The thing this security guard said more than anything else is, "We'll ask you to leave".

So how would I describe the new Yankee Stadium? Well, in the Yankee museum there is a shrine to Babe Ruth which quotes him as saying, "I swing big with everything In got. I hit big, and I miss big. I like to live as big as I can." That's the way I would describe Yankee Stadium, BIG. There is a huge open concourse as you walk in the stadium with photographs of various Yankee greats. The biggest thing you see is the guitar from Hard Rock Cafe located inside the stadium. The museum has statues of Don Larsen and Yogi Berra 60 feet 6 inches apart commemorating the only World Series perfect game. In that 60ft 6" of space is hundreds of autgraphed baseballs signed by Yankee greats. Thurman Munson's locker was also moved from thr original stadium and is worth seeing. There are also vintage Yankee photographs from the NY Daily News that were never released before.

The new Yankee Stadium doesn't carry the Yankee aura that the old yard had. It has an aura of corporate America and particularly the Steinbrenners. It's overwhelming, overpriced, and ostentatious. It's clean and nice and well built, as it ought to be for 1 billion dollars. But Monument Park is tucked in a corner of centerfield and is not even visible from most areas of the stadium. To me, that was a defining feature of Yankee Stadium. The things that were focused on most in the tour were the 1100 tv monitors throughout the stadium, the largest diamond vision scoreboard in baseball, and the largest ribbon scoreboard across the stadium. It's something to see for sure, but be sure to bring $ as front row seats are over $1000. And as a fan told me at the ticket line, "These are the corporate Yankees now". Hopefully Citi Field Queens will be a more enjoyable option.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Touring Camden Yards

Having family in Maryland, I have watched the Orioles for years at both the old Memorial Stadium, and now Camden Yards. Now that most of these ballparks give tours, I thought I would take a tour of the one that started the mass-construction boom of downtown baseball parks. The tour only costs $9 (as opposed to $20+ fees and rude service at Yankee Stadium). The key feature of Oriole Park is that it is a ballpark and not a stadium. This simply means that the ballpark is not enclosed and views of the dowtown area and local landmarks add to the ambience. Our tour guide hammered home this point as we walked down the length of the B+O Warehouse into into the centerfield entrance. Oriole Park still looks brand new despite the fact that it opened 17 years ago. The seats are comfortable and unobstructed(unlike a certain ballpark we all know so well), and there really isn't a bad seat in the house. Oh yeah game tickets are also pretty cheap which is why Baltimore is such a hot destination for Red Sox and Yankees fans that are priced out of their own ballparks. The Eutaw Street bleachers are the best value for $15 for a single game and $23 vs. the Red Sox and Yankees. They get pretty hot on day games though. Other features that distinguish Oriole Park are the raised bullpens so fans can view or "interact" with pitchers from standing room seats, and vintage scoreboards reminscent of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.
The tour takes you through the club level and the expansive luxury suites, the press box, the jumbotron control room, and most importantly the dugouts on the field level. Fenway tours do not take you on the field. The guides do a great job not only recalling the history of the team through players and managers such as Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, and Cal Ripken; but through employees behind the scenes such as the late PA Announcer Rex Barney, who coined the phrase "Get that fan a contract" every time a fan caught a foul ball, and "Ball Boy" Ernie Tyler, the other iron man of Baltimore who rubbed dirt on the baseballs for nearly 3,800 consecutive home games. He has been working for the Orioles since 1961. Camden Yards is the original of the new ballparks and still one of the best.
For all you foodies out there, Camden Yards has some of the best options of the 30 MLB teams. There is nothing better than Maryland crabcakes and Boogs Barbeque sandwiches. Wash them down with a brew from the Bud Light Warehouse Bar on Eutaw Street. You don't have to like baseball to enjoy a ballgame. Hell, if someone wants to give me a job reviewing all the food options at the 30 ballparks, count me in. After the game McCormick and Schmicks in Inner Harbour has great crab cake sliders. Inner Harbour also has good places to party and hang out. For a good sports bar, head to Pickles Sports Bar after the game. It may be an unfortunate name for a sportsbar, but it's a good place to go. Finally, the best places to eat Maryland Blue Crabs are outside the city. Annapolis has a lot of great places, but my favorite is Watermans Crab House in Rock Hall, MD. This is where you get the quintessential Maryland experience eating steamed blue crabs covered in Old Bay seasoning off a table covered with a giant paper towel complete with mallets and claw crackers. This is a can't miss. Stay tuned for my review of the new Yankee Stadium tour.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What A Punch In the Face - Literally

It should be my team going to the Eastern Conference Finals. That's the worst part of the Bruins losing to Carolina. I'm not surprised that they lost, just that it's Carolina that now has a chance to go to their third Stanley Cup Final in 7 years. The Whalers never had a great team, but if Hartford had the team Carolina has now, the season tickets I bought in 1997 would be pretty valuable right now. And I would have witnessed a Stanley Cup Championship. Pretty brutal.

As far as the game goes, it ended the worst possible way with the series villain Scott Walker scoring the winning goal. Apparently he does more than punch Aaron Ward in the face when he's not looking. BTW, way to go Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell for not suspending Walker when he should have been kicked out of the rest of the playoffs. What he did do however, was crash the net, something the Bruins don't do. Otherwise the Bruins would have been sneaking a rebound shot past Cam Ward. The Bruins have been the same for 30 years, they have good team, but nobody like a Joe Sakic, Mark Messier, Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Henrik Zetterberg that can create chances at the net and score needed goals at crucial times. Cam Neely is the only legit offensive threat during the last thirty years - and he's only one guy. They have a good base, but they need a star goal scorer like Crosby, Ovechkin, or Rick Nash. 37 years and counting........

Sizing Up the Rocket

I promise I will try and cover topics other than baseball, but let's face it - Roger Clemens provides so much material to write about. Unlike most, I was excited when he left Boston in 1996, mainly because wasn't pitching well, but also because I just never liked the guy. Starting with Game 6 in the 1986 World Series, a game that he started and didn't finish as we all know, the Red Sox began a 13 game postseason losing streak that did not end until Roger left and Pedro Martinez won his first postseason start in 1998. He won 1 postseason decision for the Red Sox in five postseason series. Pretty unimpressive. We also shouldn't forget that he was thrown out of one postseason game as a Red Sock for verbally abusing an umpire, and then ten years later he should have been thrown out of the World Series for throwing a jagged bat at Mike Piazza(although he did say he thought it was the ball he threw at Piazza). This image is on the cover of the new book American Icon and sums up Roger perfectly from what I've heard.

Let's look at some of the other things he missed out on. He never won a postseason MVP award despite pitching in more postseason games than any starting pitcher in baseball history(6 World Series too!!). He did win 2 World Series rings as a tag-along with the Yankees in '99 and 2000(after his steroid use). He won 7 Cy Youngs. Pretty impressive. Although he won four of them after he took a liking to long needles.

He has now opened his mouth again, never a good thing for him, to reiterate that he never took performance enhancing drugs. I think my favorite part of his stance is that he vehemently denies using steroids and HGH, but tells everbody that his wife and best friend(Andy Pettite) used them. They're must be a lot of love in that marriage!

When you really look at it, the move that changed the Red Sox fortune for the better and put 2 championship banners on Yawkey Way was blasting the Rocket out of town. He is the classic example of how the reputation doesn't match reality. The best way to size up the Rocket - One word - LOSER.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Let's Retire #24 at Fenway

I hope the news that Manny Ramirez tested positive for performance enhancing drugs finally closes the book on one of the most self-absorbed athletes ever to dawn a Red Sox uniform. In 7.5 years in Boston, we watched him quit on his team, shove a 65 year old Red Sox employee to the ground, refuse to attend the 2006 All-Star Game despite receiving the most fan votes, throw a punch at Kevin Youkilis, and so many other "Manny Moments". It's too bad that a player who played such a large role in helping the Red Sox turn the corner turned out to be such a hateful character.

In light of this recent development, I hope the Red Sox do the right thing and retire the #24 in honor of the greatest right fielder to ever to patrol the land by the Pesky Pole - Dwight Evans. Dewey won 8 Gold Gloves, hit 385 home runs(more than Jim Rice), played in three All-Star Games, and had more home runs and extra base hits than ANY player in the 1980's. He is a consummate professional and should be in the Hall of Fame. I don't know what it will take to get him there, but the Red Sox can start by retiring his number and closing the book on Manny.