Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Best and Worst of Citi Field (NY Mets)

The Mets and Yankees both opened new ballparks in 2009. I've already talked about Yankee Stadium in a previous post. Now I'll talk about New York's better ballpark. It's not without its flaws, but it accommodates fans and masses better than the big stadium in the Bronx. Here's a list of the best and worst of Citi Field:

1) Taking the 7 train to the ballpark. It may not be a favorite of former Braves pitcher John Rocker(see quotes to Sports Illustrated made in 1999), but I love riding the subway. I saw a full mariachi band perform on our way to the ballgame. They were wearing big black Mexican hats, donning guitars, an accordian, and performing crazy dance moves. Notice the guy in the 2nd picture in the back with the smaller black hat giving one of the band members the digit. I LOVE NEW YORK!

2) The Jackie Robinson Rotunda
Citi Field is a beautiful structure and this is the signature feature. It's a shrine to the entrance of Ebbets Field and Jackie Robinson. Famous photographs of Jackie's life and the words "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives," surround the inside of the rotunda. Words to live by. More on the rotunda and the connection to the Dodgers later.

3) Citi Field Food
It's among the best in baseball. I had pulled pork sandwich from the Blue Smoke Grille. The delicious, sweet, smoky, savory sauce smothering the perfectly spiced pork is phenomenal. There is also my favorite Nathan's Hot Dogs with crinkle cut fries, but I spent the previous day eating those in Brooklyn. There's Keith's Grill in honor of Keith Hernandez, former Met first basemen. Juicy Brooklyn burgers are served here and the Gold Glove Burger is Keith's creation with cheddar cheese, raw onions, mayo, extra ketchup, mustard on the bottom, lettuce, tomato on a toasted sesame bun.  There's also Cascarino's brick oven pizza, grilled shrimp po boys, and Carvel ice cream. Draught beer selection not the best. They should have had Brooklyn '55 Pennant Ale.

4) NY Fans
Loud and boisterous, but very funny. I saw a fan yelling through his mouth muffling what he was trying to say. But he kept yelling. Finally in unison three people yelled "What the fuck are you saying" in their thick New York accents. We then learned he said "Don't trade Jose" in reference to Jose Reyes. Love it. No sellout though which is surprising considering the Phillies were there.

Now the Bad:

1) It's more of a tribute to the Brooklyn Dodgers than the Mets. Don't get me wrong, I respect the history of the Dodgers in Brooklyn, I'm not Met fan, and my most painful sports memory occurred across the street at the old Shea Stadium. But it is a Met stadium. There should be more signature features honoring the existing franchise. Maybe the rotunda should be the Robinson-Hodges rotunda. Gill Hodges brought the Mets their first title as a manager, and brought Brooklyn their only title as a player. His memory should honored as much as anybody's. Just a suggestion.

2) The area around the ballpark. Chop shops, car parts, and old industrial buildings fill the surrounding area known as the "Iron Triangle" to locals. No bars, restaurants, or establishments run by former players. Just auto parts and an airport. McFadden's Tavern is  outside the center field wall, but Citi Field needs more. Enough said.

Some more images from Citi Field:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Brooklyn Baseball: Unknown Treasures and Must See Attractions

I make 2 trips to NYC per year, and this year I had to explore some history of America's game that most may not know about. I'll also talk about some of the best things Brooklyn has to offer in terms of baseball history, even though MLB has not existed in the borough for 54 years.
I'll start with the unknown since that's how my journey began on the 4 train into Brooklyn from Manhattan.

1) Ebbets Field is hard to find. 
I spent a lot of time researching where Ebbets Field was, but no publication gave me a location of where the nearest subway stop was. I had to guess. It's marker is in the Crown Heights neighborhood at the corner of Sullivan Place and and Bedford Ave. I don't recommend going there at night. I switched to the 3 train at Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn and got off at President Street. Thank goodness I had a Brooklyn hat, a small amount of money, and some ID in case I was pillaged by locals. It was about 11 o'clock in the morning too. I wanted to cross this off first as I was unfamiliar with the area. Frank Sinatra's song There Used to Be a Ball Here is the perfect ballad to the rundown neighborhood and the grotesque high rise that exists at the former ballpark's location. I'll let you view for yourself.

2) There is little in the surrounding area of the former Ebbets Field honoring the team.
There is just this one small park on Sullivan Place that offers any reminiscence of the Dodgers. You want a shrine to Ebbets Field? Visit the adjacent borough of Queens and the Mets new Citi Field. That's how the original Ebbets Field looked. I will include that in these photos.

  This is the best replica of what Ebbets Field actually looked like. The Mets new ballpark Citi Field.

Now to the best Brooklyn has to offer for baseball:

3) Coney Island is a baseball hotspot, and a great place to take a baseball journey.
MCU Park, home of the Mets single affiliate Brooklyn Cyclones is sold out regularly, and is a hidden jewel not just in baseball, but of New York City. It's next to Nathan's, the holy grail for hot dog lovers. What could be better than a baseball game next to the beach in Brooklyn, with the world's greatest hot dog vendor in your reach? Nothing. Here are some images to look at during a long New England or NYC winter.

4) The "snap" is what makes a Nathan's hot dog great

 5) Green-Wood Cemetery has two of baseball's most important historical figures.
From Coney Island take the N train 25th street, and walk one block north to 5th Avenue and 25th street. Grren-Wood is the place where Charles Ebbets, the Dodgers' first owner is buried. It also the burial site of Henry Chadwick, the "Father of Baseball" and inventor of the scoring system baseball uses today. We all remember our fathers teaching us to keep score. Chadwick is the original father. Green-Wood is one of America's most historic and beautiful cemeteries. There was also a Revolutionary War battle there as well.

Finish your day with a Brooklyn '55 Pennant Ale honoring the Dodgers only World Championship in Brooklyn.  I recommend Pub One underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Best thing to eat with your Pennant Ale? A Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese. Delicious!!! Here are some images of my favorite Brooklyn and NYC landmark. Walk across it into Manhattan to finish your journey,