Monthly Archives: July 2007

THE CAL CHRONICLES CONTINUE

I was supposed to be back in Maryland hours ago. I should have had dinner with my kids like most respectable mothers who’ve abandoned their children with grandparents for a cheeky night in the Big Apple. I would have tucked them into bed (though that never goes very smoothly). I would have caressed their dewy skin.

Dsam_3 Instead, it’s almost midnight and I barely managed to catch the last train of the day out of Baltimore to the D.C. suburbs, where my sleeping family awaits. They won’t greet me at the station like they would have hours ago. I’m on my own. And instead of my child’s head, I’m cradling a Cal Ripken bobblehead doll. Have I lost my mind? What gives?

Some would call it idiocy. Others would deem it an expression of my freedom. I call it dumb chance that I met Sam on the train out of New York’s Penn Station. I was headed back to D.C.’s Union Station and intending to catch the subway where my family would be waiting with outstretched arms. “Too bad you aren’t going to Baltimore,” Sam said, after realizing I was a baseball writer. “I could get you a good seat at tonight’s Orioles game.” I stalled. (sometimes that’s what I do best – see my July 18, "Mother of the Year" post..) He said he was doing some work for the Orioles and often sat in the front row. Could I make this happen? Did I want to?

Of course, trust is an issue. He assured me he wasn’t an ax murderer Camden_yards and, perhaps foolishly, I believed him. Why not? He seemed nice. Of course, so did Ted Bundy… I secretly wonder if guys have this dilemma – whether to trust other people – and get pissed because I decide they don’t (whether they do or not). I can handle myself and I’ll manage the trip back to my father’s place after the game. There were logistics to take into consideration. You know. it’s not particularly easy to get from place to place in the DC/Balt area. It’s like they really don’t want you to cross the line from one city to the other. A government transportation’s version of “Capture the Flag.”

So I went to the game. It was more amazing then we thought because it was Cal Ripken’s BIG DAY before getting inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend with the San Diego Padres’s Tony Gwynn. As it is with me, however, we heard all of this from the bartender at Bertha’s in Fell Point. “OH, You guys are going to the game tonight?!? It’s his big night!” Oh ****. My saga with Cal continues…. And he plays so hard to get! Sam and I down our beers and jump into the nearest cab where the cabbie was listening to Cal’s speech on the radio from the stadium. “Turn that off or get me there!” I order, completely out of character. Or, so I’d like to think. He turned it off and I felt badly. We enter the stadium as Cal’s giving his last words. We didn’t get front row seats. I think Cal was in them. Or Brooks Robinson or Eddie Murray. Maybe it was Earl Weaver? So, we slummed it in a full service (“can I get you another beer, miss.?”) suite that happened to be just next to the owner’s suite. Man, some days it just isn’t worth getting out of bed, is it? Oh, and Sam the Music Man got me a Cal bobblehead. And one for the waitress who tipped us off. Thanks, Sam. You’re not a very good ax murder. If you didn’t notice, I got away. Better luck in the Hollywood Hills. I think a guy like you could do well there.

photo credit: Linda, the cool waitress at Bertha’s in Fells Point.

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BASEBALL TRUCE? (D.C. to Boston Train)

“Let’s see if I can guess who you root for,” the woman said in a tough – and loud – Bronx accent. “PAAHK THE CAAAH!” the Amtrak concessionaire bellowed back with the stench of stale nacho cheese permeating the small café car. I thought it was a parody of herself, but there’s no telling. Having been born to parents from the Boston burbs, I know it’s entirely likely that the accent is real. Amtrak_map_1 “Now, can you guess my team?” she challenged. I looked at the two women engaged in baseball talk – one Yankee fan and one, clearly, from Boston – as I found my way to the end of the snack line on today’s Metroliner train from D.C. to Boston. Baseball fever runs several generations deep on the East Coast. It didn’t bother these women that baseball fandom is primarily the domain of men. That’s because it doesn’t really matter.

Another woman was struggling with getting her bag off of the overhead shelf. Pulling, pulling. Yanking to the point of almost falling over backwards. I suppose I could have helped but then I would have missed out on the following exchange. After the woman accepted help from a man who’d been gabbing on his cell phone most of the trip, she paused. “Well, I don’t know about this…” She was eyeballing the guy’s t-shirt. “A Mets fan?” With her bag safely down, she thanked him, conceding that at least it was a New York team. “They both make me cry.” She smiled at me. Wow, lady, with the polka dot suitcases, dazzling earrings and perfectly cosmopolitan headscarf, I’m impressed.

“Nah!” I overheard the woman say to a stranger across the aisle on my way back to my seats. “Your boys don’t have the pitching.” The two women were engaged in a friendly exchange as to whether the Yankees will be able to play in the playoffs, come October. The “your boys” was the Yankees. The woman had the misfortune to be wearing a Yankees hat. As we near New York City, it’s clear that a simple bad hair day cover-up can cause a rise in emotions.

I love Seattle. As a whole, the people there, including myself, are pleasant and polite. And, it’s a wonderful surprise that the team is contending. But when do we meet our baseball rivals, face-to-face? Rarely. Our closest rival, Oakland is nearly 800 miles away. The east coast has six teams in half that distance (Baltimore, The Nationals, the Yankees, Mets, Phillies and Red Sox) The friendly riling between rivals is a daily dance, here. It happens even in an unlikely place like a train where most of the people do everything they can to keep to themselves. But all the scenery has to offer is views of graffiti-adorned red brick warehouses and swampland. So the conversation among strangers turns to the one thing they can agree on. And all this is just a confirmation that baseball matters.

photo credit: Amtrak

MY MOTHER-OF-THE-YEAR TITLE vs. A NIGHT LIKE THIS

You know, it’s hard coming off of a vacation. I’ve been camping a couple times to Mt. Rainier with the family, nothing really big, but it takes you out of your groove. And, then, once you get back in your groove, there’s so much to write about that it’s overwhelming. Then there’s the load of work Jackie and I are doing on the book, preparing for the upcoming event with the Seattle Mariners, and laying out an exciting product that we’ll unveil at the end of August.

So, today, just in an effort to get back in to the swing of things, I’m punting. Britney Yes, there’s tons of baseball stuff to write about – there’s never a dearth of material – but, today, I’m going to share an experience with you about last night’s Mariners/Baltimore, as seen through my overworked eyes. First, it was a gorgeous night for a game at Seattle’s Safeco Field and my husband and I decided to leave the kids at home for the night and scalp their tickets for beer money (sorry kids!). I’m sure there’s a ballot somewhere for Mother of the Year where my name and Britney Spears’s name don’t appear.

I sold their two tickets for only $20, which doesn’t get you much beer, but it was a nice gesture on my part because they are good seats. Not only was I feeling a little generous but it was also the third inning when we finally got to the stadium and I didn’t feel like haggling over a price with some guy and his wife. He seemed quite pleased with the price and I immediately wondered if I should have asked for more. (I also wondered if my husband wasn’t secretly miffed that I’d turned my back on some unwritten scalping Code of Conduct by refusing to engage in the sport of wrangling.) Anyway, there are bonuses to showing up late, even though I could have gotten a higher price around game time. One benefit is that all the vendors outside the stadium slash their prices. Michael snatched up a $5 twelve-inch pizza and carried the box into the stadium while noshing on a piece. The security guards diligently check purses but never opened his box to see if he had any contraband.

But the best part of my night came a few minutes later when we were walking around the concourse and Michael had finished the pie. As he ran into the men’s room I offered to buy us a couple beers. I head to a vendor hawking everything from Bud Light to Sake and order up a couple. The woman stalls. “May I see your ID?” I pat my pockets pretending to search for it, all the while knowing that I don’t have ID. Then I stall. “What?” I look at her incredulously … “I need to see your ID.” (For those of you who don’t know me, friends of mine are chuckling from coast to coast because I often pull this ‘oops! I forgot my ID’ ****.’) “I don’t have my ID.” “Then I can’t sell you any beer.” She puts my beer cups that she’d yet to fill back on the stack with the other empty ones. But those were MY beer cups! I panic. “But I’m almost 40!” “Sorry, I can’t sell you beer without an ID.”

I walk to the men’s room and wait for Michael. Of course, inside, I’m grinning ear to ear. But I try to sound annoyed. “I got carded.” He rolls his eyes, knowing that I rarely carry my ID to games (I often eschew a purse and instead stuff a credit card and whatever cash I have into my pocket. I like to travel light and I usually don’t even have cash…) Anyway, of course we got our drinks. Michael was prepared. It was in the seventh inning when I decided to get us a couple more drinks. I was carded again.

All in all, for a woman turning forty in October, a good night at the ballpark.

Md_at_seabal_game_1

Photo Credits: Associated Press (for the Britney Spears shot when she had hair) and Michael’s boss at work who we were fortunate enough to run into… Great seats, eh?!