Sunday, July 29, 2007

Granddaughters Rub Elbows With American Idol Stars in Portland

Last night our granddaughters Talli and Hayley got to go backstage and meet the Stars of American Idol Season 6. The Idol finalists are on their live tour concert which had a stop last evening at Portland’s Rose Garden.

A friend from church, Rachelle Staley, is a long-time buddy of top contestant Phil Stacey, and so Talli, Hayley and their Dad were able to get a pass to meet the stars after the concert.

Above is Hayley (left) and Talli with the incredibly popular Sanjaya Malakar (from the Seattle area). Below are the girls with the very wonderful Melinda Doolittle, who not only shares her Christian faith openly but also came in third overall this year, behind Blake and winner Jordin.

Click here to read the whole story on Gregg’s blog, which also has a batch of many more neat pics of the event.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Getting Back to Whatever “Normal” Is

After re-processing on paper, er, on the computer’s word processor, just about all of my recollections on our great American baseball adventure, I guess it’s time for blog posts to return to “normal,” whatever that might be.

During the 10 days or so it took me to post all the baseball recollections, we had house guests from California last weekend, my wife taught a solid week of Vacation Bible School co-hosted by our church, and I caught up on a few chores around the house.

My son Doug called the other day and asked if the boat was ready for the water yet. Embarrassingly, I indicated the negative. Somehow in my mind the “serious” Puget Sound salmon fishing wouldn’t occur until August, and I’d be ready by then.


Doug reminded me that the nearby “month-long or until catch limit is reached” Chinook keeper season (the first in 13 years) began on the 15th. Of course the fishing was “hot” immediately, and the area boats have been reaching their daily limits for most of the week, while mine sits in limbo, parked below the house. Plus, I found out that the boat repair guy is full up for a few more days, and it may be some time before the Arima is seaworthy.

Yikes, available fish, and the boat sits dry on the trailer. This is a dilemma of significant proportions (tongue is in cheek).

Where we oughta be is out on the Sound with the downriggers dragging spoons in the water. The photo looks north toward Point-No-Point from Kingston, an area that contains lots of salmon right now.

Doug also told me today that the Chinook fishing is tailing off a bit (only a fish a boat, rather than limits, reported at Shilshole Marina this afternoon). That could actually be good news for us. It means the season may last another week or three, in contrast to being cut off because the total fish count had been caught.

Plus, we’re getting record summer rains for July. It’s the tropical rain which has kept the waters pretty flat. Maybe now, even though the calmer waters would have been easier, but wetter, fishing, I can get the boat done in time to fish late next week when it’s predicted to be a lot drier.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Four Summer Days In Four American Cities: Nothing But Baseball, Hot Dogs, and Highway Driving With My Two Sons – Post #7: Touching Home Plate

After the Sunday afternoon Cubs-Pirates game, Gregg, Doug and I enjoyed some great conversation and a nice Tex-Mex Dinner at Don Pedro’s, out toward the Pittsburgh airport.

We then dropped Gregg off at his steel city airdrome hotel from where he would fly home very early Monday morning. The car seemed to naturally point its way northward toward the Cleveland area where Doug and I would spend the last night of our baseball odyssey before driving to Chicago to fly home.

On Monday morning we drove past “The Jake” (Jacobs Field) in downtown Cleveland (above) on the shores of Lake Erie. This is where the Indians play their home games. Due to the MLB All-star Game break, the field was eerily empty and silent.

Down the road apiece, along the same lake shore, is the Cleveland Browns football stadium – adjacent to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One last baseball city and two neat stadiums provided a perfect tip of the hat to our trip.

O, yes, I did get my luggage back. It was delivered to the house about 36 hours after we arrived back in Seattle. Fierce thunder storms in the Midwest had delayed hundreds of flights at O’Hare on the evening of the 9th, resulting in Doug and I getting re-routed home through San Jose where we transferred to a different airline.

That, apparently, was too much for the airline luggage people to keep up with.

We flew some 4,000 total miles and drove an additional 2,000 miles going from city to city on our great American baseball adventure. We saw four and a half baseball games, including extra innings, and visited five of the newer Major League baseball parks (if you include the Cleveland drive by).

For me, it was the trip of a lifetime, enjoying the greatest game of all – baseball – in four of the very best new parks in America. And best of all, it was with my sons, taking pleasure in our common passion.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Four Summer Days In Four American Cities: Nothing But Baseball, Hot Dogs, and Highway Driving With My Two Sons – Post #6: The “Confluence”

Downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is located in the triangle formed by the “Y-shaped” meeting of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. The area is simply known as “the confluence”.

A statue of Honus Wagner welcomes you to PNC Park. Pittsburgh’s new baseball facility is to the north of downtown, across the Allegheny River, and is connected to the forest of skyscrapers by the signature yellow Roberto Clemente Memorial Bridge.

Before, during and after each Pirates home game, the bridge is shut down to vehicle traffic and becomes a convenient, pedestrian-only approach to the Park site. Gregg took the bridge pic below from outside of the right field fence.

Just to the west, on the north side of the very spot where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers converge to form the Ohio, lies the also newer Heinz Field (above), home of the football Steelers. Heinz Field replaced the now razed but appropriately named Three Rivers Stadium, in which both the Pirates and Steelers played.

What I remember most about July 8th in Pittsburgh is that it was quite hot – and humid. Of course it was an afternoon game, and the beating sun made it feel a little like a sauna.

The game itself was a good one. Pirates 6, Cubs 2 was the final score. We had two seats together and one separately (because we bought the third one later), but the single seat actually turned out to be a better location – directly behind home plate.

From the vantage point of that seat (which was also in the sun most of the game) you could see Carlos Zambrano’s wicked breaking stuff. How the Pirates could hit him at all was amazing, and they did so enough to beat him, aided by some spectacular defensive plays.

PNC Park is truly one of the finest baseball parks in the country. There is a hedge out in center field that is cleverly clipped to spell out “Pirates” (left). The views from inside the stadium toward downtown are spectacular. The service people in Pittsburgh were especially friendly and helpful.

In fact, the whole Pittsburgh area was (to me) surprisingly green, hilly and beautiful. Where were the steel mills and smoke?

For me, Pittsburgh comes in extremely close to number one St. Louis as far as ranking the four stadiums we visited. Detroit would be a close third followed by Cincinnati. However on a scale of 10 of all stadiums, the rankings would be 9.9, 9.8, 9.7 and 9.6. They are all wonderful Parks, including my hometown Safeco Field in Seattle, which I’d rank about a 9.8 or 9.9.

Of course for me the only 10 ranking is AT&T Park in San Francisco. Nothing can compare with the views of the San Francisco Bay or a “splash hit” into McCovey Cove.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Four Summer Days In Four American Cities: Nothing But Baseball, Hot Dogs, and Highway Driving With My Two Sons – Post #5: The Eyes of the Tiger(s)

During the long drive from one of last year’s World Series cities (St. Louis) to the other (Detroit), we talked on and off about the Motor City's inability to relate to the American marketplace despite it’s historic inventive prowess regarding the coach on wheels.

The best mileage cars are either Japanese or Korean. Toyota is head and shoulders above everyone else in hybrid technology. And, unfortunately for Detroit, the Asian car makers have little competition – still.

The pretty obvious conclusion is that across the Pacific they don’t have to deal with union strangleholds and gagging union pensions. Very sad, and the exodus from the motor city due to dwindling jobs in auto manufacturing is not only obvious, it’s also taking its economic toll on the area.

Another Detroit “distinction”: in San Francisco, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Pittsburgh, you find the featured ballpark statuary to be a key player or players in the franchise.

In Detroit? Statues of TIGERS! (top and left) You mean Ty Cobb doesn’t deserve a bronze likeness?? To each his own, I guess.

Comerica Park itself is quite nice. It’s on par with many of the newer parks. One sparkling feature is that they often play the hit song “Eye of the Tiger” between innings, and when they do, the eyes on the scoreboard tigers shine brilliantly green. A nice touch.

However, only a downtown skyline, with lots of obviously empty office space, is its backdrop (photo below); there’s no adjacent water as in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and, of course, San Francisco, where you can hit a home run into the Bay (a “splash hit”).

The game we saw, however, was quite another story. It was a spectacular, well-played, 13-inning marathon between the hometown Tigers and the visiting Boston Red Sox. Each team had opportunities to win, but neither could convert to lock it up, either in regulation or in any of three extra innings.

Finally, in the bottom of the 13th inning, Pudge Rodriguez lined a shot into right center just beyond the diving Coco Crisp to score the winning run. These were two first class, first-place teams playing like it was the last game of the ALCS (which it very well might be in early October). Neither would give an inch through the entire contest.

To Detroit’s credit, there ARE some great things at Comerica Park. Gregg, in his blog, mentioned the large, functional food court (like in many shopping centers) with a carousel in the center for kids of all ages to enjoy.

Midwest ballparks are VERY “family-oriented,” and that’s great. They even stress over the P.A. system that anyone using foul language will be removed from the park. Wow. I don't recall that ever happening in San Francisco.

After the game we headed for an overnight in Toledo to get a jump on our drive to Pittsburgh the next morning so we could arrive in time for a Sunday afternoon game.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Four Summer Days In Four American Cities: Nothing But Baseball, Hot Dogs, and Highway Driving With My Two Sons – Post #4: Seeing “Touchdown Jesus”

After an overnight in Springfield, Illinois following the Giants-St. Louis game, on Saturday morning we headed north and east toward Detroit, almost 500 miles away.

There is a lot of road construction along this route that caused us some frustrating delays, and on top of that, the rental car overheated.

Somewhere around Gary, Indiana the temp gauge on the 300 suddenly shot upward. Doug quickly exited the tollway, and we popped the hood at the first gas station. The problem was obvious: there was no radiator cap in place.

Fortunately, even though the cap had somehow popped off, it had landed on top of the coolant overflow reservoir, where it remained in plain sight. After giving the cooling system a fresh drink of coolant and water, we were on the way again, none the worse for wear.

We soon were passing South Bend, and Doug said, “We’ve gotta see ‘Touchdown Jesus.’” It wasn’t long until the massive Notre Dame football stadium loomed ahead. We stopped to take some pictures.

“Touchdown Jesus” is a full-wall mosaic opposite the stadium entrance depicting Christ with his arms raised toward heaven (and also approximating the signal for a touchdown). It is pictured at the top of this post.

Looking at the main entrance to the football field (above) brings to mind the many historic memories contained within those walls. Knute Rockne, George Gipp, the Four Horsemen, Paul Hornung, Joe Montana, and on and on. The school’s storied football past almost invokes awe.

As we left the hallowed grounds of Our Lady, we talked about all of the tradition and history of the school. It could just be the most significant college sports institution in the country.

After the radiator experience, we decided to turn in the car at the Detroit airport and get another one for the remainder of the trip. We got to the Detroit area just in time to accomplish the trade and get to Tiger Stadium for the evening game with the Red Sox. That’ll be the next post.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Four Summer Days In Four American Cities: Nothing But Baseball, Hot Dogs, and Highway Driving With My Two Sons – Post #3: St Louis-Gateway to the West

We drove to St. Louis on Friday (July 6) from Indianapolis, where we had made an overnight stop late Thursday night following the Cincinnati game.

Doug had planned our trip perfectly: get on the road a bit toward the next town following a game, thus lessening the next day’s drive time. He also picked hotels that provided free hot breakfasts, giving us a healthy fueled start to each day.

On the way, we had lunch in Greenville, Illinois, home of Greenville College where the famed Christian musical group Jars of Clay met, formed and got their start. The downtown restaurant was quintessential mid-America.

You get a first view of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis (top left) from some 20 miles east of the city. It’s an architectural wonder that marks the approximate point from which began the Lewis and Clark expedition and eventually opened the entire western part of our country.

Both Gregg and Doug took the tram to the very top of the Arch. You can see some photos taken from the top on Gregg’s blog by clicking here. The parabolic monument was designed by famed Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, who, unfortunately, died suddenly before its completion. It’s twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty, but only half as tall as the Empire State Building.

At the new ballpark in St. Louis you are greeted by the bigger-than-life statue of Stan “the Man” Musial (top right), whom I watched perform magic with his bat many times in my youth when he’d come to Wrigley Field to play the Cubs. Of course Musial’s home field in those days was the old Sportsman’s Park. He was an incredible baseball player and is an even better human being.

I think we all agreed that this new Busch Stadium in St. Louis is the best overall park of the four we visited, although each one had its particular “bests”. This park just seemed to have the most “bests,” architecturally, aesthetically and functionally. The red brick and black iron exterior perfectly complemented the gorgeous playing field (above photos).

Plus, we finally saw a Giants win, 4-3 (they had not been playing well – and still aren’t). But the Cards are the reigning World Champions of Baseball, and it was great to see them play in their new facility.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Four Summer Days In Four American Cities: Nothing But Baseball, Hot Dogs, and Highway Driving With My Two Sons – Post #2: Hall of Fame Museum in Cincy

If I remember correctly from our baseball museum exploration in Cincinnati, in only three decades since 1900 have the Cincinnati Reds NOT won a League or World Series Championship. I don’t think any other team, with the possible exception of the Yankees, can make that assertion.

Above is a dusk photo of their new stadium on the Ohio River which features a “Riverboat” theme.

My sons and I learned a lot about the Reds and the history of the one time-horsehide covered sphere at the Hall of Fame and Museum in Cincinnati, which we toured prior to the July 5th game with the Giants. A large part of the museum fetes the accomplishments of Pete Rose, who, like Barry Bonds, is viewed as “tainted” by many who follow the sport.

Pete Rose’s shortcoming was gambling on games in which he participated, while Barry Bonds of the Giants is knee-deep in the steroids “investigation” being conducted by Major League Baseball.

Despite his human frailties, Pete Rose was one heckuva ball player who, in my humble view, deserves consideration for Baseball’s Hall of Fame despite the controversy. He had the most hits ever by a player (4,256), and he played with an abandon rarely seen since Ty Cobb.

With players like Joe Nuxhall, Ewell Blackwell, Tom Browning, Ted Kluscewski, Johnny Bench, Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez – and Rose, of course – the Reds are a storied franchise.

One could “put oneself in the picture” in part of the museum. Gregg took this picture of Doug “leaping over the Reds outfield fence to snatch a homerun away from a hitter.”

Our glimpse back into the archives of Reds baseball was a treasured experience, expecially reliving the memories from my childhood when these Reds would periodically come into Wrigley Field.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Time Out For Aubrey's 5th Birthday Celebration

When in the course of human events a granddaughter’s birthday occurs, it provides one with the wonderful privilege of celebrating. Actually, it was three of us when you include my wife and our dog.

Monday was Aubrey’s 5th birthday, but yesterday was the first opportunity we had to drive to Oregon and commemorate the observance.

The picture above was the culmination, as she gets ready to blow out her cake candles.

Aubrey got to choose the place to eat (Lucky Fortune Chinese). But that was after she chose to play with her sister and friends in the backyard above-ground swimming pool all afternoon.

Then, in the evening after dinner, it was time to open packages. Her sister Hayley wrapped a gift in a box big enough to hold a large Teddy Bear. But it wasn’t that. After unwrapping tons of paper and two “false alarms” inside the big box, Aubrey finally got to the the gift inside – a wonderful spray candy stick! (left above)

Of course we have to include a pic (right) of Aubrey’s “Princess Dress, glasses and phone.”

After a drive to the store and back in Gregg and Elaine’s beautiful new "green" Prius – and being “wowed” by the technology and the variety of moving graphic displays in the dash that describe in detail what is going on between the gas and electric power sources and the various ways to charge the batteries – we began the drive back home to the Evergreen State just as darkness was setting in.

Although we arrived home a while past midnight, our travel time passed quickly because we had so many great memories of the day. Let’s see.. two weeks from tomorrow granddaughter Talli becomes a teenager. Yikes, the time is passing quickly.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Four Summer Days In Four American Cities: Nothing But Baseball, Hot Dogs, and Highway Driving With My Two Sons – Post #1

Well, we’re all back at home following a whirlwind baseball tour of four Major League cities and their respective (all newer) ball parks – Great American Park in Cincinnati, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Comerica Park in Detroit, and PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Getting home was another story (I still don’t have my luggage), but that’s for another time.

The experience of enjoying four-plus solid days with one’s adult sons doing nothing but either watching Major League baseball or driving from city to city amidst family-oriented baseball chatter, is one that will remain with me for the rest of my life.

The entire spectacular sports voyage was the brainchild of Doug, who planned and executed the itinerary for a father and brother who, like him, relish “the great American pastime”.

Doug and I flew to Chicago on the 4th of July and he rented a comfortable Chrysler 300 for the more than 2,000 miles of driving ahead of us. The following day we met up with Gregg in Indianapolis at noon. He had flown there from Portland the night before.

We arrived at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati (above) about 5 pm so we could take in the Big Red Machine Baseball Hall of Fame (a.k.a. the Pete Rose museum) before the game.

When we emerged, it was ominously raining steadily and the tarp covered the infield (below).

The game went on, thankfully, following a 40-minute rain delay, with “my” SF Giants losing to Cincinnati, 6-3. Perhaps more later on the game and day's events, but for this post, here are initial photos of the three other parks we would visit in the three following days.

Above is the outfield at the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis with the famed Mississippi waterfront Gateway Arch dominating the view beyond the park.

This is the beautiful Comerica Park in Detroit, with the downtown skyline as a backdrop. The tall round building in the center is the GM (General Motors) building.

And finally, here's another beautiful newer park, PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The Roberto Clemente bridge, just beyond the outfield wall, connects the waterfront park site to the downtown Pittsburgh triangle just across the Allegheny River. By the way, for a larger view, just click on a photo.
If you like, you can "read ahead" on Gregg's blog, as he took along his laptop and posted daily while on the trip. He took a zillion more pics with his cell phone cam than I took with my camera, and you can see the whole trip through his "eyes" by clicking here.