The Little League World Series

On a beautiful, sunny, late summer afternoon I’m sitting on a hill in northern Pennsylvania watching 12-year-olds demonstrate the perfection of the game. Welcome to the Little League World Series (LLWS) where “the best seats are on the hill.” While some wish they were in Lamade Stadium’s grandstands, most of the people I met love being on the hill. They love the camaraderie and the almost ready for Autumn breeze that cools the bright sun.

What can be better than two days in the north-central Pennsylvania hills watching the game we love? It doesn’t matter that the players are twelve, it’s still the same game and the level of competition dramatic.

The Game’s Perfection

The Setting

It’s the bottom of the sixth (and last inning) of the championship game. Louisiana is leading Curacao 8 – 0, with two men out. Egan Prather has pitched the entire game and wants to be on the mound for the last out. Earlier in the tournament, Prather pitched 5 1/3 innings of one-hit ball to help Louisiana avoid elimination. That day, he struck out ten kids from New Jersey. Today he continued to dominate, allowing only two hits while striking out six.

“Mighty Casey” statue on the hill

Little League rules state that a pitcher is not allowed to throw more than 85 pitches in a game. However, Prather has thrown only 69 pitches through the first five innings and is well under the limit when Curacao’s Curley Martha comes to the plate with two out and no one on base.

Martha is no slouch. To date, he’s hit .563 with a tournament-leading three home runs to help Curacao get to the finals. One of these was a two-run shot against Japan in Saturday’s International Bracket final.

Martha also seems to match Prather’s competitive fire. Curacao was likely headed for a loss, but Martha wasn’t going to be the one to make the last out. He’ll leave it to one of the next guys to swing and miss or hit a weak ground ball to end the game. Let him walk slowly back to the dugout while Louisiana celebrates.

The Encounter

Louisiana’s Egan Prather Delivers…..

With two strikes, Martha fouls off pitch after pitch. Prather keeps challenging him, and his pitch count continued to grow. Every once in a while, he walks behind the mound, uses the rosin bag, throws it down and climbs the hill to make his next pitch. At one point, shortstop Stan Wiltz takes a few steps toward the mound to check-in and show some support. Prather glares at him, says something like (I assume) “I got this, leave me alone,” and Wiltz walks back to his position.

Martha wants a pitch he can drive, something in the strike zone. Since its a two-strike count, Prather doesn’t have to throw something over the plate. He can throw his best pitches that are around the edges and corners of the strike zone. Pitches Martha shouldn’t be able to hit. Martha’s only recourse is to foul off these pitches in the hopes of getting a better one he can drive.

….Curacao’s Curley Martha Hits Another Foul Ball

The scenario repeats eight times. Prather paces to the back of the mound, uses the rosin bag, climbs the hill, gets set, pitches, Martha swings – foul ball. The suspense increases with each pitch. Prather’s plight increases when he throws his 85th pitch. Prather will continue to pitch to Martha but must relinquish the mound if he gets on base. Of course, Prather does not want to be anywhere other than the mound when Louisiana wins.

Each player glares at the other. Again, Prather paces to the back of the mound, uses the rosin bag, climbs the hill, gets set, pitches, Martha swings – foul ball.

Finally, on the 88th pitch, Martha lines out to shortstop Wiltz and Louisiana’s celebration begins. They’re the last team standing of the 7,700 teams that started the tournament in their respective regions. They meet at the mound, parade the banner around the field and touch the Howard J. Lamade bust in centerfield. 1


“The Game of Ball is Glorious”

Baseball is the only team sport where this type of Mano a Mano confrontation is the centerpiece of the competition. For example, in football, the offensive line protects the quarterback as he throws passes to his teammates. There are 11 players on the opposing team, in various positions, who try to stop what he plans to do.

Similarly, in basketball, while a defender opposes the player with the ball, that defender can be assisted by another player or two. Moreover, the outcome of the interaction is not definitive, the player can pass the ball, so someone else can try.

Tennis, match play golf, boxing and wrestling include the single-player confrontation, but they are not actual team games. Players can be organized into groups and wear the same uniforms, but they are still individual contributors.

That’s why we remember Charlie Root pitching against Babe Ruth in the 1932 World Series and the mythical “called shot.” Or Ralph Branca vs. Bobby Thompson in 1951 and the “Shot Heard Round The World” when the Giants won the pennant. Or, Prather vs. Martha in the Little League World Series.

The confrontation between pitcher and hitter is central to the game and incredible. Walt Whitman would say “glorious.”

That’s why it is impossible for me to resist baseball’s allure. I will always find a ballpark and relish everything the game was, is and ought to be. Give me a diamond, nine guys on each side, a few balls and bats and I’m at home.

Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Williamsport, PA (est. population 28,347) is the county seat Lycoming County. The west branch of the Susquehanna River separates it from South Williamsport, the location of the Little League’s headquarters and the World Series. The city is in north-central Pennsylvania between the Allegheny Mountains to the north and west and the Appalachian Mountains to the south.2 For baseball fans, the location of Howard J. Lamade Stadium, the series’ home, is a little slice of heaven: a cute little ballpark nestled in the northern Pennsylvania hills.

Statues in Market Square

The Little League began as a three-team league in Williamsport in 1939 – with three teams: Jumbo Pretzel, Lycoming Dairy and Lundy Lumber. It added a second league from Williamsport the next year. Since then, the Little League has grown into an international organization of approximately 200,000 teams in every U/S. State and 80 countries worldwide.3

In 1947, the Maynard League from Williamsport defeated a team from Lock Haven, PA to win the first LLWS.4 In 1952, the first international teams played in the series. Today, 7,700 teams from around the world compete in regional tournaments. Ultimately 16 teams represent eight regions from the United States and another eight from around the world compete in Williamsport for the championship.5

Of course, people throughout the region celebrate the Little League and its World Series. I enjoyed the welcoming signs hung from businesses and private homes. I also loved the statues of players, on each corner of Market Square in the center of town.

If You Go

What am I saying? Of course, you should go!

The gates open at 8:00 AM (occasionally earlier). To get good seats, fans begin to line up earlier, around 6:00 AM, although I met some who were there even earlier. Once the gates open, fans race to their preferred seating locations.

There are15,000 seats in the grandstand and up to 40,000 seats (they claim) on the hill behind the outfield.

Sitting on The Hill

Most attendees sit on the hill behind the outfield fence.

The steep hill is divided by a flat area that includes a paved walkway, that enables people to walk from end to end. At the top of the hill are stairs that lead to exits.

The area in front of the walkway is used only for seating. Although some people sit behind the walkway, that area is used almost exclusively as the famous sliding area. Kids and the young at heart use pieces of cardboard to slide down the tall and steep hill.

Toward the end of this year’s championship game, soccer great, Julie Foudy left ESPN’s broadcast booth and gave the hill a try. It brought back good memories. Twenty years before, I was at the Rose Bowl with the Nomad family watching Foudy play, and the Women’s National Team (aka “the 99’ers”) win the World Cup. Now here I was watching her barrel down the hill at the LLWS.

Of course, every fan has their individual preference as to what is a good seat. The people I sat with chose a location right where the hill started to flatten out. They were in front of some bushes that surrounded the flagpole, which is in front of the walkway. Others choose to sit closer to the field on the steep angled part of the hill.

You Need the Right Chair

Different types of chairs facilitate seating:

  • Plastic chairs where the back legs are cut in half, making them perfect for sitting on the steepest part of the hill – closest to the action.
  • Folding chairs that have very short legs, like the ones you see regularly at the beach are a good choice. These chairs work nicely on the gradual sloped and flat part of the hill. They enable the viewer to see over the people in front of them without blocking people behind them.
  • Folding chairs with standard height legs are best for the flat areas in the back because they can block the view of others if placed in front of them. Moreover, they can’t handle the steep angles.

The Fans

The choice of seating engenders different behaviors. In my two days of extensive research, I noticed five different kinds of fans. You have to decide which you are going to be.

Stadium Wannabees

Some fans head to “Will Call” when the gates open and wait for any remaining tickets to be distributed. I originally, understood that the grandstand was only for VIPs and the players’ families and their friends. However, I met people who said that there are a few thousand tickets that remain and are distributed to fans.

Long lines at “Will Call”

Getting some shade..

The problem is, if you are alone and go for the stadium seats, you lose a chance at good positions on the hill. So here is the strategy: you need to choose the seating location to target before the gates open. If you have family or friends with you, part of the group can wait at “Will Call” while the others stake out a position on the hill. However, everyone needs to be at “Will Call” when the tickets are distributed. Each person only receives one ticket. They can’t have extra tickets for friends.

Note that some of the VIPs don’t use their tickets. From the hill, you will see many empty seats in the grandstands.

Hill – Early Birds

Members of this group, park close to the stadium, near the top of the hill. In so doing, they will likely pay a small fee to near-by residents or businesses to park on their property. When the gates open, they are in a position to get the best seats available on the hill. They stake their claim with blankets for friends and family to use when they arrive later or as a buffer between other attendees.

Hill – Gate Openers

I was in this group. Not knowing any better, I followed the “Stadium Parking” signs as I headed up Market Street toward the stadium. The parking here is free. However, it is below the stadium, so I had to walk up the hill to get to the stadium. By the time I got to the seating area, there were no prime locations.

Moreover, good spots were limited since I did not have the requisite chair. I mistakenly assumed that most fans sat on the ground. Without the right chair, the dramatically angled slope was uncomfortable. However, I needed to be as close to the slope as possible, so I could see over others that had chairs.

Luckily, I charmed a group of “Early Birds” and asked if I could sit in the area that they had declared as theirs. I sat next to them both days.

Hill – Late Nicks

These people get to the grounds hours after the gates open and try to squeeze their chairs into any available space. However, they are polite and make sure that they do not block others who are already situated.

Hill – Jerks

Jerks get to the grounds late and place chairs wherever they want without considering whose view they are blocking.

Is Baseball Like a Liquid?

During my two days on the hill, I considered the question I asked at the beginning of my adventure:

“Does Baseball like a liquid take the shape of its container?”

Thomas Boswell

After all, I have now been to venues in four different countries, Mexico, Canada, England, and the United States. To date, I have attended games at 23 MLB ballparks. Not to mention, I sat in Doubleday Park in Cooperstown for a few innings. I also saw the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Stadium in Omaha. Now I was at the Little League World Series in Williamsport.

Even though I still have seven more ballparks to see, I am ready to declare, unequivocally, that the experience at each ballpark is different. The game transformed as I went from site to site.

It’s not that the strategy or the way the game is played is different. The adventure, the feeling, the view and sounds of the crowd make each experience unique.

My next stop on the tour is the makeup game in Tampa. It replaces the one I missed in early May when I was too ill to make the drive from Miami. A few days later, I leave for a long trip out west to complete my journey to all 30 ballparks. I can’t wait.

Continue ReadingThe Little League World Series

Cleveland Rocks!

Yes, and emphatically, Cleveland Rocks!

Fountains at Public Square – a few blocks from the ballpark

Cleveland is one of those underrated “rust belt” cities that I never thought got its due. Some only know it as – “the mistake on the lake” where the Cuyahoga River caught fire. However, I always found it to be a cool city with great restaurants, nice places to stay, and friendly people. Finally, Cleveland is a great baseball city.

I’ve been to Cleveland and Progressive Field many times. It was where my father and I ended our baseball journey that started in 1964. As the story goes, it began with him leading me around the ballpark when I was six or so. It ended with me pushing his wheelchair almost 50 years later. He moved to Cleveland – his wife’s hometown – in the early 2000s. I worked for a company based outside of Cleveland and was there often.

My business travel enabled us to find our way to the ballpark many times.

With that said, I had only been back to Cleveland and Progressive Field a few times since we buried dad. This trip was a revelation. Could it be that the city was even better than I remembered? I’ve always liked Progressive, but in the five years since I’ve been there, it seems to have gotten even better.

Rock & Roll

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum

Cleveland has been associated with Rock & Roll ever since disc jockey, Alan Freed popularized the term there. 1 The city incorporated the phrase into its branding when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame opened there. Not surprisingly, the All-Star Game captured the city’s Rock and Roll lineage.

Guitar Logo

Each day, I wanted to get down to the city early so I could walk around and take pictures. On Tuesday, as I was entering Public Square – the centerpiece of downtown – I found a kiosk that was displaying Fender guitars painted to represent each team. I especially loved the Baltimore Orioles one that included Baltimore’s favorite (rock and roll) son, Frank Zappa. He is a personal favorite.

Frank Zappa/ Baltimore Orioles Fender Guitar

Naturally, I found the Mets guitar fun. I’m a fan and love all things Mets.

Cincinnati’s was designed to recognize the 150th anniversary of professional baseball that originated there in 1869. The Reds have been celebrating the first professional baseball team (the Cincinnati Red Stockings) all season. However, it’s interesting that the Reds are not descendants of the Red Stockings, the Atlanta Braves are. So in a sense, the Reds are celebrating the Braves’ birth.

PlayBall Park

I thought that MLB did a credible job selling the joys of baseball at the London Series, but I wasn’t blown away. I didn’t think there were enough displays or activities, and there certainly wasn’t a wide variety of merchandise. However, Cleveland was another story.

In Cleveland, Major League Baseball and PlayBall took over the convention center and two adjoining park areas for kids activities, displays and merchandise.

Outside Activities

The outside activities tended to be baseball oriented, as one would expect. But there was also fun things like a zip line that sent riders over ann entire city block. It started at St. Clair Avenue and ended across Lakeside Avenue.

Inside the Convention Center

In the convention center, there were areas that explored the Hall of Fame, the Negro Leagues, Women’s Baseball, and merchandise for sale. Near the merchandise area was a display of each cap for each organization. The major league cap for each team was at the top of each column and then below were caps for each minor league team in their system. Pretty cool for a cap collector.

The Home Run Derby and All-Star Game

Progressive Field is just a short walk from the convention center. This ballpark was, of course, the focus of my trip.

As is my normal practice, I’m not going to bore the you by telling them things they likely saw or that sportswriters who were closer to the action can write about. These are my impressions of the experience. However, I’ll also be honest and say that I don’t tend to watch these events at home. I lost interest in the All-Star Game when each team spent more effort getting all players in the game and less time trying to win the game. So I didn’t expect to stay for the entire game and didn’t think I’d love the Derby. I was wrong on both accounts.

The Home Run Derby

I’m not going to lie, I wanted Pete Alonso to win. I’m a Mets fan and he’s my home town guy. I also wanted Jacob DeGrom and Jeff McNeil to do well in the game but I’m getting ahead of myself.

My reactions to the Derby are:

  • I understand that there are people who don’t like the current format. I loved it and found it much more compelling than the old one that was used through 2014.
  • The best view is from the seats facing the outfield. Unfortunately, my seat was out in left field near the foul pole. My location was very Bartmanesque in that it was right against the railing. To watch the action, I had to swing my head around to watch the flight of the hit ball. However, because the balls were hit so rapidly, I lost track of how many home runs were hit.
  • The fact that all of Alonso’s wins were walk-offs didn’t excite me, as it seems to have others, other than there was a lot of suspense as to whether he could exceed his opponent’s total.
  • The Vlad Jr., Joc Pederson match up was awesome. After each round, my section mates and I would just look at each other in disbelief. How long would it go on?

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The All-Star Game

The game was compelling enough to stay until the end. It was a well-played, close game with the American League winning 4 – 3. Nothing major happened, it was just an exciting game and as I note below there were some cool moments. Also, I was not as distracted by all the player changes as I thought I might be.

Nod to Cleveland

I especially liked and appreciated how American League manager, Alex Cora, and Major League Baseball honored Cleveland:

  • The pre-game tribute to one time Cleveland manager, the late Frank Robinson was fitting since he was the first person of color to manage a major game and the breakthrough was with the Indians.
  • Former Indian, Michael Brantly who left the team in the off-season as and signed as a free agent, with the Astros started the game and received a great ovation.
  • Including Carlos Corrasco in the “Stand Up to Cancer” fifth inning observation was poignant and well-received.
  • Sending ex-Indian, honorary coach and future Hall of Famer CC Sabathia out to talk to Aroldis Champman was a nice touch. The crowd was able to show their appreciation for his years in Cleveland.
  • Sabathia also threw out the first pitch to another former Indian, Sandy Alomar Jr. in another nod to Cleveland.
  • Finally, MLB awarded Cleveland pitcher, Shane Bieber the MVP award, because…I honestly don’t know why. Other than, of course, he plays for Cleveland. Yes, he struck out the side in the fifth and the crowd got excited, but Aroldis Chapman did the same in the ninth to save the game. However, they weren’t going to give the award to Chapman who is now a Yankee. Moreover, he helped defeat the Indians in the 2016 World Series when he was with the Cubs. My choice was Texas’ Joey Gallo who hit the game-winning home run.

Other Moments

  • It was moving to see Mike Trout and Tommy La Stella wear their teammate Tyler Skaggs’ number. Twenty-seven-year-old Skaggs passed away suddenly, a week before the game.
  • Jacob DeGrom was Jacob Degrom, retiring the side in seven pitches. He also faced Mike Trout – possibly the premier matchup and induced a popup in two pitches. It was almost as impressive as his 2016 appearance where he struck out the side on ten pitches.

Scoreboard Issues?

The scoreboard operator confused a few players and pictures – fun.

Progressive Field

Progressive Field

People seem to underrate Progressive Field like they do Cleveland. However, its high on my list. Moreover, I think it’s improved since I used to go with my dad. There are much better food and beer choices. The Indians celebrate their long history well. The stadium is comfortable with good sightlines and a great view of the city. What’s not to like? It reminds me of San Diego’s Petco Park on a minor scale.

Kids asking players for baseballs

I’ll also congratulate Cleveland and the Indians for removing the presence of “Chief Wahoo” from the entire stadium. “Chief Wahoo” was a much-criticized caricature of a Native American tribal chief. The image was officially introduced in 1948 and adorned hats, uniforms and all other paraphernalia associated with the Indians.2 In stark contrast to Atlanta’s SunTrust Park where the “Tomahawk Chop” was ubiquitous, I didn’t see any reference to the old logo.

Most of all, I love the fans. The joy of baseball is that you can make friends at the ballpark. I had the same seat for all the events – Sunday’s Celebrity Softball Game and Futures Game, Monday’s Home Run Derby, and Tuesday’s Game. The people around me did as well and we became fast friends. Others asked, “how long have you guys known each other?” They were surprised when we said we just met.

Food- Hot Dogs

Cleveland is a good eating city, with great restaurants representing many cultures. There are and at least a dozen restaurants are featured at Progressive Field. Then there are other food stands that are specific to the ballpark. I don’t recall this type of food community involvement on my previous visits, a few years ago. Back then, there was more basic fare – Subway was my diabetic father’s favorite.

Of course, there has always been Cleveland’s not so secret weapon “Bertman Original Ball Park Mustard;” a spicy brown mustard that is a good as they get.

Hot Dogs

Charred Dog

The hot dog choice is a very important one. So I walked around the stadium looking for the right dog to try. On the first night, I tried “Charred Dogs.” Anyone who understands my criteria and seen my rankings knows that I appreciate a crispy charred hot dog. This one didn’t disappoint.

Cleveland Kraut Dog

The second night was equally good. This time, I tried the Cleveland Kraut Classic Caraway dog. Cleveland Kraut is a local supplier of “the best tasting and crunchiest sauerkraut in the world.” When you combine their kraut with the Bertman’s brown mustard, you’re in dog heaven. I ranked it slightly behind the Charred Dog because I liked the bun and dog a little better on the first night. It was pretty much a dead heat.


OK beer… the Great Lakes Brewing Company has a stand in the park where you can try their different offerings. There are other craft options around the park as well. I settled on Fat Head’s Brewery since I was intrigued by the “Sunshine Daydream IPA.” I asked the people at the stand if the name was an homage to the Grateful Dead song of the same name. They didn’t know, but I gave it a shot and liked it a lot. I liked it so much, that I went back a few more times over the two days.

All in all, it was a fun time. I drove home and prepared for a trip to the midwest. My first visit to Wrigley Field with trips to Target Field, Miller Park, and Guaranteed Rate Field. The last one just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Continue ReadingCleveland Rocks!

London Series

Surprisingly, I let good sense take precedence over my ambition and I decided to play it safe. I was in Omaha on Wednesday morning, roughly eight hours from St. Louis where I was scheduled to leave for London on Thursday afternoon. Rather than try to make the whole drive on Thursday, I didn’t stay for game three of the College World Series. I started my trip to the London Series on Wednesday morning by driving back to Kansas City.

The drive took me by the results of the rainstorms we experienced earlier. I drove past swollen lakes and rivers and flooded farm fields that looked like lakes.

On Thursday, I dropped off the hats I acquired during the first part of the trip and drove another 3 hours or so to St. Louis where I boarded a flight to London via Atlanta.

These are pictures from my three days in London – I’ll add more text soon.

Truman Brewery

Friday afternoon I headed to the London Yards where there was a London Series gathering place. Games, food, music, and merchandise. I was in search of hats and a few gifts for friends. My goal was to find the hat I saw online (no size 7 1/2 available) – Boston or New York with the Union Jack design in the emblem.

My online hat.

Brick streets, centuries-old buildings, and many packed pubs surrounded the Truman Brewery on Friday night. Unlike in the states, there were overflowing crowds outside the pubs, beers in hand.

The hat selection was weak. I did get one with “London Series” on the front but didn’t find the ones I was looking for. Moreover, I was wearing a Boston hat, with Big Ben on the front, that I bought online (this one adjustable). People were asking me where I got my hat.

After the rather disappointing search for hats, I stopped for Fish and Chips.

Kensington Gardens

Since Saturday’s game started later in the day, I decided to spend the morning in and around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

Swans at the Serpentine

The London Series

I’ll post text about this extraordinary experience soon.

From my seats on Saturday.
Sunday I was right of center.

I’ll add more text soon. Thanks!

Continue ReadingLondon Series

Field of Dreams

Read more about the article Field of Dreams
Is this heaven?

Pictures of the Day

Here are pictures of the fun adventure to Dyersville, where Nomad the Younger and I visited the site of our favorite baseball movie.

I’ll add the story of the day soon.

There is no admission fee to walk the grounds. You’re free to use the field and play catch etc.
“Try and hit my curve….Yeah you can hit the curveball”
Unfortunately, the corn isn’t tall until the fall.
Art for art’s sake…

Inside the House

It’s a $20 fee to tour the house, I recommend you do so. Just make sure you don’t miss the start – more on that later.

Is Fenway the one with the big green wall?… I’ll help you pack!”
“Daddy, there’s a man out there on your lawn.”
“Hey, what if the Voice calls when you’re gone?” “Take a message.”
The tour guides dress like the 1919 White Sox.

More text to follow.

Continue ReadingField of Dreams

Museums at 18th & Vine

After the aborted game at Kauffman Stadium, we headed downtown to the Negro League Museum. The museum is in the Museums at 18th & Vine complex. The museum occupies a large space on the right. Across the lobby is the American Jazz Museum.

This connecting lobby includes displays of the 18th and Vine area and a film that discusses its rise and impact on the Civil Rights movement.

We didn’t have a lot of time (or energy) so we went through the Negro League side relatively quickly. After the College World Series, I headed back to St. Louis through Kansas City, where I spent the night. That gave me time to see more of the Negro League Museum, take some pictures and also visit the American Jazz Museum.

Negro League Museum

I describe the Negro League Museum in two parts. In the first, a series of displays provides a detailed account of the league’s history, it’s triumphs and ultimate demise. The exhibits explain the initial impact of black players in the major leagues.

Interestingly, I knew that black players dominated the National League MVP selections in the fifties and transformed the league’s style of play. Their play included bunts, the hit and run, aggressive base running and stolen bases. In comparison, the American League played a slower, “station to station,” and power-hitting type of game. However, I never entirely made the connection between the dominance of the new players and the dominance that the national league started to demonstrate in the 1960s.

The best thing about the museum is the other section. In the center of the museum is a great room that contains a replica of a baseball field. There are near life-size statues of great players at their defensive positions. For example, Satchel Paige is on the mound, Josh Gibson is behind the plate. Accompanying Gibson at home, Nisan umpire and hitter. Buck O’Neil watches from the first area. This is simply the most impactful baseball display that I have ever seen!

American Jazz Museum

For a music lover – which I am – the American Jazz Museum is a blast. The colorful displays wind around the museum taking you past the great players and the styles they developed. The museum also explores the nightlife where Jazz was performed. It opens into The Blue Room one of the more famous and still active Kansas City clubs.

I left the museums, went back to the hotel and rested. The next morning I drove to St. Louis and boarded my flight to London.

Continue ReadingMuseums at 18th & Vine

Cooperstown Dreams

Read more about the article Cooperstown Dreams
Lake Otsego viewed from the Otesaga Hotel's veranda.

Mrs. Nomad and I first visited Cooperstown almost 40 years ago, the week before she made the dangerous and somewhat dubious decision to become Mrs. Nomad. We were married in New York City and were living in New Hampshire and decided to make a short detour to see the mythical birthplace of baseball. It was a trip I always wanted to make, she was slowly adapting to my passion. I consider it heaven on earth, because of the baseball, scenic beauty and charming restaurants. We’ve been back many times since. This year I wanted to include it on the 4bases tour because of the obvious baseball connection, but I especially wanted to stay at the famed Otesaga Hotel and check out Cooperstown Dreams Park.

Here are a few pictures and comments

The Otesaga Hotel

Cooperstown was settled in the late 18th century by William Cooper, the author James Fenimore Cooper’s father. By the mid-19th century, it was a popular summer retreat due to the beauty of the wooded hills that surround Lake Otsego. The estates and houses are still in use today. 1

The Otsego Hotel was developed by Edward Severin Clark and Stephen Carlton Clark, two grandsons of “Cooperstown’s prominent benefactor, Edward Clark.” The hotel opened in 1909 and included the Leatherstocking Golf Course. It is still owned by the Clark family. 2 Interestingly, the Hotel opened roughly 27 years before the Hall of Fame did. Cooperstown was a destination before the odd baseball connection. 3

The Clark family’s fortune originated with a half-ownership of the patent for the Singer Sewing Machine. They have lived in Cooperstown since the mid 19th century and own “more than 10,000 acres of largely undeveloped land in and around greater Cooperstown.” 4 Thus, Cooperstown and Lake Otsego retain their natural beauty which is why its a wonderful place to visit.

The Clark’s have many holdings and were founding partners and retain an interest in the Baseball Hall of Fame. 5 Jane Forbes Clark is the Chairperson of the Hall. 6

The Otesaga is where many of the Hall of Fame members stay when they visit, especially induction weekend. They meet and swap stories on the veranda that overlooks Lake Otsego. Its where we relaxed and ate breakfast each day of our stay.

Pictures of the Otesaga viewed from Lake Otsego, the lake and a picture of Babe Ruth that i took in one of the men’s rooms. Kids, always take your camera.

Around the Village

The village is small and quaint with a focus on baseball, souvenirs and its rustic history. A brief walk around takes you by the “Hunter and Dog” and “Sandlot Kid” statues. It’s nice to walk down Main street which retains its old-time charm through its architecture. Moreover, it’s fun to watch amateur and semi-pro teams play in historic Doubleday Field.

Of course, there are many souvenirs to purchase. Mickey’s Place has a vast assortment of caps. On my last visit, I bought replicas of Brooklyn Dodgers and St. Louis Browns caps. This trip I purchased a mid-50s New York Giants cap and a 1914 Cubs hat.

You’ll see my new hats in later posts. Since I made a commitment to take a selfie with a different hat at each game or experience I needed to buy these. I have three games at Wrigley with no gear. I figured I could get the classic home cap and a batting practice cap at the stadium. Similarly, I have two games in San Francisco and only have the home cap that I bought a few years ago. I figure the New York version will go nicely.

Yankees gear is prevalent since Cooperstown is close to New York City. You can choose from a large selection of jerseys with or without the names on the back. There’s no accounting for taste, I guess.

Statues, architecture, baseball and souvenirs.

The Hall of Fame

Of course, there is the Hall of Fame and Museum. Go once, and go often. We hadn’t been in a few years, and everything looked new. They constantly change the displays, so it’s always fresh.

This time, we saw a new film about baseball across generations that left me in tears. Watching Cal Ripken Jr. talk about Lou Gehrig whose record he broke or Ken Griffey Jr. talk about Willie Mays the previous great centerfielder is quite moving.

The records area, most of the second-floor displays and a new Hank Aaron room are among the other things we saw. Please note, when I say “new,” I mean new since the last time we visited about four years or so ago.

Tom Seaver by Andy Warhol

Fenimore Art Museum

You can do more than baseball in Cooperstown. We visited the Fenimore Art Museum and spent a few hours having lunch, walking the grounds and visiting the exhibits. Of special interest were the Herb Ritts exhibit and the Native American art and artifacts.

Native American inspired art and artifacts.

Pictures from the Herb Ritts exhibit.

Cooperstown Dream Park

Finally, there is the Cooperstown Dreams Park where they hold a youth tournament each week of the summer for players 12 and under.

We were hoping to spend a few hours on Friday or Saturday watching the teams play. However, we found that the tournaments run from Sunday to Thursday. Friday is the day the kids move into their lodges and Saturday is for orientation and the opening ceremony. From Sunday through Tuesday, the teams play preliminary rounds. The teams are seeded into the single elimination championship tournament based on their won-loss record. That tournament starts on Wednesday and ends with the championship rounds on Thursday.

We saw the opening ceremony on Saturday and some games on Sunday morning before we left. I’d consider going back to watch the finals on Thursday.

From my vantage point, the tournament exhibits what is good and bad about youth sports in today’s America.

Youth Baseball and Cooperstown Dreams

The good side. The tournament is well run and they seem to do a fabulous job of organizing over 100 teams a week. Organizing means, getting them safely in and out, housing, feeding and of course competing. Moreover, the kids seem to have fun, they get to visit the Hall of Fame and play in Cooperstown.

On the other hand, it is a travel baseball tournament with some extra bells and whistles like the opening ceremony. No offense intended, but it naturally exhibits all the problematic issues that we encounter in youth sports. The teams consist of elite players who are obviously wealthy. They can afford equipment, travel and extra training. It’s not clear to me that there are scholarships that help teams afford the approximately $14k to participate. 7 These costs do not include costs to travel across the country to the “middle of nowhere.8

None of this is the kids, coaches or tournament organizers fault or responsibility. However, it still points to the fact that there is a need to help kids from underserved areas play the great game and participate in elite tournaments.

The opening ceremony and parade.

The kids play and the parents hope.

My next adventure starts in mid-June when I fly to St. Louis. In the following two weeks, I’ll see:

  • Albert Pujols return to St. Louis when the Angels play the Cardinals
  • Negro League Museum in Kansas City
  • Twins and Royals in Kansas City
  • Field of Dreams Film Site
  • College World Series
  • London Series – Yankees and Red Sox
  • Yankees and Mets at Citi Field
Continue ReadingCooperstown Dreams

Let The Great Hot Dog Challenge Begin!

Read more about the article Let The Great Hot Dog Challenge Begin!
Hot Dog's and Baseball via Adobe Stock

A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz.

Humphrey Bogart 1

Hot dogs and baseball seem to go hand in hand, even though neither has hands per se. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC) estimated that 18.3 million hot dogs would be enjoyed at baseball stadiums in 2018. Another 4 million sausages were expected to be sold as well.2 Hot Dogs are sold in all stadiums and are a staple of the sport. So, I figure, why not rate the hot dogs I eat in each ballpark. I’ll eat at least one hot dog and report as I go.

I list my criteria for a great hot dog and “rules” for my contest below. However, if you want to jump ahead and see the results to date, follow this link.

By the way, check out NHDSC’s great MLB Hot Dog guide.

Hot Dog and Baseball History

The origin of the hot dog we eat at ballparks’ is an oft-debated topic. According to the NHDSC, it is likely a descendant of a “widespread common European sausage” brought to America by “butchers of several nationalities.”

The first use of the hot dog bun is also up for debate. There are stories that a German immigrant sold dogs with buns from a pushcart in New York’s Bowery in the 1860s. Most disagree with the idea that the hot dog served on a bun for the first time at St. Louis “Louisiana Purchase Exposition” in 1904. More than likely the hot dog bun merely is a descendant of the German practice of eating so-called “dachshund sausages” with bread.

The “Columbian Expedition”
via Wikapedia

The essential fact is to note is that the hot dog was popularized at 1893’s Chicago “Columbian Expedition.” The same year, Chris Von de Ahe, a German immigrant, bar owner, and owner of the professional ball club the St. Louis Browns introduced the hot dog to baseball parks in 1893 in St. Louis. 3

The rest is as the kids say, “history.” From then on the hot dog and baseball were synonymous.

The Great Hot Dog Challenge

Those who have met me or have seen my picture will admit that I like to eat. I also love hot dogs and agree with Bogart’s opinion. However, I’ve never eaten at Ritz. Assuming the Ritz is/was an excellent place to eat, I agree.

There, I said it; I like a good hot dog. I feel a great weight lifted now that I have admitted this deep dark secret. As much as I love the Pat Lefreida Steak Sandwich at Citi Field, just give me a good old hot dog. I’ll be fine. You can have your ballpark sushi, garlic fries in San Francisco or the Blooper Burger in Atlanta. Just give me a good hot dog, and I’m fine.

The keyword is “good.” A bad hot dog is an abomination of all that is holy. It’s a waste of the $5 -$10 you pay to eat the horrible thing. Moreover, you can’t get the time you spent purchasing the hot dog back. It follows that mediocre hot dogs are bad as well.

Haute Dogs and Fries – “BANH MI” Hot Dog
from Nationals Park

I already had my first MLB dog of the season at Nationals Park on opening day. The dog of choice was the “BANH MI” from Haute Dogs and Fries. I also include in my rankings my spring training hot dog adventures. I had two – a “Dean Dog” at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL. I don’t remember the name of the other, but I had it was a grilled 12-inch dog with peppers and onions with brown mustard at First Data Field in Pt. Saint Lucie, FL. It was a good, possibly above average dog. However, the bun broke, and I dropped part of the dog onto my shirt and camera. Thus, it was disqualified from the contest.

Follow this link to see the results of the contest to date.

Ranking Criteria

Follow this link to see the results of the contest to date.

via Adobe Stock

I fully understand that everyone will have an opinion about what constitutes an excellent hot dog. It might be a bit more challenging to define the criteria for judging hot dogs across the country. What are the most appropriate toppings? Does the dog need to be in a roll, or can it be on a stick? What type of meat is appropriate? Do chicken, turkey or veggie dogs count?

These are my criteria for what constitutes a great hot dog:


I want a hot dog unique to the stadium. Sorry, Nathan’s, you make a pretty good hot dog, but I can get a Nathan’s dog in many stadiums. So, I’m not including you unless your hot dog is my only choice. I feel the same about a dog from the Shake Shack. I love Shake Shack, but it is in many stadiums and thus, disqualified from my challenge in my mind.

Beef or Pork Only

Only Pork or Beef
via Adobe Stock

For argument’s sake, I’ll accept that one can make a hot dog out of turkey, chicken or vegetables. However, these dogs belong in another category, and I can only eat so much. I’m sticking to beef or pork.

Not Sausage

Yes, a hot dog is a descendant of and has all the fundamental elements of a sausage. However, at a ballpark, you have a choice of a hot dog or a sausage. I’m judging hot dogs not “sausages.” Caveat – I’ll bend my no sausage rule for a Milwaukee Brat.

Crisp Skin

I want the dog grilled on a flat surface so that it gets a little charred and crunchy. Steaming and boiling are out.

Sturdy Bun

Looks Good
via Adobe Stock

The bun is oh so important. It needs to have some crust; texture and it also needs to be sturdy. However, the bun can’t overwhelm the hot dog. The dog’s texture and taste needs to merge with the bun.

Assembled When Purchased

The dog loses points if the counter people don’t transport it from grill to bun in front of me.

Brown Mustard and Unique Toppings

Brown Mustard
via Adobe Stock

A tasty topping makes a hot dog unique and beautiful. In general, some sauerkraut is all I need on top of my hot dog. However, for this contest, I’m looking for something unique in each ballpark.

To me, the real condiment question is “how good is the mustard?” I don’t like yellow mustard; I don’t even understand yellow mustard. Honey mustard is fine, but I don’t see how it works with a hot dog. I’m looking for good brown mustard.

Chili Dogs Need Not Apply

A Chili Dog
via Adobe Stock

Chili Dogs are wonderful, but they are out, sorry. At some point, you’re eating something someone did to the dog and not just the dog. My rule of thumb: if it drips or is so unwieldy you need a knife and fork it’s in another category.

Now – the true aficionados at the NHDSC will argue that you shouldn’t eat a chili dog with a knife and fork. It’s not necessary, and it is embarrassing. Instead, there is a five-step method to eating the chili dog:

  1. Positioning – give yourself a lot of room.
  2. Grip – use two hands one on each end of the dog and don’t squeeze too tight. A tight squeeze will allow the juices to slip out and thus make a mess.
  3. Level Lift – keep it level, so the chili doesn’t fall out.
  4. Enter – you need to put the dog in your mouth at a 45 to 60-degree angle.
  5. Bite – using your canines so that you can bite right through the skin for an explosion of tasty juices. 4

I understand the theory, but I’m still not including the Chili Dog in this discussion. I just want to have a good dog.

My no chili rule is why I chose the “BANH MI” Hot Dog from Haute Dogs and Fries and not the “iconic half-smoke” from Ben’s Chili Bowl when I was at Nationals Park.

There’s a point where a hot dog crosses from an easy sandwich to a meal requiring a knife and fork. The division is between toppings that are additive to the dog as opposed to a meal that just includes the dog. Chili tends to put the hot dog on the wrong side of the line. My opinion only.

Follow this link to see the results of the contest to date.

Continue ReadingLet The Great Hot Dog Challenge Begin!

Spring Training – Heroes, Passion, and Surprises

Read more about the article Spring Training – Heroes, Passion, and Surprises
AP/Nathaniel Fein via Flickr

Monday Morning. I arrived home on Saturday, and now I am evaluating my first trip of many planned for this season. What did I learn this spring training? After all, in my last post, my feeling was that although there were some rough patches, I will go back to spring training again and again. I love the game and spring training is where it starts. I also learned about heroes, passion and possible surprises.

Heroes – All Hail Ichiro!

I could wax poetic – about the great Ichiro’s accomplishments. He’s only the third man to have more than 4,000 hits – yes 1,000 in Japan, but 4,000 is still a great achievement. Additionally, 3,080 hits in 17 years are awe-inspiring. 1 Also, let’s agree that basketball is the sport where we refer to players by their first name – Kobe, Lebron etc. It’s not done in baseball, but Ichiro Suzuki is “Ichiro”. Then, there is his defense and his arm – even on display the last week of his career.

Lava via Flickr

Question: now that we elect players to the Hall of Fame unanimously – see Mariano Rivera – how can anyone not vote for Ichiro?

What I realized when I woke up early during spring training to watch Ichiro’s last two games is that players revere the game’s icons. Their admiration for the man that had played so long on two different continents, achieved so much and did so with dignity, was obvious: He realized the dreams that they all want to achieve. And when it was over, they showed their profound respect as the great warrior left the field for the last time.

Keith Allison via Flickr

Then there is the sight of Yusei Kikuchi crying as Ichiro left the field. Kikuchi was pitching in his first MLB game – at home in Japan – after playing in Japan. Ichiro led the way for guys like Kikuchi to play in America and Kikuchi idolizes Ichiro.

Finally, Ichiro finished in Japan, in front of his adoring countrymen. Baseball seems to be very prone to these wonderful events.

Wonderful, Ichiro Stat

Do yourself a favor and follow Sarah Langs on Twitter – that alone almost makes Twitter worth it. Moreover, when great stats like the similarity between Ichiro’s first and last game occur, relish the fact that the baseball gods are watching. I’m serious.

Ichiro’s first career MLB game (2001): Mariners beat A’s, 5-4

Ichiro’s final career MLB game (2019): Mariners beat A’s, 5-4

Sarah Langs – Tweet – March 21, 2019

Passion – Max Scherzer

Max Scherzer

Friday was our double-header day. In the late morning, we drove the 40 minutes or so to Tradition Field to watch the Metsies host the Cardinals. The Cardinals brought the “A” team and the Mets played the “B” team. Two position players (Carlos Gomez and Rajai Davis) were non-roster invitees and are no longer with the team. Another, (Travis d’Arnaud) will likely start the season on the injured list. Finally, all six pitchers are not on the 40-man roster and I don’t have the patience to figure where they are now. The result – Cardinals 15 – Mets 5 in a rather tepid and uninspired display.

That evening we were back at Roger Dean Stadium watching the Marlins host the Nationals. A small crowd was in attendance, likely bolstered by the promise of fireworks after the game. It’s too bad that the Marlins don’t draw like the Cardinals or the Mets as those who stayed away missed a great experience. They missed a surprisingly good Marlins team (more below) and Max Scherzer.

Along Came Scherzer

I went to watch Scherzer warm up before the game, and that is where I saw his passion. He would throw a pitch and visibly grimace if he didn’t get the ball to do what he wanted. He was noticeably happier when he threw a good pitch – “good” in his mind. It’s Friday night and he is warming up to pitch to the lowly Marlins, with more important games looming in the near future.

Frustrating Warm Up

Last year, we saw Scherzer pitch and were awed by the way he threw strikes – especially first pitch strikes. He always put himself in the dominant position over the poor hitter. This year we were behind the plate, and the same was true. However, what I noticed this year was his command. “Control” is the ability to throw strikes, “command” is the ability to locate the ball in the strike zone. The first pitch strikes were strikes, but they were also in parts of the zone that the hitter could not hit well.

During the longish top of the seventh, we wondered if we would see Scherzer in the bottom of the inning. He had already thrown 84 pitches, and we thought that was enough. Indeed, as the top of the inning dragged on, we knew we would not see him again. Nope – he wasn’t done.

We read later that he wanted to go seven – and go seven he did.

Surprises – The Marlins

The experts say that Marlins are rebuilding and have no chance to make the playoffs. Ignore that they won 15 games out of 28 — they stink. Wait ’til next year.

Ken (my spring training companion) noticed it before I did – the Marlins played well. Then I read Ken Rosenthal’s article in The Athletic. Rosenthal reports that many are impressed with the Marlins play this spring. No one expects them to outperform the PECOTA projection of 67 wins, but they look better than expected. 2

New Dawn

Ken left early to watch the sunrise each morning while I tried to write or watch Ichiro. He followed suit on our last day and took this picture.

Opening Day Is On The Horizon…

The sun is rising – baseball season starts on Thursday and I’ll be in Washington watching Scherzer and DeGrom go at it. Enjoy the season.

More later….

Continue ReadingSpring Training – Heroes, Passion, and Surprises

Is Baseball Like A Liquid?

Read more about the article Is Baseball Like A Liquid?
Citgo Sign Outside Fenway

I’ve always been intrigued by Thomas Boswell’s question, “Does baseball, like a liquid, take the shape of its container?” From the ballparks that I have seen, I’ll argue that the game changes as I go from park to park. The serene feeling I’ve had, looking over San Francisco Bay is different than the cold austerity of Yankee Stadium. I love the intimacy and the food at Citi Field – not to mention my Metsies. Fenway can be uncomfortable, but the Monster and the Citgo sign are beautiful. I love the idea of a row of vendors offering “street meat” outside, if not the quality of the food. Camden Yards is beautiful; the warehouse on Eutaw Street in right field enhances its charm. A ballpark’s dimensions, its signs, the height of its walls, and the view from the seats define a unique experience.

My Stadium Travels

As I mentioned in a previous post, I started picking up parks as I traveled on business. A presentation at a conference in San Francisco gave me the opportunity to visit and PAC Bell (now Oracle), for the first time. I returned many times after when I visited my company’s San Francisco’s office. Similarly, I was able to go to Safeco Field when I was in Seattle for meetings at Microsoft. I’ve been to North Little Rock’s Dickey-Stephens Park when I was in town for business. Family adventures took me to Comerica in Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. It follows that my first thought when we plan a trip tends to be “is the home team in town and do we have time to go?”

For example, I never miss a chance to go to Camden Yards when I am in Baltimore. I’ve been there when the Orioles were kind of good and when they were kind of bad. However, I’ve never been when the Orioles were awful – I guess this is the year for that experience.

Camden Yards

The last time I had the chance to go was when a friend’s son had his bar mitzvah, in Philadelphia. Why I didn’t think of going to see the Phillies and not the Orioles explains a lot about me. It might say a lot about the Phillies as well. Anyway, we flew into Baltimore on Friday, drove to Philadelphia Saturday morning and were back at Camden Yards that evening. It was the night Manny Ramirez hit his 500th home run. Doesn’t everyone travel with baseball as the priority?

We try to go to Citi Field every year. On one July 4th, we even made our only visit to the travesty that is the “NEW” Yankee Stadium.

Stadiums Should Recognize a Team’s History

I’ll fully explain my issues with “the house that George built” in a future post. For this discussion, I’ll state that it violates a key aspect of what I look for in a ballpark. I need a ballpark to celebrate it’s team’s history.

Yes, the Stadium has Monument Park and banners for all the Yankee greats, and frankly, it’s somewhat greats. The too long list of retired numbers is there for all to see. However, the fact that it is across the street from where the real one was, is a nonstarter for me. The Yankees should be playing on the field where the Babe hit home runs, where DiMaggio patrolled center field and where Gehrig proclaimed that he was “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Roberto Clemente Statue
Tim Rucci

In contrast, I like that the Red Sox and Cubs have maintained the charm of their beautiful old ball yards. I also love that there are statues of Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. I also appreciate PNC’s 21-foot high wall in right field that remembers Clemente’s jersey number. Yes, I even like that the Mets celebrate their National League heritage in Citi Field. Citi’s exterior and rotunda are reminiscent of Ebbets Field; it’s green seats after the Polo Grounds.

A Ballpark Should Have Good, Unique Food

I’ve enjoyed food almost as long as I’ve enjoyed baseball. As such, I don’t want a cold, mushy hot dog with a crustless bun. I want to try food that is native to the home city and thus the stadium. My goal is to try things like the pierogies in Pittsburgh, the crab sandwich and garlic fries in San Francisco, or street meat in Boston. Almost anything in Citi Field I’ve tried has been great – Arancini Brothers, Pat LaFrieda Steak sandwiches, the Shake Shack, Keith’s Grill, or Fuku Chicken. Citi’s food choices reflect New York City’s many cultures and cuisines.

What about the traditional hot dog? If I have a hot dog, it needs to be one that the ballpark is known for, like the famous “Dodger Dog” or Milwaukee’s Brats. While the hot dogs in Cleveland didn’t make this list, it’s unique brown mustard makes it something to try.

I’ll need to plan my food strategy long before I get to each ballpark. There is only so much that I can eat – I think. So I need to know what the options are so I can make the right selections.

My Modus Operandi

Roberto CLemente Bridge
Robert Pernell –
Licensed via Adobe Stock

My ballpark experience can start outside the ballpark. For example, I want to walk across the Clemente Bridge to get to PNC Park in Pittsburg. My modus operandi is to be near the front of the line when the doors open. I like to walk around the park, take in the field from all angles. I want to get a feel for the different parts of the park and see what makes it unique. For example, Yankee Stadium’s monument park, PNC’s Highmark Legacy Square (honoring Negro League Baseball), or Oracle’s view of San Francisco Bay. I need to see the essential players’ statues, the retired numbers and if there is time, the Hall of Fame. My souvenir from the Team Store is a fitted New Era cap that the home team wears. My goal is to have one hat from each current stadium when the trip is over.

By the time the game starts, I’ve got a feel for the place, and I am enjoying the unique atmosphere. I’m well fed, and I am ready for the game to start.

Continue ReadingIs Baseball Like A Liquid?