Pawtucket Red Sox vs. Columbus Clippers (7/22/06)


(originally posted 7/26/2006)

That’s right kids; it’s your annual Clippers game(s) write up.  Yep, another year, another trip for me and Dad to a Clippers game.  No time to edit so readers beware.  “And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon…”

Dad is staring down the barrel of a hip replacement surgery, so I, as a good son for once, decide to take him out for a game before he goes in.  Dad likes to believe he will become Bo Jackson now.  Who am I to tell him otherwise?  I am certain Kenny Williams would give him a shot all the same.  Like Dad is any more fragile than Sandy Alomar at this point.  Anyhoo – I got the tickets in late-June only to find out a couple of weeks ago that this is a twin bill…with fireworks.  Yeah, we’re going to be out way past our bed times.  I prepare to join in with Dad about how games were over quicker in OUR DAY!!!  YOU KIDS GET THE HELL….

Game 1 is slated for a 6:05 start, so I start mowing my string of lawns at some god-forsaken hour.  By 4 I’m sweaty, covered in grass, sunburned and hate-filled.  By 4:30 I have scraped the grass off of me and am ready to pick up Dad.  Mom loads him up with a backpack full of his various pills, peanuts and Cracker Jacks.  I ask him if he has his sippy cup too.  He threatens me with his Freddie Blassie cane.  And we are off in the folks’ Geritol Cruiser.  Mmmm, mini-vanny.

We may or may not have made the hour trip to the Coop in 40 minutes depending on if a law enforcement agent is reading this.  No one can speed in a mini van, right?  Right.  ‘K, we’ll go with that.  On the way to the game, Dad and I joke about going to the Crew game instead.  Ahh, the easy laughter of mocking a forgotten sport.

Again, Dad comes up HUGE with the handicap sticker so we park practically in the stadium.  And again, I realize than my whole goal in life now is to get me one of those stickers.  Forget the big dreams; all I want to now in my old age, with all other dreams dashed, is to not walk great distances.  If that fails, then this is not the America I have been promised.

There is some sort of Lutheran credit union hootenanny going on in this little party pavilion off to the side of the stadium, complete with some band playing maudlin god rock and church folk getting sloshed – FOR JESUS!  WE DRINK HIS HOPS!  ERR, HIS BLOOD!  MADE FROM HOPS!  For some reason Dad starts to walk in there.  I remind him he is a Methodist.  In theory.  And Methodists don’t have credit unions.  Dad tells me that apparently our Jesus doesn’t save.  We giggle and walk past drunken Lutherans.  This would not be significant at all but for what happens later.

Again, there is a giant banner of Derek Jeter’s CLUTCHY MCCLUTCH MUG hanging at the front of the stadium.  “WHERE IS BALBONI?!  WHERE?!,” I ask.  I am greeted with indifference and confusion.  Sadly, I am more than used to that at this point in my life.  Also, beside the Jeter banner, a mock up of the NEW STADIUM the Clips are having built downtown hangs proudly.  Dad and I fart in its general direction.  I covered my hatred of the new stadium jazz last year.  You can look it up.

Dad and I hit our seats.  We’re in the second row right behind first base – beside the handicap section with the “Henson screen” so no more retards can get beaned by errant 3rd baseman thinking the guy in the wheelchair is going on a fly pattern.  The Clips are out stretching in right field as we get comfy.  Dad and I sit back and people watch.  And really, there is nothing better than people watching at a minor league ball game.  And, of which, the initial highlight for me, personally, was the black man pushing 4 bills in the Tom Brady jersey.  Unfortunately, he dropped his kid while coming through the gate leading Dad to mock me about it not being a fumble since the kid wasn’t tucked.  I swear.  Dad chuckles.  Life is cruel.

Down the right field line stands an assortment of autograph hounds yelling at the players.  There’s some guys too old to be getting autographs who you figure as dealers…except there are no players on the Clips for whom anyone could get any money for their autographs.  And of course, there’s kids yelling at anyone in a Clipper uniform to sign whatever they had – which means even the batboys are not immune from the begging.  I give pause to my decision to even wear my Clippers hat.  Of course, even the most foolish of kids has me pegged as a nobody.  Well, they have me and Colter Bean pegged as nobodies, of course.  Oh, the tears I shed.

And in front of us sit two middle-aged, grandmotherly, housewifey types with stacks of photos and Sharpies as far as the eye can see.  They inform Dad and me that they are here from Trenton and are “big fans” of the Thunder and are upset to see the Yankees had shipped all of their good players up to Columbus.  The Clips were 10 games under 500 entering the twin bill.  Yeah.  Lotta good raping Trenton’s done them.  And did I mention they had stacks of photos?  Oh yeah.  Loads of them.  Personal photos they claim to have taken of the guys in Trenton and in spring training.  Chills run down our backs.  They call out the players by their first names – WITHOUT NEEDING A PROGRAM.  They ask the players to sign the pics and in the process ask far too personal of questions about their girlfriends and/or wives and/or both.  The players – especially poor TJ Beam and Bronson Sardinha – were all like – “Oh!  Hey.  Yeah.  Umm, hi, scary old ladies.  I’ll sign your pictures, sure.  Please don’t boil my bunnies.”  And meanwhile, I know deep down, that all those guys needed a shower at that point as much as Dad and I did.  I seriously doubt I will ever get that ick off of me.

Game time approaches and one of the biggest highlights of the night occurs.  On the field marches the guest singer of the national anthem – this year not a stripperly type that Dad and I had chalked up as Bubba Crosby’s Baseball Annie – but a uhh…well, the type of gal someone kindhearted tries to pass off as having a “good personality” – meaning of course, she had better be a good singer because she ain’t gonna make it on her looks.  Before everyone can even get to their feet, she starts in with…”JOOOOOOSE can you see…”  Pause.  Dad and I, finally to our feet and with our hats off, look at each other wondering what the pause is about.  At least she can sort of sing.  Pause.  Pause.  Pause.  “Bombs…o’er…rockets…glare.  Red.”  Pause.  Chuckles.  Confusion.  Rushing up to her is a friend with the lyrics – on what appears to be a napkin.  “Dawn.  Lights.  Ramparting gleam.”  Oof.  “And the…”  Pause.  Pause. HOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMEEEEE FREEEE…ly.  In the Land of THUHHHHHH Braves.”  Yep.  That, word for word, is our national anthem clocking in at just under a minute.  A smattering of boos follows.  Most are just happy for brevity so as to allow for more chuckling.  She runs off the field in tears likely to the warm arms of comfort food.  Dad and I settle in for baseball.

Turns out this is Credit Union night. I won’t bother explaining what a credit union is as I had to do with Phil once, but for the uninitiated Credit Union Night was a staple of my childhood as – A) it was free general admission tickets to a Clips game for anyone who belonged to a credit union as my dad did and B) was always around my birthday – thus Dad always snagged enough free ducats for the family and whatever friends I wanted to bring along.  Needless to say, Credit Union Night always packs the place and tonight is no different.  Free tickets en masse always brings out the fun and adding Lutheran night to the mix makes for quite the interesting cocktail.  Dad and I place our bets on which area will produce the most fistfights.  And neither of us has our money on the Lutherans winning many of the fights.

I check over the rosters and prepare my Carlos Pena: Northeastern Grad jokes in honor of Bill.  Unfortunately, Carlos is DHing the first game so I need to preserve them.  I see Hee Seop Choi is on the Pawtucket roster making me realize that at one point I probably had both Pena and Choi on the same fantasy team.  With one bullet…Turns out Choi was on the DL thus…the best laid plans.

GAME 1 – Jason Johnson is on the mound for Pawtucket.  Tommy Phelps is YOUR HURLER FOR YOUR HOMETOWN HEROES.  No.  No this is not expected to be a beauty.  I explain to Dad who Johnson is – former O, Tiger, Indian and now Red Sock.  Diabetic and at best your league average innings eater – which Dad finds ironic when I slap the two clauses together as such.  Phelps I vaguely remember as a basic journeyman lefty and checking him out now confirms that.  We get to rolling and it appears neither pitcher wants to miss the post-game spread as they work like their pants are on fire.  In the middle of July, that is as good as you can hope for.  Nothing happens at all for the first two innings and we start the third 25 minutes in the game.  You cannot complain about speedy baseball.

Enrique Wilson starts the PawSox 3rd with a double to LF.  And for one moment, Tommy Phelps and Pedro Martinez have something in common – BEING OWNED BY ENRIQUE.  I’m certain Tommy will tell his grandkids.  Cripplin’ Ken Huckaby comes up, puts down an awful bunt and Enrique is out at 3rd.  Trent Durrington brings the scrap to the table, beats out the relay on a 6-4-3 double play…that the umpire blows.  Whoops.  Right away, Durrington starts the argument with one of the 4 deadly words…something to do with what the ump’s proclivity for matrons of a family and he gets a nice little 4 inning rest before the second game.

Bottom 4th, one out, Carlos Pena hits a moon shot to straight away CF.  He prowls the base paths with the firm knowledge that not only can he play this here sport but he too could one day aspire to be a junior member of FOX SPORTS.  Yes, that is one puffed out chest as he touches home and thinks of one day saying, NEXT ON THE BEST DAMN SPORTS SHOW PERIOD!  Ahh.

And on we cruise.  Both pitchers wanting to get out of Columbus as fast as possible – as any sane man would – rolling along with relative ease matching zeroes for zeroes.  At some point in time here in-between innings, there is some sort of contest on the video screen for one to text vote for BEST AAA PLAYER EVER.  The options?  Harmon Killebrew, Greg Maddux.  Oh, tough vote.  But wait, there’s more.  Brian Roberts.  Well, someone has to job.  And…Pedro Feliz.  Now, I understand the ol’ hometown bias but…if’n you’re voting for Roberts or Pedro Friggin’ Feliz in this mess…yeah.  Well, OK.  I understand.  I mean, I would probably have voted for Balboni over Babe Ruth.  So there ya go.

Also, at some point in time here, in-between other innings out rolls this Sky Dog dealie Also there are some other little between-inning dealies involving the little Clipper intern helpers.  Now, first off, it’s not so much I don’t like dogs as I am afraid of them.  (Yeah.  That’s right.  I’m afraid of dogs.  Stupid Mom making me wear those Milk Bone necklaces when she sent me out to play with the Irish Setter when I was a kid.  I DOOOOOON’T WANNA PLAY WITH THE DOG, MA.  I DON’T LIKE THE WAY HE JUMPS ON ME WHEN I’M ON ALL FO—OH.  Oh yeah.  Never mind that.)  So I do not pay much attention to the dog catching Frisbees all friggin’ night.  And sadly, the little Clipper interns are all high school girls who I realize were born when I was in high school making me shed a tear for my lost youth – but most unsettling is the fact that Jerry Lawler was here at The Coop the night before, most assuredly leaving those girls with daddy issues that will take much counseling to get over, not to mention a degree of filth in their souls that will involve many showers to clean off.

And then comes the 6th – or as Dad and I like to refer to it; the Inning the Idiot Arrived.  Yes, 6 innings into the first 7 inning game, comes this senile old couple, already half-sloshed and wearing some sort of Lutheran World Domination t-shirts.  They of course sit right behind us.  They of course are idiots.  They of course spill bear all over us without even acknowledging it let alone apologizing.  They of course are destined to be my bitter enemy.  After the drenching without apology, the old bitty starts in like the missing link between Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan – i.e., she spouts off about everything going on on the field without appearing to have ever seen a baseball game before.  It will get interesting here in a bit.  Maybe.

Top of the 7th, still 1-0 Clips.  Jose Veras comes on to close.  Helloooooooo, gasoline.  Two lead off singles, a K, then Rob Calloway drills a liner that just barely misses going out.  2-1, PawSox.  Curses abound.  Calloway steals third easily, Tyler Minges hits a sac fly, 3-1 PawSox.  Damage done.  Spirits deflated.  Lo and behold, drunken super-Lutheran lady starts screaming – PITCHER SUCKS!  GET HIM OUT OF THERE WHILE YOU STILL CAN!  GET HIM OUT!  GET HIM OUT!  E-T.C.  Dad and I and cool drunken off-duty cop in front of us giggle uncontrollably.

Bottom of the 7th.  Last chances for the Clips –Yes, Bill, in the minors, double headers are 7 inning affairs.  The no-offense-having Clippers try to start a rally with Terrence Long leading off.  Yeah.  Not happening.  T-Long flies out, Wil Nieves grounds out, PROSPECT!!! Bronson Sardinha hits a weak dribbler that Jason Johnson kicks around a bit before trying to throw the ball to Dad and I.  Drunken super-Lutheran lady starts screaming – ERROR!!!  ERROR!!!  THAT HAS TO BE AN ERROR!!!  ERROR!!!  More giggling ensues.  Her drunken husband points out Dad and I and says – “Hey, ma.  Those jerks are makin fun of you.”  And we were.  Her rejoinder?    “YEAH.  WELL…WELL…WELL…AT LEAST I HAVE A JOB!”  Yes.  We are gutted.  Dad and I roll in the aisles.  Off duty drunken cop is in tears.  We then form a trios team to make this woman’s life miserable for the rest of her time here.  Dad and I telling the cop to arrest us for stealing these seats since neither of us had jobs and/or money, at least shuts her up for the rest of the night.  Such remarks from us last until the 2nd inning of the next game when she got fed up and waddled away to the cold arms of sweet booze.  Clips by the way, do nothing in the bottom of the 7th and we’re looking at game 2.

GAME 2 – John Barnes is throwing for the PawSox, Ramiro Mendoza is tossing for the good side.  Game 1 clocks in at a respectable 1:50, giving us hope that we’ll be out of the park well before midnight.  Game 2 starts at 8:30 and Siebel and Mendoza are all about keeping us up all night.  Whereas, Jason Johnson and Tommy Phelps went at Game 1 like they were double-parked, Mendoza and Barnes go at Game 2 like they have od’ed on Quaaludes.  Much pacing around the mound, toying with the rosin bags, scratching, picking and grinning ensues.  Fortunately, the weather is good or else both would be dead by the end of the 1st.

I should also point out at this point that Carlos Pena is playing first for the Clips – NORTHEASTERN PRIDE!!! – and BEN FRIGGIN’ DAVIS is catching.  That, added to the fact that COLTER FRIGGIN’ BEAN is sitting at the corner of the dugout in plain site of me creates a funny feeling in my pants that I know better than to express to Dad.  (AWW, BUT THEY ARE DREAMY, DAD!!!  DREAMY!!!)  I explain to Dad and cool drunken off-duty cop the fantasticness of Ben Davis breaking up Curt Schilling’s no-hitter with a drag bunt and this allows for 3 straight innings of Schilling-bashing.  YUM-MY!!!!  Oh yeah, and it also turns out the COLTER!!! had STARTED!!! the night before which, when Bill told me, made me put a fist through a wall.  ONE DAY!!!  WOULD IT HAVE KILLED THE CLIPS TO HOLD COLTER OUT ONE DAY?!?!?!?!

Anyway, turns out those PawSox are a smart – and in the case of Dustin Pedroia SCRAPTASTIC!!! – bunch and realize early on that facing a sinkerballer coupled with a brutal Columbus middle infield allows for them to just slap singles up the middle all day.  After about the 80th shot up the middle, Mendoza just ends his wind up in the pose of a hockey goalie which helped little.  The Sox get their first run in the second by playing pepper with Kevin Thompson, but Mendoza stops the bleeding by going all Ron Hextall on a liner up the middle and starting a double play.  The Clips, likewise, somehow with bubblegum and bailing wire scrap together a run in the bottom of the second.

And then it drags.  Nothing happens in the 3rd but stalling.  Rob Calloway put the PawSox up 2-1 on a dong to right field in the 4th.   The Clips continue making Barnes look like a star – which, of course, means he will get shipped to Arizona for like Connor Jackson.  The PawSox then put up a 3-spot in the 5th thanks to more pepper with Kevin Thompson, horrible Clipper defense and no sort of relief from Matt Smith.  5-1 PawSox and the only thing to look forward to is the fireworks.

Carlos Pena then says SCREW ANDY PHILLIPS I CAN SPELL CORRECTLY LIKE A PROPER NORTHEASTERN GRAD! and hits a two-run dong in the bottom of the 5th to make it sort of respectable, and essentially chased S-L-O-W John Barnes in favor of Phil Siebel in the process.  But that, for all intents and purposes, is it.  The Clippers get nothing off of Siebel, TJ Beam comes in and – pitching in fear of his TRENTON STALKERS!!! – shuts down the PawSox the rest of the way.  5-3 PawSox and Trenton cannot send any sort of talent up to Columbus fast enough.

Fieworks.  Lee Greenwood music.  Much hate.  Drunken cool cop telling us we’re in good with Columbus’ finest – if he can recall any of this night – and we’re out of the Coop at 11:45.  And next year, the end of the Coop, likely the end of my Clipper games for a long while.  YAY!  URBAN RENEWAL!  WHEE!!  Just trash this collection of questionable talent and keep the stadium, I say.  But, whatever.  Good time had by all.  Except for the kid of El Grande Brady whom we see drop the kid again in the way out of the stadium.  TUCKED!!!

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