Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Home Run

I used to have season tickets to the Indians from 1994 to 2004.  Although it is difficult to believe now, the Indians were the hottest ticket in town, and sold out 455 games in a row.  During the glory years jacked up sluggers like Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, David Justice, and Brian Giles knocked the crap out of opposing pitching, and Jacobs Field was THE place to be.  We loved those guys and always pretended that they weren’t filled with steroids up to their eyeballs.  Hell, folks here still pretend Thome wasn’t on the juice and plan on putting a statue up of him out in front of the stadium.  He does look a lot like most baseball fans, and that goes a long way.  Can you blame them?  Albert was always nasty and Manny was so fucked up in the head it was/is hard to relate to him. Those guys could really play ball. That 1995 team was the best baseball team I ever saw despite their flameout in the World Series.  Through it all in that era, the entire city planned their summer nights around the Tribe. 

For a number of years I had a pair of tickets on the right hand foul pole.  I could literally set my feet on the pole while watching the game.  I had my own personal beer vendor (JD) who would drop everything and come bring me a cold one when I paged him.  Yes, I said paged him… It was a while back.  Back in the days of the horseless carriage and when a man could earn an honest wage.  This was when kids caught fireflies in jars, and things like “twerking” were done privately in your bedroom and left you filled with shame afterwards.  It was “the good old days” when good time bands like Alice In Chains and Creed ruled the charts while we danced The Mashed Potato.  Ice cream was a nickel and no one ever "sexted" computer files of their junk to strangers.  That was done via Polaroid or better yet in person after revealing it from a raincoat.  It was a simpler time. 

The exciting thing about sitting in these seats is that occasionally a home run ball would come your way.  It always looks cool to catch one of those on TV, but in my experience it is not nearly as easy as it seems.  I remember once Ken Griffey Jr. crushed one down the line in our direction.  As it first arched towards us I was thinking “Awesome!  I’m going to catch a ball!”.  Then as it came closer I heard it hissing from the speed.  “Oh my God!  Curve!  Curve!”  It clanged off a seat to my right.  Danger averted.

Before you start thinking “sissy boy”, I want you to knock back a few $8.00 16 oz Budweisers, and step into a 90 mph batting cage and catch a few barehanded.  Not so interested in that, are you?  And look, I’m not bringing my mitt to the game.  What am I?  Eight?  Maybe I can ride my BMX bike to the game too…  Any grown man that brings a mitt to the game and is not in the company of a child in 2nd grade or less needs to spend less time at the ballpark and more time at places like biker bars, Marine basic training, and whiskey festivals. 

I hadn’t seen a ball in the corner in a long time when I was at a game with the old Cowslingers engineer Tall Boy Dannery.  We had been relaxing out there making a general nuisance of ourselves when the Indians put a couple guys on the bases in the ninth down by two.  Before we really even knew what was happening Russell Branyon smoked one on a rope right down the line.  That thing never went higher than 12 feet, and in seconds ricocheted off a seat behind the pole, right behind me and over to my left.  It happened really fast, and at one point I thought I had a shot at the ball when it ping ponged around on the ground.  I didn’t get it, the Indians won, and we went home.

By the time I got to my car, I had nine messages and seven texts on my phone.  Everyone I knew saw that home run.  Little did I also know that on the two dimensions of TV it appeared like the ball went right into my hands, and I dropped it over to the left for a little kid to deftly handle.  I knew this even before seeing the replay on TV.  I knew this because ESPN led off their Sportscenter telecast with “look at Russell Branyon hit the game winning home run for the Indians and look at the guy that can’t make the easy catch in the stands...  Ohhhh!!! The Shame!!!!” .  Just like that everyone I knew that liked sports across the country began calling me to ask “Dude, how did you drop that?  What are you?  A little girl?”  ESPN would make fun of me every 30 minutes or so for the next six hours.  I think I got off the hook when a member of the Cincinnati Bengals shot a stripper in the pussy and they ran with that story instead.  My phone buzzed all night long as friends in every time zone left me messages to bust my balls.  

That was a long time ago...

As I sit with moderate interest watching this Indians game on TV tonight, I can’t help but feel a little sad for the Indians and their two thirds empty stadium.  The glory days of yore are long gone.  Then again, maybe that’s a good thing.  They are home tomorrow afternoon at Noon.  Businessman’s special.  Hey, I’m a “businessman”.  Maybe I’ll go and sit in my old seats.  If I get lucky maybe a ball will get hit my way.  Just think of how my voice will echo in that empty stadium when I squeal like a little girl.  Maybe ESPN will pick it up.  It’ll be like old times…    



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