A baseball trip to remember, Part 3

Whit discovers the world of autograph seeking. His subject? Cubs coach and former major league third baseman of some note David Bell

From June 28 through July 7, Commissioner Emeritus James Overstreet and his son, Whit, embarked on a baseball trip. I asked James to chronicle the trip because I thought it would be fun to read. He wrote so much and sent so many pictures that I’m going to break this up into multiple blog posts over the next few days. TODAY: From the Friendly Confines back to Memphis, with a stop in between:

Seventh Inning: 3:05 p.m., Friday (July 5), CHICAGO
Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
W: 75 degrees, partly cloudy
T: 2:48
A: 38,615
Seats: 235, 5, 101 & 102 ($131)
Ballpark: Wrigley Field
Opened: 1914
Capacity: 41,159
Cost: N/A

Whit and the Friendly Confines

Warm-ups: I was up at 5:30 a.m. and left the knucklehead sleeping while I wandered down to a deserted Wrigleyville. Stopped at Starbucks right across from Wrigley for a quad. Walking around the park at 5:45 a.m. was just beautiful. No crowd. No noise. Just me and Wrigley. It was a religious experience. By 9 a.m. Whit was ready to roll. And at about 10 a.m. he stumbled into a new passion: autographs. As we walked around the park, checking out the sights, Whit noticed Starling Marte hustling into the park. Like ugly on an ape, Whit was asking him for an autograph — and Marte obliged and was quite friendly. We continued walking around the park onto Waveland Avenue and noticed a 50-something guy standing at the fence at Gate K. Curious, we stopped as a car pulls into a private lot at the gate. The guy pulls out a sharpie and a 10×12 photo of David Bell while Whit frantically flips through his Topps Cubs team set looking for Bell. The guy notices, pulls out a 2005 Topps baseball card of Bell in a Phillies uniform and gives it to Whit. Out hops Bell, a Cubs coach now, and Whit lands his second autograph. Minutes later, a gimpy Bryan Bickell of the Stanley Cup champ Chicago Blackhawks (he was there to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”) wanders across Waveland. Whit’s third autograph and he was hooked. Finally, after a few more autographs (and several rejections), we decided to go get a Chicago dog and an Italian Beef at Cubby Bear on the opposite corner to the main entrance of Wrigley. After wolfing that down, we were the first in line at the gate. Then we were the first at the LF wall for BP. And he was the first to get a BP ball — from a exceptionally friendly and chatty Edwin Jackson. So a day after being robbed of a ball, he landed an ivy-stained BP ball at Wrigley Field. All was right in the world. Obviously, you can write a book about Wrigley. Suffice it to say that it is a pilgrimage that every baseball fan must make. The Ivy, the brick, the atmosphere, the neighborhood, the fans. A Cubs game is truly a religious experience. It is one of those places, like Fenway, that lives up to the hype. We’ll definitely be going back.

Game: Samardzija falters and Cubs stifled by Pirates’ Liriano
The team with the best record in baseball came to Wrigley and lit up Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija, who gave up five runs, nine hits and five walks, including one to opposing starter Francisco Liriano, in six innings. Meanwhile, Liriano threw his second career complete game — the Pirates’ first of the season — allowing two runs and four hits while striking out seven and adding an RBI single to help his cause in the second inning. The only mistake he made was to Scott Hairston, who unleashed a towering two-run home run that landed in the left-field bleachers to give Chicago a 2-1 lead. But it was all Pirates after that.

Between Innings: With a no-no, a walk-off and a complete game under our belts, we left Wrigley wondering what was in store for us in St. Louis. We discussed the possibilities while driving the 164 miles to Bloomington, Ill., where we crashed for the night.

Old Hoss and friends

Historical Stop: Before leaving Bloomington at 7 a.m. the following morning, we made a quick detour to the burial site of Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourne, a butcher-turned-pitcher who won 59 games for the Providence Grays of the National League in 1884. It’s a record that will never be broken. Old Hoss also is credited with hitting the game’s first walk-off bomb in a deadball era when home runs were few and far between. By this time, Whit wanted nothing to do with my baseball history lessons. So I tried to entice him with another interesting tidbit about Old Hoss: he’s the first known athlete to flip off the camera during a team photo. Whit was unimpressed and anxious to get to St. Louis for BP — and the Matt Holliday jersey give-away.

Eighth Inning: 1:15 p.m., Saturday (July 6), ST. LOUIS
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Miami Marlins
W: 82 degrees, partly cloudy.
T: 2:44
A: 45,475
Seats: 135, 26, 1&2 ($216)
Ballpark: Busch Stadium
Opened: 2006
Capacity: 50,345
Cost: $365 million

Busch Stadium is all about the history of the National League’s most successful franchise.

Warm-ups: When you spend nearly $400 million, the result is going to be fabulous. And that is certainly true with Busch Stadium III, or the New Busch Stadium. The ballpark blends the past with the present with an eye toward the future. It’s a beautiful red-brick edifice in the heart of downtown, half a mile from the Gateway Arch. All of the traditional ballpark food is available, but Whit and I spotted Kohn’s Kosher Deli and landed an awesome mile-high pastrami sandwich on rye bread ($12.75 each). Note: Kohn’s Deli changes names to Coney Island Deli on Friday and Saturday games to respect the Jewish traditions of the Sabbath. There’s really nothing to complain about Busch Stadium, but I’ve grown accustomed to being able to see the game while visiting the concessions, and unlike all of the new stadiums of the last 20 years, the main concourse at Busch is closed off from viewing the game. So the venue lacks the inclusive feel you experience in almost every other ballpark. It’s a small complaint but I really enjoy being able to walk around the entire field and never miss a play. But it won’t prevent me from returning many times.

Game: Walk-off error hands Cardinals 5-4 win over hapless Marlins
Matt Adams sent the Redbird faithful into a frenzy with his game-tying two-run blast in the seventh, and Jon Jay capped the comeback by scoring the go-ahead run on a throwing error from Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton on Shane Robinson’s single in the ninth. After the game, Cardinal skipper Mike Matheny said his team was “very aware” that they were the only Major League team yet to win in walk-off fashion. “That’s why, whether it’s strange or not, we’ll take it. Gladly,” Matheny said. “We’ve had a lot of close games like this that we couldn’t quite pull it off at the end, so it doesn’t matter to me how, just that we did.”

Between Innings: After the game, we stood outside an unmarked door through which the players are known to exit. Whit chatted with Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Adeiny Hechavarria and Rob Brantly while getting autographs. Great guys. However, his main target — Giancarlo Stanton — literally jumped in a golf cart and sped to his hotel. A game-losing error will do that to a man! No-hitter, walk-off bomb, complete game and walk-off error. Wow. All the way to Lambert’s Cafe (Home of Throwed Rolls) in Sikeston, we talked about how one of the beautiful things about baseball is that you can watch it every day and still see something you’ve never seen before.

All good things must come to an end, but not before one final game at AutoZone Park.

Ninth Inning: 6:05 p.m., Sunday (July 7), MEMPHIS, Pacific Coast League (AAA)
Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals) vs. Nashville Sounds (Brewers)
W: 88 degrees, partly cloudy
T: 2:28
A: 4,751
Seats: 111, D, 1 & 2 ($42)
Ballpark: AutoZone Park
Opened: 2000
Capacity: 14,320
Cost: $80.5 million

Warm-ups: Knowing AutoZone Park like the back of our hand, we got right to business: collecting autographs. Before the first pitch, Whit had collected a dozen. After the game, we sat in the plaza (with the players’ wives and girlfriends) and collected another dozen. It was a fun end to a truly awesome road trip.

Game: Adron Chambers Grand Slam Sparks Late Eight-Run Rally
Redbirds starter Tyler Lyons gave up three runs on two hits and a walk over eight frames, matching a season-high with nine strikeouts, spearheading a 13-3 rout of the cross-state rival Nashville Sounds. Lyons’ only hiccup was a Hunter Morris home run, his team-leading 18th big fly over the right field wall and onto 4th street. The ‘Birds offense exploded for 13 hits and three home runs, including a grand slam that sparked an eight-run eighth inning. Jamie Romak went yard for the third consecutive game, the longest home run stretch by a Redbird this season. Second baseman Kolten Wong added his second home run in consecutive games. Outfielder Adron Chambers drove in a career high five runs with a grand slam.

NEXT: Some final thoughts

Gary Robinson posted at 2013-7-16 Category: Baseball

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