Friday, June 1, 2007

Merry Christmas from Cleveland

I've heard it said that there's nothing quite so thrilling as to be traveling in a foreign country and hear the Star Spangled Banner.

I grew up a Cleveland Indians fan in Massachusetts and many years later I became a Cleveland Indians fan in Minnesota. Let me just suggest that when you talk about a lonely existence, a Cleveland Indians fan in the '60s in Massachusetts qualifies. Heck, at that time it was a lonely existence being a Cleveland Indians fan in Cleveland.

So when you find yourself suddenly surrounded by 41,000 similarly-minded folks, well, it's thrilling; thrilling to have it reaffirmed that you are not walking this planet alone in this particular endeavor.

My youngest, son, Patrick, also became a Cleveland fan. We haven't been to Jacobs Field since 2000. For Christmas this year, my wife and I gave him a brick, which is only slightly better than a lump of coal. Except this is a commemorative brick placed in the new Heritage Park inside Jacob's Field -- the home of the Indians. With it went a trip to Cleveland to see Patrick's brick.

Today, Patrick and I flew to Cleveland, to see the brick, and attend games tonight, tomorrow and Sunday against the Detroit Tigers -- a rivalry not unlike the Red Sox and Yankees -- what with Detroit being so close an all.

I'll tell this story chronologically, but suffice it to say, it qualifies for one of the best days I've ever had.

Patrick and I tried to pick the series we'd come to before the season started. We thought about the White Sox on Labor Day, but figured that the Indians might be out of the pennant race by then. So we settled on Detroit since they won the division last year, and yesterday was my birthday and Sunday is his.

I put the trip together and found a hotel, across the street from the Jake. We arrived at 5, changed and headed to the game. This is a picture of the two of us, only I didn't aim the camera right. (Click on any picture for a big copy)

The first stop was the team shop to buy a jersey -- a Grady Sizemore jersey -- for Patrick. Then we found heritage park, which -- like the similar park at Yankee Stadium -- is out in centerfield. Patrick's brick is in the Nap Lajoie section.

I found the brick, but Patrick wouldn't get on the ground next to it and let me take his picture. So I did.

The brick commemorates Patrick's long-standing optimism. He did not get it from my side of the family. But back in 2001 -- or sometime around then, click on the picture to see the exact date -- the Indians were playing Seattle on national TV and were down 12-1 when Carolie and I gave up and went to bed. Patrick stayed up because he had faith in his team. The Indians rallied over the last three innings and as they got closer, he kept running into the bedroom shouting, "Now they're only down 6! Now they're only done 5!" etc. They eventually won 14-12. Remember that because in a minute I'm going to tell you a story about tonight.

A nice woman offered to take our picture, as we told her the story of our trip from Minnesota today. So she took our picture of our feet on Patrick's brick.

And then she took a picture of us.

Everywhere we looked there were Indians fans. Just like us. Cool.

We headed for our seats.

The Indians are in first place -- the latest into the season we've been in first place since 2001. But things got off to a rocky start for our heroes. The Tigers scored two in the first and 1 in the 4th to take a 3-0 lead. All-Star catcher Victor Martinez homered in the 4th to make it 3-1. It's fun to cheer for the Indians and not have people turn around and look at you.

The Detroit-Cleveland rivarly is great fun and there were, as you might suspect, a lot of Tiger fans there. They started chanting "Let's go Tigers..." (same tired old chant like the Red Sox and Yankee fans use). And everyone else would "boo."

Detroit came back with 2 more in the 6th to make it 5-1 and I thought our two game Jacob's Field winning streak would end (Carolie and I brought the kids to a game on the way to Massachusetts in 1994...and Patrick and I came once years ago).

Without much to cheer about, I started playing with my camera and wondering how a picture of the exteemed Mr. Sizemore in centerfield would look if I put the camera up to the new binoculars Carolie bought me for my birthday.

Not too bad.

Anyway, in the bottom of the 6th, the Indians got 4 runs. Jacob's Field was rocking, and the Indians fans turned to the Detroit fans who earlier had earlier been chanting "Let's go Tigers," and started chanting "Cleveland Rocks," after the Drew Carey Show theme.

However, because our bullpen is almost as inept as our manager (he had nobody warming up while Tom Mastny was giving up 3 hits and two walks and every single run of the 4 the Indians had scored moments earlier. It was 9-5 now. But in the bottom of the 8th, Cleveland scored two more to make it 9-7.

Hey, we're still in this thing. Except that our bullpen is almost as inept as our manager and it immediately gave the two runs back. 11-7.

But remember: Patrick is Mr. Lucky.

In the bottom of the 9th. We're down 4, and Grady Sizemore grounds out to cap an awful 0-5 night for the first out.

Casey Blake singles. Then Travis Hafner walks. Victor Martinez hits a ball to left that is going...going...and goes over the wall for a three-run homer (his second homer of the night). We're down now 11-10 and the Jake is rockin'. So is Patrick.

But now there's nobody on, until Jhonny Peralta doubles, bringing Ryan Garko the plate. He whiffs and there are two down.

Detroit closer Todd Jones walks Trot Nixon intentionally and up comes Josh Barfield, a fairly anemic hitter so far. But he hits a line drive to Magglio Ordonez in right. From the upper deck, it looks catchable, but Ordonez doesn't catch it and -- unbelievably -- this game is tied 11-11. Un - freakin' - believable.

David Dellucci takes a called strike, two balls and then singles to centerfield. Trot Nixon scores, the Indians win 12-11, the ballpark explodes, and I'm screaming "I can't believe this." Storybook. Absolutely storybook.

Ten minutes later, everyone is still screaming. And the good part? The show ain't over. In addition to being dollar-hot-dog night, it's also fireworks night, and so they turned off the lights...

And we get a 15-minute fireworks show set to '70s music (It's '70s disco weekend here). (I'll put up a video shortly)

Here's the video (sorry about the view, turn your monitor on its side, I guess)

Tomorrow, we hit the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame and then another night game across the street.

After tonight's game, I rubbed Patrick's head and reminded him he's our lucky charm, because he's the luckiest person I know.

After today, I'm #2.

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