April 2: The April Fool

Apologies for no post yesterday, I spent the better part of the afternoon trying unsuccessfully to sort out a scrambled external hard drive…the best laid plans. I’ll make up for it today on this early spring Sunday morning.

2023: The In League With America Tour

You may have noticed that I’ve been calling the 2023 entry here the In League With America Tour. That is because I am once again planning a summer of baseball travel. No, I have no intention of going to see either the complete set of major or minor league baseball teams. Been there, done that and, frankly, I did it at a time when minor league baseball was a lot more interesting than it is today. I do, however, plan to pursue a goal I’ve had for many years . . . I’m hoping to see a baseball game in all 50 U.S. states and as many Canadian provinces as I can. I will try to get the word out about In League With America and research a second book that looks more broadly at American communities. I will also be attempting to prove that an old dog can learn new tricks.

Last night the Craibs finished watching a very entertaining series called Long Way Up. It is the story of how the actor Ewan McGregor and his pal Charley Boorman rode their motorcycles from the southern trip of South America all the way up to Los Angeles. Several years earlier, they did a similar trip from the northern tip of Scotland, where McGregor grew up, to the southern trip of Africa and before that all the way around the world from London to New York. If Ewan’s perpetual case of wanderlust sounds familiar. . . it does to me too.

As I’ve been watching the series, though, it has struck me several times that the their crew seems vexed by trying to stay on a schedule that feels arbitrary. McGregor, in particular, often offers a wry smile and says things like, “I wish we could stay for a week but we have to catch a ferry or another one won’t leave for another 24 hours,” Meanwhile, I’m yelling at the television, “what would be wrong with that?”

But as I began to plan the trip I will take, starting tomorrow, my first inclination was to do what I did by necessity in 1991 and 2003…to put a time box around the schedule. I started to plot out a trip where I would spend at least three days in every state and see a baseball game by the end of this season. But as I started to look at the dates and factored in the time I need to work and the time I will want to be at home with my family I was plotting out long drives and short stays . . .the very opposite of what I hope to do. So this time around there is no time box. I’d like to see finish this trip by the end of next summer so I can get to work on the next book but that’s it. This time around, I hope, I won’t mind if the ferry doesn’t leave for 24 hours.

So tomorrow I will begin without much in the way of a formal itinerary. I do, however, have an appointment at the Baseball Hall of Fame to do something I’ve always wanted to do, check out the collection at the Giamatti Research Library. I have requested access to a series of books and game programs that, I am hopeful, will paint a clearer picture for me of the role that affiliated baseball has played in communities that have had it and then subsequently lost their team.

2003: The Extra Innings Tour

Twenty years ago today I was already into the third day of my summer-long journey. Here are the last two days worth of musings from the younger version of Bill Craib.

Today’s Drive:

Oakland, CA – Anaheim, CA 399 Miles

Yesterday on the Extra Innings Tour

Along the Way:

I’m not a big fan of Interstate highways as a rule and generally choose to travel them only when speed is of the essence. But with about 800 miles worth of California to cover in a 36-hour period, sandwiching two baseball games that are 400 miles apart, Interstate-5 is definitely the way to go. It doesn’t hurt, that the stretch of I-5 through the northern part of the Golden State is one of the most picturesque stretches of Interstate highway in the country.

The clouds broke, almost as if on cue, once I crossed into California early this morning. Mount Shasta was visible at every level of its 14,000 plus feet (yep, that’s my steed on this summer-long trek, my Subaru Outback in the foreground.) This is an amazing mountain and so dominates the sky in the area you wonder whether that’s snow at the top or just another cloud rolling by.

Not long after this stop, I passed over beautiful Shasta Lake and into the town of Redding where, after yesterdays rain and snow I was happy to see my first palm tree of the journey.

Ballpark # 1: Network Associates Coliseum – Oakland, CA

I haven’t been to all that many professional baseball stadiums since finishing my first tour of baseball parks 12 seasons ago. But Network Associates Coliseum is one I have been back to, only not for baseball. I came down from Oregon to get a first hand look at the Raider nation with some friends last fall for a Sunday evening showdown with the New England Patriots and was practically forced into buying a black t-shirt in the parking lot that wished nasty things on the Patriots in order to fit in with the tongue rings and spiked collars. Hence, I was anxious to see what sort of garb these folks would turn out in for an Opening Night tilt with the Seattle Mariners. Let’s just say the A’s fans are enthusiastic, more so than I remember many groups being, but they don’t seem to approach the sport with the same…vehemence that their football-rooting brethren do.

There was another difference between my visit to the Coliseum last November and today; it was much warmer in November. This picture makes it look like yet another beautiful Oakland day but it was very windy and since I finished my drive early and arrived to the park at around 4 PM, I mostly took shelter in the car until game time.

The Game:     Oakland Athletics 5 Seattle Mariners 0

Much has been made about the prowess of the A’s big three: Zito, Mulder and Hudson and if tonight was any indication, with good reason. Tim Hudson (pictured at right) worked 8 innings of shutout ball and allowed just five hits. Erubiel Durazo, meanwhile, acquired in the offseason from the Arizona Diamondbacks, provided all the offense the Athletics would need, driving in all five Oakland runs with a two-run homer and three-run double.

It is nearly 2 AM at this writing and in just a few hours I will be up and back on I-5 headed south for Wednesday afternoon’s game in Anaheim. But first, a final thought on being back at the ballparks for another go around. I didn’t really know what to expect, as I entered the gates. I was, of course, excited to be back at the ballpark and it seemed fitting that it was the very same place that the earlier baseball adventure began. But when I walked through the gate to my section and found my seat, looked out on the A’s and Mariners taking batting practice I knew I was, once again, where I belonged.

Baseball has such a history that, like history itself, there is little that can be said about it that hasn’t already been said by someone else, perhaps more eloquently. But perhaps this year, especially, in a world that seems to get more complicated with every dawn of a new day, baseball is perfect in its simplicity and simply perfect. The basics of the game can be grasped easily by a child, yet it can stand up to thousands of (extra) innings worth of scrutiny and still leave one marveling at its nuances. Baseball is a game, no more or less, but to me it is the best of games – Play Ball!

Today’s Drive:

Ashland, OR – Oakland, CA 345 Miles

The first day of April finds the Extra Innings Tour en route to the first of 190 stops this summer, in Oakland, CA where the Athletics are scheduled to open their season against the Seattle Mariners in a Tuesday night game. It was also a season-opening Tuesday night affair that started Bill & Sue’s Excellent Adventure in 1991. If form holds, look for a big year from the Mariners because that season, the Minnesota Twins were the A’s visitors on Opening Night, a game they lost 7-2. But almost seven months later, Sue and I were on hand again as the Twins closed out that season as World Champions, 1-0 winners in a 10-Inning Game # 7 over the Atlanta Braves. For an interesting account of that game focused on its star performer, Jack Morris, see this week’s Sports Illustrated.

The road from my home in Bend, though, has been home to anything but baseball weather. A late start didn’t see me leave Central Oregon until about 3 PM and the clouds were thick, but dry upon leaving. By the time I reached the road to Crater Lake, however, the rains had started and the climate looked more fitting for a dog sled race than baseball. (Fortunately I wasn’t planning to take this road.)

But although a cold rain continued throughout the afternoon, the classic effect of the Cascade Mountains became evident just a few miles down the road. The snow banks disappeared quickly and within 20 miles I was within the completely green, if still wet, climate the west side of the Cascades are known for.

 If your impression of Oregon is that it rains all the time, this is the part of the state you are thinking of (though the locals don’t want you to know that the summers are actually quite sunny and very pleasant) This picture is the angry Rogue River as it passes through the Rogue River Gorge Monday. It was raining hard as I passed through here but the snow was long gone and by the time I left the Winema National Forest an hour or so later, the green grass in the pastures near Medford were a sign that spring has sprung in the Rogue Valley.

I was originally going to make for the California Coast and the Redwoods yesterday but three elements conspired against me. The late start didn’t help. I was hoping to leave by 11 AM at the latest and didn’t make it out of town until 3 PM. (It’s hard packing for a six month road trip!) Second, the rain didn’t let up, it rained harder and harder as I pressed west, and made me think that getting everything I brought with me soaking wet before I’ve even been to a baseball game was perhaps misguided. Finally, there was the allure of the charming town of Ashland, Oregon just a few miles ahead. I was introduced to the town by a good buddy of mine on a trip to see the Oakland Raiders last fall and it seemed like a fitting place to spend the night considering the fact that Network Associates Coliseum was once again the destination.

The Ashland Springs Hotel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Originally built in 1925 with the name Lithia Springs Hotel, the nine-story building was once the tallest building on the West coast between San Francisco and Portland. Today, it has bounced back from being closed just five years ago and was a welcome (and dry!) stopover before beginning the baseball season in earnest. I had a fast breakfast on the balcony before heading down I-5 south.

Spring has come in earnest on this side of the cascades and though it is cloudy this morning its not raining and the streets of Ashland are in bloom. The town is best known, however, as the site of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival which runs from February until November. Alas, by the time Romeo and Juliet next hit the stage tomorrow I’ll be knee deep in Rally Monkeys.

1991: The Excellent Adventure

April 2, 1991 was such a special day for me it gets two pages in the book . . .pg 49-50. Read the book! This was the day the trip began…odometer 000156.

1948: The Golden Year of the Minors

April 2, 1948 was still a time for spring training. In fact, the team that would win the World Series that year, the Cleveland Indians, would be training in Tucson, Arizona for another two weeks but that didn’t stop the paper in Akron from covering the team. Here’s a ook at Indians coverage from that Friday paper.

Cleveland Indians Coverage 4 2 48Cleveland Indians Coverage 4 2 48 02 Apr 1948, Fri The Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) Newspapers.com

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