April 3: Study Hall

The In League With America journey began today with a trip back to the baseball Hall of Fame.

2023: The In League With America Tour

I have gotten pretty good at getting organized to go on trips over the years, my wife Elizabeth has a lot do with that, a few decades of business travel haven’t hurt either. I spent most of yesterday packing the minivan and thus I left right on schedule this morning for the 3-hou, 45-minute ride over to Cooperstown.

It was sunny-ish but 35 degrees when I left Hartland this morning and riding past Bromley Mountain one would have guessed it was February not April. Cooperstown was warmer, though and it has warmed up more this evening as I’ve continued south To Binghamton.

What can I say about the Hall of Fame? Well, it’s pretty darn cool but you probably already knew that, or at least knew I would think so. But the history that makes this place so special comes to live in an even more visceral way in the research library. I made an appointment to visit the library a few weeks back and thus the staff had a whole bunch of materials I had requested ready for me.

I was the only visitor there this afternoon so spent three hours sitting at the end of a long table looking at baseball programs from a different era. They had programs from the 1948 Ponca City Dodgers and the Newport News Dodgers of the previous year. The had a scorecard from the York White Roses and the Redding Browns and the Oroville Red Sox. All of these towns lost their minor league team long before the Excellent Adventure took place 32 years ago.

2003: The Extra Innings Tour

Below is the blog post I wrote 20 years ago today on the Extra Innings Tour. Apologies for not having the referenced pictures on this trip. I will try to go back and post them later.

If there is a recipe for success on how to build a new ballpark without getting out the wrecking ball and tearing down the old one, the folks in Anaheim have all the ingredients in the right proportions. Edison Field looks very little like the park I stopped at in April of ’91 and there is a lot more to it than a new moniker and a fresh coat of paint. I seem to remember these palm trees being here before (I don’t think you can grow these over night – but if you can, surely the folks at Disney who own the Angels would know how) but nothing else looks the same either outside or in.

It was a beautiful afternoon from an Oregonian’s perspective. That is, it was probably a bit cool by local standards, around 60°, but it seemed absolutely gorgeous to me. I had little time to spare in getting to my seat after a long drive from Oakland (see below) but in what was a characteristic evident throughout the day, the laid back atmosphere that pervades this place didn’t make it seem like a big deal and I ended up at my seat down the third-base line in plenty of time for the first pitch.

The waterfall, pictured at left, springs to life (along with fireworks) and it had a busy day Wednesday as the Halos hit three home runs.

If you completely missed the World Series last year, you perhaps don’t know the folks in this picture, otherwise I’m sure they are familiar. This is a collection of a rare breed of animal, found only in this part of the world, known as Rally Monkeys. This group is hanging around waiting for work to do but, as described below, no rally was necessary on Wednesday afternoon.

Here is another sight I’m sure I won’t see anywhere else this year and have never seen up close and in person. The Angels got their World Champion rings on Tuesday and their trophy went on display outside the Angels store. There is no question that Anaheim’s first World Championship in any sport, has brought a sense of civic pride to Orange County and made “The Big E” the place to be. In trendy southern California that could certainly change if the Angels falter in what, is arguably, the toughest division in baseball. But for now, anyway, this is a very cool place to be and a fun place to watch baseball.

The Game:

The home team won for the second straight day on the Extra Innings Tour as the Angels pounded the Rangers 11-5. After a 10-run outburst the previous day, the Angels appear poised to make it tough on teams trying to take their title. Troy Glaus (pictured at right), Brad Fullmer and Darin Erstad all hit homers for the Angels who scored four runs in the 4th Innings and three more in the 5th to break the game open. None of the Halo Homers was as notable as the one Alex Rodriguez hit for the Rangers, though. A-Rod hit is 300th home run in the 5th inning, becoming the fastest player in history to reach that milestone.

Getting Here:

Let’s just say I was happy to get to Anaheim. I left Ashland, Oregon at about 9 AM Monday and drove about 800 miles and took in two baseball games in the next 30 hours. If you have never driven the stretch of Interstate-5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles then you may find it puzzling that I now suspect that the Eagles used this stretch of highway as inspiration for their lyrics: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

I’ve driven most of the Interstate highways in this country including I-80 across Wyoming and I-90 across Montana which both have long stretches of desolate highway. But “The 5”, as folks call it around here, is different in the respect that it connects two of the nation’s largest cities and because one can cover that ground in about six hours, LOTS of people do this drive, yet there is virtually nothing for them to do along the way.

1991: The Excellent Adventure

April 3, 1991 was the second day of our drive to California en route to Opening Day. We woke up at a KOA Kamping Kabin (I didn’t make up the spelling) and made it to a budget hotel near Knoxville.

1948: The Golden Year of the Minors

Here is the aforementioned Ponca City Dodgers scorecard. It would have set you back a nickel in 1948. The Dodgers played a total of five seasons in Ponca City (about 100 miles northeast of Oklahoma City) and they were later replaced by the Cubs for two seasons where Hall-of-Famer Billy Williams played a season. But the Cubs left after the 1957 season and the last 66 springs have come to Ponca City without minor league baseball.

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