August 29, 2010
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      Hey, I know I’m no Judy Garland, and my son Rob is only similar to Dorothy’s dog Toto in that he’s as cute as a bug and loves a good hot dog now and then, but the one thing all four of us DO have in common is having survived a little culture shock.

      For Dorothy and dog it was Munchkin Land.   For Rob and I, it was the relative culture shock of taking in a baseball game at Cleveland’s Progressive Field the other day (globetrotting sportsmen that we are), compared to, say, a night at Dodger Stadium.

      Here’s my report.

      For starters, the first thing that is obvious about baseball in Cleveland is that nobody comes to the games.   Check out the picture:

      The second thing that’s obvious about Cleveland baseball is why no one comes to the games….They have a crummy team.   And I don’t mean a crummy team like the Dodgers, a collection of talented yet under-achieving stars who have lost their way.   I mean a really crummy team.   As in a glaring lack of talent and big-league credentials.   The 2010 Indians resemble a Double-A minor league team far more than a big-league team.   People like winners.   No wins, no fans.

      My son had no trouble figuring this out.   After a few innings of watching the Indians go three-up-three-down, Rob finally exclaimed, “Dad, these guys suck!”   See?   The kid’s a genius.   Truth is, all one needed to do to verify his claim was examine the scoreboard; not a single hitter on their team had a batting average of over .268, and no one had clubbed more than a few home runs.   In fact, I had not heard of a single guy in their starting line-up.   Not one.   I can honestly say that that has never happened to me in all my 40+ years of watching professional baseball.  After all, I am the Sports Philosopher….

      The rival Oakland A’s lineup wasn’t much better.   When one particularly youthful, fresh-scrubbed Oakland batsman named Jeff Larish strode to the plate with an average of .154, Rob exclaimed, “Dad, this guy sucks too!”   But almost the moment he said it, literally on the very next pitch, something happened that can only happen in baseball.   Young Jeff clobbered that ball deep to center field for a home run.   His first of the year.    The ball traveled 425 feet.   The Indians would kill to have a guy on their team capable of such awe-inspiring, triphammer power.   “Larish for MVP!” I called out.   We laughed till we cried.   Rob went for more food.   I cried a little more.

      Speaking of food, here’s a checkmark in the plus column for Cleveland.   When you travel around the country and visit its ballparks, one of the things you soon become aware of, by comparison, is how tired and out-of-date the food is at Dodger Stadium.   The same tired old Dodger-dogs, peanuts, frozen malts and soda.  Conversely, the ice cream at Progressive Field is hand-dipped and fabulous.   The sandwiches range from Italian sausage to terrific, build-your-own subs.   You know.   Real food.

      Even the soda comes to the consumer in a far more interesting way.   One of the vendors walking up and down the aisles lugging his cooler of drinks had some very strong views on soda.   Real baseball fans drink soda!” he would bellow.   You need to watch baseball while holding a soda, people—a soda with lots of ice, and then you have to drink it down fast and then get another soda right away!” he fairly screamed.   Everyone laughed.   I think his job was to take the fans’ minds off of how pathetic Cleveland’s lineup is (By the way the Indians lost 5-to-nothing, managing only five base hits—all singles—all night long.).   In honor of his dad, and in recognition of that vendor’s strong and obviously well-thought-out opinions, Rob nicknamed the guy “The Soda Philosopher”.   I was touched.

      Another checkmark in the plus column for Cleveland (compared to Dodger Stadium) was the ridiculous friendliness of the ushers.   Now I’m not saying the ushers at Dodger Stadium aren’t friendly.   I suppose they are.   Sometimes.   They’re just not pleasant and accommodating like Cleveland baseball ushers.   We were headed to our seats and one of them was grinning at me kinda funny.   Since we were able to easily procure seats only four rows behind the dugout in this largely empty sports theater, and since, accordingly, I felt like he felt I was trying to get away with something, I asked him if he needed to see my ticket.   He said, “Nope!   Enjoy the game.”   Wow.   And then later on, a half-dozen snot-nosed lads snuck into the empty row right in front of us.   Obviously they could not afford tickets that good, and all had very guilty looks on their faces.   “Poaching”, we used to call it.   Anyway, the usher came by at once.   Here it comes, I thought, remembering the many times Dodger Stadium ushers had rudely and insensitively kicked me and my own snot-nosed friends out of just-poached seats over the years.   “How you doin’, boys?   Why don’t you fellas come back around the seventh inning,” he said in a warm and fatherly tone.   I wanted to kiss the guy….

      But the main thing I liked about Cleveland’s Progressive Field (compared to Dodger Stadium) is where it is located.   Right on E. 9th St.   Right smack in the middle of Cleveland’s downtown.   Dodger Stadium is hidden away from the rest of L.A., sequestered as if some sort of a local embarrassment in a secluded ravine, with no view beyond its bleachers other than its ugly sterile parking lot.   That feeling of utter “separate-ness” at Dodger Stadium has always bothered me.  A ballpark should be the living heartbeat of the city around it, part of the skyline, wedged tightly into the throbbing hum of its city’s busiest streets.   Boston’s Fenway Park is like that.   So is Chicago’s Wrigley Field.   Ditto, Seattle’s Safeco Field.   San Francisco’s AT&T Park, Baltimore’s Camden Yards, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, they’re all wedged right smack in the middle of their cities, part of that singular heritage of freedom and excitement that characterizes urban America.   It’s who we are.

      So as the beleaguered Indians hitters continued to heroically strike out, and as Rob munched contentedly on a huge salted pretzel, I studied the Cleveland skyline.   It was beautiful.   As the sun went down the city’s most famous building, the needlesque Terminal Tower, bathed itself in orange lights seemingly just a few yards beyond the left-field foul pole.   When the Terminal Tower was built in the late 20s it was the 2nd tallest building in the entire world, topped only by the Empire State building.   They even look alike, these two century-old skyscrapers.   Nowadays, at “only” 52 stories, the Terminal Tower is only the 104th tallest building in North America.   It’s not even the tallest building in Cleveland anymore; that honor goes to the majestic Key Tower (otherwise known as the KeyBank Building), just a stone’s throw beyond the same center-field fence which Larish’s mighty home run had cleared.   Quicken Loans Arena, “The Q”, where the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team plays (and where LeBron James used to play), sits right next to Terminal Tower, clearly visible from our 4th-row seats.   Several other cool buildings old and new loomed over the outfield fences to sneak a peek at the game.   Yes, it was a beautiful skyline.   In fact, Cleveland is a surprisingly beautiful city.   Who knew?

      When the game ended, and after I said a jaunty good-bye to our wonderful ushers, Rob and I followed the few fans who had joined us that evening out into the lively pulsing streets of Cleveland.   On the way to our car we walked right past bars, restaurants, shops, music clubs, all going great guns, as if all waiting for we the absent corpuscles of the city’s lifeblood to re-integrate ourselves back into the rush and circulation of the city’s nightlife.   That’s the way it should be.   We smiled at each other.   It wasn’t a great ballgame, but it was surely a great baseball experience.

      Maybe it’s time for a new stadium here in L.A.   Maybe take out a couple of ghetto city blocks just south of Downtown and put up a stadium with character.   And maybe give that sad area of town a much-needed economic boost in the process.   What do you think?     


*Oh, and one more thing.   As you leave Progressive Field, right beyond the right-field foul pole, there stands a big bronze statue of Cleveland’s greatest-ever ballplayer, the legendary Bob Feller.   He of the blazing fastball, 250+ wins, and three no-hitters.   One of the greatest right-handed pitchers to ever hurl the horsehide.   I actually met Bob Feller once, as a 7-year-old kid living in Iowa, when fellow-Iowan Feller was visiting some fast-food restaurants he owned in and around the state.   I snapped a picture of Rob in front of that impressive metal sculpture of Bob.   Rob and Bob….It seems only fitting and timely now that our wonderful shared baseball experience ended with the Feller statue, as it was recently reported that the great Feller—at 91 the 3rd-oldest living baseball Hall of Famer—is perhaps dying of leukemia.   I’ll always remember Rob standing in front of that statue.   It’s one of the wonderful aspects of most of the newer sports stadiums around the country; you erect a statue to the greatest player in that city’s history in that sport, and then you put it right in front of the venue.   It sets just the right historical tone.   St. Louis has a Stan Musial statue, SF has a Mays statue, even our own Staples arena has statues of Wayne Gretzky and Magic Johnson, right out front as you walk in the door.   So then where is our local baseball statue?   Why doesn’t Los Angeles honor it’s greatest-ever baseball player?   Where’s our very own inspiring Sandy Koufax statue, you cheap stupid backward endlessly squabbling Dodger owners?   Wasn’t Koufax good enough for a statue???   Yeah, we need a new stadium….


meet….The Sports Philosopher!

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and protector of the sacred church of baseball — in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’, in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’, and in Arts & Entertainment under ‘Upon Further Review’.   Brad has also written 4 novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of his best fiction work can be discovered within the mysterious links below:

       Where Is Everybody?   It’s a Baseball Game, Not a Funeral.   Rob’s T-shirt says it all….

Where Is Everybody? It’s a Baseball Game, Not a Funeral. Rob’s T-shirt says it all….

       We were only about 45 minutes early.   I thought maybe we’d come to the wrong ballpark.

       Where Is Everybody?   It’s a Baseball Game, Not a Funeral.   Rob’s T-shirt says it all….

Where Is Everybody? It’s a Baseball Game, Not a Funeral. Rob’s T-shirt says it all….

One Response to “WELL, TOTO, I GUESS WE’RE NOT IN DODGER STADIUM ANYMORE….By Brad Eastland, The Sports Philosopher”


  1. THE SPORTS PHILOSOPHER says: “When in Doubt, Speak Up!”

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