Twenty Years Later

September 6, 2015

On Lou Gehrig’s bust in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium, there is no mention of his .340 lifetime average, 493 home runs, two MVP awards or his 1934 Triple Crown...Hall of Fame statistics all.

But it does point out that Gehrig played 2,130 consecutive games, and that the record “should stand for all time.”

It also reads that Gehrig was a gentleman, something that has never been disputed.

Often one of the reasons we elevate the status of an athlete or musician from “talented performer” to “hero” is something that happens off of the big stage. Maybe they’re friendlier than necessary to people who ask for their autograph. Maybe they show real appreciation for the fans that place them on such pedestals. Sometimes they are cut down in the prime of their life, as Gehrig was, and yet still show gratitude for their fortunes, as Gehrig did.

Cal Ripken Jr. had already achieved hero status in Baltimore long before September 6, 1995, and he was so for reasons only longtime Orioles fans understood. He was the last link to the Oriole Way. Fundamentals. Defense. Anticipation. On any given play, you knew Ripken would be exactly where he was supposed to be.

It’s cliché to say he respected the game. Of course he did. It’s more accurate to say he respected how difficult his chosen profession really is.

But in 1995 fans didn’t have any sympathy for the challenges of playing major league baseball. And maybe rightly so. They had seen a great season end prematurely, without a World Series, without seeing Tony Gwynn possibly become the first .400 hitter in 53 years, without seeing a possible Expos championship.

And absolutely no one on either side of the negotiating table could give an acceptable reason why.

After several work stoppages over the previous couple of decades, the battle had grown to the level of absurd. By the end of 1994, fans struggling to pay their mortgages had finally had enough of watching millionaires who play a game and owners who rake in billions from it take their ball and go home.

Baseball returned in 1995, with a big attendance and ratings drop. America told baseball something that in its arrogance it didn’t believe it would ever hear: we can, and will, get along without you.

That season, one player singlehandedly healed the relationship between baseball and its disillusioned fans.

He didn’t just continue to play every game as he had for 13 years. He made himself available for interviews in every city, answering the same questions hundreds of times. He spent hours before and after games signing autographs. And on the night that his consecutive games streak reached 2,131, the moment he cemented his name in baseball history, he hugged his kids and ran a lap around the ballpark shaking hands with fans.

The 22-minute thunderous ovation that accompanied that lap was a thank you to Cal Ripken Jr., for letting us all be fans again without feeling like fools for it. That night, America realized that this game we love is played by flawed humans. When one of them understood the fans’ anger and took it upon his shoulders to make it up to them, it made for one of the most touching moments in baseball history.

Those of us who remember that night have had twenty more years of life experience since. Experience that teaches us that we all lose sight of what matters most to us. That we are all susceptible to lack of appreciation for our blessings…or contempt for others who show a similar character flaw.

Ripken is a flawed human, like Gehrig was, like all of us are. But that night he was a hero, not because he played a game well and did it every day, but because he spent a season sending a message to millions of baseball fans: yes, we understand, yes, we screwed up, and yes, we hope you can forgive us.

Twenty years later, the legacy of that night isn’t the updating of a record book. It is a story of forgiveness, gratitude and redemption…a place in time that reminded us all what mattered.


How I Saved $75 At Citizens Bank Park: Ballpark E-Guides Case Study #1

August 9, 2015
I live in New Jersey, about a 15-minute drive from Citizens Bank Park. Recently a few of my wife’s relatives visited from North Carolina, and they asked me about going to a game, since none of them had yet seen the “new” Philly ballpark.

I get nervous about things like this, since I have something of a reputation to keep. But we did fairly well.

There were five of us, and I saved us $11 each on the face price of tickets ($55 total), and found them a parking spot that was $6 cheaper than t...
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How to Avoid Lines at the Ballgame

July 26, 2015
It seems almost impossible to go to a ballgame and not stand in line...for tickets, to get in, to get out of the parking lot, to get a train ticket, to get something to eat. At the more popular ballparks, even the newer ones, waiting in line for anything is almost a given. And it’s not fun.

So since Ballpark E-Guides is all about making your life more fun at the ballgame, I’ve come up with a few tips based on my own experiences about how to avoid standing in line (or sitting in line in you...

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Ballpark E-Guides’ New Partner: Parking Panda!

July 12, 2015
Regular readers of the Ballpark E-Guides e-mail newsletter know how strongly I recommend reserving your parking in advance for baseball games.

Imagine driving to a ballgame and setting your GPS to the address of the garage or lot where you'll be parking, facing a minimal amount of traffic, and parking in a great affordable spot...which you've already paid for. Isn't that better than sitting in crawling ballgame traffic, just looking for a spot that isn't miles away and ridiculously overpriced...
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Buying Baseball Tickets Online

May 31, 2015
Isn’t it great to be able to buy tickets for a ball game while still wearing a robe and drinking coffee? I remember when I was a younger Orioles fan and had to use the telephone or the box office, and that’s one thing I don’t yearn for when fans talk about the “good old days”.

The best part is the choices you have; you can buy tickets through any of dozens of different outlets, and they have to compete for your entertainment dollar.

Since it’s part of my job to help you get the...

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Should I Buy Tickets On Craigslist?

March 1, 2015

Sports fans love to tell the story of the great deal they scored on tickets it through a scalper, great timing on StubHub, a classified ad, whatever. We love it. It makes us feel so much smarter than the suckers who paid three times the price for the same seats.

Frequently when I am poring through ballpark reviews, one or two folks will talk about getting their tickets on Craigslist, and saving a bundle of cash.

In case you’ve never used it, Craigslist is a website that falls somewh...
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Baseball Fan Mistakes I Used To Make

January 3, 2015
Since I've started researching everything there is to know about various baseball venues, I've learned a lot. Some things have saved me money, some things have saved me time, and some things have saved me a lot of aggravation.

Even I still don't always get it right going to a game, but I've definitely learned to avoid certain pitfalls. Here's a list of four mistakes I used to make in my misspent youth...

1) Buying tickets from the team website. By itself, this isn't always the worst thing to do...
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Which Ballpark Has The Best Food?

December 13, 2014

With ballparks featuring a full menu these days, I am asked this question by almost every radio show that is generous enough to have me on. It’s a fun question and I don’t mind answering it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a challenge.

Truthfully, since there are items worth trying and not worth trying at every venue—and since they almost all have some version of nachos, pizza, cheesesteaks, burgers, and of course, unusually topped hot dogs—you can probably find something that’s a...
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Try A Local, Bad Beer at the Game

December 10, 2014

Ballpark beer is so ridiculously priced nowadays that I’ve been staying sober at the game. It’s just not worth it to me; I’ll be a designated driver and get my free soda or have a few at a nearby tavern.

I suppose the plus of this is fewer inebriated people at the game; just Google “Ten Cent Beer Night” to learn what can happen when 50,000 sports fans can afford unlimited alcohol. And apparently some fans will still pay $9 for a Coors Light; far be it for me to stop them.

Many teams h...
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New Book About Old Comiskey

August 9, 2014
Looks like my buddy Floyd Sullivan at ChicagoNow, author of the endearing and humorous fan essay "Waiting For The Cubs" (see my review of that book here), has written a new book about the old Comiskey Park.

Well, I guess you can just call it "Comiskey Park" now, since the "New Comiskey Park" is now called "U.S. Cellular Field".

Check out Old Comiskey Park: Essays and Memories of the Historic Home of the Chicago White Sox, 1910-1991 here.

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