A Travellerspoint blog

Indianapolis

Goodbye Ohio, the not so friendly state

I was behind the wheel for the first time this trip as we crossed through Ohio for the fourth time in as many days, including three times through Columbus. Fortunately, we have left for good and not a day too soon. We were all happy to put the state behind us for good. I had the run-in with the motorcycle cop in Cleveland. Ron seems to have draw the ire of drivers every day. Today, Wayne got a taste of Ohio hospitality. We stopped at a McDonald's for his customary chicken salad lunch and he decided to try and get some change for a $20. The manager refused, saying she wouldnt open the till. Wayne said, "excuse me" in an attempt to get an explanation and she refused to acknowledge his request the first three times he asked. She pretended to be busy filling orders (we were the only ones there) before finally mumbling that she couldn't due to a lack of other bills. She never looked at him during the entire exchange, prompting Wayne to cancel his order. As a final #%€?+ you, Ron got 14 $1 bills as change for his order. Wayne and I left without eating, just in case they did something to the food. Ron soon decided that he needed a nap and turned the driving over to me - coincidence?

Indianapolis, like all of the cities that we have visited so far, has a smaller metropolitan population than Ottawa, yet can handle several pro sports teams at once. What's wrong with Ottawa? Indianapolis as far as we could tell is also just a government town. The downtown core is home to Victory Field (more below), Conseco Fieldhouse, home to the NBA's Pacers, and Lucas Oil Stadium, where the NFL's Colts play. These sports facilities are all within walking distance of each other. The same was true in Cleveland and Cincinnati and the arena was also right there in there downtown core. Pittsburgh's arena is also downtown, but not quite in the core with the other sports facilities. The football stadium was incredible to see. The 63,000-seat stadium has a retractable roof and the side windows can also be opened.
Lucas Oil Stadium

Lucas Oil Stadium


Victory Park, where we watched the Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh's AAA team) play the Louisville Bats (Cincinnati's AAA team), was named the best minor league ballpark by Sports Illustrated in 2001. It probably was the best stadium back then, but I have been to Bright House Stadium in Clearwater twice and I would put that ahead of it (sorry Indiana). Nevertheless, it was a beautiful place to watch a game. It had a view of downtown beyond center-field. On the first base side, you could see the football stadium and an old steel factory that spewed out steam the whole game, adding to the ambiance. But the best part w the friendly people. We talked about education with the people behind us and others were just as nice. We needed to see some friendly faces after our Ohio experience.

There were plenty of hits in the game, but not many runs. The Bats won 3-2 as Montreal-born Chris Leroux picked up the loss. He gave up three straight hits in the eighth. Our seats were in the very first row near the Indians' bullpen and we shouted encouragement to Leroux as he warmed up. He apparently didn't understand our French, ignored us, or is an anglophone (he grew up in Mississauga). The outfield walls were quite deep, prompting me to quip that we wouldn't see a home run. I was proven wrong a few innings later when one Indian player hit a ball off the fence in deep center and then another cleared the fence in right with the ball bouncing out onto the street.
Chris Leroux

Chris Leroux


It was Navy Day at the park. (I am not sure where they parked their ships). The Navy Leap Frogs parachute team performed before the game as a bunch of sailors stood in the outfield. Victory Field, another HOK design, was built in 1996. It is named to honor the city`s old stadium, which was named Victory Field following the U.S. and allied victory in WWII. Indianapolis has a rich history of baseball. It is celebrating its 125th year of continuous pro baseball. Stars like Harmon Killebrew, Roger Maris, Randy Johnson, and Ken Griffey played there on their way to the bigs. The Expos farm team used to be there and they had Expos styled hats (the red, blue and white ones) with a cursive I on the front.

Posted by redrob 06:54 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Pittsburgh

A hell of a deal!

It is hard to argue with $27 tickets for Major League Baseball. Pittsburgh has been the best deal of the trip so far. Our seats were closer to the field than anywhere we have been and cheaper than any other park by a country mile. PNC Park continues our string of outstanding ball parks, designed by HOK of Kansas City. It labels itself as the Best Ball Park in America. It is great, but I don't know if I would consider it the best. (I hope no one from Pittsburgh reads my blog). I still put Progressive Field in Cleveland at the top of my list on this trip and I might put Baltimore's Camden Yards, HOK's original park, at the top of my all-time list.
PNC Park

PNC Park


Of the three we have seen on this trip, it was the one that tried hardest to honour the past. It's interior structures featured a lot of steel in homage to the city's industrial past. The rest of the stadium also seemed to be trying for an old-fashioned feel to it. There is also a noticeable attempt to pay respect to great players of the past. Outside the stadium there are statues of of Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner, and Roberto Clemente. Clemente's statue sits near the Roberto Clemente Bridge, that was closed during game time to all motorized traffic. It is the bridge visible behind the outfield and a major part of the skyline beyond the park.

Pittsburgh has a rich history of Negro League baseball as home to the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays. The team has honored that tradition by creating Legacy Square inside the park. It is home to statues of the players that starred for one of the two teams, including Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, and Cool Papa Bell. These players also featured prominently in the exhibits at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. We visited the Hall of Fame based on the recommendation of Karen Saxer, a friend of mine, who happens to be a native of Pittsburgh.

While the museum tip paid off, Karen's other recommendation did not. She suggested that the Primanti Brothers booth in the stadium would be a good place to eat. (Actually a woman inside the gates also gave it high praise). So Ron tried one of the their signature sandwiches, I passed because it was covered in cheese. I went to Manny's BBQ for a giant hamburger and a heaping pile of coleslaw. As I returned to the seats with my meal, Ron was coming up the aisle and the look of disgust on his face was all I needed to see. Not to mention the look of envy as he eyed my plate, Sorry Ron! I am sure that the Primanti Brothers' locations outside the ballpark must be better, because it seems to be a Pittsburgh institution. While at Manny's BBQ, I met Manny Sanguillen, the former Pirate great. He was a three-time all-star, two-time world champion, and considered one of the top catchers of the 1970s.
Me and Satchel Paige

Me and Satchel Paige


He was one of many Pirates featured at the West. PA Sports Hall of Fame, which is part of the Sen. Heinz History Center, and was well worth the visit. We spent two and half hours there and only made it through the sports hall and some other minor exhibits. We didn't have enough time to visit the exhibits on Lewis and Clark, industrial Pittsburgh, and the British, French and Indian War. The museum, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian, is quite well done and looks like it was converted from an old factory into a modern wonder. It featured a section on all the great quarterbacks from western Pennsylvania - Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Jim Kelly, Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, and Ron Lancaster (threw that in for CFL fans). For obvious reasons, the exhibit on hockey was not quite as big as those on baseball and football. But it was big enough to feature an Alex Kovalev jersey. As a Senators' fan, I find it hard to believe he would be in any hall of fame, except maybe one for all-time busts.

We could see PNC Park from the museum lot, but decided not to walk. It turned out to be a smart move. It rained right up until game time. The weather broke and we were treated to quite the game. The 6-2 final was not indicative of the game. Both teams hit well and there were some dazzling defensive plays. However, the Bucs were able to take advantage of their chances. Ryan Doumit had the big blow, blasting a three-run homer while going 4-for-4. We knew it was going to be a good day for the Pirates, when the team's lead-off hitter, Xavier Paul homered on the first pitch. It was just his second HR of the season and hit the top of the wall in the deepest part of the park before plopping over. Pittsburgh's pitchers did a great job of getting out of jaws, keeping Albert Pujols in check. It was also a treat to watch the team's closer, Joel Hanrahan, at work. We'll get a chance to see the team's prospects tomorrow in Indianapolis.

Posted by redrob 05:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Cincinnati

I`m lost, we`re lost, he`s lost, they lost

We had an interesting experience after our visit to Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park and the Cincinnati Reds Museum and Hall of Fame, I got lost. It all unravelled from there. Following yesterday's 7-3 win for the Padres against the Reds (They lost), we went to the adjacent museum for a tour. As we were completing our tour, the normal exit was blocked, somwe had to go through the whole museum to get out and somehow we got separated. I wandered around the entrance (the exit for today) waiting for the guys. After about 10 minutes, I panicked and went to the parking lot to see if they were waiting for me there. Of course they weren't, so I rushed back to the park and we were reunited. Apparently, they spent the time roaming the museum looking for me and had been assured that the "tall red head" hadn't left. (I'm lost)

The bad luck continued when we got to the car. Ron realized that his GPS needed an update so we could find our hotel. While preparing the download, he managed to frustrate himself by temporarily losing his glasses and the connection cord. Once that problem was solved, we crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky while the GPS download went at a snail's pace. We took the scenic tour of historic Covington, Kentucky while we waited for the GPS, because the hotel's location wasn't obvious on the maps we had out (We're lost).

Driving around Covington, it felt like we'd gone to some time portal into the past. The main street was from the 1950s. We passed a theatre with an old-style marquee and an appliance dealer with window decorations from the same era. The surrounding neighborhoods were filled with homes that harkened back to a bygone era too. But the most amazing site came as we waited at a traffic light. We heard this loud music blaring and then slowly this senior citizen crossed, carrying his boom box that belted out some crooner. It was surreal. (He's lost)

We eventually crossed the wrong bridge into the wrong part of town and parked at a White Castle. (Sorry no Harold or Kumar sightings) Unfortunately despite the updating of the GPS, it couldn't locate the location of our hotel. (We're lost again) Luckily, Ron had some old-fashioned maps from CAA. We consulted them under the gaze of some hillbillies loitering in front of the White Castle. All they needed were some banjos to complete the scene.
Great American Ballpark

Great American Ballpark


Cincinnati proper is a lot smaller than I expected. It is home to about 350,000 people, so it must have a large metropolitan area. The downtown core has been really modernized with the ballpark on stretch along the river that also includes Paul Brown Stadium, home to the NFL's Bengals; US Bank Arena, home of the fabled Cincinnati Cyclones of the AHL (I think); and the new underg. There are six bridges spanning the Ohio River into Kentucky and you can see them all from this core area, yet Ottawa-Gatineau makes due with fewer. The city was far from bustling on Sunday. When we came out of the Museum at about 6 p.m., it was like a ghost town.

The Great American Ball Park wasn't as nice as I expected. I heard great things about it. Don't get me wrong it was a great park in a great location, but wasn't quite as impressive as Cleveland's Progressive Field. The seats were a little more sloped, giving us a better view of the field. The seats were also angled so that they were aimed at home plate. The game itself was on the long side. The Reds mustered little offensively other than a three-run blast en route to a 7-3 loss (They lost).

We visited the team's museum after the game. It was well done. I gained a newfound respect for Johnny Bench (sorry Gary Carter). There was a gigantic wall that featured a ball for every hit Pete Rose had. It was impressive. There were some great interactive exhibits, where Ron scaled the wall to make a leaping catch and some neat dioramas of old Cincinnati ballparks.
Ron at the Wall

Ron at the Wall

We capped our evening off with a disappointing visit to Ruby Tuesday's. They tried to seat us at a cozy booth for two and were none to pleased when we asked for a new table. (Those tables are dirty, are you sure you want to wait? Ummm - yes!) That was just the beginning! Our food took over an hour, so I quipped that it wouldn't come of until Tuesday. My ribs were lousy, my side of rice was covered in cheese (yuck) and the waitress topped up Ron's 7-up with water.

Posted by redrob 04:30 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Cleveland

Run in with the law?

Cleveland rocks, despite the fact that I was confronted by an irate police officer following the game at Progressive Field. We were jaywalking with three dozen other fans, but the motorcycle cop came zipping at me sirens blaring and shouting,"Get out of the road." All in all, we can't say that the people of Ohio have been all that friendly. We were shown the bird as we merged with traffic, while other drivers deliberately sped up to keep us from changing lanes. Maybe it's just the people of Cleveland that are a bit chippy. It probably comes from living in then place people have always called "the mistake by the lake."
Progressive field aug 13 2011

Progressive field aug 13 2011


Not having seen much of the city, I can't really pass judgement on Cleveland, however the ballpark is no mistake. In contrast to yesterday's tilt in Toronto, today's game with the Twins was baseball as it was intended. A beautiful stadium, grass turf, roomy seats, I would be hard-pressed to find a negative about the place. You could feel it as soon as we walked in. We didn't mind that it was a lower scoring game than the Jays-Angels. The only negatives were the less than stellar food selections and the marginal slope of the first level. I am sure that the poor sucker sitting behind me had to watch the big screen to see the action.

There was great crowd despite the fact that the Browns were hosting the Packers in an exhibition football game just down the road. Having two major events caused us to miss the first inning stuck in traffic. I was afraid that we were going to miss out on our only free promotion of the trip. But they had plenty of Mike Hargrove Bobbleheads to go round. Hargrove, a former player and manager, is one of the Indians' greats honored in Heritage Park, a mini outdoor museum in centerfield. There are plaques of all of the players enshrined, such as Bob Feller, Cy Young, Satchell Paige, Larry Doby, Charles Nagy and many more, but no Wild Thing. Feller is obviously a big-time favorite. He had a whole wall mural dedicated to him and a massive outside the gate that we entered. There's was also a brick wall of the top 100 Indians of all time as voted by the fans. The Alomar brothers, Sandy and Roberto, were in the starting line-up.

The stadium itself features a great view of downtown with The Q, home to the NBA's Cavaliers and the Lake Erie Monsters hockey team just beyond left field. In fact left field is a quite short, only 325 feet down the line with a taller than average outfield wall a la Green Monster. Asdrubel Cabrera took advantage of the short porch in the third inning, hitting a three-run homer. It proved that Ron wasn't jinx after all. Ron was wearing his Cabrera jersey and it had no ill effect on the Cleveland shortstop. On Friday, Ron wore his Jose Bautista jersey and the slugger went ofer with a brutal throwing error.
Carbrerra aug 13 2011

Carbrerra aug 13 2011


Cabrera's blast was all the home team would need as we witnessed our second straight pitching gem. Josh Tomlin and compNy held the Twins in check for most of the game. Closer Chris Perez shut the door in the ninth and was serenaded by a rousing rendition of "Cleveland Rocks!" It's not much of a song, but it is filled with attitude, which as we learned is a good way of describing the people of Cleveland. Hopefully they are a little friendlier in southern Ohio.

Posted by redrob 04:08 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Toronto

Jays lacklustre effort followed by a brush with celebrity

We had an interesting start to the Man Trip to say the least and it had very little to do with the Jays 5-1 loss to the LA Angels. The game was not much to speak of as Ervin Santana pitched a complete game and had a shutout until giving up a homer in the ninth. We knew the Jays were going down when Vernon Wells hit his 17th homer despite batting .210.
rogers centre at night

rogers centre at night


We cruised into Toronto surprisingly quickly with hardly any traffic. Once we found a parking lot, we decided to eat, turned the corner and there was Wayne Gretzky's restaurant. So that's were we ate. My brother Geoff and pal Ryan showed up unexpectedly. That's when the fun started. I knew they arrived when someone planted a kiss on my cheek. I also knew they were a few beers into the evening.

The game itself wasn't much to discuss. I forgot how cramped the seats were at the Rogers Centre. I couldn't find a decent souvenir to add to my pin collection, however we had a great view of the CN Tower and the nuts who pay $175 to take a walk hanging off the outside of the structure. Ryan, of course, managed to piss off the people sitting around us by talking too much, too loud, and repeating the same stats and stories each time the same batter stepped to the plate.
SkyWalk

SkyWalk


After the game, we decided to go to RealSports, a trendy sports bar near the ACC that features a massive big screen TV (worth over half a mill). As we got closer Geoff said it was a waste of time to try to get in, while Ryan argued the opposite. He felt the fact that he attended the GM's wedding would give him some pull. We have to give credit where credit is do, because we ended up at a table near the middle of the place. Ryan hasn't felt prouder since his birthday nine years ago. He was like a peacock.
rob -geoff- ryan

rob -geoff- ryan


A few rows behind us, Jays Brett Lawrie, the rookie Canuck, and J.P. Arencibia were enjoying dinner in the VIP section. Ryan in his second bold move of the night decided to get his T-shirt signed. Our waitress said it was a good way to get kicked out of the bar, but my brother ran interference with the bouncer while Ryan slipped in for the signature and some handshakes. We left right behind the two Jays players as people pointed at us (I swear they were pointing at me and saying which crappy pitcher is that). All I can say is that Lawrie is ripped and it may have been one of Ryan's greatest nights. It also marked the first time that I shared a bed with my brother since our family trips up and down the Pacific Coast when we were California boys. We made Ryan sleep in the bathroom to muffle the snores.

Now we are on to Cleveland.

Posted by redrob 05:48 Comments (0)

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