By Richard Cuicchi | June 26, 2016 at 10:39 PM EDT | 2 comments
Every once in a while, you hear about baseball fans who take the challenge of seeing a major-league game in every major league ballpark in a single season. It’s quite a feat just scheduling all the travel logistics, not even considering the cost and time investment to do it.
Well, when my son Lee and I attended a Pirates-Dodgers series in Pittsburgh this past weekend, it was my 20th major league city to see a game, but it’s taken me 54 years to get this far.
Pittsburgh’s PNC Park was the 26th major league ballpark at which I have attended major league games, although only half of those have been to the thirty current major league venues. Over the years, I went to eleven stadiums that no longer exist, including places like Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Shea Stadium in New York, and the Astrodome in Houston.
On a family vacation to visit relatives near Philadelphia in 1962, I attended my first major league game at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, which was ultimately replaced by Camden Yards, the first of the new-style stadiums that dramatically changed the fan experience.
I had heard a lot of good things about PNC Park, even claims that it might be the best stadium from a fan’s perspective. The view of the stadium from behind home plate is truly awesome, with the city’s downtown skyline hovering behind it. It has the Clemente Bridge, crossing the Allegheny River, as one of the main thoroughfares for fans to walk into the stadium area. And it has the famous Primanti Brothers sandwiches and local beers to refresh you during the games. There’s a lot of Pirates’ history incorporated into the overall structure and character of the stadium. For example, the fence in right field is 21 feet high, as a tribute to Roberto Clemente’s uniform Number 21. There are a number of carryover features from the Pirates’ old Forbes Field. The stadium indeed lived up to its billing.
In the Pirates’ series with the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend, the highlights included getting to see former Mississippi State second baseman, Adam Frazier, get a hit in his first major-league at-bat in the Pirates’ win on Friday. Although somewhat currently in a slump, Andrew McCutchen hit two homers in Saturday’s win. Then we got to see the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, perhaps on his way to a fourth Cy Young Award this season, pitch on Sunday, although he wound up taking the loss. Frazier rose to the occasion again, when he subbed for an injured Bucs player in right field, not his usual position. Frazier responded with two hits off of Kershaw, while scoring a run and driving in one. Lee and I happened to be sitting in the right field stands, and we got Frazier’s attention in between innings with shouts of “Go ‘Dawgs” and “Hail State.” He acknowledged us by tossing a practice ball our way, but it sailed over our heads to fans a few rows behind us.
In between the games at Baltimore in 1962 and Pittsburgh this weekend, I’ve had the good fortune to see games at some of the all-time iconic stadiums—old Yankee Stadium (the cathedral of stadiums), Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field. But then there were also some which were very forgettable—Dolphin Stadium (Marlins), Arlington Stadium (Rangers), and Metropolitan Stadium (Twins).
Over the weekend, my son and I were comparing memorable games we each had attended over the years. A few of them we shared together, but mine included a few before he was born:
The Chicago Cubs’ Ken Holtzman tossed a 1-hitter vs. Giants on August 22, 1970, in Candlestick Park. The Cubs had future Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, and Ron Santo leading the charge in a 15-0 route by the Cubbies. Hal Lanier got the only Giants’ hit with one out in the bottom of the 8th inning. Giants’ future Hall of Famer, pitcher Gaylord Perry, wasn’t so legendary that day, giving up eight runs in 1 1/3 innings.
Pete Rose’s streak of 44 consecutive games with a hit was broken on August 1, 1978, in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. It left him tied for second place with Willie Keeler on the all-time list, both behind Joe DiMaggio’s historic 56-game streak. The 38-year-old Rose was just coming off his 3,000th hit milestone. He was able to draw only a walk in five at-bats in the game. Braves closer, Gene Garber, struck out Rose to end the game, won by the Braves, 16-4.
New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine got thrown out in a Shea Stadium game on June 9, 1999, arguing an umpire’s call of interference by catcher Mike Piazza in the 12th inning. Valentine later re-appeared in the dugout with a mustache disguise, looking like Groucho Marx with sunglasses. He was subsequently fined $5,000 and suspended for two games for his rebellious deed. The Mets did win the game in the 14th inning over the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-3.
The Chicago White Sox’ Freddy Garcia shut down the Houston Astros in Game 4 of the 2005 World Series on October 26 in Minute Maid Park. He gave up only four hits in seven innings pitched, as the White Sox swept the Astros for their first World Series championship since 1917. I had won tickets in a lottery for Series games 3 and 4, but I wasn’t able to attend Game 3. Fortunately, my daughter, Joni, was able to sub for me, and she and Lee saw the longest game in World Series history--14 innings in 5 hours and 41 minutes. It’s one of their favorite memories together.
In what was called the “Mother’s Day Miracle” on May 13, 2007, in Fenway Park, the Red Sox scored six runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to beat the Baltimore Orioles, 6-5. Oriole pitcher Jeremy Guthrie was cruising to a shutout when the wheels fell off the bus for the O’s. Fenway Park was the scene of Lee’s bachelor party for that weekend series.
How about this for waiting until the last minute? In all the years of watching baseball games, I had never been to the original Yankee Stadium, until the year it was scheduled to close. On August 27 and 28, 2008, in the 16th and 15th last games of the historic stadium, Lee and I saw the Yankees play the Boston Red Sox. Dustin Pedroia hit a grand slam in an 11-3 route by the Red Sox on August 27. The Yankees captured a walk-off win in the next game, 3-2, with Mariano Rivera picking up the win.
Altogether, I figured the three games in PNC Park added to a total of 70 major league games I have attended, not counting major league exhibition games in the Louisiana Superdome (remember that?) and spring training games in Florida.
I’m really looking forward to another baseball trip to Atlanta later in August with two of my daughters’ families. After this season, Turner Field will be among those stadiums on the extinct list, as the Braves prepare for a new stadium in 2017.
Hopefully, I’ll get a few more years to complete the rest of the stadiums on the list.