brewers baseball and things

but i do prefer paper beer cups

14 Comments

ballparks.com

ballparks.com

I walked into the Menominee Valley with a very specific destination; County Stadium. I didn’t get goosebumps. Maybe I choked a bit from the tailgate exhaust, but that was about it. The stadium just struck me as big. I was happy. First major league baseball game in person. My feeling really hasn’t changed much over the years.

I could never pose as an architectural maven on stadiums, could never pretend to care if the grass was real or not; if the game was being played indoors or outdoors. If there’s baseball being played, that’s good enough. No raving over old stadiums-no ranting against new ones.

The cookie cutter clones of the 1960’s and 70’s were concrete doughnuts filled with artificial turf. They were contrived air-conditioned living rooms. They were fake and awful. The nay-say rhetoric has kind of become cliche at this point.

I went to Riverfront stadium and watched the Reds. The fluorescent green turf and shopping mall bright lights were dare I say, dazzling in the best and newest of ways? Barry Larkin looked just fine at shortstop and so did Mario Soto on the mound; blowing away batters.

Who am I to say a damn thing against cookie cutters as a I sit in this basement with window seals still covered in plastic from three years ago. There are dozens of bugs trapped between the glass and plastic. They’re all dead. It’s humid and dusty in here. There are no plants. Visitors say it’s hard to breathe. I open the bathroom window. I watch baseball on TV or sit at this computer. Life is good.

Maybe some fans truly are connoisseurs of high brow architecture. Maybe cookie cutters really did insult their elite aesthetic or maybe they’re just toeing the popular critical line. Whatever, there was still a game going on inside the toilet bowls and Eric Davis stood at the plate or in center field whether it was real grass or artificial turf; indoors or outdoors. Eric Davis is my memory. I’ll take it over Willie Mays from some schmaltzy mlb film production and its melancholic music.

queencitytour

queencitytour

greece-athens.com

greece-athens.com

I enjoy looking at old pictures of cookie cutter stadiums; especially  from a distance. They look like space ships or the Greek Acropolis. I enjoyed crossing the Covington Bridge from Kentucky to Ohio and seeing Riverfront for the first time. It was my very own close encounters.

The rage against cookie cutters has hit such extremes that it borders on snobby nobles insisting on three forks at a dinner table or elitist national league purists whining over the curse of the Designated Hitter. I’d rather listen to Bible thumpers preaching end of the world after the latest storm.

I’ve been to 13 stadiums in my life and never dropped on one knee to express awe or gratitude. Maybe I tipped a few beers tailgating when someone gifted me lower box seats, but I was usually in too much of a hurry to get inside; either to the front row of the bleachers or up the giant sidewalk ramps to the tree top upper seating. The paper beer cups were plentiful in route and smashing them was proof of our existence. But the echo was just the tipping point to an even greater ecstasy.

The last turn leveled off and there we were in the freaky elevated air however many hundred feet above sea level; free to see Lake Michigan to the east or 360 degrees around a giant air-conditioned dome like the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Wherever! Indoors or outdoors, it never mattered. We had the gift of elevation.

radojavor.deviantart.com

radojavor.deviantart.com

The sounds below merged. The batter and umpire, positioning of the fielders, criss-cross cut of the grass, the raked dirt. It could all be seen as one; all so precise and orderly. The foul poles erect and standing guard. The whole scene so perfect, maybe too perfect.

We sniffed it all in one last time and then retraced our steps down the winding ramp into the cesspool of people and noise and foul smells interspersed with bratwursts grilling and beer spills and pitchers playing eye games with base runners.

There was taunts and fistfights under the bleachers, cops and drunks. Everyone was making mistakes. We were stuck in the middle of it all. It was delicious and still only the second inning.

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Author: Steve Myers

I grew up in Milwaukee and have been a Milwaukee Brewers baseball fan for as long as I can remember.

14 thoughts on “but i do prefer paper beer cups

  1. On my way to work….dead tired….hungry…this was a nice read. Thanks for the bit of cheer.

  2. Steve, I enjoyed this, but you seem to contradict yourself at one point. First you write “I could never pose as an architectural maven on stadiums, could never pretend to care if the grass was real or not; if the game was being played indoors or outdoors. If there’s baseball being played, that’s good enough. No raving over old stadiums-no ranting against new ones.”

    But in the very next paragraph, you write “The cookie cutter clones of the 1960′s and 70′s were concrete doughnuts filled with artificial turf. They were contrived air-conditioned living rooms. They were fake and awful. The nay-say rhetoric has kind of become cliche at this point.”

    I take that back. (In the immortal words of Gilda Radner’s character, Emily Littella, “Never Mind”!) (It doesn’t take me long to change my mind!) I just re-read the whole thing, and I’ve come to the correct or incorrect conclusion that you were more or less mouthing the party line against “doughnut filled concrete stadiums with artificial turf”. And I’ve come to the conclusion that you were being more or less being facetious, and that you were more or less simply mouthing the party line against cookie cutter stadiums (even though the “party” in question isn’t YOUR party!)

    As for me, I grew up going to Shea Stadium, primarily during the 70’s and 80’s. I generally went to about three or four game a year, some years more. And I believe that Shea is one of the stadiums that they call “cookie cutter”. Well, screw THEM!

    Yeah, maybe it was cookie cutter in that the distances were the same down the right and left field lines, as well as in the two power alleys. If they want to call that a cookie cutter, than let them.

    People have additionally made particular fun of Shea as being “a dump”. I don’t know how many times I’ve read this. Well, okay. It WAS a dump! But it was MY dump! (When I was a young kid, even as I lived and died with the Mets, I used to kiddingly call it “Shitty Shea”!

    But every time, from the time that I was a little kid going there for the first time when I was about six or seven (in either 1967 or 1968; I really don’t remember), to when I was almost 30 years old, I used to get goose bumps (for lack of a more original term) every time I would walk through the tunnel leading from the grimy, ketchup-stained and mustard-stained floors in the dank and muggy rat-laden (yes, there were rats) hallways, urinating into the urinals with my feet in pools of piss, and as I emerged through the tunnel leading to the seats and seeing the sky and the beautiful grass with the perfectly symmetrical chalk lines and the sound of the bat hitting the ball and the players all gathered around the batting practice cage, and the outfielders shagging flies in their perfect Met uniforms, and the airplanes coming low into LaGaurdia Airport, drowning out a good portion of Jane Jarvis on the organ and distracting the visiting team’s hitters (who inevitably would step out of the batters box) it was love at first sight every time, even when I was well into my 20s. Every time I went there, I fell in love with it again. And let me say that the Shea “experience” would not have been the same without the piss all over the mens room floor.

    So I guess that Shea was a cookie cutter, albeit an unsanitary one.

    But I loved every moment of it.

    At least until they got carried away and started using canned music and canned rap-crap music blaring much too loudly starting, I think, in the 21st Century. It wasn’t until THEN that Shea lost its uniqueness and originality and hominess. Until then, it was home to me. It may have been mediocre or bland or even ugly or disgusting to a visitor, but hey, again, screw THEM! It was MY home away from home!

    Glen

  3. I went to Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, in its final season. Game vs. the Mets. Got there early with my wife, took in batting practice, bought an Iron City beer, and enjoyed watching Brian Giles, Jason Kendall and Kris Benson vs. Al Leiter. (Also, coincidentally, watched Leiter pitch seven years earlier for the Blue Jays out in Seatlle in the old Kingdome.) Fun times. Afternoon game. Not a large crowd. Had a little museum of Pirates history inside near the box office. Cookie-cutter or not, we had a good time. There is no bad way to watch baseball.
    Nice post,
    Bill

    • My mother’s father, who lived in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, told me he wouldn’t even take FREE tickets to see a playoff game at the (then) new Three Rivers Stadium. I don’t think he ever went there. The reason was not snobbery over it being “cookie cutter” and “astroturf”, but because the seats were too high up. I guess they were. I don’t know. I never went to a baseball game in Pittsburgh, not at Forbes Field or Three Rivers Stadium or the new stadium, either. My mom says that my grandfather was a pretty big Pirates fan, but nothing bordering on fanatical. But he used to go to Forbes Field once in a while, at least, I guess.

      He got free tickets from companies that make wax beans and ketchup and chewing tobacco and cigarettes and stuff like that; he went from being a very poor kid to building up his small wholesale grocery store in Ambridge to where he could afford to hire a truck driver and about three other employees. My grandmother was the bookkeeper.

      In fact, he got freebies from EVERY darn company that made canned goods and cigarettes and such. In a way, I guess it was similar to payola, only it was perfectly legal. Every letter we received from him was on stationary that that things like “CAMPBELL’S CHUNKY SOUP” on the top of it, and other products, as well. He once gave me a winter vest that advertised a candy bar called Now & Later; the vest said on it, on a big patch in the front, “EAT SOME NOW; SAVE SOME FOR LATER”. It was public relations, of course, to influence my grandfather to carry their products. I never wore it to school after one time, though, because it wasn’t a brand that they were familiar with in New York, and my friends kidded me that they thought it was an obscene invitation to the females. (EAT SOME NOW; SAVE SOME FOR LATER).

      But the companies also gave him things like baseball tickets. Grandpa Ambridge (that’s how we referred to him to differentiate that we weren’t talking about Grandpa Brighton Beach; his real name was Louis Caplan) was just as happy, I guess, to watch the game on KDKA-TV Channel 2 (although they never televised any home games, so I guess he listened to the Pirates home games on KDKA, most famously known as the first commercial radio station in America.)

      He’d rather watch NBC to carry the game (even though it was a black-and-white set) than to sit in the upper deck and see the players look like dots. I guess the upper deck seats MUST have been pretty darn high in Three Rivers Stadium.

      But it had nothing to do with “aesthetics” or anything like that.

      Glen

      • I wonder sometimes if the anti cookie cutter snobs even went to games. I guess some people like to complain about anything. They get more attention that way.

        But your grandpa sounds like a swell dude, but if he were my grandpa, I would have taught him how to sit in better seats for free. It’s real easy with the right poker face.

      • Glen, Love the bit about the “Now & Later” candy bars, and what your friends thought about them. The upper deck at Three Rivers was pretty high up. My wife climbed all the way to the very top so she could get photos of Pittsburgh. But we managed to get better seats than that at a reasonable price. I don’t think we even paid more than around $15.00 per seat (about 1/3 what we would have paid at Fenway Park, for example.) Plus, we were on vacation, so we didn’t mind buying decent seats (not the very best, but about mid-level, with a nice eye-view of the field.)
        I once sat at the very top of Shea Stadium. I recall watching birds fly below me. They should have passed out oxygen masks with your tix for those seats.

      • I’m glad that you loved it. I was hoping that you would.

        Glen

    • That’s what I’m talking about. Thanks for sharing that Bill.

      • Steve, I’ve been sneaking down to better seats since I was little. My father taught me the art of doing this. I also developed my own methods for sneaking down. I should write a book advising people how to sneak down in ballparks.

        However, Grandpa Ambridge wouldn’t have snuck down. He was an honest man who was looked up to in the community. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with sneaking down; I think that when ballparks rip you off, you have every right to get back at them. But I just don’t think that Grandpa Ambridge would have done it. My OTHER grandfather, Grandpa Brighton Beach (real name Bob Slater) might have, but not Grandpa Ambridge. Or at least I doubt it.

        By the way, this is not to say that one grandfather was somehow “better” a person than the other grandfather. They just were two totally different people with totally different styles! I loved ’em both!

        Glen

      • We better keep it low key so the big wigs don’t add security guards at stadiums. There’s already enough police.

  4. I agree, Steve.

    Hey, ya like my new Alfred E. Neuman “gravatar”, or whatever they call the thing?

    I used to kind of look like this, before I got bald!

    Glen

  5. The Coliseum is a dump…but it’s MY dump!!! Seriously though, is Dodger stadium “cookie cutter?” I can see fine from its third deck and the players don’t look like dots, but it DOES have the same distance in right and left and in the power alleys. I suppose Steve is right….some assholes just like to complain about every goddamn thing.

    • The thing about dodger stadium like county stadium is the sides looking like eagle wings all spread out and open….from a distance anyway. The cookie cutters were enlosed with prison bars, ready for lift off. But both had their charm to me. I enjoyed the coliseum and still do on TV. The foul territory and the occasional plastic trumpet sounds and that freaking morthern california sun, not so obnoxious and hot.

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