The Cardinals & A Milestone at PNC Park (9/29/07)
Heading into the final week of the 2007 season, I checked the Pittsburgh Pirates schedule and noticed that the Cardinals were coming to town for the final weekend of the season. For reasons discussed further below, I was excited to see the Cardinals and their monster first baseman Albert Pujols. So I told my wife to have a nice weekend at home because TIM AND I WERE ROADTRIPPING!!
We had lots of “firsts” on this trip — some “baseball firsts” and some “life firsts.” First, it was our first baseball roadtrip “camping” in a KOA camping cabin. Pittsburgh is about 4 or so hours away. So I figured it was a little too far to drive back home after a night game. I also figured staying at a KOA would be more fun for Tim than staying at a hotel. So we booked a cabin at the Washington, PA KOA.
We left in the morning and arrived in Washington, PA in the early afternoon. Tim loved roaming all around the camp ground:
With the assistance of our KOA hosts Rick and Sharon Leclair, our second “first” was a trip to West Virginia:
I’d noticed that West Virginia was really close to Washington, PA on the map. So I asked Sharon about it while checking in at the KOA. She advised that there was a place in West Virginia just about 17 miles down the road that might interest Tim. So, with lots of time to spare before the game, Tim and I hopped in the car, drove to West Virginia for the first time in either of our lives, and arrived a Cabela’s in Wheeling, WVa:
It was time for Tim’s third “first” of the trip — Pittsburgh, PA. We left West Virginia and headed into Pittsburgh for the game. I’ve been to Pittsburgh several times and each tiem the sole purpose was to attend a baseball game at PNC Park. I know next to nothing about the city other than PNC Park. But I can tell you its a neat looking place.
As you can see on the map below…
…downtown Pittsburgh is nestled between the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahea Rivers. The red arrow points to PNC Park, which is across the Allegheny River from downtown Pittsburgh. Downtown and the ballpark are connected by a bunch of yellow bridges including:
The RCB is an automobile bridge most of the time, but before Pirates games (or at least this one) it is closed down and made into a pedestrian bridge. Although the bridges look a little weathered up close, they look beautiful from PNC Park with Pittsburgh’s unique-looking skyscrapers behind them.
Here’s a view of PNC Park from the Roberto Clemente Bridge…
Finally, it was time for Tim’s fourth “first” of the day – PNC Park. On our way into the park, we stopped so Tim could get his picture…
…with Hall of Famer Josh Gibson.
Soon, we were inside the stadium…
We were there in time to watch BP. But Tim was still too young for us to go out into the bleachers and test our luck at catching a BP homerun.
Instead, we grabbed some food and watched the Red Birds take BP. Going to games back then was a lot more difficult than going to games in 2009. As you can see, we had Tim’s on-the-go stroller with us…
…so, along with a back pack full of stuff, there was a lot to lug around to a ball game (and it made it a lot more difficult to take pictures too). But it made for a convenient place for Tim to sit and enjoy eating his ballpark frank before the game.
Anyway, at this game, our seats were in the lower section of the upper deck behind 3B. After BP ended, we went to our seats. They provided an outstanding view of the field, river, bridges and city. It was like a postcard…of course, I didn’t take a picture of it. Sorry.
We were out of our seats before the game even started, and we never returned to them. Instead, we spent most of our time during the game standing (or in Tim’s case running around in circles) on the big spiral walk way from the LF field concourse up to the upper deck concourse. Here is a shot of Tim standing at the top watching the grounds crew readying the field:
Do you see that braclet on Tim’s right wrist? At some point, a Pirates employee gave it to me. Its like a luggage tag, but its for lost kids. You put your name, seat number, cellphone number on it. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t lose Tim at this (or any other) game.
While up on the upper deck concourse, Tim had his fifth “first” of the day — his first time drinking from a water fountain. Tim thought the drinking fountain was great. He went back to it literally about 25 times throughout the game. And, he still loves drinking fountains today.
During the game, I took a fairly odd self-portrait of the two of us at the top of the spiral walkway:
The game was a good one. My main goal was to see Albert Pujols hit a home run. While that did not happen, he had a strong day at the plate going 3-5 with a double, 1 RBI and 1 run scored. I was also interested in seeing Rick Ankiel because his pitching troubles were still fresh in my mind. I wanted to see how he’d do as an outfielder and batter. He too had a strong performance. He went 3-4 with a homerun, 3 RBI, and 1 run scored. Generally, the story of the game was the Cardinals hitting and the Pirates not.
In the 4th or 5th inning, Tim and I relocated to a standing room area in RF…
…see that red arrow above? Well, maybe you should click on that picture to see it larger. If you do, you’ll see a chain link fence above the out-of-town scoreboard and below the RF bleachers. The chain link fence is part of the RF wall. Behind the chain link fence is a tunnel beneath the RF bleachers. There is a single row of seating along the front of the tunnel in groups of 2-3 seats at a time. I think the purpose of those seats is to have room for wheelchair seating. In 2008, I tried to buy tickets in that row of seating, but couldn’t figure out if or how I could do that.
Anyway, its a great place from which to watch a game with a young active son. I could watch the game while Tim ran circles around me without really bothering any of the other fans. There is also a “family restroom” in that tunnel, which is also handy when you have a young active child with you.
For some reason, I thought Ankiel was playing RF so I took this picture…
In the 6th inning, So Taguchi hit a seeing-eye single up the middle. It looked like either future Mariner Jack Wilson would snare the grounder from short stop or Matt Kata would get it from the second base position. Instead, the ball snuck by them both and Wilson and Kata ran into each other. In the process, Wilson took a direct shot to the side of the head from Kata’s knee. He went down hard and stayed down a long time. Eventually, they put him on a little flatbed type golf cart and motored him out of the stadium through a tunnel right below us in the RF foul corner.
The day had been really long for young Tim. He crashed hard by the 7th or 8th inning. That was fine with me, I’d achieved what I’d come to achive. So we left. By the time we got to the south of the Robert Clemente Bridge, Tim was fast asleep…
We drove back to the KOA and spent the night. The next day, we heaeded home to tell Colleen all about our adventures.
Our 2007 season was complete.
Now, there was one more “first” I haven’t mentioned yet, the most important first of the day. Amazingly, at the age of 31, this was my first time EVER seeing the Cardinals play live, and with the game I finally completed my 30-MLB Milestone. Compared to Tim seeing all 30 teams at 3.5, I guess doing it in 31 years is pretty unimpressive. But, I have a good explanation.
I grew in Seattle, which at the time was 812 miles from the nearest National League Park, Candlestick Park. Plus, there was no inter-league play until 1997. In 1997 and 1998, I went to at least one of the interleague games featuring each NL team that visited Seattle. But, that was just the NL West. I didn’t see most of the other NL teams until I moved to Philadelphia in 1999.
It was 2000 or 2001, when I first sat down and tried to figure out if I’d seen every team play at least once live. I had seen every American League team (including the Brewers) multiple times at the Kingdome. But I wasn’t sure if I had completed the NL. At that point, I could pinpoint at least one specific game in which I had seen every team play except the Montreal Expos. Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals.
I checked the Expos and Astros off the list in relatively short order. But for years, I could never get to a Cardinals games. It seemed like they would visit Philadelphia for only one series per season and I could never get to that series. So, it came to late 2007 and I saw this game as my first and best chance of actually getting to a Cardinals game. I planned the trip without hesitation. So, there you have it, at age 31, I finally could say that I had seen all 30 MLB teams play live. (Notably, Tim and I have now seen the Cardinals play in Pittsburgh, Cinncinati and Philadelphia.)
I didn’t keep a Baseball Log growing up, so I couldn’t put together a full game list for myself like I did for Tim’s 30-MLB Team Milestone. But I wanted to do something to illustrate my milestone. So, I tried to compile a list of at least one specific game when I saw each MLB team. By way of reviewing old ticket stubs (which I used to keep for years in the inside flap of my baseball caps), reviewing calendars, doing lots of research on Baseball-Reference.com, and exchanging emails with friends with whom I attended games throughout my life, I was able to pinpoint at least one specific game for every team except the Astros and Dodgers. Here you go (with brief comments for notable games):
Athletics – June 24, 1997 – Randy Johnson K’s 19 & Mark McGwire hits epic homerun.
Rangers – June 3, 1989 – Nolan Ryan 1-hits the M’s. Harold’s lead off hit is M’s only hit.
Angels – June 18, 1999 – My first game at Yankee Stadium.
Indians – October 10, 1995 - Game 1 of ALCS. Mariners win!
Royals – August 31, 1990 – The first game with Ken Griffey Jr. & Sr. playing together.
Twins – May 15, 2000
Tigers – August 30, 1990 – My first foul ball caught during an actual MLB game.
White Sox – April 5, 1999 - Final opening day at the Kingdome.
Red Sox – April 25, 1994 – Randy Johson (CG) beats Roger Clemens & Griffey hits HR.
Orioles – May 26, 1994 - Ken Griffey, Jr. hits a homerun and breaks arm making catch.
Rays – May 20, 2000
Blue Jays – September 12, 2006 – Tim’s First Game.
Yankees – August 25, 1995 – Griffey’s walk-off HR starts M’s charge to AL West title.
Giants – June 19, 2004 – Barry Bonds hits his 689th homerun in Philadelphia.
Dodgers – I saw them at Dodger Stadium in June 1994 and in Seattle in 1997-98.
Padres – June 1, 1999 - My first game at Wrigley Field on “moving to Philadelphia” drive.
Rockies – September 12, 2007 - Tim’s First MLB Anniversary.
Diamondbacks – August 8, 1999
Cubs – June 1, 1999 - Same as above (First game at Wrigley)
Cardinals – September 29, 2007 - This game! Finally!
Pirates – June 19, 2004 - Mariners beat Pirates and Eddie Guardado throws me a ball.
Astros - Two games in Philadelphia between 2000-05, but I can’t pinpoint the games.
Reds – September 4, 1999
Brewers – September 2, 1993 – Brewers playing in the AL (where they belong).
Phillies – April 12, 1999 – 1999 Home Opener and my first game at the Vet.
Mets – June 8, 2003 – Mariners sweep double-header at Shea behind Moyer and Garcia.
Expos – September 4, 2002 - My only “Expos” game.
Nationals – June 10, 2005 – My first “Nationals” game.
Marlins – September 9, 2007 - Tim’s first game seeing Jamie Moyer pitch in person.
Braves – April 12, 1999 – same as above (Phillies Home Opener)