Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Yanks Still Can't Beat Pesky Blue Jays

The Yankees went into a 3-game series away to the Toronto Blue Jays last night, needing to show the defending American League Eastern Division Champions that they were ready to take back what is rightfully theirs, starting with the Division title.

It didn't happen. Ivan Nova fell behind 1-0 in the 1st inning, 3-0 after 3, and 4-0 after 5. Overall, he wasn't terrible, allowing 4 runs in 8 hits and just 1 walk over 6 innings. And, between them, Nick Goody and rookie reliever Richard Bleier pitched 2 perfect innings.

Maybe if the Yankees had backed Nova up with some runs, it would have made the difference. But they didn't. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a single, and drew a walk in the 3rd. Carlos Beltran led off the 4th with a single. Starlin Castro led off the 5th with a walk. But none of them scored.

The Yankees didn't even seriously threaten until the 8th. Again, Castro led off with a walk. After Jays starter Marco Estrada, still in the game, struck out both Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks doubled, but Castro could only get to 3rd base. Not the slightest bit rattled, Estrada got Ellsbury to pop up, ending the threat.

Aaron Loup came on to finish the game off. He hit Beltran with a pitch, and Brian McCann gave the Yankees some home with a home run, his 7th of the season. Drew Storen was brought in to relieve, and he allowed a double to Mark Teixeira -- a rare hit for him lately. Suddenly, with only 1 out, Castro was the tying run.

But Storen got Castro to fly to right, and struck out the now-useless Headley to end it. Jays 4, Yankees 2. WP: Estrada (3-2). SV: Storen (3). LP: Nova (3-3).

The series continues tonight. CC Sabathia starts against J.A. Happ.

Can we have some early runs, Yankees? Please? Before we fall behind 4-0?

How to Be a Met Fan In Pittsburgh -- 2016 Edition

This week, Pittsburgh hosts the Stanley Cup Finals, the Penguins vs. the San Jose Sharks. Next Monday, the Mets head there, to face the resurgent Pirates, who have now made the Playoffs 3 seasons in a row, after not doing so for 20 years.

Before You Go. Pittsburgh is at roughly the same latitude as New York City, so roughly the same weather can be expected. As always, check out the newspaper website (the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) before you head out.

For Monday, they're predicting low 80s for the afternoon, mid-60s for the evening. For Tuesday, low 70s by day, high 50s by night. For both days, they're predicting rain early, but it shouldn't be enough to affect either game. For Wednesday, mid-60s by day, mid-50s by night, and no rain.

Pittsburgh is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to adjust your timepieces.

Tickets. No problem. No problem at all. Despite having moved from Three Rivers, an artificially-turfed concrete doughnut, to a beautiful new ballpark with a view of Pittsburgh's very sharp downtown skyline – maybe the best view any big-league ballpark has – and despite having broken their strings of 21 straight seasons without a winning season and 21 straight seasons of missing the postseason with 3 straight seasons of making it, the Pirates do not draw well. The team is currently averaging 26,684 per home game, which is actually a decrease of about 4,200 per game over last season.

Their attendance struggles are less because Pittsburgh is a football town (the Steelers nearly always sell out, even when they're bad), and more because, going into 2012, they hadn't had a winning season, let alone made the Playoffs, since George Bush was President. I’m talking about the father, not the son. That's an entire generation out of the Playoffs. And all 3 of those postseason berths wer via the Wild Card. The Pirates are 1 of 3 teams that have not won their current Division; their last Division title was in the National League Eastern in 1992, and they moved into the NL Central in 1994. The other 2 teams are the Miami Marlins and the Colorado Rockies, and they have reached the World Series more recently than the Pirates, via the Wild Card route.

Aside from the Seattle Mariners, who've been in business since 1977 and have never won a Pennant, and the Chicago Cubs, who haven't won one since 1945, no team has gone longer without one than the Pirates. Their last Pennant, and their last World Series win, was in the Carter Administration, in 1979, led by "Pops" Stargell and "The Family." That was 37 years ago. Of the teams that have actually won a World Series, only the Cubs (1908) and the Cleveland Indians (1948) have longer droughts.

As a result of having a full generation of ineptitude, you can just walk up to the ticket window at PNC Park and buy pretty much any seat you can afford. The Pirates, even with a seating capacity of just 38,362, aren't going to sell out. In fact, considering there's less than 400 miles between New York and Pittsburgh, Met fans could "take over the ballpark" -- if, that is, they were willing to take over any ballpark. Frequently, you guys have enough trouble taking over your own.

By MLB standards, Pirates tickets are cheap. Infield Box seats, Sections 109 to 124, will set you back only $39. Outfield Boxes are $30, Grandstand (upper deck) seats are $24, Outfield Reserved (right field) are $28, and Upper Grandstand (left field) are $19.

Getting There. I'm not going to kid you here: There's only one way to do so, and that's by car. You do not want to fly, because you'll end up spending over a thousand bucks to go less than 400 miles, and the airport is out in Imperial, Pennsylvania, near Coraopolis and Aliquippa, so it's almost as close to West Virginia and Ohio as it is to downtown Pittsburgh.

The Amtrak schedule doesn't really work. The Pennsylvanian leaves Penn Station at 10:52 AM, and doesn't get to Pittsburgh's station of the same name until 8:05 PM, after the first pitch. And there's no overnight train that would leave at, say, 11 PM and arrive at 8 AM. And going back, the Pennsylvanian leaves at 7:30 AM and arrives back at 4:50 PM. So in order to watch all 3 games of this Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday series, you'd have to leave New York on Sunday morning, and leave Pittsburgh on Thursday morning. At least it's cheap by Amtrak standards: $118 round-trip.

Greyhound isn't much better, but at least you have options. There are 14 buses a day between Port Authority Bus Terminal and Pittsburgh, but it's a bit expensive considering the distance, $160 round-trip (though advanced purchase can get it down to $74). Leaving at 8:00 AM on Monday will get you to downtown Pitt at 4:30, giving you just enough time to get to a hotel and then get to the ballpark for a 7:05 start. The Greyhound station is at 55 11th Street, across Liberty Avenue from the Amtrak station.

The only sensible way is by car – especially if there’s more than one of you going and you can take turns driving. It’s 373 miles from Times Square in Manhattan to downtown Pittsburgh, and 383 miles from Citi Field to PNC Park. (Yes, the naming rights to both are owned by banks. PNC's service is so bad people say the letters stand for "People Never Count.") This is far enough that, if you need to see all 3 games in a weekend series, and you have a standard Monday-to-Friday job, you’ll have to take Friday and Monday off. Better to skip the Friday night game, and leave early on Saturday morning (say, 8:00) so you can get there in time to get to a hotel and see the Saturday night game, and leave right after the Sunday afternoon game and get home around midnight Sunday-into-Monday.

From the City, you’ll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. Take it to Exit 14, to Interstate 78. From elsewhere in New Jersey, taking Interstate 287 should get you to I-78.  Follow I-78 west all the way through New Jersey, to Phillipsburg, and across the Delaware River into Easton, Pennsylvania. Continue west on I-78 until reaching Harrisburg. There, you will merge onto I-81. Take Exit 52 to U.S. Route 11, which will soon take you onto I-76. This is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation’s first superhighway, opening in 1940.

You'll be on it for another 3 hours – Pennsylvania is huge compared to a lot of Northeastern States. The political consultant James Carville, who got Bob Casey Sr., father of current U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr., elected Governor in 1986, says, "Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in the middle." He wasn’t kidding: Between Philly and Pitt, it is very, very rural, hence the nickname "Pennsyltucky." It certainly explains the State's love of football: The Philadelphia Eagles, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penn State and high school ball.

You'll take the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Exit 57, the signs showing I-376 and U.S. 22 – the same Route 22 you might know from New Jersey, which I-78 was designed to replace – and the sign will say "Pittsburgh."
There will be several exits on I-376, the Penn-Lincoln Parkway, into the city of Pittsburgh. Most likely, if your hotel (which I hope you've reserved before you left) is downtown, you'll take Exit 71B, "Second Avenue."

From anywhere in New York City, allow 6½ hours for the actual driving, though from North Jersey you might need "only" 6. I recommend at least 2 rest stops, preferably after crossing over into Pennsylvania around Easton, and probably around either Harrisburg or Breezewood. So the whole thing, assuming nothing goes wrong, will probably take about 8 hours.

Once In the City. Pittsburgh has, by American standards, a long history. It was settled by the French as Fort Duquesne in 1717, and captured by the British in 1758, and renamed Fort Pitt, for Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder.

The General who captured it, John Forbes (for whom the Pirates' former park Forbes Field would be named), was a Scotsman, and he intended the town that grew around it to be named "Pittsburgh" -- pronounced "Pitts-burrah," like the Scottish capital Edinburgh. From 1891 to 1911, the H was dropped from the city's name, and this was reflected on the Pirates' uniforms, which sometimes read "PITTSBURG," as seen on the famous 1909 "T-206" baseball card of Honus Wagner. But the Germanic "Pittsburg" went back to the Scottish "Pittsburgh," while keeping the Germanic pronunciation. (There is, however, a town named Pittsburg, no H, in Kansas.)

With this long history, a great architectural diversity, and a dramatic skyline with lots of neat-looking skyscrapers, Pittsburgh looks like a much bigger city than it actually is. While the metropolitan area is home to 2.7 million people, the city proper has only 306,000, having lost over half its population since the nearby steel mills, coal mines, and other factories closed starting in the 1970s.

The reduction of blue-collar jobs led people to take comfort in their sports teams, especially in the 1970s. Either the Pirates or the Steelers made the Playoffs in every year of that decade, both of them did so in 4 of those 10 years, and the University of Pittsburgh (or just "Pitt," though they don't like that nickname at that school) had an undefeated National Championship season in 1976. The Pirates won 2 World Series in the decade, the Steelers 4 Super Bowls in 6 years. Calendar year 1979, with spillover into January 1980, was an annus mirabilis, in which the "Steel Curtain" won Super Bowl XIII in January, the "Bucs" (or "Buccos," or "Lumber Company," or "Family") won the World Series in October, and the Steelers then went on to win Super Bowl XIV, with the Pirates' Willie Stargell and the Steelers' Terry Bradshaw being named Co-Sportsmen of the Year by Sports Illustrated and the city government advertising itself as the City of Champions.

(It was also at that time that, in order to ride the Pirates/Steelers bandwagon, the NHL's Penguins switched their colors from navy blue and yellow to black and gold, but it was several more years before they became a championship contender.)

While the loss of industry did mean a sharp, long-term decline, the financial, computer and health care industries opened new doors, and Pittsburgh is very much a now and tomorrow city. And they love their sports, having won 14 World Championships in 19 trips to their sports' finals (which gives them a .737 winning percentage in finals, the best of any city of at least 3 teams) -- and that doesn't count the 9 National Championships won by Pitt football, the Negro League Pennants won by the Homestead Grays (10) and the Pittsburgh Crawfords (4), or the 1968 ABA Championship won by the Pittsburgh Pipers.

Pittsburgh has numbered streets, moving east from Point State Park, where the Allegheny River to the north and the Monongahela River to the south rivers merge to become the Ohio River -- hence the name of the former Pittsburgh sports facility, Three Rivers Stadium.  North-south streets start their numbers at the Monongahela, and increase going north.

There is a subway system in the city, and it's free within the downtown triangle. But outside that area, a one-zone ride is $2.50, and a two-zone ride is $3.75. A 75-cent surcharge is added during rush hour -- in other words, on your way into the Thursday and Friday night games, making the charge $3.25 instead of $2.50. These fares are the same for city buses, although they're not free within the downtown triangle.
The sales tax in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is 6 percent, and Allegheny County (including the City of Pittsburgh) pushes it to 7 percent.

The old Pittsburgh Press, once the 2nd-largest newspaper in Pennsylvania behind the Philadelphia Inquirer, went out of business due to a strike in 1992, before the city's remaining daily, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, brought it back in online form in 2011. That strike gave Richard Mellon Scaife, the current head of the legendary Pittsburgh metals and banking family, a chance to turn a local suburban paper into the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, spouting his right-wing fanatic views. It may be that the P-G brought back the Press to give the city 2 liberals voices against the 1 nutjob voice.

Going In. From most of downtown, PNC Park is within a mile's walk, crossing the 6th Street Bridge, now the Roberto Clemente Bridge, over the Allegheny River, shortly before it joins with the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River – There are local buses (including the Number 14) that go from downtown to the ballpark. Pittsburgh's subway/light rail system's Blue Line has now been extended to North Side Station, at Reedsdale & Martindale Streets, 2 blocks from the park.
The park is bounded on the 1st-base side by Mazeroski Way, on the 3rd base side by General Robinson Street (George Robinson was a Revolutionary War leader), on the left-field side by Federal Street, and on the right-field side by the Allegheny River, just before it merges with the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River -- together, the namesakes of Three Rivers Stadium, home of the Pirates and Steelers from 1970 to 2000. The official address is 115 Federal Street. There are several nearby parking garages, most of them charging only $5.00.

Most likely, you will enter the park at 1 of 2 rotundas (rotundae?): The Trib Total Media Rotunda (especially if you're coming in by light rail or bus), or the Allegheny Sports Medicine Rotunda at the left field corner (especially if you're walking in from over the bridge).

Behind the park's left-field stands, you'll see the Roberto Clemente Bridge, formerly the 6th Street Bridge. (It was already Pirate yellow before they renamed it.) On game days, the Bridge is closed to vehicular traffic, to allow fans to walk across from downtown.

Behind the park's 1st-base stands, you’ll see the Fort Duquesne Bridge – reflecting the original French name of the city before the British took it in the French & Indian War – and beyond that, the new home of the Steelers and Pitt football, Heinz Field. In between Heinz and the bridge is a parking lot where Three Rivers Stadium stood. Roughly between the site of Three Rivers and PNC Park, including the northern end of the Fort Duquesne Bridge, was the site of Exposition Park, where the Pirates played from 1891 to 1909.
PNC Park is not a multipurpose facility, it's a baseball-specific stadium. Every seat has sufficient width, legroom and alignment to view a game in comfort. Behind you will be concession stands that are plentiful and varied, restrooms that are clean and not beset by noxious fumes, and no 2-inning-long lines at either. In front of you are informative and attractive scoreboards, and a nice, natural-grass field, instead of the hideous pale-green carpet at Three Rivers, which was one of the most foul-looking rugs in sports (even in fair territory). I don’t know how the Pirates and Steelers, between them, won 6 World Championships on the stuff: How could they look at that turf and not get sick? What kind of home-field advantage could they have had?

The field, which points southeast, is not symmetrical: It's 325 feet down the left-field line, 383 to left-center, 410 to the deepest part of the park to the left of center, 399 to straightaway center, 375 to right-center, and 320 to right. The right field wall is 21 feet high, partly to offset a short distance, and partly to honor Clemente, and his Number 21 is displayed above the scoreboard on the wall.
PNC is generally considered to be a pitchers' park -- which is ironic, because the Pirates have historically been an offense-first team (in the 1970s, before they were "The Family," they were "The Lumber Company" because of their powerful bats), and there are no pitchers in the Baseball Hall of Fame who, in the last 100 years, have had the Pirates as their primary team.

Sammy Sosa of the Cubs (with, uh, help) hit the longest home run at PNC Park, 484 feet in 2002. Oddly, while Willie Stargell hit the longest home run at several stadiums, Three Rivers was not one of them: Greg Luzinski of the Phillies was, in 1979, hitting one 483 feet -- perhaps poetic justice for Stargell hitting the longest at the Vet, in 1971.

The longest at Forbes Field is believed to be one that Dick Stuart hit in 1959, which wasn't measured, but almost certainly cleared 500 feet. The man known then as Stonefingers and later as Dr. Strange-glove couldn't field, but he sure could hit. Babe Ruth's 714th and final home run, with the Boston Braves in 1935, went over the right-field roof at Forbes, but no distance was suggested at the time, and anybody estimating its distance now would just be guessing. But it may have been longer than Stuart's blast.

PNC Park has hosted concerts, but, as yet, no sports besides baseball. Pitt and Duquesne began playing what was officially labeled "The City Game" there in 2003, but stopped in 2010, after Duquesne dropped their baseball program.

Food. Pittsburgh is a city of many ethnicities, and most of them love to eat food that really isn't good for you: Irish, Italian, Polish, Greek, and African-Americans with Soul Food and Barbecue. (Yes, I did mean to capitalize those last two. They deserve it.) Reflecting this, a "Tastes of Pittsburgh" series of stands is on the main concourse, including Primanti Brothers sandwiches: Meat, cheese, hand-cut French fries, tomatoes and cole slaw. All together between slices of Italian bread.

Like several other ballparks, such as Baltimore with Boog Powell and Philadelphia with Greg Luzinski, the Pirates have one of their retired greats holding court in right field (on "the Riverwalk") at a barbecue stand named for him, Manny's BBQ. This is Manny Sanguillen, 1970s catcher.

They have Dippin Dots and Rita's Italian Ice. They have a food court named after their favorite-son fat man, Stargell: Pops' Plaza. They have another food court called Smorgasburgh, including a steak sandwich stand called Quaker Steak and Lube. Another bonus of PNC Park is that they let you bring your own food in – but why would you, with all those choices available?

Team History Displays. There are a whopping 11 statues outside the ballpark. Honus Wagner, the Pirate star of 1900 to 1917, still usually considered the greatest shortstop who ever lived (yes, even ahead of such modern heroes as Cal Ripken and Derek Jeter), originally had a statue outside Forbes Field, and it was moved to Three Rivers and then to PNC Park.
Roberto Clemente, legendary right fielder from 1955 until his death in a plane crash in 1972, had a statue dedicated outside Three Rivers, and it, too, was moved to PNC Park. Willie Stargell, the 1st baseman of 1962 to 1982, had his statue dedicated at Opening Day of PNC Park, April 9, 2001 – but he died that very morning from a long-term illness, having thrown out the first ball at the Three Rivers finale the fall before.
Clemente's statue, with his bridge in the background

A statue of Bill Mazeroski, second baseman of 1956 to 1972, was dedicated in honor of the 50th Anniversary of him hitting the home run that won the 1960 World Series. (A lot of Yankee Fans who are old enough to remember it are still bothered by it.) A monument to former owner Barney Dreyfuss used to sit in center field at Forbes Field, and was moved to the concourse at Three Rivers and then to PNC Park.

And on June 26, 2006, in anticipation of the park hosting the All-Star Game the next month, 7 statues were unveiled, honoring Negro League greats who played in the city: Leroy "Satchel" Paige, Josh Gibson, Walter "Buck" Leonard, Oscar Charleston, William "Judy" Johnson, James "Cool Papa" Bell, and Smokey Joe Williams.

Because the Homestead Grays divided their "home" games between Pittsburgh (where Homestead actually is) and Washington, Josh Gibson is the only man who never played in Major League Baseball who is honored with statues at 2 different major league ballparks, and in 2 different cities, no less. As someone who has now tried it, I can tell you: Explaining why black players weren't allowed in "organized baseball" prior to 1947 is not easy. But it must be done, so that people whose sole experience with New York baseball is fully integrated, and at the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, will understand.
Gibson's statue at PNC Park,
which doesn't have the surrealism of
his statue at Nationals Park in Washington.

The Pirates have won 9 National League Pennants: In 1901, 1902, 1903, 1909, 1925, 1927, 1960, 1971 and 1979. This 78-year span is pretty impressive, especially when you consider they clinched their 1st when the bodies of Queen Victoria and President William McKinley were newly in the ground. It gets less impressive when you realize that their last was clinched when Jimmy Carter was President, disco was king, and Radar was sent home on M*A*S*H.

They've won 5 World Series, in 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979, which are noted beneath the press box. In a quirk, every World Series they've ever been in but one (1927, swept by the Yankees), win or lose, has gone at least 7 games. (In 1903, the 1st year of the World Series, it was a best 5-out-of-9, and the Boston Red Sox beat them, 5 games to 3.)
The Pirates have a display honoring their 9 retired numbers, on the facing of the upper deck overhang. Wagner played before numbers were worn, but as a coach he wore Number 33. He was also a player-manager in his last season, 1917. The other Pirate statue honorees have also had their numbers retired: Mazeroski 9, Clemente 21 and Stargell 8.
Also honored with the retirements of their numbers are: 20, Harold "Pie" Traynor, 3rd baseman 1920 to 1934 and manager 1934 to 1939; 11, Paul Waner, right field 1926 to 1940 (his brother, fellow Hall-of-Famer Lloyd Waner, a center fielder, has not been honored with the retirement of his Number 10); 1, Billy Meyer, manager 1948 to 1952; 4, Ralph Kiner, left fielder 1946 to 1953 and Met broadcaster 1962 to 2013; and 40, Danny Murtaugh, manager on and off between 1957 and 1976.

Jackie Robinson’s Number 42, honored throughout baseball, is also displayed. And, as mentioned, the Barney Dreyfuss Monument survives and rests on the concourse.

The Pirates do not have a team Hall of Fame, but they have had quite a few Hall-of-Famers. In addition to Wagner, Mazeroski, Clemente, Stargell, Traynor, the Waner brothers, Kiner, Murtaugh and Dreyfuss, they are: Jake Beckley, 1st base, 1888-96; Jack Chesbro, pitcher, 1899-1902 (then became one of the Highlanders/Yankees' first stars); Fred Clarke, left field and manager, 1900-15; Vic Willis, pitcher, 1906-09; Bill McKechnie, 3rd base, 1907-12 and manager 1922-26; Max Carey, center field, 1910-26; Burleigh Grimes, pitcher, 1916-17 and 1928-29; Hazen "Kiki" Cuyler, right field, 1921-27; Joseph "Arky" Vaughan, shortstop, 1932-41; and Bert Blyleven, pitcher, 1978-80 (just 3 years, but 1 was a title season).

Connie Mack (1891-96) and Al Lopez (1940-46) were catchers for the Pirates, and Lopez was a pretty good one, formerly holding the all-time record for games caught; but both of them were elected to the Hall of Fame for what they did as managers, after they left Pittsburgh. Frankie Frisch managed the Pirates (1940-46), but they weren't very good at that time, and he was elected to the Hall for what he did elsewhere.

In 1933, baseball's 1st All-Star Game was played. Pie Traynor and Paul Waner (but not his brother Lloyd) were selected from the Pirates. In 1999, Wagner was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. That same year, he, Traynor, Paul Waner, Kiner, Clemente, Stargell and Barry Bonds were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Baseball Players. So were Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and James "Cool Papa" Bell, who played in town for either the Crawfords or the Grays. In 2006, Pirate fans chose Clemente in the poll for DHL Hometown Heroes.

Stuff. The Majestic Clubhouse Store at PNC Park is located on Federal Street, outside the Left Field Gate entrance, near the Willie Stargell statue. There are plenty of pirate-themed novelty items, including hats, bandanas, eye patches and foam swords. The late-1970s retro caps, resembling late 19th Century caps, are also sold, although not with the "Stargell Stars" that Pops put on them in the "Family" years.

Newly published this Spring is The Bucs!: The Story of the Pittsburgh Pirates, bJohn McCollister and Pirate reliever turned broadcaster Kent Tekulve. In 2013, David Finoli published Classic Bucs: The 50 Greatest Games in Pittsburgh Pirates History. As to individual Pirate teams, he also wrote The Pittsburgh Pirates' 1960 seasonBruce Markusen wrote The Team That Changed Baseball: Roberto Clemente and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates. (That season, the Pirates not only won the World Series, but became the 1st major league team to start an entirely nonwhite lineup.) And McCollister wrote Tales from the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates Dugout: Remembering "The Fam-A-Lee."

There is, as yet, no World Series highlight film collection focusing on the Pirates (1909 and 1925 were before they had official films), but they could have packaged 1960, 1971 and 1979 together. There is a compact disc honoring Hall of Fame braodcaster Bob Prince; an MLB Network Baseball's Greatest Games DVD showing the original TV broadcast of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, the Mazeroski Game; and a DVD collection focusing on the 1979 Series. As yet, there is no Essential Games of the Pittsburgh Pirates/Three Rivers Stadium DVD collection.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans" ranked the Pirates 24th -- in other words, the 7th most tolerable, saying, "In most cases, Pirates fans are a pretty all right bunch. Most of your more abrasive Yinzer types save the bulk of their wrath for Steelers season." (A "Yinzer" is a Pittsburgher, from their habit of saying the second-person-plural, which is "youse" in New York, as "yinz." They also tend to drop some consonants: "Downtown" becomes "Dowtow," and "South Side" becomes "Souside.")

The article is accurate about Pittsburghers' aggressiveness. If you were a Cleveland Browns fan, or (a little less so) a Baltimore Ravens fan, going into Heinz Field to face the Steelers, you might be in a bit of trouble. If you were a Philadelphia Flyers fan going into the Consol Energy Center to face the Penguins, you might face some anger. (Then again, pretty much everybody hates the Flyers.) But as a Met fan going into PNC Park, you’ll be fine. You can wear your Met gear at PNC without fear of drunken bums physically hassling you.

While the Pirates spoiled the Mets' home openers at both the Polo Grounds in 1962 and Shea Stadium in 1964, and the two teams went down to the wire in the NL East races of 1973 (Mets beat 'em out by 2½ games) and 1990 (Pirates won by 4 games), neither team has ever considered the other its greatest rival. Met fans have had far more contentious relationships with the Braves and Cubs, and both teams have had rivalries with the Phillies and Reds.

(The Cleveland Indians are in the American League, Pittsburgh doesn't have an NBA team, Cleveland doesn't have an NHL team, and neither city has an MLS team, so the Steelers-Browns dynamic doesn't cross over into any other sports, the way Yankees-Red Sox becomes Jets-Patriots or Knicks-Celtics or Rangers-Bruins – or Mets-Phillies becomes Giants-Eagles or Rangers-Flyers. Being put in a separate Conference, let alone Division, and being mostly terrible since coming into existence, Ohio's NHL team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, doesn't generate much heat from Penguin fans. Even Penn State-Ohio State isn't that big a rivalry. Pitt-Penn State is another story, as is Pitt-West Virginia, "the Backyard Brawl.")

And since the Mets and Bucs (or Buccos, both short for Buccaneers) have been in different divisions since 1994, and there's been no serious chance of a postseason meeting in all that time, Pirate fans are not going to get upset at you, even if you start a "Let's Go Mets!" chant in their yard.

They're certainly not going to hurt you if you don't provoke them. Just don't say anything bad about the Steelers, or Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby, and you should be fine. And, for God's sake (not to mention that of its inventor, the late Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope), do not mock or deface The Terrible Towel, that great symbol of Steelerdom. You might not see any at a Pirates game (though you may hear a stray chant of "Here we go, Steelers, here we go!" -- it's been known to happen at Pirates, Penguins and Pitt football games), but they take that particular item very seriously, even pointing out that other NFL teams have lost after mocking it, leading to the phrase "The Curse of the Terrible Towel."

Local band the Buzz Poets have written the team a theme song, "A New Pirate Generation." The Pirates hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. They have a mascot, the Pirate Parrot. But, due to one of the predecessor suit-wearers having been involved in the Pittsburgh drug trials of the mid-1980s, it is understandable that they tend not to celebrate the character as much as the Mets celebrate Mr. Met, or the Phillies their Phanatic, or the Orioles their Bird, or even the Red Sox their Wally the Green Monster.
The Mets haven't run an Airplane Race on their video board for years, but, just as the Yankees have The Great City Subway Race, the Milwaukee Brewers the Sausage Race, and the Washington Nationals the Racing Presidents, the Pirates have a between-innings feature called the Great Pierogi Race.

The characters are Cheese Chester, Sauerkraut Saul, Oliver Onion and Jalapeno Hannah. Hannah is not the only female character in any of the "ballpark races" -- the mascots race each other in Cincinnati, and sometimes Rosie Red wins -- but she is identifiable because she carries a pocketbook.

There was once a Potato Pete, but they traded him for Oliver Onion (and possibly for a flavor to be named later). Oliver has taped-up "nerd glasses." As with "Teddy Roosevelt" in Washington, there was a joke that Sauerkraut Saul never won, but this (literally) running gag has been dropped.
The Parrot and the Pierogi.
(Yes, like "cannoli," "pierogi" is plural.)

The Pirates will play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch, but they do not seem to have an additional song, the way the Mets do with "Lazy Mary," the Orioles with "Thank God I’m a Country Boy," and others. While there are several music legends native to the Pittsburgh area – Perry Como, Bobby Vinton, Lou Christie, the Dell-Vikings, the Vogues, and others – there doesn't seem to be a particular song that the special-effects people choose, although Christie's "Lightning Strikes" could be appropriate, and "Blue Moon," a song often reworked by English soccer fans (sometimes obscenely so), was done in doo-wop fashion by the Pittsburgh group the Marcels in 1961.

(In case you're wondering, Willie Stargell liked "We Are Family" because of the image of togetherness that Sister Sledge were singing about, not because they were a Pittsburgh group -- in fact, they were from the opposite end of the State, in Philadelphia.)

After the Game. There are attractions near PNC Park, but most of these are museums, such as the one dedicated to native Pittsburgher Andy Warhol, and will be closed after the games. (The next bridge over from the Clemente is the Andy Warhol Bridge. As far as I know, Warhol never painted a portrait of Clemente, or was even interested in baseball.)

Between PNC Park and Heinz Field, across from where Three Rivers Stadium used to be, is Jerome Bettis' Grille 36, named for the Steeler legend and his uniform number. It's at 393 North Shore Drive.

South of downtown, across the Monongahela River on the South Shore – or, as they say in Pittsburghese, the Sou'side – is Station Square, an indoor and outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment complex. This is a popular gathering place, although, as New Yorkers, you'll be hopelessly outnumbered. You might be better off returning to your hotel and getting a bite or a drink there. When I first visited Pittsburgh in 2000 (I saw the Pirates hit 4 homers at Three Rivers but lose to the Cards thanks to a steroid-aided mammoth blast by Mark McGwire), there was a restaurant with a Pittsburgh Sports Hall of Fame at Station Square, but as far as I can tell it is no longer there.

I searched the Internet for bars in the Pittsburgh area that cater to New Yorkers. Usually, I can at least find something that welcomes Giant or Jet fans on their gamedays, but I guess the Steelers are so ingrained in Western Pennsylvania culture that establishing an outpost for "foreign fans" is anathema to them. (Anathema? Didn't Rocky Graziano knock him out in Buffalo? No, wait, that was Quinella.)

The closest I could come was a suggestion that Carson City Saloon, at 1401 E. Carson Street, was a
Jet fans' hangout. Number 48 or 51 bus from downtown. When I did this piece in 2013, I was told by a Pittsburgh native that the Brillo Box was owned by a New Yorker, but, not having been to Pittsburgh since, I cannot confirm this. And one source I found to back it up calls it a "hipster" place. If you want to take your chances, it's at 4104 Penn Avenue at Main Street. Number 88 bus from downtown

Sidelights. As I mentioned, Exposition Park, home of the Pirates from 1891 to 1909, was nearly on the site of PNC Park. The first home of the Pirates, Recreation Park, was roughly on the site of Heinz Field.

This was also the site of the first football game played by an openly professional player. Yale University star William "Pudge" Heffelfinger was paid $500 (about $12,800 in today's money) to play for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, and scored the game's only points in a 4-0 Allegheny win. (Under the scoring system of the time, a touchdown was 4 points.)

There are historical markers in the complex for both Exposition Park (as one of the sites, along with the Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston, of the 1st World Series) and Recreation Park (as the site of the first professional football game -- though the first all-professional game was in 1895 in nearby Latrobe).

* Heinz Field. This is a far better palace for football than the concrete oval that Three Rivers Stadium was. It has a statue of Steeler founder-owner Art Rooney outside, and, on gameday, 65,500 Terrible Towel-waving black and gold maniacs inside. There are plans to expand it to 69,000 or so seats in time for the 2015 season.
Three Rivers, the center of the sports world in the 1970s

The Steelers hosted the AFC Championship Game in the stadium's 1st season, 2001 (losing it to the New England Patriots, and again in 2004 (losing to the Pats again), 2008 (beating the Baltimore Ravens) and 2010 (beating the Jets).
A 2007 ESPN.com article named Heinz Field the best stadium in the NFL, tied with Lambeau Field in Green Bay. It also hosts the University of Pittsburgh's football team. On New Year's Day 2011, it hosted the NHL Winter Classic, but the Penguins lost 3-1 to the Washington Capitals. In the Summer of 2014, it hosted a soccer game, in which defending English champions Manchester City beat Italian giants AC Milan 5-1. 100 Art Rooney Avenue. (Three Rivers' address, famously, was 600 Stadium Circle.)


* Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street at 12th Street, a couple of minutes’ walk from Union/Penn Station and Greyhound. It includes the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. (Senator Heinz, of the condiment-making family, was the first husband of Teresa Heinz Kerry, who nearly became First Lady in 2004.)

* Forbes Quadrangle, intersection of Forbes Avenue and Bouquet Street. This set of buildings, part of the University of Pittsburgh campus, was the site of Forbes Field, home of the Pirates from 1909 to 1970 and the Steelers from 1933 to 1963.
Included on the site is the last standing remnant of Forbes Field, part of the outfield wall, with ivy still growing on it. (Wrigley Field in Chicago wasn’t the only park with ivy on its outfield wall.) Where the wall stops, you’ll see a little brick path, and eventually you’ll come to a plaque that shows where the ball hit by Mazeroski crossed over the fence to win the Series. A historical marker honoring Barney Dreyfuss is nearby.

Home plate has been preserved, in Wesley W. Posvar Hall, named for the longtime UP Chancellor. An urban legend says that, if it was in its exact original location, it would now be in a ladies’ restroom; this isn’t quite the case, but it’s still at roughly the same spot.
If you've ever seen the picture of Mazeroski in mid-swing, you’ll recognize the Carnegie Museum & Library in the background, and it is still there as well. If you've ever seen a picture of a Gothic-looking tower over the third-base stands, that’s the Cathedral of Learning, the centerpiece of UP (or "Pitt"), and it's still there as well. A portion of the wall, including the 406-foot marker that can be seen with the Mazeroski ball going over it, was moved to Three Rivers and now to PNC Park.
Pick up the Number 71 bus at 5th Avenue at Ross Street, and it will take you down 5th Avenue to Oakland Avenue. From there, it’s a 2-minute walk to the Quadrangle and Posvar Hall.
The remaining outfield wall, still with ivy on it

* Petersen Events Center, at Terrace Street and Sutherland Drive. The home arena for Pitt basketball, it was built on the site of Pitt Stadium, where they played their football games from 1925 to 1999, and where the Steelers played part-time starting in 1958 and full-time starting in 1964 until 1969. Part-time from 1970 to 1999, and full-time in 2000, Pitt shared Three Rivers with the Steelers, and they've shared Heinz Field since 2001.

Pitt Stadium was home to such legends as Dr. Jock Sutherland (a dentist and football coach), Marshall "Biggie" Goldberg, Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett. If you're a Giants fan, this is where they played the Steelers on September 20, 1964, and Giant quarterback Y.A. Tittle got clobbered by the Steelers' John Baker, resulting in that famous picture of Tittle kneeling, with blood streaming down his bald head, providing a symbolic end to the Giants' glory days of Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and quarterbacks Charlie Conerly and Tittle. The Petersen Center is a 5-minute walk from Forbes Quadrangle.

* Site of Civic Arena, between Bedford Avenue, Crawford Street, Centre Avenue and Washington Place. The official mailing address for "the Igloo" in its last few years was 66 Mario Lemieux Place. Built in 1961 for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, it had a retractable roof before additional seating made such retraction impossible. It hosted the American Hockey League's Pittsburgh Hornets from then until 1967, and then the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins until 2010. It was officially known as the Mellon Arena from 1999 to 2010, when the naming rights expired.

The Pittsburgh Pipers, later renamed the Condors, played there, and won the 1st ABA Championship in 1968, led by Brooklyn native Connie Hawkins. The Beatles played there on September 14, 1964. Elvis Presley sang there on June 25 & 26, 1973 and December 31, 1976. It was demolished in 2011.

* Consol Energy Center, 1001 5th Avenue. Opening on August 18, 2010, for a concert by former Beatle Paul McCartney, it seats 18,087 for Penguins and other hockey games, including the 2013 NCAA Championships (a.k.a. the Frozen Four); and 19,000 for basketball, for college tournaments and, in the unlikely event the NBA returns to Pittsburgh, the pros. The building and opening of this arena means that, for perhaps the first time in franchise history, the Penguins' long-term future in Pittsburgh is secure.

Pittsburgh hasn't had professional basketball since the Condors moved in 1973. On May 12, 2014, the New York Times printed a story that shows NBA fandom by ZIP Code, according to Facebook likes. The Consol Energy Center is 134 miles from Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Pittsburghers toss aside their NFL-bred hatred of Cleveland to support the Cavaliers (even with the return of LeBron James): They seem to divide their fandom up among 4 "cool teams": The Chicago Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. The Philadelphia 76ers, only 309 miles away? Forget it.

It's unlikely that Pittsburgh will ever seek out a new NBA team. If they did get one, the metro area would rank 21st in population among NBA markets.

* Roberto Clemente Museum. A fan group tried to buy Honus Wagner's house in nearby Carnegie and turn it into a museum, but this is the only museum devoted to a single Pittsburgh athlete. Clemente wasn't the first Hispanic player in the major leagues (white Cuban Charles "Chick" Pedroes played 2 games for the Cubs in 1902), nor was he the first black Hispanic (Minnie Minoso debuted with the Chicago White Sox in 1949). But he was the first to really take hold in the public imagination, to the point where later Hispanic stars wore Number 21 in his honor, and there is a movement to have the number retired throughout baseball as was done for Jackie Robinson (but it is not likely to succeed). 3339 Penn Avenue at 34th Street. Bus 87 to Herron Avenue.

Pittsburgh has never hosted an NCAA Final Four. Duquesne University reached the 2nd Final Four (not that it was called that back then) in 1940, and Pitt did so in 1941. No Western Pennsylvania school has done so since.

In fact, Pittsburgh has never been a big basketball city: The Pittsburgh Ironmen played in the NBA's 1st season, 1946-47, and only that season, and are best known now for having had Press Maravich, father of Pistol Pete, play for them. The ABA's Pittsburgh Pipers, later the Pittsburgh Condors, won that league's 1st title in 1967-68, but that was it. (Connie Hawkins led that team, and was named to the ABA All-Time Team.) The most successful Pittsburgh basketball team may well have been the Pittsburgh Pisces in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.

* Duquesne Gardens. Pittsburgh's original sports arena opened in 1895, and had an unofficial limit of 8,000 spectators. It hosted minor-league hockey teams from the beginning until its closing in 1956, including the Hornets from 1936 to 1956. It hosted the Duquesne and Pitt basketball teams, and the Pittsburgh Ironmen in the NBA's 1st season, 1946-47.

Once bigger arenas like the old Madison Square Garden went up in the 1920s, seating more than twice as many people, the Duquesne Gardens was obsolete. Yet it hung on until 1956. 110 N. Craig Street, at 5th Avenue, near the Pitt campus. University housing is now on the site. Also accessible via the Number 71 bus.

The University of Pittsburgh is on the town's East Side. Penn State is 139 miles to the northeast in State College. West Virginia University, Pitt's other big rival, is 76 miles to the south in Morgantown. Greyhound provides service to State College, while Megabus does so to Morgantown.

* Highmark Stadium. As I said, Pittsburgh doesn't have a Major League Soccer team. The Pittsburgh Riverhounds play in the United Soccer League (USL), the 3rd tier of American soccer. Their home field is Highmark Stadium, and it seats a mere 3,500 fans, about the size of the average high school football stadium in New Jersey. But its placement on the south bank of the Monongahela, across from downtown, gives it a view every bit as good as the one from PNC Park. 510 W. Station Square Drive. Subway to Station Square.

No President has come from Pittsburgh, or from anywhere near it. The only President from Pennsylvania has been James Buchanan, and he was a lousy one, and he was from Lancaster, much closer to Philadelphia.

The most notable historic site in Pittsburgh is probably Point State Park, where the "three rivers" come together at the western edge of downtown. It includes the Fort Pitt Museum, telling the city's story from the days of New France Onward. 601 Commonwealth Place.

The U.S. Steel Tower, at 7th & Grant Avenues, is the tallest building in Pittsburgh, at 841 feet -- although there are 3 buildings in Philadelphia that surpass it for the title of tallest building in Pennsylvania. Built in 1970, it surpassed the 1932-built Gulf Tower, on the opposite corner from U.S. Steel.

There haven't been many TV shows set in Pittsburgh. Mr. Belvedere, starring Christopher Hewett as a butler to a family led by a sportswriter played by ballplayer-turned-broadcaster Bob Uecker, was set in nearby Beaver Falls, hometown of Jets legend Joe Namath, but it was taped in Los Angeles. The most notable TV shows actually taped in Pittsburgh, at the PBS station WQED-Channel 13, were Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Fred Rogers was from Latrobe, and in spite of his show's success, he never moved the taping to New York or Hollywood. He notably had Steeler receiver Lynn Swann on his show, to show that even a big tough football player (or, at least, a graceful wide receiver) could love ballet (which explained how Swannie got such nice moves in the first place). A statue of Mr. Rogers, sponsored by TV Land, is near Heinz Field, as is one of Steeler founder-owner Art Rooney.

A lot of movies have been shot in Pittsburgh, due to its varied architecture. Many have had sports scenes. You may have seen the 1994 version of Angels in the Outfield, which involved the team then known as the California Angels. The original black-and-white version came out in 1951, and the downtrodden team they featured was the Pirates, and there's some nice shots of Forbes Field in it. Some nice shots of Janet Leigh, too. (Jamie Lee Curtis' mom -- no, unlike in some other films such as Psycho, Janet doesn't flash any skin in this one, but now you know why Tony Curtis married her, and where Jamie Lee inherited the goods.)

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh was a very silly, very Seventies movie, with Julius "Dr. J" Erving playing for the good guys and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing for the opposition. Sudden Death had Jean-Claude Van Damme trying to stop an assassination attempt at the Stanley Cup Finals. Both featured the old Civic Arena. Van Damme also filmed Timecop in Pittsburgh.

While most of The Dark Knight Rises was filmed in New York (with a few CGI bridges added to the skyline to create the atmosphere of the fictional Gotham City), and its 2 predecessors were filmed in Chicago, the football game scene was filmed at Heinz Field, with the fictional Gotham Rogues wearing Steeler black & gold. (They even made up a fake website for the team, including the Rogue Rag, a takeoff on the Terrible Towel.) Real-life Steeler legend Hines Ward returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown as Bane's bomb collapsed the field behind him, and playing the opposition's kicker was real-life Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. The scene where Gary Oldman goes to Matthew Modine's house to prepare for the final assault may also have been filmed in Pittsburgh, although the row-house style resembles Philadelphia. Some of the movie was filmed in Newark, but that street doesn't look like any part of Newark I've ever seen. You'd have to get as far south as Trenton to see Philly-style rowhouses in New Jersey, but then they've got 'em all along the Delaware River, in places like Bordentown, Burlington and Camden. Maybe it's a Pennsylvania thing.

One of Tom Cruise's first big films was All the Right Moves, a high school football movie set in Pittsburgh. He returned to Pittsburgh to film Jack Reacher. A movie with more life in it, the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead, was filmed in Pittsburgh. Its sequel Dawn of the Dead was filmed at the Monroeville Mall in the eastern suburbs, and the concluding chapter Day of the Dead back in the city.

Gung Ho, with Michael Keaton, spoofed the decline of Pittsburgh industry. Flashdance, with Jennifer Beals, turned the declining Pittsburgh dream on its head. Boys On the Side seemed to wink at it. Groundhog Day starts in Pittsburgh before moving east to Punxsatawney. However, those aren't sports movies. (Although, with Jennifer Beals, Drew Barrymore and Andie MacDowell in them, there may be some heavy breathing.) PNC Park was used in the recent films She's Out of My League and Abduction.

*

Pittsburgh is a terrific city that loves its sports, and PNC Park is one of the best of the new ballparks. Its Sunday games are scheduled for 1:35, while nearly every other home game, including on Saturday nights, is at 7:05.

Monday, May 30, 2016

One Shot, One Kill, One Hit, One Win

This morning, after I said words to the effect of, "The Mets are stupid" on Facebook, a Met fan suggested that I wished I were a Met fan instead of a Yankee Fan, because the Mets have "heart."

Bitch, please. The Mets are a Wizard of Oz team: They have no brain, they have no heart, and they have no courage.

David Wright disappears every time the Mets need him most. Matt Harvey (who, in all fairness, pitched his best game of the season this afternoon) whined about an innings limit. And not since 1986 have the Mets gotten through a World Series without baserunning blunders.

A team with "heart" manages to find a way to win even when they are held to 1 hit.

That happened to the Yankees yesterday. Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays took a perfect game into the 6th inning, when Dustin Ackley reached 1st base on an error. He took a no-hitter into the 7th.

But with 1 out, Odorizzi walked Brett Gardner. And then Starlin Castro took him deep. That made the score Yankees 2, Rays 1, and that's how the game ended.

Technically, a home run hitter isn't a "baserunner," but gets counted as such. It was Castro's 7th home run of the season, and only the 3rd baserunner the Yankees got all game long. There would not be a 4th.

The Yankees have been faulted for poor hitting since the September 2012 nosedive that almost cost them the American League Eastern Division title, and did cost them the 2012 AL Championship Series, Playoff berths in 2013 and 2014, and the Division title and the Wild Card Game in 2015. This time, they got just enough to win.

It was like the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps' sniper service: "One Shot, One Kill." Fitting, on Memorial Day Weekend, the Yankees got "One Hit, One Win."

WP: Nathan Eovaldi (6-2). Each member of what's now being called "The Three-Headed Monster" pitched a perfect inning: Dellin Betances in the 7th, Andrew Miller in the 8th, and Aroldis Chapman in the 9th (for his 7th save). LP: Odorizzi (a hard-luck 2-3).

*

So, here we are, 8 weeks into the 26-game MLB regular season. Here are the AL East standings going into tonight's games, taking today's afternoon games into account:

Boston Red Sox, 31-20
Baltimore Orioles, 28-21, 2 games behind, 1 in the loss column
Toronto Blue Jays, 26-26, 5 1/2, 6 in the loss column
New York Yankees, 24-25, 6, 5 in the loss column
Tampa Bay Rays, 22-26, 7 1/2, 6 in the loss column

The Yankees have played a game more than the Rays, and as many as the O's. They have 2 games in hand on The Scum, and 3 in hand on the Jays.

Tonight, the Yankees begin a 3-game series in Toronto against those pesky Blue Jays. Here are the projected pitching matchups, with all starting times officially listed as 7:07 PM:

* Tonight: Ivan Nova vs. Marco Estrada.
* Tomorrow: CC Sabathia vs. J.A. Happ. A lot of initials out there. They were on opposing sides in the 2009 World Series (CC for us, Happ for the Philadelphia Phillies).
* Wednesday: Tanaka vs. Aaron Sanchez.

Then the Yankees go to Detroit to make up a rainout on Thursday, then to Baltimore for 3 against the O's, before returning to New York to start a homestand by playing the Los Angeles Angels of Katella Boulevard, Anaheim, Orange County, California, United States of America, North America, Western Hemisphere, Planet Earth, Sol System, Alpha Quadrant, United Federation of Planets, Milky Way Galaxy, Local Group of Galaxies, Known Universe.

*

Hours until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 99. See the next entry.

Days until the 2016 Copa America Centenario kicks off in the U.S.: 4, this Friday. The Copa America is celebrating its 100th Anniversary by being hosted on U.S. soil for the 1st time. (The U.S. normally wouldn't compete, and nor would our arch-rivals, Mexico: It's traditionally the continental tournament for national teams in South America. The U.S. team beat Bolivia 4-0 in their final warmup match. They will play Colombia on Friday night, at 9:30 PM Eastern Time, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers. At 8:00 PM the following Tuesday, they will play Costa Rica at the new Soldier Field in Chicago. The following Saturday at 7:00 PM, they will play Paraguay at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The Final will be at the Meadowlands on June 26.

Days until Euro 2016 kicks off in France: 11, a week from this coming Friday.

Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: 20, on Sunday night, June 19, at 7:30, home to the Seattle Sounders. This is after a break for the Copa America. In their last match, Metro cruised to a 3-0 win over Toronto FC.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series of the season: 46, on Friday, July 15, the 1st series after the All-Star Break, at Yankee Stadium II. A little over 6 weeks.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 48, against the Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium (formerly PPL Park) in Chester, Pennsylvania. The next game against New York City F.C. (a.k.a. Man City NYC, Man City III, Small Club In Da Bronx and The Homeless) is on Sunday afternoon, July 3, at Yankee Stadium II -- although after the greatest humiliation any MLS team has ever endured, that 7-0 defeat in The Bronx last weekend, I wonder if NYCFC (now 0-4 all-time against RBNY) will even want to show up. The next game against D.C. United (a.k.a. The DC Scum) is on Sunday night, August 21, at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington. The next game against the New England Revolution is on Sunday night, August 28, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

Days until The Arsenal play at the opponents in the 2016 Major League Soccer All-Star Game: 59, on Thursday night, July 28, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California, home of the San Jose Earthquakes. Under 2 months. Three days later, The Arsenal will play C.D. Guadalajara (a.k.a. Chivas), one of the biggest clubs in Mexico, at the StubHub Center, home of the Los Angeles Galaxy, in Carson, California. This will be just 2 years after The Arsenal came to America to play the Red Bulls in New Jersey. I was lucky enough to get a ticket and attend that match. I don't think I'll be going to either of these: Even if I could get a game ticket, paying for a plane ticket would be tough.

Days until the 2016 Olympics begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 67, on Friday, August 5.

Days until The Arsenal play another competitive match: At least 68. The 2016-17 Premier League season is likely to open on Saturday, August 6 -- not on August 20, as I had previously been led to believe. However, Arsenal's opening League game could be delayed to Sunday the 7th, or Monday the 8th. Under 10 weeks.

Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 96, on Saturday, September 3, away to the University of Washington, in Seattle.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 102, on Friday, September 9, probably away, since, while the 2016 schedule hasn't been released yet, the Big Green opened last season at home.

Days until the New Jersey Devils play another local rival: Unknown, but at least 130. The schedule for the 2016-17 NHL season has been announced as being released on June 22. The new season is likely to begin on the 1st Friday in October, which would be October 7. But the Devils are not likely to play either the New York Rangers (a.k.a. The Scum), the New York Islanders or the Philadelphia Flyers (a.k.a. The Philth) in the opener.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 168, on Thursday morning, November 24, at the purple shit pit on Route 9. Just 6 months.

Days until the Contract From Hell runs out, and Alex Rodriguez' alleged retirement becomes official: 519, on October 31, 2017, or at the conclusion of the 2017 World Series, if the Yankees make it, whichever comes last. A little over 17 months.

Days until the next World Cup kicks off in Russia: 745, on June 14, 2018. A little over 2 years. The U.S. team will probably qualify for it, but with Jurgen Klinsmann as manager, particularly in competitive matches rather than in friendlies, you never know.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pineda Is a Problem

Right now, Michael Pineda's best friend is Matt Harvey. So much fuss is being made over "The Dark Knight" not pitching like an ace that Pineda's struggle is barely being noticed.

Yesterday afternoon, at Tropicana Field, Pineda fell behind 5-0 after 2 innings, and didn't get out of the 4th. Joe Girardi thankfully did not waste the good relievers on a game already lost, instead sending out Luis Cessa and Nick Goody.

Carlos Beltran hit his 12th home run of the season, the 404th of his career, and his 2,500th career hit. Chase Headley and Austin Romine each had 3 hits, and Jacoby Ellsbury had 2. The Yankees got 5 runs, and that should be enough.

It wasn't. Rays 9, Yankees 5. WP: Matt Moore (2-3). No save. LP: Pineda (2-6).

The expression on Girardi's face as he takes the ball from Pineda tells the story.

So what's the story? Is Pineda hurt? They should check him for injury. If not, send him down to the minors for a while, and let him find his command, control and rhythm against minor-league hitters.

But if the Yankees are going to make the Playoffs, they need to have solid starting pitchers in all 5 slots: Pineda, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova.

Luis Severino is making a rehab start in A ball in Tampa today. Meaning he'll probably make one in AA in Trenton, and one in AAA in Scranton, before rejoining the Yankees.

Sabathia, Tanaka and Eovaldi are as good as any top 3 starters in baseball. Certainly, they're better than the Mets' top 3. But for the last 2 starting slots, 2 of these 3 must come through regularly: Pineda, Severino and Nova.

Right now, I'm not sure we can count on any of those 3. Hopefully, Severino's problem was just his injury, and that will mean we'll only need to count on 1 of 2 for the last slot.

The series concludes this afternoon. Eovaldi starts vs. Jake Odorizzi. Then, the Yankees head across the border to Toronto, to face those pesky Blue Jays. And they'd better play them better than they did in The Bronx last week.

At least, if they do, they won't whine about it, like Met fans in regard to Harvey. Or in regard to Noah Syndergaard and the rest of their Small Club In Flushing vs. Chase Utley.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

How to Be a Met Fan In Miami -- 2016 Edition

Next Friday, the Mets will begin a series in Miami against the Marlins.

Stereotypically, South Florida in general, and Miami in particular, is where old Italian and Jewish New Yorkers go to retire. Along with the railroad and air-conditioning, New Yorkers essentially made that region possible.

And how has Miami thanked New York? Well, the Dolphins have made fools out of the Jets (not that the Jets have needed much help), the Marlins have beaten the Yankees in a World Series (2003) and tormented the Mets in 2 season-ending knock-'em-out-of-Playoff-contention games (2007 and '08), and the Heat have fought with the Knicks, figuratively and literally (1997 & '98).

But the Marlins' new ballpark is so sparsely populated these days that, starting this coming Monday night in a 3-game series, Met fans can do what Yankee Fans do in Tampa Bay: Take over the ballpark, and make it into the Sixth Borough.

Before You Go. It's South Florida: Presume that it will be hot, and that it will be rainy. This is why the new ballpark has a retractable roof. Most likely, it will be closed. Check the Miami Herald
website for their local forecast before you go.

Currently, and the Herald is one of the few papers I've seen that extends its forecast more than a week in advance, they're saying that next weekend's daytime temperatures will be in the high 80s, while nighttime will be in the high 70s, plus a threat of rain on Sunday. So, yuck. (If you don't mind me using a technical term.) But, as I said, the roof is likely to be closed, so while you might get rained on, you won't get rained out.

Miami is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to fiddle with your watch or the clock on your smartphone. And, while Florida was a Confederate State, and parts of Miami may seem like an extension of Cuba or the Dominican Republic, you won't have to bring your passport or change your money.

Tickets. Last season, the Marlins averaged 21,632 fans per game – dead last in the National League, and ahead of only Oakland and cross-State Tampa Bay in the American League. This season, so far, they're getting 20,169, 26th in the majors but still last in the NL. The novelty of the new stadium has worn off like a 24-hour virus, and the shattered expectations of new acquisitions that either flopped or, like Jose Reyes, have already been dumped has killed whatever buzz they had.

Although they opened strong as an expansion franchise in 1993 with 37,838, and were doing well in 1994 with 33,695 before the strike hit, only in their 1997 World Championship season, 29,190, and in their first season in Marlins Park, 2012, have they since topped 24,000. Even in their World Championship season of 2003, they averaged just 16,290. Although Sun Life Stadium (the 7th name the facility has had in its 24 years of operation) has 75,192 seats for football and, during World Series play, topped out at 67,498, much of the upper deck was tarped off, and official baseball capacity was 38,560, turning what could be the largest stadium in the majors into one of the smallest. And still, they couldn't sell it out.

Official capacity of Marlins Park is 36,742 -- meaning they're currently averaging 16,000 short of capacity. So getting tickets will probably not be problem: Pretty much anything you can afford will be available. As with any roadtrip, I advise ordering your tickets in advance, but you can probably get anything you can afford.

This would not, however, include the upper deck "Vista Boxes" and "Vista Reserved": These are not on sale for the Marlins vs. Mets series. My guess is, they're being tarped off, with the club thinking they can't sell them. Oh really, with all those older ex-New Yorkers living nearby?

Home Plate Box seats go for $79, Baseline Reserved are $62, Bullpen Reserved in right field are $34, and the upper-deck Home Run Porch seats are $26. In left field, the "Clevelander" section goes for $40.

Getting There. It's 1,283 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown Miami. Knowing this distance, your first reaction is going to be to fly down there. This is not a horrible idea, as the flight is just 3 hours, but you'll still have to get from the airport to wherever your hotel is. If you're trying to get from the airport to downtown, you'll need to change buses – or change from a bus to Miami's Tri-Rail rapid transit service. And it is possible, if you order quickly, to find nonstop flights for under $600 round-trip.

The train is not a very good idea, because you'll have to leave Penn Station on Amtrak's Silver Star at 11:02 AM and arrive in Miami at 6:05 the next day's evening, a 31-hour ride. The return trip will leave at 8:10 AM and return to New York at 11:00 AM, "only" 27 hours – no, as I said earlier, there's no time-zone change involved. Round-trip, it'll cost $236. And the station isn’t all that close, at 8303 NW 37th Avenue. Fortunately, there's a Tri-Rail station there that will take you downtown.

How about Greyhound? There are 5 buses leaving Port Authority every day with connections to Miami, only one of them nonstop, the 10:30 PM to 4:20 AM (2 days later) version. The rest require you to change buses in Richmond and Orlando. (I don't know about changing buses in Orlando, but I have changed buses in Richmond, and I can tell you: It is not fun.) The ride, including the changeovers, takes about 30 hours. Round-trip fare is $208, but you can get it for $132 on advanced-purchase.

The station is at 4111 NW 27th Street and, ironically, is right across 42nd Avenue from the airport. It's worth the fact that it'll cost twice as much to simply fly down. Plus, you might be reminded of the end of the movie Midnight Cowboy, and nobody wants to be reminded of that.

If you want to drive, it'll help to get someone to go down with you, and take turns driving. You'll be going down Interstate 95 (or its New Jersey equivalent, the Turnpike) almost the whole way. It’ll be about 2 hours from the Lincoln Tunnel to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, 20 minutes in Delaware, and an hour and a half in Maryland, before crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, at the southern tip of the District of Columbia, into Virginia. Then it will be 3 hours or so in Virginia, another 3 hours in North Carolina, about 3 hours and 15 minutes in South Carolina, a little under 2 hours in Georgia, and about 6 hours and 15 minutes in Florida before you reach downtown Miami.

Given rest stops, preferably in one in each State from Maryland to Georgia and 2 in Florida, you're talking about a 28-hour trip.

Once In the City. A lot of people don't realize it, because Miami is Florida's most famous city, but the most populous city in the State is Jacksonville. However, while Miami has about 425,000 people within the city limits, there are 5.6 million living in the metro area, making it far and away the largest in the South, not counting Texas.

Because Florida is so hot (How hot is it?), and air-conditioning didn't become common until the mid-20th Century, Miami was founded rather late by the standards of the East coast, in 1825, and wasn't incorporated as a city until 1896. The name is derived from the Mayaimi tribe of Native Americans. Miami Avenue is the east-west divider, Flagler Street the north-south.

The Herald is the only major newspaper left in the city, but the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale should also be available. And, considering how many ex-New Yorkers are around, you might also be able to get the Times, the Daily News, or, if you're really desperate (or really conservative), the Post.

The sales tax in Florida is 6 percent, but it's 7 percent within Miami-Dade County. Since 1984, Miami has had a rapid-transit rail service, Metrorail. However, the ballpark isn't all that close to it. You will need to take the Number 7 bus from downtown. The fare for the Metrorail and the Metrobus is $2.25.
A Metrorail train at a downtown station

Going In. The official address of Marlins Park used to be 1390 NW 6th Street, but it's now 501 Marlins Way. It's 2 miles west of downtown, between 4th and 6th Streets, and 14th and 16th Avenues. Parking is $10.
Marlins Park with roof closed

Three of those surrounding streets have specialized names for the stretches that border the park: 16th Avenue is Marlins Way; 4th Street is Bobby Maduro Drive, after the Cuban baseball executive who was forced to flee his native land during Fidel Castro's revolution and had the old Miami minor-league stadium named in his honor; and 6th Street is Felo Ramirez Drive, after the legendary baseball and boxing announcer who has been the main Spanish radio voice of the Marlins from day one in 1993, and is a winner of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford Frick Award for broadcasters.
Marlins Park with roof open

Due to South Florida's climate – the city probably gets more rain than any other in the major leagues, including Seattle – the ballpark was built with a retractable roof, going from the 1st base side across to left field. The park points southeast, but is west of downtown, so you can't really see Miami's skyline from inside. Which is too bad, because Miami is undergoing a building boom, including the "Biscayne Wall" along the waterfront. The seats are all a bright blue.

Marlins Park has a natural grass field. The outfield distances are 344 feet down the left field line, 386 to left-center, 420 to the furthest point, the left-center region they call "the Bermuda Triangle," 418 to straightaway center, 392 to right-center, and 335 down the right field line.

Every bit as much as the Dolphins' stadium was in its baseball configuration, this is a pitcher’s park. The longest home run in it is a 484-footer by Giancarlo Stanton in 2014. Andres Galarraga, as a Colorado Rockie, hit the longest in Miami's major league history, a 529-footer at Joe Robbie Stadium in 1997.

There's funky (or tacky, depending on how you look at it) artwork all over the place, including the tropic-themed Home Run Sculpture in left field. And then there's "The Clevelander." Something the Marlins captured during their 1997 World Series win over the Indians, maybe? Nope, it's something they call "South Beach Comes to the Ballpark!" They have a poolside bar and grill, restricted to fans age 21 and over. In other words, it's the Arizona Diamondbacks' right-center-field pool kicked up a notch. It's something that does not belong at a ballpark.
(I don't know if there's a connection, but Julia Tuttle, the local booster who convinced railroad baron Henry Flagler to help her make a modern city possible in the 1890s, was from Cleveland. Because of her, Miami is sometimes called the only American city founded by a woman.)

Food. With a great Hispanic, and especially Cuban, heritage, and also being in Southeastern Conference country (hello, tailgating), you would expect the baseball team in Miami to have great food at their stadium. They certainly go heavy on the regional cuisine at Taste of Miami, behind Section 27: Cuban sandwiches, Pan con Lechon, Chicharron, Fish Ceviche, Cuban coffee and Mariquitas. This is not to be confused with the Miami Mex taco stand at Section 4.

Burger 305 (named for the city's original Area Code) has several stands, and includes a "Miami Shrimp Burger." There's 3 Sir Pizza stands -- after all, what would Miami be without Italian senior citizens? There is a Kosher Korner at Section 1 -- after all, what would Miami be without Jewish senior citizens? Brother Jimmy's BBQ, introduced to New York sports at the new Yankee Stadium, is at Section 8.

Team History Displays. Not much. The Marlins hang banners for their 1997 and 2003 World Championships, their only trips to the postseason, in the windowed area behind left field.
The only retired number they've ever had was for Carl Barger, their team president, who organized the team for the start of the 1993 season, and then died right before it. He was a friend of Joe DiMaggio, who lived in nearby Hollywood, Florida, and threw out the first ball at the Marlins’ first game. (There was precedent for a legend of one team throwing out the first-ever first ball of another team: Ty Cobb's last appearance in a big-league ballpark was throwing out the first ball at the Los Angeles Angels' 1st home game, because he was a friend and former teammate of their 1st general manager, Fred Haney.)

In Barger's memory, and in connection with his friendship with the Yankee Clipper, original owner Wayne Huizenga retired Number 5 for Barger, who never wore it – not even for fun. But upon the opening of the new park, it was unretired, although it is not currently being worn.

So, now, the only retired number they recognize is the universally-retired Number 42 of Jackie Robinson. Their notation for it is in left-center, next to The Clevelander.
The team did honor Barger with a plaque at the new park, but that's hardly the same thing, unless it's part of a team Hall of Fame display, which they don't have: Not a display, nor a team Hall of Fame. Nor even an all-time team as chosen by the fans, not even last year with the team celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Maybe they'll do that in 2018, for their 25th.

There are 3 players who played for the Marlins who are in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown: Miami native Andre Dawson, and former manager Tony Perez, both of whom currently work in the Marlin organization; and Mike Piazza, who was a Marlin for about 10 minutes between the Dodgers and the Mets in 1998.

It should be noted, though, that Perez never played for the Marlins, and Dawson only did so for the last 2 years of his career, a grand total of 121 games. They have as many broadcasters "in the Hall of Fame" as they do uniformed personnel: Felo Ramirez, and Dave Van Horne, who came down from the Montreal Expos when Jeffrey Loria essentially moved the Expos' organization, if not its players, in 2002.

No player for the Marlins was named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Players in 1999. In 2006, Dontrelle Willis was chosen by Marlin fans for the DHL Hometown Heroes series.

Stuff. The Marlins have team stores in the stadium, but nothing out of the ordinary: Caps, jerseys, T-shirts, bats, gloves, stuffed Billy the Marlin dolls.

A few books have been written for the Marlins, and may be available in the team stores. Dan Schlossberg, Miami Herald columnist Dave Barr, Kevin Baxter and Marlin star Jeff Conine collaborated on Miracle Over Miami: How the 2003 Marlins Shocked the World. Jenny Reese wrote
The History of the Florida Marlins, published in 2010.

One book you will almost certainly not see in the stores is Dave Rosenbaum’s book about how original owner Huizenga "went all in" to win the 1997 World Series, then broke the team up, going from 92-70 that season to 54-108 the next, having practically come out and told everyone that a 100-plus-loss next season was likely. The title of the book? If They Don’t Win It’s a Shame. (Yeah, tell that to the Giants, who they beat in the NLDS and who had never yet won a Series in San Francisco; and to the Indians, who blew a 9th-inning lead in Game 7 of the Series and still haven’t won a Series since 1948.)

Although the Marlins have won 2 World Series and have been around for nearly 20 years now, there is, as yet, no commemorative DVD of their World Series highlight films, and no The Essential Games of the Florida Marlins DVD.

During the Game. South Florida is loaded with people who came from elsewhere, including ex-New Yorkers. The stereotype is that, when a New Yorker gets old, if he has enough money to do so, he moves to Miami. Especially if he's Jewish. Or Italian. As a result, you may see a lot of Met fans, few of whom switched to the Marlins. You may run into a few Yankee Fans who adopted the Marlins as their "second team" or their "National League team," although how many of them kept that status after the 2003 World Series is debatable. (Blast you, Jeff Weaver – Alex Gonzalez sure did.)

I don't know if your safety will be an issue. The new ballpark, on the site of the Orange Bowl, is in a questionable neighborhood. However, if you leave your car at the hotel and take the bus in, the police presence will probably mean you're protected from the local criminal element.

As for the Marlin fans, a recent Thrillist article put them almost right in the middle, 14th out of 30, on a list of "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans." You will almost certainly be fine. Miamians might fight if they're at a Dolphins game -- or a University of Miami Hurricanes game, especially against the University of Florida or Florida State -- especially if provoked by visiting fans, but not at a Marlins game. Any leftover bad juju from Dolphins or Hurricanes games the Orange Bowl isn't going to be a problem.

The Saturday game will be a promotion: Mike Lowell Bobblehead Day. The Sunday game will also be a promotion: Giancarlo Stanton Kids Batting Gloves Day.

The Marlins hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. heir mascot is Billy the Marlin, whose name was chosen by Huizenga because a Marlin is a "billfish" – and it has nothing to do with Billy Martin, in spite of the character’s large nose. Since the change of team colors upon moving into Marlins Park in 2012, Billy's costume was altered to show the new colors.
That's Carlos Zambrano, the former All-Star pitcher
for the Cubs, that he's high-fiving, not Victor Zambrano
whom the Mets traded Scott Kazmir for. 

Billy sometimes "water-skis" in behind a golf cart built to look like a boat. Any resemblance of this setup to Richie Cunningham driving the boat that allowed the Fonz to jump the shark on Happy Days is strictly coincidental.

Worse than a dopey mascot, the Marlins had cheerleaders. No, I'm not making this up: They were the one and only MLB team with cheerleaders. Or, as they would put it, a dance/cheer team. The Marlins Mermaids debuted in 2003.
I don't care: It doesn't belong in baseball.

As noted Phillies fan Bill Cosby used to say in his act, before we decided we never wanted to see his act again, "Don't ever say, 'It can't get any worse.' It can always get worse. 'Worse' is rough." In 2008, the team debuted the Marlins Manatees, an all-male "dance/energy squad" who performed alongside the Mermaids. They even wore costumes, like a fat version of the Village People.
Did you think I was making it up?

Speaking of the Village People: You want to blame the Yankees for having the grounds crew dance to "YMCA," go ahead, that’s one "Yankee Tradition" I don’t like, anyway; but this, as noted Met fan Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman on The Odd Couple) would say, is as ridiculous as Aristophanes. Thankfully, upon moving into Marlins Park in 2012, the team abandoned these concepts, and formed a co-ed "energy squad" without a stupid name.
At least they're dressed better.

The Marlins do not have a regular song to play in the 7th inning stretch after "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Their postgame victory song is "Echa Pa'lla (Manos Pa'rriba)," meaning "Move (Hands Up)," by Miami native Armando Christian Pérez, a.k.a. Pitbull. It could be worse: They could play Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine. Worse yet, Miami-based discoteers KC and the Sunshine Band. Or, worst of all, Robbie Van Winkle, the suburbs-of-Dallas loser who, very briefly, tried (and failed) to fool us into thinking he was Miami gangbanger Vanilla Ice.

After the Game. As I said, the Marlins Park area is a bit rough. My advice is to get back downtown as soon as possible, and either look for a nightspot there, or get across the Causeways to Miami Beach, or stay in your hotel and try their bar. If you're too hungry to wait, on opposite sides of 7th Street, just north of the ballpark, there's a Wendy's and a Subway. Batting Cage Sports Bar & Lounge is a couple of blocks away, at 1704 NW 7th Street.

I checked for area bars where New Yorkers gather, and found one for each of the city’s NFL teams. American Social is the home of the local Giants fan club, and also caters to fans of the Yankees and Knicks. HammerJack's Sports Bar & Grille is the home of the South Florida New York Jets Fan Club, The problem is, they're both nearly 30 miles north of downtown Miami: American Social is  at 721 East Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale, while HammerJack's is at 5325 S. University Drive in Davie. Thus, both are better for the New York football teams playing away to the Dolphins than for the baseball teams playing away to the Marlins.

Sidelights. Miami's sports history is long, but aside from football, it's not all that involved. Marlins Park was, as I said, built on the site of the stadium known as Burdine Stadium from its 1937 opening until 1959 and the Miami Orange Bowl thereafter. It was best known for hosting the Orange Bowl game on (or close to) every New Year’s Day from 1938 to 1995, and the NFL's Miami Dolphins from their debut in 1966 until 1986.

It was home to the University of Miami football team from 1937 to 2007 (famed for its fake-smoke entrances out of the tunnel). It was also the home of, if you count the All-America Football Conference of the 1940s, the first "major league" team in any of the former Confederate States: The 1946 Miami Seahawks. But the black players on the Cleveland Browns would not accept being housed away from their white teammates in segregated Florida, and in that league, what the Browns wanted, the Browns got. So the Seahawks (in no way connected the NFL's Seattle team of the same name) were moved to become the Baltimore Colts after just 1 season.

The Orange Bowl also hosted the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl, a game involving the 2nd-place teams in each of the NFL’s divisions from 1960 to 1969, a charity game, a glorified exhibition. Also known as the Playoff Bowl, it was considered so lame that Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi publicly called it "the only game I never want to win" – and he didn't. The stadium also hosted the Miami Toros of the North American Soccer League from 1972 to 1976.

And it hosted 5 Super Bowls, most notably (from a New York perspective) Super Bowl III, when the Jets beat the Colts in one of the greatest upsets in sports history, on January 12, 1969. Super Bowl XIII, in 1979, was the last Super Bowl to be held there; all subsequent South Florida Super Bowls, including the one the Giants won in 2012, Super Bowl XLVI, have been held at the Dolphins' stadium.

The U.S. national soccer team played 19 matches at the Orange Bowl, from 1984 to 2004. They didn't do so well, though, winning only 2 of them, drawing 10 and losing 7. And the biggest crowd they could get was 49,000 -- you'd think that, being in a heavily Hispanic city, they could draw "futbol" fans. Instead, most of the Hispanics came to see them play Latin American teams, and root for those teams. It was also the home of the North American Soccer League's Miami Gatos and Miami Toros, before they moved up I-95 to become the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. London soccer giants Arsenal played their 1st game in America at the Orange Bowl, on May 31, 1972, beating the Gatos 3-2.

The Orange Bowl was where the Dolphins put together what remains the NFL's only true undefeated season, in 1972. The Canton Bulldogs had gone undefeated and untied in 1922, but there was no NFL Championship Game in those days. The Chicago Bears lost NFL Championship Games after going undefeated and untied in the regular seasons of 1932 and 1942. And the Browns went undefeated and untied in the 1948 AAFC season, but that’s not the NFL. The Dolphins capped their perfect season by winning Super Bowl VII, and then Super Bowl VIII. And yet, despite having reached the Super Bowl 5 times, and Miami having hosted 10 of them, the Dolphins have never played in a Super Bowl in their home region. (They've done so in New Orleans, in Houston, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and twice in the Los Angeles area.)

They also haven’t been to one in 31 seasons, which includes all of their history in their new stadium. Curse of Joe Robbie, anyone? Which brings me to...

* The facility currently, officially, named New Miami Stadium. Better known by its original name, Joe Robbie Stadium, after the Dolphins' original owner (although legendary entertainer Danny Thomas also had a stake in the team in its first few years), it's also been known as Dolphin Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Pro Player Stadium and Landshark Stadium. They're waiting on a new sponsor to buy naming rights.

The Marlins reached the postseason here twice, in 1997 and 2003, and won the World Series both times. In other words, they've never lost a postseason series. Contrast that with the Dolphins: Only once, in their first 29 seasons in the Dolphin Tank, have they even reached the AFC Championship Game (in January 1993, and they lost at home to the Bills).

But don't think that the stadium was better for the Marlins: It was a football stadium, with a baseball field wedged into it, and it wasn't really adequate for the horsehide game. It is, however, still regarded as one of the better stadiums in the NFL, despite having been built before Camden Yards rewrote the rules of stadium construction.
Joe Robbie Stadium in its baseball configuration.
Notice all the tarped-over sections.

It's hosted Super Bowls XXIII (1989, San Francisco over Cincinnati), XXIX (1995, San Francisco over San Diego), XXXIII (1999, Denver over Atlanta), XLI (2007, Indianapolis over Chicago) and XLIV (2010, New Orleans over Indianapolis). It will host Super Bowl LIV (2020).

It's hosted several of soccer games, including matches with such storied names as Arsenal (beat Argentine club Independiente in 1989), Manchester United and A.C. Milan. The U.S. national team played Honduras there on October 8, 2011, and won -- but only 21,900 attended.

Now that the Marlins are out, the official address of the stadium is 347 Don Shula Drive, for the number of games that Shula won as an NFL head coach -- although that counts the postseason, and the games he won as boss of the Colts. (But not Super Bowl III, which he lost as coach of the Colts.) It's between NW 199th and 203rd Streets (199th is renamed Dan Marino Blvd.), and NW 21st and 26th Avenues. Take Metrorail toward Palmetto, and get off at the Martin Luther King Jr. station. (I doubt if a sports stadium in the Miami suburbs was a part of Dr. King’s dream, although stadiums and performing-arts venues with racially-integrated seating, particularly in the South, sure were.)

* Comfort Inn. This hotel, across 36th Street from the airport, was built on the site of the Playhouse, once considered one of South Florida’s finest banquet halls. It was here, on January 9, 1969, 3 days before the Super Bowl, at a dinner organized by the Miami Touchdown Club, that Joe Namath of the Jets was speaking, and some drunken Colts fan yelled out, "Hey, Namath! We’re gonna kick your ass on Sunday!" And Joe said, "Let me tell you something: We got a good team. And we're gonna win the game. I guarantee it!" He was right. NW 36th Street between Curtiss Parkway and Deer Run. MetroRail toward Palmetto, to Allapattah Station, then transfer to the 36 Bus.

* Site of Miami Stadium. Also known as Bobby Maduro Stadium, this was the home of the original Miami Marlins, of the Florida State League. Seating 13,000, it was known for its Art Deco entrance and a roof that shielded nearly the entire seating area, to protect fans from the intense Miami weather.

The FSL team that played here was known as the Sun Sox from 1949 to 1954, the Marlins from 1956 to 1960, the Marlins again from 1962 to 1970, the Miami Orioles from 1971 to 1981, and the Marlins again from 1982 to 1988.  It was the spring training home of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1950 to 1957, the Dodgers in their first season in Los Angeles in 1958 (it can be said that "the Los Angeles Dodgers" played their 1st game here, not in California), and the Baltimore Orioles from 1959 to 1990. The FSL Pennant was won here 7 times: 1950, 1952 (Sun Sox), 1969, 1970 (old Marlins), 1971, 1972 and 1978 (Orioles).
It was demolished in 2001, and The Miami Stadium Apartments were built on the site. 2301 NW 10th Avenue, off 23rd Street. It’s just off I-95, and 8 blocks north and east from the Santa Clara MetroRail station.

* American Airlines Arena. The "Triple-A" has been the home of the NBA’s Miami Heat since 2000, including their 2006, 2012 and 2013 NBA Championship seasons. 601 Biscayne Blvd. (U.S. Routes 1 & 41), between NE 6th and 8th Streets, across Port Blvd. from the Bayside Marketplace shopping center (not exactly their version of the South Street Seaport) and the Miami outlets of Hooters, the Hard Rock Café and Bubba Gump Shrimp. The closest rapid-rail station is Overtown – ironically, the same stop for the previous sports arena…

* Site of Miami Arena. Home of the Heat from their 1988 debut until 1999 (the new arena opened on Millennium Eve, December 31, 1999), and the NHL's Florida Panthers from their 1993 debut to 1998, this building was demolished in 2008. Only 20 years? Apparently, like the multipurpose stadiums of the 1960s and '70s, and the Meadowlands Arena and (soon?) the Nassau Coliseum, it served its purpose – getting teams to come in – and then quickly became inadequate.

Nevertheless, when the Overtown race riot happened in January 1989, just before Super Bowl XXIII, area residents took great pains to protect this arena from damage (and the Miami area from the public-relations nightmare that would have occurred had there been a riot during Super Bowl week), and succeeded. 701 Arena Blvd., between Miami Avenue, NW 1st Avenue, and 6th and 8th Streets. Overtown/Arena rail station.

* BB&T Center. The home of the Panthers since 1998, and there's a reason the team is called "Florida" instead of "Miami": The arena is 34 miles northwest of downtown Miami, and 14 miles west of downtown Fort Lauderdale, in a town called Sunrise. 1 Panther Parkway, at NW 136th. If you don’t have a car, you'd have to take the 195 Bus to Fort Lauderdale, and then the 22 Bus out to the building, named for Branch Banking & Trust Corporation.

* Fort Lauderdale Stadium and Lockhart Stadium. Built in 1962, the Yankees moved their spring training headquarters to the 8,340-seat Fort Lauderdale Stadium after being assured that, unlike their spring home of St. Petersburg at the time, their black players could stay in the same hotel as their white players. The Yankees remained there until 1995, by which point Tampa was not only long since integrated, but was willing to pretty much anything city resident George Steinbrenner wanted, including build him a new spring home for the Yankees.
The Yankees' Class A team in the Florida State League also used it as a home field. After the Yankees left, the Orioles used it from 1996 to 2009. Although it no longer has a permanent tenant, or even a spring training tenant, it still stands, and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers use it as a practice facility. 1401 NW 55th Street.

Built in 1959, Lockhart is a 20,450-seat high school football stadium, across 55th Street from Fort Lauderdale Stadium, along 12th Avneue. It's been home to 4 different teams called the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, including the original NASL's version from 1977 to 1983, and the new NASL's version since 2011. It's hosted 3 games of the U.S. national soccer team, and also hosted Florida Atlantic University's football team from 2003 to 2010, after which their on-campus stadium opened. 5201 NW 12th Avenue.

For both stadiums, take MetroRail to Tri-Rail, then Tri-Rail to northbound to Cypress Creek. From there, it's about a 10-minute walk.

Florida International University is at 11200 SW 8th Street, 16 miles west of downtown. Its FIU Stadium, seating 23,500, is at 11310 SW 17th Street. Bus 8. It should not be confused with Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Its 30,000 FAU Stadium is at FAU Blvd. & N. University Drive. Tri-Rail to Boca Raton station. On October 14, 2014, the U.S. soccer team had a 1-1 draw with Honduras at FAU Stadium.

* Sports Immortals Museum. This museum is in Boca Raton, at 6830 N. Federal Highway (Route 1), 50 miles north of downtown Miami. It's got a statue of Babe Ruth, and some memorabilia on display. However, some people have reported that much of the memorabilia they sell has been judged to be fake by authenticators, so buyer beware. Theoretically, it's reachable by public transportation from Miami, but you'd need to take a bus to a train to a bus to a bus (32 to Tri-Rail to 70 to 1), and it would take about 3 hours. If you don't have the time to make for this, by car or otherwise, skip it.

* Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. For the last 30 or so years of his life, the Yankee Clipper lived in South Florida, and while he pretty much ignored his one and only child, son Joe Jr., he adored his grandchildren and children in general. He was a heavy donor to local hospitals, and the Children's Hospital named for him was established in 1992. There is now a statue of him there. 1005 Joe DiMaggio Drive, Hollywood. about 20 miles north of downtown Miami. 22 bus to Hollywood Tri-Rail station, then a mile's walk.

Someone got a copy of an expired DiMaggio driver's license (possibly at an auction), and posted it online. It shows the Yankee Clipper's address as 5151 Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. This, and any other Miami Beach location, can be reached via the 103, 113 or 119 Bus, or car, over the MacArthur Causeway. If you do visit, remember that it is still a private residence, and you will not be allowed inside, and should not bother whoever's living there now.

* Miami Beach Convention Center. Opened in 1957, it seats 15,000 people. The American Basketball Association's Miami Floridians played here from 1968 to 1972. The 1968 Republican Convention, and both major parties' Conventions in 1972, were held here. Why? Simple: They wanted to be away from downtown, putting water between themselves and wherever the hippies and another antiwar demonstrators were staying.

This building hosted the heavyweight title fights of 1961 (Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson III, Floyd won) and 1964 (Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston I, Clay winning and then changing his name to Muhammad Ali). Just 9 days before Ali forced his "total eclipse of the Sonny," on February 16, 1964, the Beatles played their 2nd full-length U.S. concert here. (A photo exists of the Beatles visiting Ali at his Miami training center, and he knocks the 4 of them over like dominoes.) Elvis Presley gave a pair of concerts here on September 12, 1970.

Convention Center Drive between 17th Street and Dade Blvd. The Jackie Gleason Theater, where "The Great One" taped his 1960s version of The Jackie Gleason Show (including a revival of The Honeymooners) is next-door.

* Coconut Grove Convention Center. This former Pan Am hangar, attached to the Dinner Key Marina, was used as a Naval Air Station, convention center, concert hall and sports arena (the Floridians played a few home games here).

It was also known as the Dinner Key Auditorium. On March 1, 1969, The Doors gave a concert here, and lead singer Jim Morrison supposedly committed an indecent act there. (Yeah, he told the crowd, "I’m from Florida! I went to Florida State! Then I got smart and moved to California!")

More recently, it was used as a TV studio, particularly for the Miami-based series Burn Notice. It was demolished in 2013, shortly after that series wrapped production. Pan American Drive at 27th Avenue. Number 102 Bus to Number 48.

* Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. Formerly the Olympic Theater, Elvis sang here early in his career, on August 3 and 4, 1956. 174 E. Flagler Street, downtown.

Miami isn't a big museum city. The big two are the Miami Science Museum, at 3280 S. Miami Avenue (Vizcaya Station on Tri-Rail); ; and the Miami Art Museum, at 101 W. Flagler Street (downtown).

While no President has ever been born in Florida, or grew up there, or even had his permanent residence there, Miami has a key role in Presidential history. On February 15, 1933, President-elect Franklin Roosevelt and Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak were at a rally in Bayfront Park, when Giuseppe Zangara started shooting. FDR was not hit, but Cermak was, and he died on March 6, just 2 days after FDR was inaugurated. Bayfront Park station on Metromover.

More recently, the building where the votes for Dade County were supposed to be counted in the 2000 election was besieged by protestors, hired by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, so Miami was ground zero for the theft of the election by the George W. Bush campaign. The University of Miami's Convocation Center hosted a Presidential Debate between Bush and John Kerry in 2004. And Lynn University in Boca Raton hosted a Presidential Debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012. 3601 N. Military Trail. Tri-Rail to Boca Raton, then Bus 2.

The Kennedy family had a compound in Palm Beach, but sold it in 1995. It's still in private hands, and not open to the public. There was a "Little White House" in Key West (111 Front Street), used by Harry Truman (and, to a lesser extent, his immediate successors Dwight D. Eisenhower and Kennedy), and it's open to tours. But that's a long way from Miami: 160 miles, with no public transportation between the 2 cities, and Greyhound charges $110 round-trip for a 4 1/2-hour ride.

Several TV shows have been set in Miami. A restaurant called Jimbo's Place was used to film scenes from Flipper and Miami Vice, and more recently CSI: Miami and Burn Notice. It’s at 4201 Rickenbacker Causeway in Key Biscayne, accessible by the Causeway (by car) and the 102 Bus (by public transportation). Greenwich Studios has been used to film Miami Vice, True Lies, There’s Something About Mary and The Birdcage. It’s at 16th Avenue between 121st and 123rd Streets, in North Miami, and often stands in for Miami Beach for the TV shows and movies for which it’s used. 93 Bus.

If you’re a fan of The Golden Girls, you won’t find the house used for the exterior shots: It’s actually in Los Angeles. If you're a fan of those not-quite-golden girls, the Kardashian sisters, the penthouse they use to tape the Miami edition of their "reality show" is on Ocean Drive between 1st and 2nd Streets in Miami Beach.

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You don't have to be old to be a New Yorker in Miami -- but it helps to be a sports fan. Who knows, the Mets might even get a little bit of revenge for those season-ending series of 2007 and '08.