Road to 30: Stop #1 Angels Stadium

In my road to visit all 30 stadiums in baseball, my first stop brought me to Anaheim, California, home of the Angels.

 

When you drive in, all you can see is a gigantic letter A at the side of the building, and an enormous facility that looks like it could house the USC football team. It was a beautiful Sunday day baseball game (go read my article on day baseball) in Southern California, doesn’t really get better than that.

 

A great plus for Angels Stadium, it has probably the greatest parking of any sports venue I’d ever attended, props.

 

We purchased the seats online probably an hour before the game, cheap and in the outfield. By the way, the outfield is the most underrated place to sit in a baseball game, for several reasons. Number one, its where the real fans sit. Two, if it’s a day game, you can score a pretty good tan.

 

To my surprise, it wasn’t a sold-out game, which took me back because it was one of the first home games of the new season, and it was in the day. The stadium and fans however, create a wonderful atmosphere. The 2002 World Series championship is seen everywhere. As I was sitting in right field, it was neat to think that Barry Bonds hit his first World Series home run in that stadium.

 

First off, and I’m not just blaming the Angels for this, but food/beverages at baseball games are completely insane. If one single hot dog is worth $5, then this country is heading in the wrong direction. That’s more of a disgrace then watching Stephen A.Smith on ESPN.

 

What made the game was the ending. Down 9-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Angels rallied to score seven runs and shock the Mariners. It was the greatest sporting event I’ve ever attended, and I’ve been to many. There is just something about Mike Trout playing outfield, Southern California, day baseball, it just screams America and freedom at you.

 

All in all, it was a perfect day. Angels stadium sometimes gets a bad rep because of its boring location, but you’ll inside the stadium, what do you care? Surprisingly, Angel Stadium is the fourth oldest ballpark in the majors, so go check it out before owners waste more money on a brand new stadium that won’t even sell out, and they’ll sell hot dogs for ten dollars!

What If? The Bartman Play

As the new 2017 MLB season is now fully underway, we again celebrate the incredible and unforgettable championship run that the Chicago Cubs made in 2016. Of course we know the story, the Cubs won their first World Series championship since 1908, a span of 108 long years. However, the Cubs have been close before, 1945, 1969, 1984, and 2003. All those years hurt for Cubbies fans, but which once leaves the darkest mark? 1969 is when the team let go of a playoff spot with over a ten game lead late in the season, and 1984 is the time Chicago squandered a 2-0 lead in the playoffs against the Padres, losing three straight and series. In my opinion, its 2003 that hurts the most, and it all comes down to one play that makes the difference.

 

In the 2003 NLCS, the Cubs held a strangle hold on the young Florida Marlins with a 3-1 series lead, and looked poised to make their first appearance in the Fall Classic since the second World War. A loss in game 5 in Florida moved the series back to the Windy City, and it seemed that there was no way the Cubs could lose at home, especially with star pitcher Mark Prior starting game 6. Fast forward to the eighth inning, and Chicago held a 3-0 lead, and Prior was wheeling and dealing. With one out in the inning, second baseman Luis Castillo lofted a fly ball into left field, right when the stands were in play. We all know the story, left fielder Moises Alou went up to make the catch which seemed to be catchable, and a fan interfered. The fan’s name was Steve Bartman, and what ensued was complete chaos. After that play, Castillo got on base, and the Marlins went on to score an amazing eight runs in that inning, now with an 8-3 lead, and would go on to win the game, and the series, and eventually the World Series.

 

I’m not here to talk about Bartman, because ESPN and fans everywhere has made his life a living hell, but I do want to talk about what would have happened if that play had not occurred. What would the current status of the Chicago Cubs be if Moises Alou had made that catch? Also, what would fate have for the Marlins?

 

Let’s start with that game alone. If Alou makes that catch that he seemed to have, there’s two outs in the inning, and four outs away from the World Series. Ivan Rodriguez is the next batter, then Miguel Carbrera, who in the real game, grounded to shortstop Alex Gonzales who made an error, resulting in everyone safely on base. In this scenario, Prior gets him out, and the Cubs are out of the inning. Prior gets through the ninth and Chicago is marching on to the World Series. They face the Yankees, and if the Marlins were good enough to beat New York, Chicago may have as well. Looking at the matchup, its definitely possible. Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano against the Yankees and Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite and Mike Mussina. Offensively the teams were very similar, with contact and power hitters on both sides. The Cubs had Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Patterson and Alex Gonzales. We all know who the Yankees had, Jeter, Alfonso Soriano, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada. Win or lose that series, it proves as a huge momentum swing for Chicago in the years to come. The next year in 2004, Derrick Lee, the first baseman from the Marlins joined the Cubs, and Chicago is looking at more playoff births. Instead, they went on to miss the playoffs every year until 2007.

 

For the Marlins, its hard to say because after their world series win in 2003, several of the players were gone by the next year. Lee, Brad Penny, Ivan Rodriguez were all gone. However, if they had gone on to lose that series, those players may have stayed the next year to get another shot at the championship. The talent on that Florida team was really incredible, with players like Miguel Cabrera, Lee, Rodriguez, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, Carl Pavano. If all those players stay a few more years, the Marlins are looking at not just one, but multiple winning seasons in South Florida, and un-seeding the Braves as NL East champs.

 

In all, the Bartman play affected two teams, the Marlins because they went on to win the World Series, and the Cubs because they then lost the series, and were the laughing stock of the National League for several more years. Now that they did win in 2016, I’m not quite sure how Cub fans look back at that game and year, with either continued anger and disappointment, or a release of cares.

 

 

The way back to prominence: BEAT FSU

A 9-4 record in the first year under new head coach Mark Richt was just what the Miami Hurricanes and their fans needed. A lot of people were saying that Richt would be lucky to reach that record his first year, but the Canes were able to pull it off, including the program’s first bowl victory in ten years.  Me, I wasn’t that impressed with the team, only because Miami started 4-0, then proceeded to lose four straight, knocking them out of the hunt for a birth in the conference championship game. There could be many fingers to point for the mid-season collapse, but there is one thing that must happen, if Miami wants to become the prominent program they should be, its very simple, beat Florida State.

 

The team that knocked Miami from the unbeatens this past year, was FSU, and it was one point, and frankly a game they should have won. If Miami wins that game, who knows what would have happened the rest of the year, we may be talking about a completely different outcome for the 2016 Hurricanes. In the last three meetings with the Noles, Miami has lost by a combined 10 points. If there are those that say that this rivalry doesn’t mean anything, think again. In 2014, after FSU defeated Miami, the Canes went on to lose the last three games of the season. In 2016, following their week five loss to the Seminoles, Miami went on to lose three straight after the FSU defeat, completely turning their season in the wrong direction.

 

Its been a long eight years since Miami has downed their rivals from the north, and ever since that matchup, the two programs have gone in two different directions. From the year 2000 up until the 2009 victory over FSU, Miami went 8-3 over the Noles. Since 2010, the Seminoles have won every meeting in the rivalry. Since 2009, FSU has gone 6-2 in bowl games, three conference championships, and added a national championship in 2013. Miami on the other hand, has gone 1-5 in bowl games, and not even an appearance in the conference championship game.

 

Its pretty obvious who owns the Sunshine State right now, in the results in the game and also in recruiting. For example, Dalvin Cook, who has destroyed Miami the last three years is a native of the 305. For the Hurricanes to get their confidence back, they have to win, simple as that. 2017 will be an interesting year without quarterback Brad Kaaya, but I do believe that the Canes can be a team to be reckoned with. Will we see a resurgence of the U? Or will the Garnet and Gold continue their dominating ways. Lucky for us, we don’t have to wait too long to get the results, the Canes travel to Doak Campbell Stadium in week 3 of the 2017 season, and a possible rematch in the ACC championship could be a very real possibil

What If? The Tuck Rule

NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2. Do any of you know what this stands for? Its ok to admit that you don’t. Frankly, only about two sets of people know what this represents, fans of the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders. That statement represents the “tuck rule”, an act during the 2002 divisional playoff game between the Raiders and Patriots, that still affects these two teams fifteen years later.

 

We all know what happened in this game and how the rule came up, so let me give you a brief overview. The Raiders were leading 13-10 over New England in a driving snowstorm, and were looking to upset the Pats and head to the AFC championship. With under two minutes to play, Charles Woodson rocked his former Michigan teammate, Tom Brady which caused a fumble that Oakland recovered. All seemed lost for the Patriots, until the refs blew the whistle and wanted to review the play. The ruling on the field was a fumble, but the referees review it to make sure it wasn’t an incomplete pass. They came back and overturned the play, stating that Brady was not making a forward pass but, since he was in the process of tucking the ball back towards his body when he lost it, the play was ruled an incomplete pass and the Patriots retained the ball.

 

We all know what happened next. New England drove the ball down the field, tied the game and then eventually won the game with two Adam Vinatieri field goals. Fifteen years later, and now the Raiders are officially moving from Oakland to Las Vegas, and the Patriots just won their fifth super bowl since that 2001 season. With all that history, the question remains, what if the tuck rule never happened? What if the play wasn’t reviewed and the Raiders went on to win?

 

Well for starters, they would’ve moved on to play the Steelers in the conference championship game, and probably would have won. A Super Bowl matchup with the Rams would follow, and any team probably could have won that. Oakland takes that momentum into the next year and possibly defeats the Bucs in the Super Bowl, and have a Raiders dynasty on our hands. With those wins, you don’t go through the dreadful seasons up until really 2016. Jamarcus Russell doesn’t get drafted to Oakland, neither do the other horrible draft picks. Jon Gruden stays with the Raiders, possibly to even today, and becomes one of the greatest coaches in team history next to John Madden and Tom Flores. With a super bowl victory, quarterback Rich Gannon goes on to have a lucrative career, breaking team records and maybe even finds his spot in Canton, and most definitely in Raiders lore. However, most importantly, the team if they win that game, most likely does not make the move to Las Vegas, and one of the league’s greatest franchise’s, stays where it belongs.

 

Next we look at New England. The Pats are just coming off their fifth win in the Super Bowl, with the first one coming two games after the tuck rule. If the Patriots don’t get out of that blizzard in Foxboro, New England’s dynasty is not born, and maybe never began. Imagine that, Rich Gannon, not Tom Brady, becoming the poster child for the NFL in the 2000’s. That being said, I do believe that the Patriots still would have won a championship, but I don’t think for a few more years. Without that super bowl in 2001, that New England team was just another fad, like the 2011 Denver Broncos.

 

However, the tuck rule did happen, and unfortunately for Raiders fans, its something that they can look back on and shake their head in shame. For Pats fans, it was the play that started a dynasty that is still going on to this day.

Things We Miss about sports: Daytime baseball

There are a number of certain things that makes sense in life. Hot dogs on the 4th of July, Super Bowl Sunday, and of course, day baseball. I recently attended a Sunday Major League game, with a 12:30 starting time and was reminded of the beauty that comes with day baseball games.

 

Lets take a step back. For the longest time, baseball was only played in the day time, but it wasn’t until 1935 that night baseball was introduced to America. Even during the World Series was the games played during the day, so why did it change?  Apparently, during the time of the Great Depression, even Major League baseball teams were folding, and it was harder to keep players during the time of their day jobs.  Ever since then, all teams in the MLB have switched to play under the lights, well, all teams except one.

 

If you ever want to experience heaven on earth, there is one place for that everyone can enjoy. It’s the only place on earth that you can feel like a kid in the 1950’s, and everyone is happy. This magical place I’m referring to is Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have played the majority of their home games during the day for as long as fans could remember. In 2011, the Chicago played 53 day games at Wrigley, with just 28 night games. The first night game at home for the Cubs wasn’t until 1988.  If you really want to experience the pure fullness of baseball and how the game was meant to be viewed as a spectator, go no further than 1060 West Addison in Chicago, at noon on a Thursday.

 

Even the World Series games were held during the day, but we’ve been without one such as that since 1987. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the game’s biggest stage was held more and more at night.

 

To me, nothing is better than watching your favorite team, everyone around you is getting sunburnt, some guys are taking their shirts off, its warm but not too hot, and hearing the beautiful sound of the crack of the bat,  I’m pretty sure cracker jacks and soda taste better in the sunlight as well. Another reason why I love it, is because the day isn’t over when the game ends. Some of my fondest memories of actually going to baseball games have been during day games. I remember Opening Day in 2005, in Miami to see the Marlins and Braves, and John Smoltz square off against Josh Beckett. At Wrigley, I saw Derrick Lee hit two homers and the Cubbies defeat the Astros. Several years ago, I witness Old Timers day at Yankees Stadium on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, where they brought out all the legends of the Bronx Bombers.

 

When you think of baseball, the Sandlot wasn’t filmed during the night (not counting the 4th of July game), Bobby Thompson didn’t hit the Pennant winning walk off at night, Babe Ruth didn’t call his shot under the lights. Let us raise this new generation, in the kind of world that Yogi Berra and Willie Mays would be proud of, and play some ball while the sun is shining

Best, and worst, announcers of all time

Today, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback announced that he would be taking his talents to CBS, and follow the path of many former athletes and take his best shot at the broadcasting world. When the announcement was made, the social media world erupted. One of the best tweets of the day, “Tony Romo’s new broadcasting contract will only be for regular season games.” While we’ll have to wait to see how Romo will do in front of the tv, lets look back at some of the best, and worst broadcasters in recent memory.

 

WORST:

5.Dan Fouts:

Fouts was a standout quarterback with the San Diego Chargers, and brought that franchise to national attention. In the broadcasting booth, Fouts likes to remind of that fact. Its always a plus to have a former player in the booth, but when you start bringing up throws you made to Kellen Winslow in 1981, the attention of the viewers goes South.

 

4.Joe Buck:

Being a Cowboys fan, I can almost guarantee that Buck will be calling the Dallas game every week on Fox. His lack of enthusiasm sucks the blood out of you, and makes you miss him when he calls baseball. However, in the last few years, Buck has made a comeback, and you can expect him to be on the best list in a short while.

 

3: Reggie Miller:

Reggie is a guy who I hated when he was playing, and can’t stand on television either. Miller should be thanking the heavens he got to work with one of the greatest ever to do it, Marv Albert. For being one of the great players of all time, Miller seems to lack a knowledge of basketball statistics, and should just stick to his trash talking on the court.

 

2: Gus Johnson:

Am I listening to a teenager, or a professional broadcaster? Though Gus is amusing, its all for the wrong reasons. He’s the only person who can make those calls about college basketball players, except for the college students themselves.

 

1:Bill Walton:

The worst, by far. This dude is off his rocker. The former UCLA all-American and NBA legend, should have stayed away from the tv set. Walton is famous for his random lectures, taking his shirt off during a live game, and using way too large of words. Old Bill will take half of the game talking about the glory of the 60’s, and how the Grateful Dead is one of the best bands of all time.

 

BEST:

  1. Kirk Herbstreit:

Any kid from my age, who played NCAA football the video game, either loves this man, or he’s liar. Yeah he’s a Buckeye, but we won’t hold that against him. In a relatively short time, he’s become the best college football color analyst, whether its on College Gameday, or up in the booth next to Chris Fowler.

4: Verne Lundquist:

This man is the voice of the CBS. I can just hear him saying, “McCarron finds Cooper in the endzone, touchdown Alabama!’ Though he calls college basketball and golf as well, I’ll always think of Lundquist as the man greeting me through a television from somewhere in the South.

 

3: Al Michaels

Again, its my childhood playing Madden that I fell in love with his voice. The video game, and Monday Night Football is what we think of, when I think of this legend, until ESPN played the villain and started broadcasting Monday night games. Him and Madden next to each other in the booth, it just doesn’t get better than that. His call of Antonio Freeman’s circus catch to beat the Vikings is his most classic moment, “HE DID WHAT?”

 

2.Brad Nessler:

If there was a big time game in the late 90’s or early 2000’s, Nessler was the man calling the game. He was the voice behind the Wide Left Miami-FSU game in 2002, and his voice is iconic. He proves the excitement when a play gets going, and knows when to tone it down. He also will be taking over CBS college football, so we got that going for us.

 

1: Brent Musburger:

You are looking live….at the best sports announcer ever. His voice has stood the test of time, he’s sounded the same whether Vinny Testeverde, Matt Leinart, or Jameis Winston is the quarterback. He’s called some of the greatest moments in college football history, as well as other sports too. Along with Nessler, if there was a primetime football game, you can expect Musburger to be on the other side of that television.

Take Note, Jazz fans best in the NBA

Marshall Snow Thomas

 

 

For those outside of the state of Utah, Salt Lake City may not come to mind for sports fans. It will definitely not come to mind, when you think of die hard fanatics and fans who will stand by their time. Nevertheless, the Utah Jazz, in my opinion, have the most loyal fans in the entire NBA.

 

In the winter time, there isn’t much to do in Utah, except ski, and of course, cheer for the Jazz. From the pick and roll days of John Stockton and Karl Malone, to the dynamic duo of Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, the Jazz faithful have continued to pack the Delta Center (or whatever they call it).

 

Even today, with players not well known to fans around the league, Utah fans bring the noise every home game. For years now, Salt Lake City has been a daunting place to play for opposing players. One of the most memorable fan moments in recent memory, came in the 2007 western conference semi-finals against the Golden State Warriors. In game two, the jam-packed arena witnessed the return of Derek Fisher, the same day his daughter had surgery. Fisher arrived in the building in the second half, entering the game to a deafening roar. Fisher hit a key three, to help the Jazz win that game, and later win the series.

 

Since those days in 2007, the team has slipped off as championship contenders. The fans watched as legendary coach Jerry Sloan resigned, and the team lost players like Williams and Boozer. Even with the losing seasons, the team still had top-ten attendance figures each year.  The fans even stuck with Gordon Hayward, even when he had his hideous haircut early in his career.  These are fans who love their players, that teenagers will play with the 1997-1998 Jazz team on NBA 2K instead of Michael Jordan and the Bulls. Also, if you want to stay friends with Utah fans, don’t ever bring up the Jordan shot. Utah fans are the kind of fans, who named their child Stockton, after John Stockton hit the game winning three point shot to put the Jazz in the finals for the first time in 1997. Several years ago, Alex Kennedy wrote an article about Jazz fans, calling them the most disgusting fans in the NBA. No Alex, they’re not the most disgusting, but they do expect you to work. Yes, there are classless fans for Utah, just like there are in every sport, in every team, and even I’ve been described as a classless fan. That being said, the Jazz and Salt Lake City will be rowdy and in your face all night long.

 

Although they will jump out to anyone outside of the Beehive state, the Utah Jazz and their fans will always be a staple of the NBA, and in a league that is constantly changing to the new way of basketball, the Jazz are penciled in and based on tradition.