Monday, May 25, 2015

Joey's World Tour: Back To Camden Yards and PNC Park

Home is wherever I am on my baseball journey.

Hello, everyone.  This is Joey Beartran, fulfilling my duties as the Studious Metsimus roving reporter and culinary expert.  Back in 2010, I had two separate assignments to cover Mets road trips in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, as the Mets traveled to Charm City that June and the Steel City in August.  I enjoyed each ballpark so much that I asked my Studious Metsimus colleague if I could do it again this year.  It took a little begging and pleading (and me taking money out of his wallet when he wasn't looking so I could pay for my room and whatever food I ate), but I got the okay to go back to Oriole Park at Camden Yards and PNC Park.

Although the Mets were playing in Pittsburgh this past weekend, they were not in Baltimore prior to their series in Western Pennsylvania, so I attended a Mariners-Orioles game at Camden Yards instead.  Naturally, since I have no rooting interest in either game, I focused more on the tasty treats located everywhere on the field level concourses.

The matinee started 12 minutes late because of a light rain, then the play on the field stopped again for over two hours when a steadier rain fell in the third inning.  That was my moment to strike, looking for any new food choices that weren't in the park when I first attended a game there five years ago.  And boy, did I find a good one.

Located on the field level, near Section 68 on the third base side was a stand called "The Chipper".  Originally, I didn't want to go there because it reminded me a certain former Atlanta Braves player named Larry, but there was no one standing in line and I hadn't seen it before, so I gave it a shot.  Now if you're familiar with the state of Maryland, then you know that crab meat is very popular in the Mid-Atlantic state.  At "The Chipper", I was able to get kettle chips topped with crab meat, a creamy white cheddar cheese sauce, a plethora of chopped scallions and another Mid-Atlantic staple - Old Bay seasoning.

I mean, just look at this mouth-watering snack.  How can anyone not want to eat this when attending a game at Camden Yards?

These are the nom-tastic crab kettle chips, known as "The Chipper".  Even my sister Iggy was all smiles about them.

My order of crab kettle chips was so filling that it took me almost the entire duration of the two hour, five minute rain delay to finish them.  Or maybe it took me that long to eat them because I didn't know when (or if) the game was going to resume and I wanted to save as much money as I could from the amount I permanently borrowed from my colleague's wallet in case I needed to buy more edible provisions for, you know, quality assurance purposes.

At least the Mets were also playing a day game while I was in Baltimore, so I was able to keep up on Jacob deGrom's dominant performance in New York against the St. Louis Cardinals.  His eight-inning, one-hit effort in which he retired the final 23 batters he faced actually ended before the tarp on the field at Camden Yards was removed from the playing surface.

When the game in Baltimore eventually resumed, I decided to take a photo of Orioles right fielder Delmon Young, who just happened to be standing in front of the scoreboard at the exact moment the "NYM 5, STL 0" final score was flashing.  What an extraordinary coincidence that it flashed at the exact moment I took the photo.  And that Young wasn't centered in the shot.  And that the score was.

Always good to see an out-of-town scoreboard with a Mets victory on it.

The game eventually ended, nearly six hours after it was scheduled to start - the actual game time was three hours and 30 minutes, an alarming figure for a game that's supposedly been sped up this year - with the Orioles pulling out a 5-4 victory over the Mariners.  The fans of the home team who stayed during the seemingly interminable rain delay were rewarded with a win, which helped the team inch closer to the .500 mark in the mostly mediocre American League East.

Although the Orioles won the division title in 2014, it's been a rough road for Baltimore in 2015.  But at least if the O's don't make it back to the postseason this year, at least their fans can look back fondly on a time from 1966 to 1983 when Baltimore won six pennants and three World Series titles in an 18-season span.  One of those six American League pennants was won in 1969, which I am gladly pointing out in the photo below.  I wonder who won the World Series that year...

My hoodie should come with a spoiler alert if you don't know who the Orioles lost to in the 1969 World Series.

Speaking of fond memories, I have to recommend the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards, which is located in a building adjacent to the ballpark.  The museum has two floors.  The ground level floor features memorabilia from Baltimore native Babe Ruth, who supposedly had more power than Lucas Duda.  (I wasn't around when Babe Ruth was an active player, but I can't imagine anyone being stronger than Lucas Duda.)  It also has nine innings of Orioles history, which are nine individual wings dedicated to the 60-plus years of Baltimore baseball.

There are artifacts including newspapers announcing the arrival of the team in Baltimore in 1954 from St. Louis.  (They were the old St. Louis Browns, in case you didn't know.)  Also included is manager Earl Weaver's locker, the 1983 World Series trophy and a huge replica of a Sports Illustrated cover featuring Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson.

But wait, there's more!

You will also see sections devoted to each player, coach and manager inducted in the team's Hall of Fame, the first ball hit off the Camden Yards Warehouse (signed by former Mariners great and future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., who hit the ball during the 1993 Home Run Derby in Baltimore) and an entire section dedicated to Cal Ripken Jr., which is appropriately known as "Inning Eight" to commemorate the number worn by the Orioles legend.  Anything and everything you ever wanted to know about Cal but were afraid to ask is in this wing of the museum, but why should I take up so much space writing about it when I can just give you a sample of it?  Here are some photos of "Inning Eight", as well as photos from other sections of the ground level floor.

All photos above and below by Ed Leyro and Joey Beartran (Studious Metsimus)

Once I left the ground level floor, I proceeded down a flight of stairs to the much larger lower level.  Even the staircase is part of the museum experience, as important numbers in Baltimore sports history are painted on the walls, like ".316-49-122", which were the numbers posted by Frank Robinson in 1966 when he won the American League Triple Crown.

The subterranean level had exhibits on the Negro Leagues, focusing on the Baltimore Black Sox and the Baltimore Elite Giants.  There are also sections devoted to the Orioles' minor league affiliates, as well as other Maryland sports teams, including the Baltimore Blast soccer team, the University of Maryland Terrapins and the Baltimore Ravens.  Of course, my favorite section of the lower level was the locker room area, where they had uniforms and helmets that could be tried on by guests of the museum.  This section was also near an area where we could take photographs with the mascots of the Orioles and Ravens.

I was accompanied by my other sister, Honey Bee Hawk, who was with me on the trip not as a fellow Studious Metsimus correspondent, but as a fan, as she roots for Seattle sports teams and wanted to see the Mariners play the Orioles.  In the photo below, Bee tried on the Ravens helmet while I wore the Orioles batting helmet.  Needless to say, the heads of athletes are much bigger than ours.  The only heads those helmets would be too small on would be the mascots of the respective teams.

Is the Ravens mascot trying to swat Bee off the fence?  He should do that "nevermore".

Once we went back upstairs, we were greeted not with doors that said "exit", but with another wing - this one devoted to the Colts, who were Baltimore's original NFL team before they moved to Indianapolis in 1984.  In this area were old newspapers, a statue of Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas, old jerseys, coaches' scrapbooks, the Super Bowl trophy, and many other artifacts.  But you know me as a baseball fan, so I was more interested in the aforementioned baseball exhibits and spent most of my time in those areas of the museum.

I do have to say that the Sports Legends Museum blew the blue and orange socks off the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum.  I got there near closing time so I couldn't enjoy it as much as I could have.  (There was even a Roberto Alomar section and an Orioles leader board that prominently featured former Mets infielder Melvin Mora on the home run, RBI and runs scored columns.  Steve Phillips was so stupid for trading him.  But I digress.)  Given more time, I could easily have spent over an hour in the museum, which is approximately 55 minutes more than I usually spend in the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum.  The Wilpons are supposedly good at real estate.  It's time they give their team's tiny museum a little more of that real estate, don't you think?

From Baltimore, my designated driver and I made the four-hour trek to Pittsburgh to see Mets rookie sensation Noah Syndergaard take the hill against the Pirates at PNC Park.  Let's just say I'm glad I only stayed for that one game, as the Mets were swept in the three-game series, losing the three games by a combined score of 21-4.  At least the Mets weren't blown out of the game I attended.  They even brought up the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning, as Lucas Duda (or was it Babe Ruth?) was one fly ball into the Allegheny River away from knotting the game.  Unfortunately, Duda did not produce a Ruthian/Dudian clout and the Mets did not emerge victorious.

But at least Iggy and I did get to chow down on a Primanti Brothers sandwich, which has cole slaw and french fries in the sandwich.  I also took some sweet photos of Syndergaard and some of his fellow starting pitchers prior to the game in the bullpen.  And you know what?  Noah really does look like Thor, especially when the sun shines through his golden locks.

Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey were just standing there, minding their own business, as Thor warmed up.

It wasn't all PNC Park when we went to Pittsburgh.  In fact, I made sure to tell my designated driver to take me to the site where the late Ralph Kiner used to hit many of his home runs.  Mr. Kiner used to display his prodigious power at Forbes Field, which was the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates two stadiums ago.  (They also called Three Rivers Stadium home for three decades.)

Although Forbes Field is no longer standing, having been razed in 1972 after a fire, part of the outfield wall still remains.  Located on what is now Roberto Clemente Drive on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, the Forbes Field wall is a must-see for any fan of baseball history.  The center field wall still has the flagpole in front of it that was part of the field when the stadium stood, as well as the 436-foot and 457-foot signs that are still visible on its bricks.  Ivy still hangs near the 436-foot marker, bringing back memories of an era where day baseball prevailed and no one argued over multi-million dollar contracts or which drug was the most effective and undetectable in one's system.

Across the street from the outfield wall is Wesley W. Posvar Hall, part of the University of Pittsburgh campus.  Although I didn't go inside the building, I should let you know that home plate from Forbes Field is located inside the edifice, embedded in glass.  From there you can see just how far Mr. Kiner and all other players had to hit a ball if they wanted to hit it over the center field and right-center field fences.

Another section of the Forbes Field wall was brought over to PNC Park.  Hanging just above the Riverwalk near the right field corner of the Pirates' current stadium is a statue honoring Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski.  If you recall, it was Mazeroski who hit the first World Series-ending home run, clubbing a shot over the left field wall against Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry in Game Seven of the 1960 Fall Classic.  Part of that wall, including the 406-foot marker, can now be found adjacent to that Mazeroski statue.  Below are photos of all the Forbes Field wall sections we visited in and around Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is a city full of bridges and sections of the Forbes Field outfield wall.

So there you have it, Mets fans.  That was my weekend getaway, where I returned to Baltimore and Pittsburgh in my never-ending baseball world tour.  I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip as much as I enjoyed making that trip.  And obviously, I strongly recommend taking a few days to see these two great baseball cities and visiting the two stadiums with all the baseball-related history in and around the ballparks.

Now if you'll excuse us, Iggy and I have to finish off this delicious Primanti Brothers sandwich.  We can't let our souvenir from Pittsburgh go to waste, can we?

A nom-tastic finish to a fantastic trip.

For more of Joey's World Tour, please click on the links below, where you will be entertained by Joey's wit, photos and love of ballpark cuisine:

World Tour Stop #1: Baltimore
World Tour Stop #2: Washington, DC
World Tour Stop #3: Pittsburgh
World Tour Stop #4: Texas
World Tour Stop #5: Los Angeles
World Tour Stop #6: San Diego
World Tour Stop #7: Toronto
World Tour Stop #8: Chicago
World Tour Stop #9: Milwaukee
World Tour Stop #10: Seattle
World Tour Stop #11: Cleveland
World Tour Stop #12: Brooklyn (Ebbets Field site) and Manhattan (Polo Grounds site)

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