The hottest selling T-shirt at the Indians’ gift shop on Saturday was a T-shirt commemorating 10 Cent Beer Night in 1974. Part of me winced, knowing the Indians really don’t have anything else to celebrate since 1948. Another part of me bought it.
Oral tradition is the driving force of Cactus League pilgrimages. People don’t trek across the country to watch exhibition games; they want to share past experiences with other baseball fans. It was great being able to tell my kids stories of past Cactus League adventures.
Me: One time time it rained, and they put a tarp on the field. Uncle Kenneth decided that it looked a giant Slip and Slide.
My Boy: Oh man, that would be great! But that about the police?
Me: They were all under the roof, trying to stay dry, so Uncle Kenneth hopped the fence, ran onto the field, and slid into second.
My Boy: Did the cops get him then?
Me: No, he could have gotten away, but people started cheering, so he did it again and waved. More people cheered, so he did it again. He started making funny poses and wouldn’t come out of the rain.
My boy: Did the cops get him then?
Me: Yeah Mommy had to pretend to be Uncle Kenneth’s wife and beg the police not to arrest Uncle Kenneth.
My Boy: Where was Aunt Molly?
Me: He hadn’t met her yet.
My Girl: Was alcohol involved?
Me: See this parking lot? Once after a game, Uncle Kenneth and Uncle Eric deded to have a race. It was real close until Uncle Eric wiped out right over there and ended up doing two somersaults before he came to a stop. He lost most of the skin on his left arm.
My girl: Let me guess. Alcohol was involved.
I forgot to mention I was wearing the 10 Cent Beer Night shirt when I was pulled over.
The Indians are also obviouls phasing out Chief Wahoo—- most of the gear in the gift shop is sans that little guy. This is long overdue—not because of the politically correct, racial stereotype stuff, but because that little fucker is a loser, and that smile of his is just him laughing at my pain. Hello? The Indians lost. Didn’t everyone see The Last of the Mohicans? The Indians indigenous to the land around Cleveland were wiped out by other Indians in various acts of genocide. The baseball team hasn’t won squat since Wahoo made the scene. It is time for Wahoo to go.
Now that the Reds are in the Cactus League, the Cubs’ fans reign on the PMF (Pastey Mother Fuckers) Title could be coming to a close. There isn’t much scarier than seeing a white whale whose flesh hasn’t seen the sun since Carter was President stepping out in a Joey Votto tank top with a Montgomery Inn barbecue sauce bottle in one hand and a tray full of brats in the other (they sell the Montgomery Inn sauce in the gift shop, along with Berman’s Cleveland Stadium Mustard). Her husband looked the same, except his pasty back was dotted with splotches of hair. Any buffet style restaurant on the west side of Phoenix is in grave danger. Fortunately, Reds fans don’t travel well yet to Arizona.
Surprise, Arizona is one bizarre place—an odd combination of affluent white trash, blue hairs, and a very, very small slice of old time cowboy. Despite the bursting of the housing bubble, the city appears to be growing. However, the people who live there seem to have a definite chip on their shoulder as if they realize their destination isn’t all they thought it would be, and there isn’t a damn thing they can do about it now. The Rangers and the Royals play there, but we didn’t see a game there this time. We did take a detour their to visit my aunt after the Indians game on Saturday, and I almost had a mishap the gas mart with a Dunkin Donuts. I don’t know why there are so many bikers in that town—I guess they take Bell Road out into the wild desert and do what bikers do in the wild desert. I was trying to find a barber shop before they all closed, so I was flying solo while my aunt was entertaining my traveling companions. Anyway, nothing really happened but an odd stare down that I still don’t understand, but had I not stopped for coffee (and a case of beer), I would have made it to a barber, and who knows how Sunday morning might have played out.
I only mention Surprise as a jarring contrast for Scottsdale, which now has two Cactus League stadiums. THe one where the Giants play is the best stadium in the Cactus League, despite the fact that it is full of Giants’ fans. Best food, best atmosphere, best access to copious amounts of booze (there is a full tiki bar in the CF lawn), best access to bars/restaurants after the game, etc. The new stadium, Salt River Park (where we went yesterday), is architecturally wonderful, but it has the feel of everything that has gone wrong with the Cactus League, probably because you can’t walk fifteen feet without feeling the Corporate Dildo probing your sphincter. I understand that Spring Training is now a business, and I don’t really have a problem with owners trying to milk the Cactus League teat for all that its worth. I am not sitting in the shade, screaming at Pespi, Coors Light, Miller, etc to get their sponsored pavillions off my lawn. However, give me some space to breathe without thrusting your product in my face.
The problem bigger than the corporate influence though is the local help acting like a Cactus League game is a rock concert. Scottsdale motorcycle cops, decked out in full Power Ranger body armor, stopped traffic on major thoroughfares so their counterparts could whisk the opposing team bus to the stadium. The Nazi parking lot attendants do get people parked quickly, so they aren’t all bad, but me pulling into that space by that pole rather than over there by the tree is not a matter of life and death, so chill; I have had an eventful morning, and I am not about to take your #### (I guess one of them will be walking funny for a week or so because he made the mistake of annoying my wife. I didn’t get to see that because I was already in the Coors’ Light Cold Zone). Before the wives and kids made it in the stadium, we were interrupted four times to be asked four times by stadium representatives if we were having a good time. (Hint: if baseball fans are drinking beer and engaged in a robust discussion about two guys who don’t play anymore, they are having a grand time and don’t need to be interrupted.) After the second interuption, we got a bit chippy.
Help (smarlty dressed in crisp polo shirt): Are you gentleman finding everything to your liking?
Friend #1: That Coldstone Creamery kiosk is making things too chilly. Could you move it?
Help: I don’t think so, Sir.
Friend #2: Just move the Island Noodle kiosk next to it and let the Yaki-Soba fight it out with the smoothies.
Help: We can’t do that.
Friend #1 Could you just ask for us?
Help: Sir, I know what the answer will be. The—
Me (interrupting): Then do you know who, if not for injuries, would have been a more likely HOFer—- Eric Chavez or Troy Glaus?
And so it went, throughout the day.