Don't take me out to the ballgame

Don't take me out to the ballgame

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Last week, for the first time in a couple of years, I was invited to a game at Jacob's Field. 

While I was there, I decided something: I miss Cleveland Stadium. And I hate Jacob's Field. 

I hate how shiny it is. 

I hate that so many people go there.

I hate that when you walk to your seat, the usher wipes it off for you.

I hate that the guy who serves you a $12.00 hot dog is nice.

I hate that people sitting there actually care if the Indians win or lose.

I hate that people know the player's names.

I hate that people cheer when the Indians do something good.

I hate that the seats next to me aren't empty. 

I hate that the section next to me isn't empty.

I hate that even in the dead of summer, it's not freezing cold in the shade.

I hate that there are players on the Indians that people in other cities have heard of.

I hate that there aren't seagulls hovering over my French fries.

I hate that big hairy purple thing with the yellow nose that stood on the dugout and blocked my view for half an inning.

I hate Jacob's Field. 

I'm not ashamed to admit it.

I miss Cleveland Stadium.

Maybe I should be ashamed to admit it, but I'm not. 

I miss that place. 

I miss the dirt and the garbage and the chill and rotting wood and the spider webs and Oscar Gamble's hair and spending time with 2,000 of my closest friends.

That, my friends, was the way baseball was meant to be in Cleveland, Ohio.

Tell me life wasn't better when the Indians played like a piece of shit in a piece of shit stadium. No pressure. No stress. You just showed up and watched games expecting the worse. 

And it was usually worse than that.

Anything better than the sorriest team in baseball getting their ass kicked was joy in its highest form. 

It was like being the ugly, pimply-faced fat kid in school, and the head cheerleader accidentally bumped into you and said absolutely nothing to apologize, because in her eyes, you didn't even exist. 

But it was OK though, because that little bump was enough to go home and jerk off to.

Not that anything like that ever happened to me. But I've heard stories.

See the thing is, I didn't grow up in Cleveland. But my only baseball memories are from here. Back in 1976, my family made the drive to Cleveland to celebrate the Bicentennial with our cousins in University Heights. I was a 15 year-old ugly, pimply-faced fat kid, and I had never, ever been to a Major League Baseball game. 

When we got to my cousin's house, I was excited to find out that my Uncle Milt had tickets to take us to a game that night between the Indians at the Yankees. 

The weird thing wasn't that my Uncle Milt got us tickets to the game. Or that I was excited to go. 

The weird thing was that my Uncle Milt isn't really my Uncle, he's my cousin. But my parents made me call him Uncle, anyway.

Don't ask me. I guess calling somebody Cousin Milt sounded a little too Beverly Hillbillies for my parents.

"Y'all mean youze gots me one of them there tickets for that gosh durned baseball game? Fer real! I can't wait to see them fellers knock the snot outta that there ball! Thanks there, Cousin Milt!"

Anyway, my dad, Uncle Milt and I took the Rapid down to Cleveland Stadium. I don't think I had ever seen that many people in my life. 

No, I don't have Alzheimers. Yet. There really were a lot of people.

Remember, this was July 4th weekend. Against the Yankees. The place was packed.

As we walked in, the guy at the gate handed me a bat. A bat for moi? Cool! It was bright red. And it was signed by Indians player John Lowenstein.

How lucky was I! It was Bat Night at Cleveland Stadium. And me, the 15 year-old ugly, pimply-faced fat kid, was not only going to his first major league game, he was going to walk out of there with an autographed bat from his favorite player!

Well, OK, maybe he wasn't my favorite player before I walked into the game, but he was Jewish, so I had to like him. At least that's what my dad told me.

So there I was, in the hallowed walkways of Cleveland Municipal Stadium, my John Lowenstein bat in hand. I'll never forget as we made our way through our gate and approached the field. I remember being overwhelmed by the crowd. The size of the stadium. The massive expanse of grass. 

The cop screaming at the kid running behind me.

As I turned, I heard a policeman shouting at the top of his lungs, "Come back here…now!"

I looked, and about 10 yards ahead of the officer was a kid, probably about my age, running as fast as he could, carrying an entire box of bright red Indians bats.

At first I was a little jealous, and I wondered why that kid was lucky enough to get all of those bats and I only got one. 

Stupidity. Once you have it, it sticks with you forever.

After I figured out that the cop wasn't chasing him to tell him he really liked his jeans, we sat in our seats. Me. My dad. My Uncle Milt. And my John Lowenstein bat. Sitting in this huge stadium with 70,000 people.

Life couldn't have been better. 

Well, being a15 year-old ugly, pimply-faced fat kid, if I had a hot dog with the works, it mighta been better.

Seventeen years later, I not only found myself living in Cleveland, but I found myself sitting in the exact same stadium. My dad had been replaced by my father-in-law. And my Uncle Milt had been replaced by my wife.

Good thing, too. Because I tried to call my wife Uncle Milt once during sex and it didn't go over too well.

It was late in the 1993 season. It was a Sunday afternoon game against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Browns were playing an away game that day. And it was a beautiful fall afternoon.

In other words, there was no one at the Stadium except the Cleveland Indians, the Toronto Blue Jays and the three of us.

Truth is, we were sitting down the third base line, and we had the entire section to ourselves. 

Well, I thought we had the entire section to ourselves.

About halfway through the game, I got up to get some food when I noticed something unusual.

Something you don't always see at a major league stadium on a Sunday afternoon. In the middle of a professional sporting event.

Yes, there, in all its glory, on the ground in the row in front of us, was a dead pigeon. 

That's sad, I thought. He's missing some great defensive plays by Damascio Garcia.

While I'm not the president of the Be Kind To Animals Club, I have to admit that even I felt some compassion for the bird. 

Truth is, I think every living creature deserves a proper burial. Or at least a nice garbage bag.

So I looked up and waved over to the usher who was guarding us. I mean, our section.

The elderly gentleman eventually made his way down the stairs to where we were sitting. 

"Yeah?" he asked.

"There's a, um, dead pigeon right there," I said.

He paused. He leaned over the seats. He looked at the bird. He stood up again. He looked at me.

"So what the hell do you want me to do about it?" he asked. 

And then he walked away.

And so, for the next several innings, three live people and one bye-bye birdie enjoyed a lovely game of baseball.

Those, my friends, are truly special Cleveland Stadium memories. 

As I sat there last week at the Jake, I couldn't help thinking about how much baseball has changed in the last 25 years in Cleveland. 

New stadium. Winning. Sell outs.

What happened to the team and the stadium that I and I alone cared for?

I'm sorry. I just can't be a part of this, anymore. 

From this day forward, I am swearing off baseball, and I'm dedicated my fanaticism to a new shitty team that plays in a new shitty place.

A team that brings back those wonderful feelings of ineptitude and despair like the Indians of old. 

A team that defines mediocrity. A team that no one cares about.

Well, no one except me.

"Ladies and Gentleman…it's time to introduce the starting lineup for your…Cleveland Cavaliers!"

They still play, right?

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