Monday, November 28, 2016

Have We Just Seen The Best 10 Years In Oregon Duck Football History?

Short answer: Yes. These have been, without question, the best ten years in Oregon Duck Football history.

Actually, the stretch from 2005-2015 was actually the best 11 year stretch in Oregon football history. They went to 11 straight bowl games (12 counting the first-ever College Football Playoff title game) and won six of them. They went to six BCS/CFP games and won three of them- two Rose Bowls (the 2012 win being their first Rose Bowl victory in 95 years) and the Fiesta Bowl. They went to two Championship games and.... well, let's move on. They won at 10 games in a season at least 8 times and 7 years in a row (2008-2014). Chip Kelly was head coach four of those years and he finished 46-7, the best percentage in Oregon history by any measure and his worst season was his first year, 2009, when he went 10-3. Can you imagine in your worst season as a football coach you went 10-3? That's insane.

From 1964-1988, Oregon didn't make a bowl game. That's 27 seasons, and I think that may be a record. I went to games in the early-to-mid-1980's when the Ducks were just about giving away tickets. I've seen how bad Ducks football can be. In 2010 (the year after making the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1994) when Oregon went undefeated in the regular season for the first time since 1916 I tried to tell newcomers to Eugene how just insane it was that the football team was actually good  and they wouldn't believe me. They thought this was normal. I showed these newbies tape of the 1983 Toilet Bowl, when the Ducks and Beavers played the last scoreless tie in college football history, and they looked at it like I look at footage of The Beatles in concert. Astonished and perplexed that such a thing could really have happened, that somehow it was all some sort of dream.

That dream came crashing down the last two years. For being a quarterback whisperer, Mark Helfrich couldn't find a successor to Marcus Mariota even half as good as he was. Maybe Vernon Adams was half as good, but he couldn't stay healthy enough to prove it.

That's because whoever was in charge of recruiting offensive linemen wasn't as good as whoever did it on Chip's staff. I'm inclined to believe that Chip was the offensive lineman recruiter, because the drop off seems to have happened after Chip left. It would make sense that the guy who invented the Blur Offense would be the best at talking linemen into it.

The Oregon defense has also not been the easiest to recruit. It's a weird situation. The guys get to play a lot because the offense works so fast. But that means a lot more guys get to play a lot because the defense is on the field with much less of a break. And they'll never be the focus. It's a lose-lose-lose situation.  

And that's where Mark Helfrich found himself at the beginning of 2016. Another quarterback hole, and the defense was too bad to keep going the way it was, so he went with another transfer QB and tried Brady Hoke as a defensive coordinator. You know what happened there.

So it looks like Helfrich is all but done. On the outside given his total body of work it doesn't make sense, as he's 37-16 in his four years- yes, four years, the same length of time Chip was head coach- as Oregon's head man.

But half those losses came this year. And 24 of the wins came in the first two years. He's 13-12 since Marcus Mariota left the Moshofsky Center for the last time. When a "prominent donor" (that founded a shoe company you may have heard of) has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into making Oregon Football a sensation off the field- the originators of the flashy uniforms, better training and recovery facilities than some NFL teams, and some of the cleverest social media campaigns around- and that team goes 4-8 and gets outmanned by an Oregon State team that barely seemed to know which way the goal line was at the beginning of the season- well, something's going to happen.

Sliding back to a half-empty stadium would still be twice as many people as were there in the bottom-feeding days of the 1980's, when the Oregon athletic department honestly considered dropping out of the Pac-10 in football and joining up with Portland State in I-AA. Yes, I'm serious. 

The last ten years were not the norm in Oregon football history. They were the best ten years, and it's not even close.

Even counting the 4-8 season this year, over the last ten years, from 2007-2016, Oregon has gone 101-30. Rich Brooks spent 18 years as head coach and went 91-109-4. Mike Bellotti spent 14 years as head coach and went 116-55. Yeah, it's been a good run.

What's next? Who knows? Just know it won't ever be the same.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Problem If the Cubs Win the World Series

Face it, you only remember them because they are bad.

Simply: The Cubs are followed nationwide and are considered interesting because they have been bad for so long. If they win a World Series and then go back to being bad, then they are the new Florida Marlins, and (aside from the tragedy of Jose Fernandez) nobody cares about the Florida Marlins. 

If the Cubs win the World Series, baseball loses the “lovable underdog” that it’s had for the last 40 years. Because let’s be honest, it wasn’t until the proper advent of cable and satellite television in the late 1970’s and early ‘80’s that made the Cubs “The Cubs.” Before then, they were just bad.

Around the country, independent television stations recognized what cable could do for them and bought their way onto systems by building satellite dishes in their backyard and offering to beam their signal to whichever community would have them. They became known as “superstations.”

WTBS in Atlanta was the most proactive as they were run by a forward-thinking mega-rich young whippersnapper (that’s what I call anybody under the age of 30 who owns a yacht) named Ted Turner. He saw that cable television could do for him what franchising quick-service restaurants did for Ray Kroc and began offering his station to fledgling cable companies.

Ted Turner, young. On a yacht. That he owned.

Even though WTBS showed mostly Andy Griffith re-runs and Atlanta Braves games (because he also owned the team), cable systems around the country desperate to have different options than what people got over-the-air took up Teddy boy on his offer. Soon WTBS was broadcast from Atlanta to Anchorage and all points in-between. Housewives in Alaska became Dale Murphy fans. Turner was then able to package his new crazy idea, a 24-hour cable news channel, along with WTBS, and his media empire continued to grow.

As the Cubs radio network was already pretty expansive around the Midwest, the Tribune Company- who owned the Cubs and WGN (and thus WGN showed lots of Cubs games)- followed Turner’s lead but concentrated on putting WGN in markets that already were Cubs radio affiliates. But cable systems outside of the Midwest also took WGN, and because Wrigley Field looked so good in the daytime, the Cubs attracted more than just baseball fans, but people who longed for the nostalgic ballpark experience.

Millions who could never before watch the Cubs, and Wrigley Field, and constant daytime baseball became Cubs fans. America loves an underdog, and the Cubs also represented “old-time” baseball, whatever the hell that really means. Nostalgia is a powerful drug and even 100 years ago in 1916, for example, retired baseball players were complaining the game “wasn’t like it was when we were young.”

Not everybody in America can be a mega-winner, and so the Cubs resonated as a team to follow, to hope for breakthroughs. They played in an old, nostalgic ballpark and played baseball the way everybody did when they were kids, in the daytime, and they weren’t very good, and people from North Bend, Oregon to Biscayne Bay, Florida, could watch them and cheer for the underdog. People who struggled in their own lives looked to the Cubs as a sports team they could relate to, and perhaps more importantly, as a sports team that could relate to them.

The Cubs not having lights wasn’t a real problem until TV networks began running the MLB schedule, not the teams, or their “superstations.” The networks began demanding that nearly all baseball games were broadcast at night. Up through the mid 80’s, all teams played dozens of weekday day games a year, not just a handful. The Cubs ceding to demand (and the increased revenue) by becoming the last ballpark to add lights, in 1988, made them just another team who could play at night.

The Cubs playing in a ballpark built in 1914 wasn’t a cause for nostalgia until the “great retro-ballpark revolution” because before that happened there were five ballparks built before World War Two that were still being used- Fenway Park, Tiger Stadium, Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium and the original Comiskey Stadium on the South Side of Chicago. When that was demolished and replaced in the early-90’s by the last cookie-cutter stadium, Wrigley Field became the oldest ballpark in Chicago and grew in stature nationwide as a symbol of nostalgia (there’s that word again).

The Cubs not having won a pennant since 1945 was a big deal, but three other teams were right there with them when it came to World Series futility- the Red Sox, the Indians, and the Giants. When Cleveland won the pennant in 1995, that snapped their 41-year drought and magnified the Cubs streak. When Boston broke their curse in 2004, that magnified the Cubs streak. When the Giants won their first San Francisco World Series in 2010, that pinpointed the Cubs streak even more.

And if the Cubs win the World Series? Then they’re just another rich team that plays at night and bought their way to a championship. The Cubs have had lights for more than a quarter-century now, and their day baseball games have dwindled. There are now just two ballparks left built before World War Two, and the third-oldest park is now Dodger Stadium, built in 1962. The Cubs are the only team that hasn’t won a World Series since before World War Two. Hell, they haven’t won since before World War One. If they win, then the only thing is the ballpark. And that ballpark has never seen a World Series Championship.

You may say the Cubs mystique will never die, but what happened to the Boston Red Sox after their 2004 World Series victory? They’re just another one of the “haves” now, and all the history they had for not winning- The Curse of the Bambino, Ted Williams, Denny Galehouse, Carl Yastrzemski, Bucky Bleeping Dent, Bill Buckner, Aaron Bleeping Boone… is fading away. The Sox are just another team, and Red Sox Nation is as hated just like any other fan base that’s won a World Series in the last decade. Same for the San Francisco Giants, who went winless in the World Series for 56 years. After winning three titles in five years, now they’re just another team.

The Cubs are popular because they haven’t won a World Series since Teddy Roosevelt was president. If they win, then the Indians will be the team that’s gone the longest without winning the World Series, and that “only” 68 years.

The “loveable underdog” label for the Cubs will be gone, and gone forever. Is that something you really want to see? Because you then won’t ever look at them the same again, even if you watch them on WGN. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

September 28th, 1916: Ferdie Schupp's Best Day

Adapted from my just-published first book, "26 In A Row, The 1916 New York Giants and Baseball's Longest Winning Streak," available on Amazon.

The New York Giants won game one of a doubleheader against the Boston Braves on Thursday, September 28th, 1916. Winning pitcher Jeff Teserau had two nicknames. His real first name was Charles, but one sportswriter called him “Jeff” as a rookie because he looked like the boxer James L. Jefferies. That stuck. Then, one spring training another sportswriter, Damon Runyon, called him “The Big Bear Hunter of the Ozarks” even though he was from Missouri, not Arkansas, and preferred hunting birds to bears. That nickname got shortened to “The Bear Hunter." He was known as "Jeff" the rest of his life.

Jeff’s win that day was New York’s 24th in a row, continuing their major-league record streak that lasts to this day (only one team, the 2002 Oakland A’s, has won at least 20 straight since 1935). “The Bear Hunter” won his seventh game of the streak. He had now thrown over 62 innings in September alone- seven complete games- and his only loss was his first game of the month. His ERA was 1.59 over that stretch, giving up just 13 runs, 11 earned. Any other time, he would have been hailed as the top pitcher for the Giants.

Thing is, the guy who pitched game two was finishing one of the most remarkable pitching streaks of the early 20th century. On you can find a lot of comparative stats. Tom Ruane, the founder, decided to look for pitchers who had allowed the lowest batting average over any stretch of at least 150 at-bats between 1914 and 1949. Number one on the list is Bob Feller. An obscure reliever for the White Sox, Reb Russell, is second. Johnny Vander Meer of the Cincinnati Reds- the only man to ever throw two consecutive no-hitters, in 1938- is third.

Ferdie Schupp of the 1916 New York Giants is fourth, with an .099 batting average in 172 at-bats, a total of 17 hits (he and Vander Meer are tied for the lowest amount of hits allowed in a six-game stretch of complete games ever- yes I know that's a very baseball-nerd stat). His stretch began on September 7th, and continued through September 28th, a span of six games. He remembered the sixth game the rest of his life for what didn’t happen, rather than what did.

Ferdie Schupp with the Giants in 1917.
That Ferdie Schupp even got to pitch for the Giants in September, 1916 is remarkable in itself. The Louisville, Kentucky native had pitched sporadically since being elevated to the majors in late 1913, but didn’t spend much time in the minor leagues. That was because of New York manager John McGraw. “Little Napoleon” was in his 14th year managing the club and was a legend even then at age 43, though he looks ancient in contemporary photos.

Because the Giants were the richest team around and there were no roster size limits, McGraw often signed players and stashed them. Some guys only played one game a year but never spent any time in the minors because McGraw kept them at the Polo Grounds- New York’s home park- watching and practicing with the veterans.

The left-handed Schupp was one of those stashed guys, and another was his best friend and fellow pitcher Rube Schauer. They were known in the press as “The Schush Twins.” While Schauer had been signed for $10,000, the third-highest price paid for a minor leaguer at the time, Schupp was signed for well less than one-tenth that price.

When 1916 began The Schush Twins had been warming the bench for nearly three years. After the Giants finished last in 1915 for the first and only time in a full season during McGraw’s managerial career, he began making changes. Schauer was allowed to dip his toe into the rotation but Schupp stayed on the pine. After a horrendous 2-13 start, New York won 17 straight games on the road in early May, still tied for the major league record with the wrecking crew known as the 1984 Detroit Tigers, but McGraw’s men did it all on one road trip.

In the train era, road trips of at least 20 games combined with homestands of at least 20 games were far from uncommon. In fact, they were the norm up until the 1960’s. When the westernmost teams in the majors were in St. Louis (the National League’s Cardinals and until 1954, the American League’s Browns) and it took a day by rail to get there, it made no sense to go that far just for one series. As a result, road trips and homestands were bunched together.

The Giants won the first 17 of that 21-game road trip in May (detailed more here, on my baseball history-only blog) and moved within a game and a half of first place. But then the malaise came back, and McGraw tinkered with his club.

Schupp finally made his season debut on June 13th. He had been excruciatingly wild as a minor and in his early games with the Giants (often Schupp would start a game and Schauer would finish it) but in that first appearance he didn’t walk anybody in two innings. In McGraw’s world, that earned him more work.

Ferdie pitched five more times in the next month, all in relief, and only allowed four runs, three of them coming in a six-inning appearance against Pittsburgh on July 10th, which upped his ERA to 2.00, the highest it would end up being all season. Schauer started that game and Schupp finished it, a reverse of the previous three years. The loss dropped the Giants nine games out of first, their largest deficit to date, and two games under .500 at 30-32, having gone 11-19 since the 17-game win streak.

Schupp finally made his first start on July 13th and pitched a complete game. Unlike Schauer, who lost his first start of the year, Schupp won. He gave up 11 hits to Cincinnati, striking out seven, walking four and allowing just one earned run in the 5-2 victory. Three days later, Schauer pitched five innings in relief, and Schupp pitched the 9th in a 3-2 loss in St. Louis. It turned out to be the final game they would both pitch in.

After many roster changes in July (which, ahem, are detailed in the book), the New York Sun thought Schauer would help the Giants right-handed pitching staff while Schupp would help the lefties. But McGraw was done with Rube Schauer, and Rube Schauer was done with McGraw. In late July, Schauer was sent to Ferdie Schupp’s hometown of Louisville to play in the minor-league American Association. Schauer later claim the demotion came at his request so he could play regularly. But since the Giants outrighted him to the club and would stake no further claim to the one-time $10,000 man, that story is hard to believe.

Schupp got better and better on the mound, and due to a lingering illness to new pitcher Harry “Slim” Sallee, Schupp became a permanent part of the rotation by default on September 7th. He gave up just one run, a home run to Brooklyn’s Zach Wheat in the second inning, as the Giants won 4-1.

As mentioned, long road trips at the time also meant long homestands. On September 28th, the Giants were in the final series of a 32-game stretch at the Polo Grounds. Their first game at home was September 5th, and their last would be September 30th- and they hadn’t lost since September 6th.

By the time game two of September 28th rolled around, Schupp had thrown five complete games and four shutouts and there was real belief that the Giants would not lose the rest of the season, and despite being 14 games out of first place when the streak began could actually take the pennant.

Schupp squared off against Braves starter Pat Ragan. Ragan was fair, but had missed nearly all of August for an unknown reason. In his last start, he had thrown all 13 innings in a 1-1 tie with the Pirates. Ragan and Schupp matched zeros for the first two innings. Schupp pitched a perfect third inning, and led off the bottom of the third.

Despite being left-handed, Ferdie batted right. He lifted a fly off Ragan to Sherwood Magee in left. Magee dropped it and Schupp was safe. After a foulout, New York second baseman Buck Herzog singled Schupp to third. Dave Robertson, the Giants right fielder and power hitter (he would tie for the league lead with 12 home runs) was intentionally walked to get to third baseman Heinie Zimmerman, who newspapers called “The Great Zim.” Zim, with a very healthy ego, would refer to himself like that as well. McGraw had traded for Zim, the Chicago Cubs’ best player, on August 28th, the final transaction that would result in the streak. (It also resulted in the first-ever trade deadline rule, passed after the season.)

Zim made the intentional walk look good by grounding to second for the potential inning-ending double play, but Robertson was safe at second and they didn’t bother throwing to first. Schupp scored to make it 2-0. Shortstop Art Fletcher then struck out, bringing up center fielder Benny Kauff with the bases still full.

Benny Kauff, 1916. The Giants wore purple-trimmed windowpane uniforms. Really
Benny Kauff got national attention by being the best player in the Federal League, the last real challenge to the major leagues. After the collapse of the Feds in the winter of 1915, he got a $25,000 contract from the Giants and declared he would tear up National League pitching. Despite his bluster, he had struggled for much of the season, as had the Giants. But he had also come alive during the streak like everybody else on the club. Today was no different.

Ragan ran the count to 3-2 on Kauff. Kauff then got one he really liked. The ball sailed over former Giant Fred Snodgrass’ head in center and hit the center field wall 433 feet away on the fly, a distance that in the deadball era was almost impossible. Snodgrass got to the ball and heaved it in as Herzog, Robertson and Zimmerman scored easily. McGraw, coaching third, waved Kauff through. Snodgrass’ throw went to Ragan, and he turned and whipped it to catcher Hank Gowdy at home.

Kauff and the ball apparently got there about the same time, but Kauff, sliding feet first, hit the corner as Gowdy applied the tag, and umpire Cy Rigler called him safe.

An inside-the-park grand slam on one of the longest balls ever hit at the Polo Grounds up to that time to essentially clinch the Giants 25th win in a row turned the ballpark of 35,000 into a madhouse. The New York Times writer basically wrote an Ode to Benny Kauff in the paper the next day as if he were some combination of a Greek God and the President.

All the same, Ferdie Schupp nearly topped Kauff’s feat on the mound. He walked Earl Blackburn, the replacement catcher after Gowdy got tossed for arguing a call (although it’s not stated which one, I think we can make an educated guess), but otherwise didn’t allow a man on base nor a hit through six innings.

At this point all bets were off. A grand slam and a no-hitter? They would have torn the place down had Schupp pulled that off. In later years Ferdie himself said that game was his most memorable of the streak. But he didn’t remember how good he pitched, he remembered what prevented him from joining the list of men who threw a no-hitter.

It was the 7th inning, and Schupp, like all pitchers at the time, worked quickly. Besides, he was in a groove, and wanted to keep it going. Even though Buck Herzog was arguing with Boston’s first base coach and maybe not completely ready for play to start, Schupp delivered anyway. As Schupp told Sports Illustrated some 40 years later, “So when Big Ed Konetchy, their first baseman, hit a dribbler Herzog didn’t even make a move for it, and I lost my no-hitter.”

It was his only blemish. Schupp settled for a one-hitter and his 6th win of the streak, the 25th straight win for the Giants. In those six games Schupp threw 54 innings (all complete games), allowing 17 hits and 3 runs- four shutouts and two 20+ scoreless inning streaks- for an 0.33 ERA.

The Giants would win one more time to make it 26 in a row (did I mention that's the title of my book?) before losing the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader to the Braves, their final home game of the season. The 1916 Giants, despite the 17-game win streak and 26-game win streak, would finish in 4th place.

After the season, Ferdie Schupp won the ERA title with an 0.90, still the lowest-ever mark for a qualifying pitcher.

Except the qualifying standard at the time was 12 games pitched. After baseball statisticians tinkered with the rules after World War Two, they went back and retroactively took away ERA titles for players who did not qualify under the new standards of one inning per game.

As Schupp had only thrown 140 innings in 1916, 14 innings short of the new requirement, his ERA title was taken away and given to Grover Cleveland Alexander of the Philadelphia Phillies, who had a spectacular 1916 season with a 1.55 ERA in 389 innings and 33 wins.

In 1916, Ferdie Schupp was the best pitcher on the team that won a major-league record 26 games in a row.

Today, he is virtually forgotten, along with the rest of his teammates.

When I was about 10 years old, I read a little blurb that the 1916 New York Giants had won a major league record 26 games in a row. I continually looked for a book on the subject but never found one. Many years later, it seemed like the streak was the only subject that baseball historians had not covered in detail. So I decided to write it myself.

There are many players involved in the streak that deserve better than to be on the dusty shelf of history, never to be looked at again. Ferdie Schupp is one of them. September 28th, 1916 was his best day as a major league pitcher.

P.S.- to read about the other 25 wins, to learn more about Benny Kauff, to discover John McGraw's favorite player who he couldn't stand and a lot more, like the wild uniforms the Giants wore that year... you know, get the book.

John McGraw, Buck Herzog and Christy Mathewson, Summer 1916

Photographs courtesy: Bain Collection/Library of Congress

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Make July 6th Rock and Roll Day

Why July 6th needs to be rock and roll day:

In the wee hours of July 6th 1954, Elvis recorded "That's All Right," his first official recording and breakout hit, at Sun Records. The evening session had been going poorly, and on a break the 19 year old began strumming it on his acoustic guitar to entertain himself.

The recently passed Scotty Moore joined in on electric guitar and so did bassist Bill Black. Sun Records founder and producer Sam Philips wasn't recording and got excited, so he had them do it again.

Within 3 days it was a hit on Memphis radio, and the legend began.

And on July 6th, 1957, a friend took aspiring guitarist James Paul McCartney to the Woolton Village Fete, a town festival. The friend knew a local band would be playing there, and he thought James might be a good fit for them.

After The Quarrymen played, the friend took James backstage. He met everyone in the band, including the leader. He borrowed a guitar and played "20 Flight Rock." They were all really impressed he knew all the words.

A few days later the leader of The Quarrymen, John Lennon, invited James to join the band.

So on July 6th, Elvis started his career, and Paul met John.

And that's why it needs to be Rock and Roll day.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

All MLB Weekday Day Games, The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip. (For Me, At Least.)

The author at a recent Giants day game
I’ve always wanted to do an “ultimate baseball road trip.” But I also want it to be different than all the other “ultimate” road trips out there. So many crazy road trip warriors have done “30 cities in 30 days.”  Every year, Will Leitch figures out how to do all the stadiums in the beginning of the year in as close to 30 days as possible. Marlins Man goes to every Sunday Night Baseball game.

These are all great trips. But they didn't appeal to me, because they've been done. I finally figured it out: I want to go to only weekday day games in as many stadiums as possible.

That’s because baseball was originally, obviously, only played in the daytime. The first night game in the majors didn’t happen until 1938. From 1903 through 1969, the World Series was only played in the daytime. The first World Series baseball game at night was in 1970 between the Pirates and the Orioles.

So for me, true baseball is daytime baseball. And weekday baseball is even more true baseball because you have to want to be there. It makes even the most boring game special. You take the day off work or school (by calling in “sick” or planning it out). I try to go to day baseball whenever possible.

The problem is that unless you’re on the North Side of Chicago, weekday day games are extremely rare. Weekday day games are now called “getaway days” because it allows both teams to get to their next city within a reasonable time, and not at 4 in the morning. Typically they happen Wednesdays and Thursdays, so that means this trip is going to take until the end of the season. 

We better start effective now: June 1st. It also makes sense because I would prefer to not be outside in Minnesota during an April snowstorm. Maybe that’s just me.

The rules: Only day games, and never on holidays unless it makes sense. My trip, my rules. There are only two teams that can qualify for “it makes sense” and the schedule makers actually did that right this year.

After scouring every schedule, I find that only one team doesn’t have a weekday day game the rest of the season- the Baltimore Orioles. I have no idea why. Only one team has exactly one weekday day game. And I’m trying to avoid traveling long distances on back-to-back day games. The Cubs have 16 weekday day games, so I’m going to list all of the feasible ones and we’ll see which one(s) work out.

So with those restrictions in mind, here’s what I came up with.

Day game action shot, Giants catcher Trevor Brown has just caught the ball

Wednesday, June 1st:  Milwaukee Brewers hosting St. Louis Cardinals
As a Bay Area guy, originally I had the A’s and Twins at the Coliseum to start off things easy. But that would end up resulting in a Florida-Wisconsin back-to-back trip later in the year, and the hell with that.

Thursday, June 2nd and Friday, June 3rd: Chicago Cubs host LA Dodgers (Thurs.), Arizona Diamondbacks (Fri)
You know what? That’s totally doable. It’s like 90 minutes from Milwaukee to Chicago.  I could take the 8 a.m. Hiawatha from Milwaukee to Chicago on the 2nd and make it to Wrigley in plenty of time. And then hit the Wrigley bleachers on consecutive days. A heck of a good start to the trip.

Wednesday, June 8th: San Diego Padres host Atlanta Braves
Shouldn’t the Padres have weekday day games all summer? They only have six. Oh wait, it’s San Diego. There’s too much to do in the daytime in the summer. Okay, that makes sense.

Thursday, June 16th: Tampa Bay Rays host Seattle Mariners
 Gotta get to the Sunshine Bingo Parlor sometime. Might as well be against the former Kingdome residents. Kind of like when people who uses to live in an apartment buy a house and then go back to visit their former neighbors. “Oh yeah, I remember why we moved now. This sucks.”

Wednesday, June 22nd: New York Yankees host Colorado Rockies
The first back-to-back begins in the Bronx. And the first interleague game of the trip at that.

Thursday, June 23rd: Boston Red Sox host Chicago White Sox
Had to be done. Back-to-back day games in Manhattan and the Hub.   

Saturday, June 25th: Day-night doubleheader, Baltimore Orioles host Tampa Bay Rays
The Orioles might be punks for not having a weekday day game, but a day-night Saturday doubleheader almost makes up for it- but not quite. It’s also our first repeat team of the trip with the Rays as the visitors this time around.

Monday, June 27th: Pittsburgh Pirates host LA Dodgers
Why do the Pirates play a day game on a Monday? I looked it up and it’s apparently bizarro getaway day, as Pittsburgh is in Seattle the next night. I’m not going to complain, it makes my travel schedule easier. 4 stadiums in 6 days, even getting those day-game hating Orioles into the mix.

Wednesday, June 29th: LA Angels of Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga host Houston Astros
This is a must-see, because this is the Angels only 12:30 weekday day game start the rest of the year. They have a few 4 o’clock starts, which doesn’t make sense to me. Frankly, the Angels don’t make sense to me anyway.

June totals: 9 stadiums, 1 back-to-back, 1 back-to-back Wrigley Field, 1 interleague game, 1 repeat team (Tampa)

Friday, July 1st: Toronto Blue Jays host Cleveland Indians
It’s Canada Day and the Blue Jays have a day game at home. You think I’m not going to that game? Come on.

Monday, July 4th: Washington Nationals host Milwaukee Brewers
Yes, it’s the American Holiday, but it’s a weekday and it’s a day game, and why wouldn’t you do this if you could? It makes too much sense. It’s even a special early start, 11:05 A.M. July 4th in D.C. watching day baseball, that’s almost too much Americana.

Wednesday, July 6th: New York Mets host Florida Marlins
Back to NYC. Nothing very intriguing about this game from where it stands right now except getting to see the unique architecture, which has more nods to the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants than it does to anything the Mets have done.

Friday, July 15th: Chicago Cubs host Texas Rangers
An option. I like to avoid interleague games on general principle, especially when Wrigley Field is involved.

Wednesday, July 20th: Arizona Diamondbacks host Toronto Blue Jays
Air conditioning a must for Phoenix in July. 1st must-see interleague game of the month, and 1st repeat team with the Jays.

Wednesday, July 27th: Florida Marlins host Philadelphia Phillies
Only the Braves are preventing these teams from being in last place in the NL East. Our 2nd repeat team of the month, the Marlins. I might call to make sure this game starts at noon and be asked, “What time can you get here?” Can you tell the Marlins do not excite me at all?

Friday, July 29th: Chicago Cubs host Seattle Mariners
Again, an interleague game at Wrigley. Not my favorite idea.

July totals: 5 stadiums, no back-to-backs, 2 optional Wrigley Field games, 1 interleague game, 2 repeat teams (Toronto, Marlins)

Thursday, August 4th: Philadelphia Phillies host San Francisco Giants
As a Giants fan, I might as well go to all three games of this series (Tuesday and Wednesday night as well as the Thursday day game) and hang out in Philly for a bit, because cheesesteaks and why not. Maybe the Eagles are having training camp and I can go heckle players with the rest of the Philly faithful. This is the final weekday day game for the Phillies this year, and just their 3rd after Memorial Day. 

Wednesday, August 10th, LA Dodgers host Philadelphia Phillies
I can kind of get the Phillies avoiding summer day games because of humidity, but this is also the Dodgers 3rd and final weekday day game after Memorial Day. I don’t really get that, because a summer weekday at Chavez Ravine ought to be a beautiful thing, and therefore worth doing more often than 3 times a summer.

Thursday, August 11th: Oakland A’s host Baltimore Orioles
A super-easy back-to-back. A quick flight up the coast in the morning- there are about five million flights from LA to Oakland per day- and then BART to the Coliseum. What’s great is that the connecting BART station to get to the airport is the Coliseum Station. Too easy.  

Monday, August 15th: Cleveland Indians host Boston Red Sox
A fortunate occurrence, as this is a make-up game from a rainout on April 7th. Works for me!

Who wouldn't want to see this view again?
Wednesday, August 17th: San Francisco Giants host Pittsburgh Pirates
As a Bay Area native, I have already been to a Giants weekday day game this year. Originally I didn’t have them on this trip, because I’d already been. But the more I went through it, the more I realized I had to have them on here. So I do.
Monday, August 22nd: Cincinnati Reds host LA Dodgers
Not a bizarro getaway day or a make-up game. The Reds apparently have “Business Days” throughout the season, so this is one of them. The Dodgers have a home game the next night, but it’s not the worst flight in the world to go from Cincy to LA.

Wednesday, August 24th: Seattle Mariners host New York Yankees
Lots of eastern transplants in the west, so this might actually have a big crowd, and mostly pro-Yankees at that.

Thursday, August 25th: Minnesota Twins host Detroit Tigers
I was once stuck at the Seattle airport for hours in the dead of winter because of a weather delay and ended up taking a redeye from Seattle to Minneapolis. That started a vacation I rarely talk about, because that flight was one of the more pleasant parts of the trip, if you can believe it. I don’t mind this long back-to-back if only to try and make up for that.

Wednesday, August 31st: Texas Rangers host Seattle Mariners
An August afternoon in Dallas. Don’t pretend like you’re not jealous.

August totals: 9 stadiums, 2 and a half back-to-backs, 0 feasible Wrigley Field visits, 0 interleague games (whoo-hoo!), and several repeats- Giants, Phillies, Dodgers, Mariners.

Thursday, September 1st: Atlanta Braves host San Diego Padres
Dallas to the ATL. For someone who has very little idea about the geography of the American South, this feels like it should be shorter or equal to the trip from LA to Oakland, and that’s 500 miles. I will not walk 500 miles, and I will not walk 500 more just to be the guy who walks a thousand miles for a baseball game.

Da-da-da-da! (Da-da-da-da!)

Bonus points if you didn’t need this link to figure out what I’m talking about.

Anyway, it’s almost exactly the same, down to the subway ride to the ballpark. 2 hours from Dallas to the ATL, (Delta has approximately as many non-stop flights as Hank Aaron has home runs). But then it's time for MARTA and not BART. It doesn't go direct to the ballpark, so it requires a shuttle transfer. But that'll work out just fine as long as I get to the park in time.

Unintentional coincidence: on consecutive days, visiting early-to-mid-90’s “renaissance parks” now deemed unworthy.

Bonus side trip option: Atlanta Falcons host Jacksonville Jaguars in their final preseason NFL game that night at the Georgia Dome, yet another perfectly serviceable stadium that is getting thrown into the trash pile next year.

Extra Bonus side trip option: Saturday, September 3rd, college football, Georgia vs. North Carolina at the Georgia Dome as well.

Monday, September 5th Day game hosts: Reds, Rockies, Marlins, Tampa, A’s, Mariners, Yankees
 A holiday, so this is a completely optional day. Maybe if there are two teams with playoff hopes, or maybe the two worst teams, or maybe none of the above.

Wednesday, September 7th: Chicago White Sox host Detroit Tigers
A classic American League matchup where I am guaranteed to be one of 12 people at this game, I don’t care how well either club is doing at the time.

Wednesday, September 14th: St. Louis Cardinals host Chicago Cubs
You know, for being supposedly such a big baseball town, the Cards have a lot fewer summer weekday day games than I would have expected. They have two. Two! I get it, humidity. But two? At least this is a Cubs game and the joint should be jumping.

Thursday, September 16th: Chicago White Sox host Cleveland Indians
If I’m super burnt after being in Atlanta, maybe skip the 7th and do a back-to-back here to get the Sox in. Because that would mean a potential triple-play as the next day…

Friday, September 16th: Chicago Cubs host Milwaukee Brewers
Come on, hitting both Chicago stadiums on consecutive days? That would be worthy…

Monday, September 19th: Kansas City Royals host Chicago White Sox
Here we have another Monday day game. And another makeup game, from a rainout at the end of May. KC has a good park, too. Been there plenty of times, saw Cal Ripken on consecutive Opening Days during “The Streak” in the late 90’s.

Wednesday, September 21st: Colorado Rockies host St. Louis Cardinals
I did not expect the Rockies to have so many weekday day games. They and the A’s have 8, tied for the 2nd-most non-holiday weekday day games post-Memorial Day (every baseball team is in the top-10 in something).

Friday, September 23rd: Chicago Cubs host St. Louis Cardinals
Saw the Cards host the Cubs, now the reverse on the final Cubs home weekday day game of the year. That’s happening.

Wednesday, September 28th: Houston Astros host Seattle Mariners
The Astros final home game of the year. An easy call.

Thursday, September 29th: Detroit Tigers host Cleveland Indians
It’s the Tigers final home game of the year as well, and the final weekday day game of the year in baseball (the Nats start 5 minutes earlier, so there). Yes, not the most convenient back-to-back, but who said going to 30 weekday day games would be a walk in the park? Oh wait, it will be, and that’s the point. 

Who's with me? See you at the park- in the daytime, when baseball was meant to be played.

September totals: 6 new stadiums, 1 and a half for-sure back-to-backs, 1 potential triple-header, 0 interleague games, 2 potential Wrigley Field games, at least 2 repeats (White Sox, Cardinals) and maybe more (Tigers, Cubs, Indians).

Trip totals: 29 weekday day games in 29 different stadiums, (Baltimore, get with the program!),  5 back-to-backs, 1 potential triple-header, 5 potential bonus Wrigley Field games, only 2 interleague games, and 2 National Holidays in the appropriate country.

Who doesn't want to be here?

All photos by the author