Day one of SABR 38 in Cleveland: And what an odd day it was
by Bob Timmermann
Cleveland, which greeted me Wednesday with a passive-aggressive slap in the face, showed a slightly different side to me today. Although I still wonder just what this whole state of Ohio is about. It seems to occupy some nether world between the Midwest (where my family is from and I understand) and the East Coast (which I also understand).
And then there's Ohio.
The SABR Convention had its opening ceremonies, which traditionally features a local SABR member tellling you of all the wonderful things to do in the city. I missed much of this. Or more likely, I just didn't hear them. Last year, someone from St. Louis bragged about the city hosting the 1904 World's Fair. I was expecting Cleveland to brag about losing out on a chance to bid for the 1932 Olympics.
However, this year SABR got Hall of Famer Bob Feller to speak briefly (by Bob Feller standards) at the opening. Feller, who sometimes say things that are quite outlandish, was relatively tame. He did ramble a bit. But he's 89. If I get to be 89, I'm going to ramble. Heck I'm 42 and I'm rambling now and it's just the fourth paragraph.
There were no presentations that grabbed my interest in the morning (and they ended up being canceled when the speakers couldn't make it), so I headed over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It costs $22 to get in.
I was struck by the fact that for a museum dedicated to music, there really wasn't a lot of it. There were listening stations at a few places and I heard Jimi Hendrix's version of "Gloria" (not suitable for children), but for the most part, you go to the museum to LOOK at things about music. Which sort of defeats the purpose of the museum. Which costs $22 to get into.
I did get some lunch there, although a woman who looked to be in her mid 70s cut in front of me just as I reached the front of the line. My reply "Sure, go ahead. Not a problem." Stupid Midwestern parents teaching me manners.
After my lunch, I saw a little more of the museum, bought some postcards and walked back to the hotel. My body was asking for a nap, so I agreed and snoozed and got up in time for Ron Selter's presentation on the decline of inside-the-park home runs at 3:30 pm. Except for the problem that it started at 3:00 pm. Sorry, Ron.
But I did see Jim Odenkirk's presentation on the Yankees-Indians rivalry of the late 1940s-1950s, Beth Hise's talk about the differences and commonalities between baseball and cricket (I learned quite a bit from this) and finally Catherine Groom Petroski's presentation about an American Legion team from Belleville, Illinois that her grandfather coached.
The latter may not have seemed to have been an important topic, but: 1) my dad grew up near Belleville and 2) it was a good example of how a baseball team unified an often-fractious city and is still talked about today. The team played in 1938. Seventy years later, an American Legion team is still the talk of Belleville.
I could not interest any of my friends in going to Progressive Field for the Indians-Giants game so I headed off on my own. I got a nice seat about 10 rows behind home plate.
Thunderstorms delayed the start of the game until 8:48, but it was worth the wait. Cliff Lee dissected the Giants, striking out a career-high 11 and winning his 11th game of the year.
Cleveland fans impressed me. They do love their team and they're an optimistic bunch even though the team is beset with injuries. They also don't have the St. Louis vibe of "Look at us, we're great fans. We're the world's greatest fans! Love us! Peter Gammons says so!" They just root for their team.
But tonight, there was an extra rooting interest as Omar Vizquel made what was likely his last appearance before Cleveland fans. Vizquel played in Cleveland for 11 years (1994-2004) and won 8 Gold Gloves and played on two pennant winners. Each time Vizquel came to bat, he was given a standing ovation. And when Vizquel flied out to left in his last at bat, he was given a standing ovation as he went back to the dugout and he briefly saluted the crowd.
It did not seem like this was anything forced or manufactured. There were no scoreboard announcements telling people to cheer for Omar Vizquel. The fans just sincerely liked him. There were plenty of Vizquel t-shirts and jerseys present at Progressive Field.
I'll try to write more about Progressive Field tomorrow when I have pictures. My battery was dead in my camera tonight, but that is being remedied as I type this.
My day concluded as I got back again to the hotel after 11. And again there was no place to buy food. (No, I'm not ordering room service. I did eat at the stadium, although not much.) I bought a Diet Pepsi in a vending machine. Except the machine gave me a regular Pepsi.
The mysterious forces that run the state of Ohio obviously are conspiring against me.