Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The Weekend in Review

Leg 1 of the KankaNation Triple Crown Road Show is complete. We know Dave is going to the Belmont Stakes; I nominate Pete for the Preakness, since he's closest. Well, on to the weekend:
Friday afternoon, my buddy Matt and I embarked on our trek across the entire state of Ohio. Along for most of the trip was Matt's friend Ruben, on his way to graduation ceremonies in the Dayton area.
Things were fairly quiet until we reached the Columbus area. Columbus is very nice, I thought, but then I realized I'd never want to work their, lest I have Ohio State crammed down my throat at every available moment. This leg of the trip was sort of a pilgrimmage for me, as we passed through Dublin, a suburb of Columbus. Dublin, of course, is the home of two of ND's three favorite athletes named Quinn (Chris and Brady, with Colin being from elsewhere).
After a stop in Dayton, we headed down to Cincinnati. There, we passed the GE office that is the workplace of every single trombone aero major ever (or, at least the Garzas and Andy Sanders). There, we picked up a station covering the Reds pregame. They were interviewing a Kentucky Derby jockey from the area. When it was brought up that he had lost to Smarty Jones 4 times already, he replied, "well, every time you have horces in a race, anything can happen, and that's why they call it horseracing." Oh, so it's called horse racing because there are horses in a race? I never would have guessed. For the record, "and that's why they call it horse racing" is Matt and my new catchphrase.
As soon as we crossed the mighty Ohio River into Kentucky, we saw a water tower that read, "Florence Y'all." You can't make this up. Florence, of course, came before Big Bone Lick National Park.
For the record, there are approximately 12 Waffle Houses between Columbus and Lousiville (and 0 north of Columbus).
When we got to Louisville, we went straight to the Chow Wagon, down by the river (but not in a van). The Chow Wagon was just like every other summer festival, with booths of food and inflatable games for the kids. After enjoying a deep fried Twinkie (soooo good!), it started to rain. Everyone just sprinted under the bridge for cover. Matt and I just zipped up our coats, and for a second I felt like crowd control, as we walked back and forth in front of the bridge, with the whole crowd staring at us. C'mon, it's rain. Do you people not take showers in the morning? Isn't that the same thing?
After the Chow Wagon, we headed for our hotel south of Fort Knox - the Gold Vault Inn. In the parking lot, in front of the door, stood a tricked out Chevy Avalanche. After the perilous half hour journey around this giant SUTruck, we checked in. It was then that I realized that I had forgotten my entire toiletry bag - no glasses, no toothbrush, no nothing. So, it was off to WalMart (do they sell, like, wall stuff there?), where I got my needed supplies, and Matt picked up the largest container of green Hawaiian Punch you have ever seen. I mean, that thing's so big, he'll probably have enough left to take to next year's Kentucky Derby.
Watching TV Friday night, we saw the weather report. Louisville is in the Kentuckiana area (just as Cincinnati is in the Cincitucky area). The Louisville weatherman referred to the viewers in Indiana as being on "Slow Time." At a commercial break, I noticed a commercial that seemed familar. Sure, enough, "Duhnnn... If you've been injured in an accident, call the Becker Law Offices at 1-800-4-BECKER. That's 1-800-4-BECKER." It was the guy from the Keller & Keller commercials! And it was basically the same commercial, complete with the dramatic "Duhn" noise! That completely blew my mind, because all this time, I thought that guy was Mr. Keller.
Saturday morning, we wanted to stop by the Patton Museum. The museum is on the grounds of Ft Knox, so that means security check. The museum itself was closed, but we did notice it was featuring an exhibit on Elvis's army career. Yonto would have freaked out. (Yonto - if you still want to go - route 31 (the same 31 that runs next to ND) goes all the way down and through the Fort Knox area.)Next, it was off to the Louisville Slugger factory/museum. After we discovered that it is not located right next to Louisville Slugger Stadium (home of the Reds' AAA Louisville Bats), we decided to take the factory tour. That was a great experience, and it was another one of those things that gave me the itch to play again. We saw a few bats in boxes, destined to be shipped off to the Orioles - Sidney Ponson, David Segui, and a few others. Then, we saw a stack of half-finished Deivi Cruz bats. OK, so none of the bats will be used much, but it was still pretty cool. For taking the tour, you get an 18" Louisville Slugger bat (I've got your 18" bat right here), or, as I call it, my "knee whackin' stick." The tour guide mentioned creating your own personalized bat, so I had to check it out. I was hoping to be able to pick a 33/30 with such and such knob and such and such shape, etc., but I was disappointed. What they had was a selection of 4 different colors of bats, with the opportunity to add your signature or a personalized message to one. Oh well.
The museum featured some bats from last year's World Series. I was able to confirm my suspicion - Alfonso Soriano's bat is an absolute war club. 35 inches, 33 ounces, and a barrell like you would not believe. No, you sick bastards, I was not just describing Soriano's member. The museum also had one of those video pitch machines, where they showed a video of a pitcher winding up, then a ball came out of a hole in the screen where the pitcher's release point was. You stand behind the plate (and outside a screen) to watch, and I had several pitchers to choose from. Imagine my delight when I got to stare down a Charlie Nagy 90 mph fastball.
A note on the bats: if you have a contract with LS, you get your signature on your bats (otherwise, you get block letters). The first contract, with Babe Ruth, was for $100 and a set of golf clubs. That's still the contract today. You fill out a form and sign your name 6 or 7 times (Ken Griffey, Jr. considered signing as "The Kid" a few times, then scratched it out). They have a wall of all the signatures they've collected. So, I'm think it's a great honor to get a contract. Then, I look at the wall. They must get "future stars" in AAA, because a few of these guys didn't pan out. Included on that list is current Red Wily Mo Pena, who coincidentally signs his name in print like a 2nd grader.
Well, we figured, it was probably time to head off to the Derby. We stopped at the UofL to ask a student about a good place to park. He suggested parking near "Papa John's Cardinals Stadium." (Did he really just say "Papa John's Cardinals Stadium"? Does he get paid every time he says that?) Later we found out that Papa John's Cardinals Stadium is right across from McDonald's Field, where the baseball team plays. And you thought ND sold out.
So, we found a place to park, and were shuttled to Churchill Downs by a shuttle service that consisted of red vans and trucks with "Derby Shuttle" painted on the windows with white shoe polish. Security was tight - military police replaced the usual rent-a-cops, and everyone was patted down and/or wanded. We found our way inside Downs, and were immediately found by a Mint Julep vendor (they have about 30 walking around - it's great). Not wanting to break tradition, we ordered one.
Now, the infield at Churchill Down is somewhat divided. Matt had read that the area by the first turn was "subdued" compared to the rest of the infield, and he was right. It's like you cross a line of vendor booths, and you go from church picnic to New Orleans Mardi Gras. Good times.
The attire was mixed - many people in jeans, a few hoed out in Hearland-style clothing, and still many girls in traditional dresses and hats. I'm telling you, the way they dressed - Ellen would have fit right in. A few hats were good, too. One guy had a race track with music and moving horses on his head. I'm not sure whether or not you want to be that guy. You do however want to be the guy who fashioned a perfect cowboy had out of Miller Lite cases.
For those of you not familiar with the format (I wasn't), there are 12 races on Derby day, with the 10th race being the big one. Since the view wasn't great, we decided to wander around the concourse. While walking around, we heard many Dave Chapelle references. Sure, there were a few Rick James immitations, but every two minutes you'd hear, "What? What? Yea-uh! [not to be confused with yeah-yah] What? OK!" High comedy. Matt wanted to see the paddock, but it was a little difficult to find. Thinking he had found it, he blew right past Warren Moon like a man on a mission. I walked right by Moon and realized who he was, but by the time I had caught up to tell Matt, he was long gone. That was our only celebrity sighting of the day.
The big race started at 6, so we got in line to place our bets around 4. As soon as we got under the awning, the skies absolutely tore open - huge downpour. Not wanting to sound dumb, I places a 3 horse exacta box on Read the Footnote, Smarty Jones, and The Cliff's Edge (at that time, the favorite). Now, if any two of those horses finished 1-2, I won. Well, I'm stupid.
The rain turned Mardi Gras into Woodstock. We had seen a guy dressed like a ref earlier, complete with short black shorts and a whistle. Later, we saw him using that whistle to officiate a mud wrestling match. The big controversy this year was that, due to grandstand construction, they had added stands to the infield. Now, the regular people didn't like the fact the rich folk were invading their territory. With the rain and mud (and alcohol), someone decided to start chucking mud at the rich folk. Now, the Derby workers serving the rich folk though this was hilarious, setting themselves up as targets, and trying to duck out of the way. Well, the cops didn't think this was so great, and they cuffed a guy in a Wes Unseld throwback.
OK, it's race time. There was a video screen about halfway down the back stretch, across from the infield. So, we figured it was a good place to watch. We saw the whole thing on the screen, and for the entire 2 seconds that we could see it live, Read the Footnotes had pulled into third. Now I was into it. But, he faded away, and Smarty Jones was the winner. Now, the oddsmakers must have known something, because right before the race, Smarty Jones had the lowest odds (4-1), and Lionheart (finished second) had the second best odds at 5-1. Imperialism finished third. I knew I should have taken Smarty and Imperialism across the board (win, place, or show). Would've been a nice payday.
On our way out, we ran into some drunk ND class of '04 guys. I was wearing my football issue Fiesta Bowl jacket I got from Darrel, and my "cool when people don't know I got it for being a bando" adidas cap. Apparently, it was study days, so quite a few ND people were down for the weekend. I though I had seen Wally earlier...
On the way home, Matt made this vow: Some day, he'd be up in millionaire's row (the rich seats in the Churchill Downs grandstand) with his trophy wife, wearing a nice suit... and saying, "Programs! $4! Programs!" Other than that, the ride home was uneventful, so let's fast forward to Monday night's Indians-Red Sox game.

A friend of the family had tickets but could go, so we were handed 4 great seats - last two rows of the lower level, 3 and 4 seats away from being lined up with home, pitcher's mound, and second. Nice. My sister Becky took a friend, and I brought along Fired Up Todd. Now, we weren't expecting much with Curt Schilling pitching, but Jake Westbrook has been hot, so I had hope.
Todd loves to talk, so when he found out the father and son next to us were Indians/Browns/Buckeyes fans, he talked their ears off. Starting the game, it seemed like the Indians weren't working the count too much. Right, I remembered, Schilling doesn't walk too many guys, so he obviously doesn't throw too many balls. Vic Martinez realized this, and he jumped at a pitch out over the plate for a 2 run homer in the first. Manager Eric Wedge must have known something coming in, because Martinez was moved up to the 4 spot for this game, and responded by ending up a triple short of the cycle (on the flip side, Terry Francona must have known something, since .185 hitter Brian Daubauch had 3 hits out of the 5 hole.
Westbrook pitched another gem, but he couldn't last forever, since he's conditioned to be a middle reliever this year. Former closer David Riske came in for middle relief, and he caught no breaks. When things are going bad, you never get the close calls, and he walked two. So, in came new acquiree Rick White, who happens to wear the number 00 (well, it's not a single digit, so I guess it's OK). He gave up a double to score a run, and the way too many Red Sox fans started to cheer. This included a girl in a Johnny Damon jersey who flicked everyone off, and a very fat 20-something guy with a pinwheel Red Sox cap (like the Expos of the 70s, not a beanie), who raised his hat in the air whenever the Sox threatened. But, White shut down the Sox through 8, and we had a pitcher's duel on our hands. Rafael Betancourt, who had been struggling, made the 9th interesting, but got his second save of the year.

Other notes from the game:

  • A few guys behind us kept calling Damon Hay-Zoos (Jesus) every time he stepped up to the plate.

  • After Johnny Damon girl flicked everyone off, Todd went to the fake cough routine. "Ahem! High maintenance! High maintenance!"

  • It turns out that Damon girl's boyfriend was an Indians fan. It also turns out, as Todd noticed, that the boyfriend bore a striking resemblance to the Lawrence brother from "Boy Meets World: The College Years."

  • Manny Ramirez now has 3 outfield assists, mostly because he lollygags to the ball, then throws the batter out when he decides last minute to try for a double on the lazy Ramirez (as happened last night to Travis Hafner).

Transaction Wire tomorrow, maybe, but the main thing will be working on stats for the KankaMatic team pages.