Out to the Ballgame — Installment V

The nearly perfect PNC Park in Pittsburgh, rockin' at the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame, and an eating stunt to remember

Wednesday, August 26, 2010, 10:00 AM

I’m posting this entry a little late due to our being on the move so much. We learned some valuable lessons about mobile homes, tailgating and parking for a Pittsburgh Pirates game. Driving a mobile home in a big city with tight streets is D-U-M-B. Doing it at rush hour is idiotic! Doing it without first finding where to land is..well this is a family-oriented blog. But we did finally land, arriving in the city at 4:30 but not finding our way to an empty parking lot across the street from the city’s (open!!!!) casino until about 6 p.m. We set up camp and I cooked a delicious skirt steak dinner with corn on the cob. Our nerves were a bit frayed, and competitive juices were heightened among the guys for the bean bag toss game they played (like quoits)—a beer-infested event. We arrived at PNC Park just a little late for the Bucs-Cards game with Adam Wainwright—Doc’s competitor for the Cy Young on the mound.

The game was great with the Bucs holding off a 9th-inning rally—simultaneous to J-Roll’s HR to send the Phils-Astro’s game into OT—to win 4-3. Turned out to be a great pitcher’s duel in a lively stadium with lots of happy fans. But the night’s big news was Pittsburgh itself. Kudos to them. Locating the ball park on the North Shore banks of the Allegheny River just across from downtown Pittsburgh was a stroke of genius. Intimate and throw-back like, PNC Park offers a panorama of the city skyline at night that is literally breathtaking. The bridge across the Allegheny provides a pedestrian walkway right into the city from center field. I used to spend a lot of time in Pittsburgh in the ‘80s serving as the city’s financial advisor. he North Shore had Three Rivers Stadium and that was it. Now, in addition to PNC Park and Heinz Field (home of the Steelers), there’s a casino, a Science Center and lots of development, all effectively a bridge away from the downtown. It’s one of the few cases of a stadium being a significant player in the economic development mix of a city.

I never saw this coming. We all love Citizens Bank Park (and it’s still a better stadium) and the Sports Complex, but seeing how well Pittsburgh did this makes we wish that Vince Fumo had understood this before he stopped the city from building a baseball park at Broad and Spring Garden.

Our après-game event was to head over the River Casino, where we had parked our RV. Ben and Prentiss played a little blackjack and left with $100 combined of the house’s money while Phil and I watched. I had all the casino one person could ever want with my 12-year connection to the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians in northern California.

One thing that I had forgotten was how much my guys can chow down. After a steak, potato salad, coleslaw and corn-on-the-cob dinner cooked on the grill and in the rolling kitchen, these three managed to find space for a massive sandwich inside the ballpark. A picture says it all.

Wednesday, August 26, 2010, Midnight

An amazingly eventful day today! We arrived at an RV campground in Ravenna, Ohio about 2 a.m. Fortunately, they left us a security card to get access and we had little trouble hooking up and getting situated. Another nice place, as we discovered in the morning. Our team was quite exhausted and (possibly) dragging after draining so much brew. We slept in but I made a great scrambled egg soufflé (on the outdoor grill) with mushrooms, peppers, onions and other leftover stuff. We never quite figured out the coffee thing so we continued to rely on OJ for eye-opening support. Soon we were unhooked and off to Cleveland.

I must admit that I started to grow an attytood on the way. What the hell was the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame doing in Cleveland anyway? Can you name any rockers from Cleveland? Did American Bandstand ever go there? But once we saw the place, we were truly dazzled. It’s located on the lakefront (Lake Erie, remember the old stadium, “the mistake by the lake”) along a beautiful corridor that includes the new Browns Stadium, a science center and marina. But it reminds me a little of Penn’s Landing as the entire site is totally cut off from the downtown. Never mind. We’re just visiting.

The R & R Hall is fabulous. We watched a U2 concert in 3D that was sensational. Who knew that I liked U2? There was a very well done exhibit on Ricky Nelson with some old TV clips from The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, a TV show from the 50’s that ran for more than a decade. (Yikes, I’m that old?) Right next to it was a wonderful exhibit on Janis Joplin whose music helped defined my college experience, at least a small part of what I remember of it. There was a two-level multi-format exhibit on The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, with family photos, clothes he wore in concerts and for album covers, his guitars, notes of lyrics for songs and the actual lyrics in his handwriting (which was excellent) copied onto sheets in spiral notebooks. There were video interviews and music—lots of his music. Motown, Liverpool, Beale Street, Haight Ashbury, Elvis, Clapton and more. It was all here and to be heard. I came out of the museum strumming my guitar.

The Cleveland Indians are woeful. I expected to see a small turnout. Miniscule would be more like it. If there were 5,000 people at last night’s game (A’s 6-the Tribe-1), I’ll eat a 3-pound cheese sandwich with 13 different kinds of cheeses. But then no one should complain. For six years, the Indians had 455 consecutive sellouts before falling on some hard times. Hopefully we won’t ever experience this but there were some very lean years in the history of the Phillies. We were hysterical as foul balls bounced off seats in totally empty sections of the park. It would take a few seconds before any fans could reach them, but by then the balls had relocated and we laughed more as they scurried around to find them. Our night, and the Indians’, was over after the 5th inning so headed out in search of another challenge.

That challenge was found in Cleveland Heights at the Melt. There Ben Katz took up the call and tried to eat a 3-pound melted cheese sandwich with fries and coleslaw. Our hero brought on a lot of onlookers. Most folks had heard about the melted cheese challenge but rarely does any customer of this joint take it on. Our waitress told us that there had been a 3% success rate. Never mind.

Imagine (or don’t if you have a weak stomach) what 13 kinds of cheese tastes like all melted onto toast. Unfortunately, Ben saw the challenge but failed to consider whether he would like to eat this monstrosity. He didn’t and couldn’t, thank God. Remember we have a very small living space and only one in RV bathroom.

We left around midnight to find the Jellystone Campground and, hopefully, wide open spaces—if needed.