Friday, June 03, 2005

The worst game EVER (that I've been too)

(note: this was written before the Royals decided to do something like go out and sweep the yankees. great timing -- a post about what is likely the worst game I've ever been to the day after one of the best series I've seen in a long time..)

* * * * *

Well, Anaheim was nice.

Of course, after spending a couple days sitting on the freeway in L.A., anywhere with a nice row of palms and moving lanes of traffic seems almost, uh, "magical" -- even if it's a pre-fabricated, commercially created little spot. It was still a breath of fresh air (in many ways).

That's the only kind thing I really want to say about it. After witnessing last Friday night's debacle – in person – I think you might feel the same way.

The day started nicely. After spending the morning walking around Hollywood, then dropping $150 at Amoeba Records (I would have spent more, but we were on a time and luggage space limit), we slowly crawled our way to Anaheim. The drive there was not particularly smooth, but, then again, apparently everywhere in Los Angeles is the most horrible place to drive to ever. I don't remember it being quite as bad last time I was there, but it seemed no matter what time it was or where we were going, there was a whole lot of idling and a small amount of slow coasting.

I think the mood upon our eventual arrival in Anaheim (mine, at least) was helped by the fact that the night consisted of enjoying a few fine microbrews I had picked up the day before (the Smoked Porter and Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing Co., and the Hop Rod Rye from Bear Republic Brewing). The Hop Rod Rye was my favorite (Bear Republic also makes a great IPA), though the Arrogant Bastard was very good as well. The Smoked Porter was decent, though, uh, where's the "smoked" part? I guess I just got used to my introduction to the genre, the smoked porter from the O'Fallon Brewery in O'Fallon, Missouri, which is extra thick on smoke flavor. Strangely, not a flavor I actually enjoy that much, which makes my taste for it odd..

Hey, wait, we were getting ready to talk baseball here, right?

Anyway, after a small microbrew session, there was to be the Royals game and a night out at the ESPN Sports Zone in (ugh) Downtown Disney to follow. So, I was pretty excited. I had the local news on, and during a segue from a story about Rickey Henderson's return, the sportscaster said, "And, turning to a team that Rickey's new team probably wouldn't have a hard time beating, Major League Baseball's worst team, the Kansas City Royals, are in town to begin a 3-game series." Fuckin smartass little dude..

Can we start winning and put an end to this shit?

Edison International Field in Anaheim is, well…it's just not that impressive. With the recent refurbishments, it's taken on some of the characteristics of a few of the newer stadiums I've been to (Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, Comerica Park in Detroit) in that most of the decorations seem plastic and aimed towards entertaining 3 year-olds. The giant helmets on both sides of the entrance are large and gaudy, and the large "baseball bat" support beams scream, "We're trying to pretend like this ballpark is new!" The best part was the large "A" with a halo in the opposite parking lot. Naturally, it's not a part of the stadium itself.

And I haven't even mentioned the "rock spectacular (with water)". Not only has Anaheim (along with Detroit) ripped off the fountain(ish) idea from Kauffman Stadium, they've done it in less than impressive ways. Detroit's fountains are on top of an ugly concourse tunnel behind right-center field, and Anaheim's are on those awful, ridiculous rocks. At least they've taken those hideous ghost-player pictures off of the outfield walls.

Other than that, it was…a ballpark.

I had been in full Royals-fan spotting mode as soon as we got out of the car. There were a couple of close calls, but it turned out to be Angels fans that apparently paid no attention to the opponent and managed to wear their colors. We were the only fans in Royals gear in a sea of thousands. My girlfriend, who likes to buy the shirts of the other teams whose ballparks we go to (I know, it's a habit that needs to be broken – see later in the entry for more on this), asked to go through the gift shop. She decided to get a shirt after the game.

We proceeded towards the field, where we had an usher take our picture. She seemed a little hesitant to actually help us, but eventually figured out how to push the camera button. An older guy standing nearby, dressed in his Angels Employee top hat and vest, said, "Well, you two are the first Royals fans I've seen tonight!"

"Yeah, there's still a couple of us left," I replied.
"Well, you guys took two out of three from us last time," he said. I guess the embarrassment of losing two out of three to the Royals causes you to remember things like that.
"Yep, let's see if we can do it again!" I said. He laughed.
"Good luck, then!"

We traversed the sea of red (it's amazing what a recent World Series championship does for merchandising) and found our seats in the upper deck. Surrounded by Angels fans. I spotted a father and son in Royals gear in the lower deck to the left, and a guy wearing a KC hat sitting with his two friends (both Angels fans) in the bleachers underneath us to the right. And, aside from a little kid with a Royals jersey that was standing at the outfield wall during warm-ups, that was it for Royals fans in our little part of the stadium.

The game itself was great for a while. Paul Byrd started for the Angels, and I was eager to see the Royals tee off on him. They didn't in the top of the first, and Chone Figgins, the first Angels batter, tripled and scored, and it was quickly 1-0. But the Royals fought back, scoring two runs in the next two innings, and took a 2-1 lead into the 7th. There were a couple of sparkling defensive plays turned in by Sweeney, a couple by Gotay, and some great defense by Dejesus (including an outstanding catch late in the game to preserve the lead). When Berroa scored in the top of the 7th on a wild pitch to make the game 4-1, you wouldn't believe the boos that reigned down from the fans. This is a team that won the World Series two years ago, and was tied for first place this year! They certainly have some high expectations..

I assumed the Angels fans wouldn't have much animosity towards us, as there's kind of a quiet sympathy from other teams' fans for anyone that's still willing to wear the Royal Blue. I'm sure by the end of the 7th inning, though – as the Royals had jumped out to a 4-1 lead – it was quickly expiring. When Buck hit his home run in the top of the 9th, I think they were slowly resigning themselves to a loss. When Sweeney hit his bases clearing single-plus-error, well…we were ecstatic! The Angels fans, well…amid the (very) loud chorus of boos, someone behind us told us to "SHOVE IT UP YOUR BUTT." Ok then..

Having been a Royals fan for quite some time, I knew better than to get ahead of myself and start thinking about something like a win. The Angels fans around us, on the other hand, conceded the game right then and there.

"Well, that's it. You guys got this one. There's no WAY they can blow this one," the guy in front of me said.
"Ohhhh, they can," I said, "they definitely can. Trust me, I've seen it before."
"Nah, there's no way," he replied.

Can I stop and say something right now? The Rally Monkey? That is the most embarrassing thing I think I've ever seen at a sporting event. I mean, I almost felt my face turning red as all of these Angels fans went crazy every time his little monkey head appeared on something. It's too bad that an Angels fan can never really make fun of your team, since that monkey is sadder than pretty much everything else. Sucks for them.

So, anyway, while the monkey's head was jumping around to every video board in the stadium, Mike Wood came into the game with a fresh 8-3 lead. Walk, error, RBI single, single…in about 3 minutes, it's 8-4, bases loaded, and nobody out.

You've gotta be shittin' me, right?

Angels fans are going nuts. I looked at my girlfriend with my mouth hanging open. I don't think I even had time to say anything – it happened that quickly. All I could think was, "double-play ball, double-play ball, double-play ball, come on.."

Double-play ball was delivered.

And……..thrown into right field. It was out there forever, as the Royals had to run through a field made of jello to get to it, and an endless cycle of Angels continuously rounded the bases. I almost ate my hat. The tying run was suddenly there on 3rd base, with no outs.

That dull, gnawing pain of being a Royals fan forced me back into my seat.

The next batter drove in the tying run.
The Royals went down meekly in the 10th.

The game-ending blast by Dallas McPherson was pretty much an afterthought. Before he even got to home plate, before any fireworks reached the sky, I said a quick, "Let's go,", gathered our stuff, and we forced our way through a frenzied stadium. Fortunately, there was a fireworks display after the game, so there weren't as many fans pouring through the concourses as there normally would have been. They were so whipped up in their own excitement that nobody said anything to me as I trailed out of the stadium in a daze.

My girlfriend still wanted to go to the gift shop as we were leaving.

"Are we going to go get a t-shirt?" she asked.
"Sure, if you want to be another fake fan," I growled.

I mean, I actually don't like her wearing another team's shirt at all, but I was especially stunned after this game. I couldn't stomach buying an Angels shirt at that moment. After I said that, she refused to go into the gift shop, which is all the better as far as I'm concerned. You know, as much garbage as you have to put up with to be a fan of this team, I sure as hell don't want to be a part of supporting another one.

It was even hard to enjoy the way overpriced drinks at the ESPN SportsZone, with about 30 large TVs showing the botched double-play every couple of minutes. That, and the fact we were in Disney. That sure didn't help.

I was still mad about this game when I got up the next morning. No matter what happens, I think this one's going to sting for a long, long time..

Joe Blow

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