Double Eagle Dave's Great Baseball Park Adventure

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For almost 55 years, I've carried on a love affair with baseball that started when I was a kid. I remember the first time my brother and I tried out for a baseball team. I think I was 7 and he was 8. We only had one glove and one bat between us. We were poor. That's why my brother decided to become a catcher...they already had a catcher's mitt that came along with the equipment.

Besides organized ball, we also spent countless hours playing catch in the back yard or in the street in front of the house. In Tolono, we lived next to a vacant lot next to the Catholic Church. It was a perfect baseball diamond...except for that one day when one of us hit a great shot...through the Church's basement window. Guess we were lucky it wasn't one of the stained glass windows.

But probably the most fun was getting together with a bunch of friends and playing baseball all day long, in one of our yards or the grade school until the lightening bugs came out and the streetlights came on which was our signal to come home. What wonderful times they were. And that's where baseball still takes me today...back to those wonderful times of my youth.

We also watched baseball. I remember crowding around a small black and white tv watching Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese on the Sunday Baseball Game of the Week. My Mom was also a baseball fan. I remember when we moved to Springfield, she wanted a color tv to watch baseball games. She told Sears if they couldn't deliver by the All Star Break, they could just keep it. We got it in time.

And who can forget going to their first Major League Baseball game? For me it was with the Tolono Little League and a rich local man by the name of Max Hoagland got tickets for the entire team, hired a school bus and took is to Chicago. Nope, not a Cubs game, but a White Sox game. Our first game, we saw the White Sox and the Tigers play...I don't recall who won, except us kids by simply being allowed to be there. He did that several years in a row.

I was so angered by getting cut from my 9th grade Grant Jr. High School baseball team (how dare he?) that I made it my personal goal to be the best baseball player in the City of Springfield in Pony League that following summer. While I probably wasn't the best, I was among them. I hit over .400 and made the City All Star Team as a shortstop. Take that coach whoever you were!

Then there was the first major leage game I attended without any adults. I was 15 and my brother was 16. The two of us and a young minister's son by the name of John Norquist attended a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. If I wasn't hooked before on the Cubs, I was now. Incidentally, John would became the Mayor of Milwaukee one day.

Baseball is called the "nation's pastime." Some would say it's been overtaken by other sports like football and basketball...some even say soccer will overtake baseball. I apologize for offending any of you soccer fans or players out there, but soccer is a game for guys who can't throw.

Some say baseball it too slow. I say, remember, baseball is a summer sport. It's a time when kids are out of school, people take vacations, a time of fun in the sun. It wasn't meant to be fast. It was meant to be watched from the stands while eating a hot dog, some peanuts or cracker jacks and a cold lemonade or maybe even a cold beer in your hand. And, yea you even get to take a 7th inning stretch.

I love baseball movies as well. Not just the funny ones like Major League or Bull Durham, but the heartwarming ones too, like The Lou Gherig Story, Angels in the Outfiled, The Natural and of course Field of Dreams. I liked Field of Dreams so much, the year it came out (1989), I made it part of our summer vacation to stop in Dyersville, Iowa where it was filmed. If you've never been there, you've got to go. I'll never forget that first year (we've been three other times!). Bryan was 9 years old, and we saw the movie while on vacation. When we got to the field, the owner of the biggest part of the field (it was owned by two different farmers...one of which had plowed his left field part back into corn), Don Lansing still had the bleachers, the backstop, and most of the diamond in tact. The lights were not. He said they were rented as props for the movie. We talked a while and he went over and grabbed a ball and a couple of gloves and played catch with Bryan. And all he had was a little coffee can with the words, "Keep the dream alive" written on it. I gave him a few bucks for the effort. When we came back a couple years later, he had a full trailer of memorabilia for sale, the guy in left field had his own stand and had turned the field back into a ball diamond again. And the lights were back up. I had heard that on every 3rd Sunday they had people dressed up in old time uniforms and come out of the corn for an exhibition game. How cool is that? Recently I heard the Lansing family was selling the property...asking price $5.4 Million..."If you build it, they will come!"

I love what Terence Mann, James Earl Jones said in the movie, " People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."

I've been to many baseball games...mostly Cubs or Cardinals games. There was a time when we went to Arizona for Spring Training probably 5 or 6 years in a row. In fact, we're going back again this year, taking our 8 year old Grandson and my 84 year old Mother. That's them in the picture at a Cubs game last year. Guaranteed to be a treat.

I told you all these stories to tell you this one. Shortly after our trip to Arizona in late march, I intend to embark on an epic journey I've always wanted to make. I will visit every major league baseball park in the US and Canada (can't forget the Toronto Blue Jays!) in one year. I'll start where Major League Baseball started (at least the league as we know it today), Cincinatti, Ohio. Thought about going opening day, but found ticket prices were too high. More on that when I blog about Cincinatti. I start the day after opening day in Cincinatti and end up with a three-game swing to Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Miami on the last three days of the baseball season. Driving to some, flying to others, but blogging all the way.

Oh yea, one more thing. I've decided to include the famous food in that particular city on this epic adventure. In Cincinatti, it's Skyline Chili (and maybe some Grater's Ice Cream too!). In Boston, it'll be a cup of "Chowduh" at the Union Oyster House, etc. You get the idea. And speaking of which, if you've got any ideas of famous foods for a particular city, please blog me back...yours may be better than what I came up with. I may come back 10 pounds heavier, but it will be a satisfying 10 pounds!

And if you live in one of these cities, let me know and maybe we can go to the game together!

For now, just letting you know of my next Great Adventure!

Double Eagle Dave

  • Tentative Itinerary
  • The Final Day of My Adventure
Trip Start Apr 02, 2011
1
46
Trip End Sep 29, 2011


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