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Grass or Dirt?

OK, since there's no possibility of a walk-off win during my trip to Pittsburgh and I'm not much of a hotel bar kind of guy (they look at me funny when I order orange juice), I figure I'll entertain myself in the late hours by doing a travelogue of sorts. Let's see if I can be satisfactorily entertaining.

* My flight to Pittsburgh was similar to the way in which Orlando Hernandez pitched Tuesday night. It didn't show up early, but it still got the job done. First plane out at 11 a.m. was canceled (mechanical issues, like the kind that cause you not to throw first-pitch strikes) but my 1 p.m. rescheduling arrived, departed and landed without incident.

* One of these days I'm gonna have to pen a "Didja Ever Notice?" about the various ways in which the 1986 Red Sox won games, as chronicled well by Dan Shaughnessy in the rarely-seen tome "One Strike Away" (not to be confused with the outstanding "One Pitch Away" by Mike Sowell), which made for good flight-delay reading.

* Ticket prices at PNC Park make for one of the best bargains in baseball. The mezzanine reserved seats we've had for various weekend plans cost more at Shea than a ticket 20 rows off the field, behind the plate. The fellows behind me told me there isn't a bad seat in the house, and I think they're right. Kind of hoping the same can be said about CitiField.

*They do some clever video-board work at PNC Park. The introduction of the lineups is preceded by a video walk-thru of Pirates history, best described as combining still photographs (such as Bill Mazeroski swinging on his World-Series winning HR) with animation (in this case, of the ball jumping off his bat).

They also do neat stuff when a player comes to bat. The second time around, they showcase a piece of art done by the player (charity work, I guess). The next trip through is an etch-a-sketch theme. The next one after that is a goofy photoshoot (I like that better than some of the headshots I've seen this season, which make some players look like they're stoned). My one knock- they firebombed a Mets ship travelling through the waters. Why not shower them with bats and balls instead of fire?

The between-innings stuff is clever as well. Instead of just having a fan guess what (insert player's) favorite superhero is, and then not provide any explanation, the Pirates folks ask their players questions, like "What do you do before you go to sleep?" Ian Snell's cup of tea is a cup of tea, as well as playing videogames. When asked "What's your favorite scary movie?" Pirates closer Matt Capps responded that he didn't like them, because he doesn't like scary situations. That made me wonder why he's a closer.

* The trendy thing for Pirates fans these days seems to be to knock the coaching staff. My cabdriver from airport to hotel called his team's pitching coach "an idiot" and marveled at how quickly the Mets fixed Oliver Perez. The loudest boos of the night came not for the Mets, but for the Pirates third-base coach, for twice holding runners on hits to the outfield that could have produced extra runs.

* That said, it's a very civil group that attends games at PNC. For the first time in my life, I donned a Mets jersey in a visiting ballpark and not one person took issue. The only time I got questioned was when a Pirates fan mistook my saying something bad about Shawn Green as derision for Billy Wagner and after I corrected her, she said: "Well that's good, because I LOVE Billy Wagner!"

* When you're 20 games out of first place, you get bored rather easily, as evidenced by the group in front of me, who spent the entire contest wagering on the silliest of things. At the start of each inning, a baseball gets rolled out to the pitcher. These folks bet on whether the ball reached the dirt of the mound, or died on the grass (hence the name of the game "Grass or Dirt?"). The $1 pots proved to be more interesting to them then all the wasted opportunities that both teams squandered, particularly in the first seven innings.

Speaking of which, the winning entry for Lastings Milledge was dirt, and lots of it. All those blogs I read during Monday's off-day about whether Milledge had earned the right to start over Shawn Green got their justification in the form of that fantastic, albeit somewhat misjudged catch to end the eighth inning. While the appropos game for Lastings Milledge is "grass or dirt," because he can catch the ball on either, Shawn Green's should be called "off his glove or off his face" because that's where the ball usually hits when he makes those kinds of dive attempts. If he's in right field on Tuesday, the Pirates probably walk-off against Aaron Heilman in the bottom of the ninth.

* Lastly, it goes without saying that tonight's result was favorable, and not even seeing a fan sporting a Yadier Molina t-shirt walking back across the Roberto Clemente Bridge could bother me. But I was treated to a ball-on-the-wall moment of unexpected pleasure on my cab ride back to the hotel. After being shocked to learn that fares start at $5.70 in Pittsburgh (that and the lousy $6.50 fresh-cut fries were the day's disappointments), I was even more stunned by what happened as we neared the hotel. Due to some construction, the cabdriver couldn't get to the hotel straight from the exit, so she navigated her way through an extra couple blocks. While doing so she TURNED OFF THE METER, and when I asked why, she stated she thought it wouldn't be fair to me to charge me for the extra few minutes that we drove around.

When we got to the hotel, I thanked her for restoring my faith in the city of Pittsburgh, that which I'd lost the first time I was here.

True Metrates know...That the city of Pittsburgh supposedly has more bridges than any other city in the world (at least according to our hotel shuttlebus driver.), and that the Mets still don't have any grand slams this season (an early between-innings trivia quiz pointed this out, foreshadowing that the key at-bat in the game would come with the bases full, and thank you for that, ex-Pirate and current bases-loaded specialist, Moises Alou.)


Anonymous said…
Grass Or Dirt = Moundball.
Anonymous said…
There once was a guy named Green,
who was so slow as to be obscene.
That Milledge ain't starting,
means only wins are departing
and the pennant to another team.
-- BF

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