[A selection of photos from today, and the rest of the trip, have been/will be posted on Flickr… ]
This is Part Two of Wednesday’s commentary. I recall that I was quite upbeat about the day when I was typing earlier. I am still just as happy with the day, though right from the outset I have to disclose that this narrative is supported by the ongoing consumption of some fine beer.
As ever, the details continue here…
When I left off earlier, I was a couple of blocks west of Union Square taking photos of cable cars. From there I ambled downhill and found myself in the Westfield Centre. The main objective here was to divest myself of some of the fluids I’d been consuming during the morning, but because I was so taken by the multiple levels served by (very slow moving) curved escalators, I saw fit to get as high in the centre as I could.
Mission accomplished there, I was conveniently placed to join the BART and journey through the Trans-Bay Tube to Coliseum station. That was all pretty simple and having got there I joined a steady trickle of fans heading for the ballpark. I was more than a bit alarmed that there were several scalpers between the BART station and the Colosseum, the inference being that if there was a blackmarket demand for tickets, I might be struggling to buy by legitimate means. Yeah right! Have you seen the size of this stadium?
I did have a further ‘wobble’ on entering the stadium grounds in seeing quite a sizeable queue in front of the ‘Game Day Sales’ ticket office. It very quickly became apparent that this was the queue get through “security”, not for tickets. Phew. In fact, there was no queue at the ticket office and when I asked what my options were, the reply was “How much were you thinking of spending?” I ventured $20 and was offered a bleachers/general admission ticket at $22. Sold!
As this was my first visit to the Coliseum, I walked round outside to the far side where the executive offices are located and entered the ballpark behind home plate. What little queue there had been here had dwindled to nothing (other entrances were still quite thronged), so I presented myself for scrutiny. Despite putting my bag containg my iPad, camera and misc. gubbins aside for manual inspection I still set off the metal detector. I stood there, expecting to be frisked or at least ‘wanded’ but the guy just said “it’s alright, it’ll be your watch, you’re good”… ? [Normally I wouldn’t publicly comment on less-than-thorough security screening, but I don’t think the consequences of me “exposing” their failure here will be particularly dire!?]
All of this worked out such that I was in the ballpark a good hour before first pitch so had a good mooch round the stadium. Few of the “Guest Services” people were in position yet so it mean that fans could wander freely around most sections to check out the views. One of the first things I noticed as I entered was a beer map – showing what offerings there are, craft or domestic. The craft beer choice was so-so, but with a price tag of $11.50 for 20oz (or £7.50/pint in UK terms), not to mention the hour, I passed on the idea of any alcohol. I did invest in what I consider to be California’s most expensive chicken sandwich (about which, more in a moment) before finding a seat in the bleachers.
The seat I chose would, if this were Fenway, be somewhere in the car park on Landsdown Street that homers which clear the Monster seats land in! That said, I had no complaints about the view. Even though the particular section I chose was lightly populated, I still found cause to complain (inwardly, and to you, dear reader).
At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, the sights not normally shown by television coverage of baseball are one of the attractions of actually being at the ballgame. Two examples; the tireless work of the bat boy first: I hadn’t previously noticed that it is his job to ensure each batter has his reserve bat ready. After each at bat, the bat boy trots back to the dug out to replace the unused spare and retrieve the next batter’s reserve club. Secondly there is the work of the grounds crew. May I now be struck down by lightning for blaspheming the baseball gods, but I can’t help but think much of the pantomime of the grounds crew is just that; nonsense performed with a rake or a hosepipe just for the benefit of the players, crew and crowd witnessing it. Just my completely uninformed opinion, of course.
Back to the chicken sandwich. I was so taken by it, I photographed it. I was so taken by the photo, I Tweeted it, using the hashtag #atthecoliseum – and blow me if the good folk at the Oakland A’s didn’t use it on the big screen! Such fame.
My meal was washed down with a bottle of water purchased with the meal for a mere $4 extra (yes, I refilled the bottle later from a water fountain, I’m neither proud nor stupid!)
The game was excellent. Excellent in that the Red Sox won. On a technical level, I suspect that the adjective ‘scrappy’ best describes it. The Red Sox pitcher, Wade Miley, took the win and history will record that he pitched 7.2 shut-out innings. However, an apt commentary on his performance would be to point out that he walked the first two batters he faced, and things weren’t very much better from that point. Nor was the ‘offense’ very much hotter. They got the job done, of course, but again, I think scrappy sums it up. Had to smile to myself when Jackie Bradley Jnr. came to the plate late in the game, his seven At Bats with an average of 0.000 this season quickly became eight with the same average! His performance in the field will always need to be much better than his batting if he is to keep coming back from Pawtucket.
I’m showing my ignorance of the wider world of MLB here by confessing that I couldn’t understand why the A’s fans were very vociferously booing ‘Panda’ Sandoval each time he came to the plate. Did he used to play for them, perhaps?
There was a very good turnout of Red Sox fans around the stadium. Judging by the noise they made, I bet they made up about 20% of the attendance. It was a Red Sox fan who forced me to swap from the left field bleachers to the right field in the middle of the fifth inning. Fans of the Big Bang Theory will know how objectionable the character Rajesh Koothrappali can be when drunk. That was this guy. The right field bleachers were much more densely filled with A’s fans, including a guy at the front with a drum who is evidently a regular part of the colour of the ball park – not least as one of the ‘jumbotron’ tv cameramen arrived during the seventh inning to ‘feature’ him.
By 15:15 it was done. Scrappy game, yes, but the Red Sox won, so all’s good. But for an occasional cloud scudding over, the game was wall-to-wall sunshine and it’s fair to say I proper “caught it”. I deliberately lingered after the game was over in the hope that the crowds for the BART would die-down. That was partly successful as by the time I made my way back to the station, though busy, it wasn’t too manic.
A nine car train pulled in and I’d done my usual thing of making my way to the end of the platform. Despite some serious crowding in the middle of the platform, the car I rode back to San Francisco in was pretty empty. A SF Transportation cop had boarded with me but had gone & sat in the rear cab out of the way (I’d seen the same guy in the morning on his way to Coliseum, then with a female colleague). After the train had returned under the bay and entered Embarcadero station, it filled up and a young guy had got on who made a bee-line for me and started, er, preaching (I think) to me. He handed me a card and was talking really fast, something about the church and education and didn’t seem to want to take “no” for an answer. Just at that moment, the cop emerged from the compartment behind me, whereupon my new “friend” snatched the card back & quickly made his way through the crowded car out of sight – followed swiftly by the cop. Not sure what that was all about, but I guess there’s history.
I got off at the next stop, anyway, and made my way along a still very sunny & warm Market Street, back to the hotel. There I freshened-up and picked up my laptop to adjourn to a nearby Starbucks for the purposes of blogging. And that was where you left me in Part One.
After coffee I had a look around the City Target to which that particular Starbucks is adjoined (there’s a ‘real’ Starbucks literally across the road). As is usually the case with Target, there is a bewildering choice of goods on sale. I wish I’d looked in there last night before springing for the six pack of Prohibition Ale (nothing wrong with the beer, I just didn’t need six bottles of the same beer). This is Target’s chilled offering; individual bottles for sale….
Thereafter I went back to the room briefly to drop off my bag (and put the laptop on charge) before heading off to my evening destination.
When I was in Melbourne with Carl in 2013, he took me to the Mountain Goat brewery. It was a memorable experience; a brewery in an urban industrial unit which, for Friday evening only, cleared out the loading bay and turned it into a Brewery Tap. Well, Cellarmaker Brewing is the same sort of thing, the atmosphere, vibe, call it what you will, was near identical. Except that Cellarmaker do it all the time. The ‘crowd’ were generally thirty-somethings, there was loud (ish), contemporary music (by which I mean stuff I’d never heard but was quite good) and ten or so really tempting looking brews on offer.
I started with a Shout Out Stout 6%. Then, having asked for an Underneath the Pines, I got a Leggie Blonde 4.7%. I blame the loud music & crowd noise as much as my accent! I’d have probably gone there next anyway and pretty damn good it was for all that, so no bad thing. As it happened, my third was No Control at 5.8%. I’d found a stool for much of my drinking time, but as I was halfway down my third, I generously gave it up for a newly arrived group. My random act of kindness for the trip!
When I left, it was still daylight. In fact the sun was still just about ‘up’ and it was a beautiful evening. I certainly felt the effects of the beer at this point. I also felt the effects of Mel’s breakfast and the now world famous chicken sandwich at the Coliseum all having worn off. I really didn’t want anything fancy and at that point I’d have killed for a convenient In&Out Burger! So, it came to pass that I went to the Westfield food court. Of its offerings, “Bistro Burger – Burgers, Fries & Shakes” won my custom, pretty much as they were closing. I ordered a Double Decker Chesseburger combo without the onions and I was quite pleased with myself that the assistant (seemed to) understand my order after three pints in the Cellarmaker! Indeed, when it arrived it was really good.
Back to the hotel and here I am.