In September 2012, my closest friend Walt and I left Los Angeles for a 16-day road trip across the U. S. to see 11 baseball games at 11 different stadiums, starting at Los Angeles Angel Stadium in Anaheim and ending at Atlanta’s Turner Field. The other nine, in order, were the San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds. I like to think of us as baby boomers, but we miss qualifying by being born a few years too early.
If you love baseball and road trips, this was a dream trip. If you don’t care for one of them, you would probably be bored. If you don’t care for either, you would be suicidal. Although the long drives sometimes were tiring and the motels (budget) left much to be desired; for me, a lifelong baseball fan, the variety of ballparks, different games, the people we met and observed and the diverse parts of the country we experienced were thrilling.
At the 11 ballparks we saw 18 teams. Unexpectedly, and contrary to baseball wisdom, only three of 11 home teams won. We saw 27 home runs, but no home runs were hit in two of the games. The winning team scored 15 runs in two of the games, and in one game the two teams combined made 36 hits. Two games were won by one run, but there were no shutouts. We were never bored. Baseball fans understand this; others might not.
Our favorite park was AT&T Park in San Francisco (despite the fact that we both “hate” the Giants, longtime rivals of our team, the Dodgers). My second favorite was Coors Field in Denver. We wore our Dodger caps at all games (except when Walt wore his Cincinnati, his birthplace, cap at the game in Cincinnati). Many people noticed and commented, but we were courteously received everywhere, most surprisingly in San Francisco.
We saw beautiful country, especially in Colorado. The green hills and forests of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee were sublime. We drove through the Rocky Mountains, crossed the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and walked along the San Francisco Bay. We took side trips when we had time, including: Mount Palomar Observatory near San Diego, the waterfront in San Francisco – Irish Coffees at the Buena Vista Café and a Cable Car ride and Chinese lunch in Chinatown, a side trip through the Rockies between Grand Junction and Denver, Colorado; a walk down Hennepin Street in downtown Minneapolis, a stroll along the Ohio River in Cincinnati, visits to Walt’s boyhood homes in Indiana, a visit to Mayfield Dairy in Athens, Georgia for ice cream and a tour of the Civil War battlefields in Chickamauga and Chattanooga.
We went to Starbucks everywhere because the coffee in budget motels is terrible. We dined on excellent meals in San Diego, San Francisco and Chattanooga. To see all of this we ended up driving 5,375 miles.
We had only one mishap. One-third of the way from Minneapolis to Chicago, we discovered that the league had changed the time of the Cleveland v. Chicago game from a night game, as indicated on our tickets, to a day game, and despite our best efforts, we couldn’t get there until the bottom of the seventh inning.
Every stadium was different on the field and in and behind the grandstand. I’ve mentioned the best stadiums. In my opinion, the worst was the Oakland Coliseum (built for football, not baseball). However, the Oakland Athletics had the most enthusiastic fans, excluding the fans at Turner Field in Atlanta who were celebrating and honoring the retirement of their star for 17 years, Chipper Jones. The worst parking situation was at Turner Field, where we paid $40 to park a mile from the stadium. The worst traffic in any city was also in Atlanta. The best stadium food was at AT&T Park in San Francisco. None of the hotdogs were as good as Dodger Dogs!
Not a single game was postponed or delayed because of rain. The coldest game was, not surprisingly, in San Francisco (much colder than Denver). The hottest was in San Diego, although the humidity in Atlanta made it feel just as hot.
Thanks to the meticulous itinerary planning by Walt, I wouldn’t have done it any differently. It was a great experience. I think trips like this make for great fun. You could visit all the Presidential libraries, Civil War battle sites, all the NFL Football stadia, NBA Basketball arenas or the famous music venues, or whatever your passion is.
As for Walt and me, we have seen baseball games in 21 stadiums now. We have nine left to complete visits to all of the Major League stadiums. Maybe in 2014.