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12 Outrageous Minor League Ballpark Bites

12 Outrageous Minor League Ballpark Bites


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Here are this minor league season’s craziest culinary creations

Load salty corn tortilla chips with Rendezvous pulled pork, oozing spicy cheese sauce, and sliced jalapeños and you’ve got one happy Redbirds fan.

"Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd, buy me some… Twinkies split down the middle, stuffed with a hot dog, and topped off with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles with a cherry on top… It may be an edible heart attack, but I don't care if I never get back…"

Click here to see the 12 Outrageous Minor League Ballpark Bites Slideshow!

Those might not be the classic song's original lyrics, but that’s the ballpark snack you’ll be singing about at a Battle Creek Bombers’ minor league game in Michigan. The team introduced the salty and sweet treat this year and made a round of television appearances promoting the sensational snack, which players are calling "dessert and dinner all in one." Since Hostess announced its bankruptcy this year, the world awaited the fate of America’s beloved Twinkies, which were ultimately saved by the Metropoulos brothers (the same family who brought Pabst Blue Ribbon back in the spotlight). And now, Twinkies are enjoying the limelight of being repurposed — and at baseball stadiums they have become the new hot dog bun.

Keeping with the trend of wild ingredient repurposing, the West Michigan Whitecaps have taken America’s bacon craze to the next degree with their Bacos; the Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, Mich., serves up a twist on the traditional taco with a shell made from bacon. And on the West Coast, this season the Sacramento River Cats have brought in the Wicked 'Wich, one of the city’s favorite food trucks, which serves your locally sourced meat of choice topped with provolone cheese, homemade seasoned fries, and signature oil and vinegar slaw, all stuffed between fresh, thick-cut slices of bread.

Check out The Daily Meal’s countdown of the top outrageous baseball bites to find out where you can get BBQ nachos, a foot-long with 20 toppings, and a peanut butter and jelly bacon burger.


25 of the Craziest Burger Toppings in the U.S.

There are plenty of ways to dress a burger besides lettuce, cheese, and tomato. (Sushi? Um, okay.) In preparation for National Hamburger Day on May 28, we’re serving up the most unique burger-enhancing toppings in the U.S.

1. HOT FUDGE // MCGUIRE'S IRISH PUB // PENSACOLA, FLORIDA

Why wait for dessert? Patrons of the Irish saloon can mix sweet and savory by ordering a three-quarter-pounder Black Angus beef burger covered in a scoop of hot fudge-drizzled vanilla ice cream.

2. RAMEN // RAMEN BURGER // VARIOUS LOCATIONS

Jason Wong, Flickr // CC by NC-ND 2.0

Keizo Shimamoto's iconic Ramen Burgers can be found stateside at various flea markets and food courts across New York. This burger packs USDA prime beef patties between noodle-buns seasoned with scallions and shoyu glaze. At the height of the craze, hundreds of diners lined up to try this phenomenal burger creation.

3. CREAM CHEESE // GRILL 'EM ALL // ALHAMBRA, CALIFORNIA

Heavy metal-inspired Grill 'Em All's food truck and restaurant (Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider has eaten there!) has two cream cheese-topped offerings: Napalm Death, which also has pickled jalapeño, jalapeño poppers, and habanero aioli and the Witte with deep-fried bacon, Sriracha, grilled onion, and malt vinegar aioli. Cream cheese is a frequent addition to their rotating burgers of the week, and the joint has been featured on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate and won Season 1 of The Great Food Truck Race.

4. PEANUT MAYONNAISE // MATT'S PLACE // BUTTE, MONTANA

Craig L., Yelp

At The Treasure State’s oldest drive-in restaurant, the most popular menu choice is a surprising one. Those in the know opt for the Nutburger—a beef patty covered in a crushed peanut mayonnaise.

5. PULLED PORK // B SPOT // VARIOUS LOCATIONS

A carnivore’s delight! The menu at this casual eatery, with eight locations in the Midwest including Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit and Indianapolis, includes the award-winning Porky: a burger covered in pulled pork, coleslaw and Cleveland-style barbecue sauce (made with brown mustard).

6. MANGO, PEAR, AND PINE NUTS // FLIP BURGER BOUTIQUE // ATLANTA

At Top Chef All Stars winner Richard Blais’ upscale burger joint—where they claim to “take the American classic and flip it on its head”—you can order burgers comprised of steak tartare, shrimp, lamb, and bison. But perhaps the most unique offering is the raw tuna tartare patty that comes dressed with soy dressing and wasabi mayo, and topped with Asian pear, avocado puree, pine nuts, and a mango sphere.

7. BACON GRILLED CHEESE // VORTEX BAR & GRILL // ATLANTA

Atlanta’s Vortex Bar & Grill ups the ante with their Triple Coronary Bypass: two patty melts and a bacon grilled cheese serve as buns. The sandwich consists of two slices of white bread, four slices of thick, buttery Texas toast, 18 strips of bacon, 24 ounces of sirloin, 18 slices of American cheese, three fried eggs, and mayo. The 7000-plus calorie meal comes with cheese- and bacon bits-covered tots.

8. FRIED BANANA AND PEANUT BUTTER // BOSTON BURGER COMPANY // BOSTON

Christina O., Yelp

Many burger joints offer tributes to Elvis Presley and his love for peanut butter and banana sandwiches. (Order up variations at The Vortex Bar & Grill in Atlanta and Grumpy’s Bar & Grill in Minneapolis.) At Boston Burger Company it’s The King, which is layered with peanut butter, bacon, and fried bananas, and dusted with cinnamon and sugar. Have mercy!

9. DOUGHNUTS // CYPRESS STREET PINT & PLATE // ATLANTA

The concept of doughnuts-as-buns isn’t exclusive to famed Minneapolis food truck Eli's Donut Burgers—The Original in Portland, Oregon offers a glazed buttermilk donut slider appetizer, and Chicago’s Buzz Bar was known to serve up a doughnut burger with truffle aioli and caramelized strawberries. Presently, at Cypress Street Pint & Plate, the Sublime Doughnut Burger is served with applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, and caramelized onions sandwiched between local bakery Sublime's freshly baked doughnuts. (Sublime has their own take on the burger, as well.)

10. CAESAR DRESSING // LITTLE MIKE'S HAMBURGERS // OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA

The specialty at this Oklahoma City institution is the Caesar Burger, which is drenched in the creamy dressing. Bonus: You can tell yourself you basically ordered a salad.

11. STUFFING AND CRANBERRY SAUCE // WAHLBURGERS // VARIOUS LOCATIONS

Wahlburgers

Celebrate Thanksgiving all year at Wahlburgers, the famous burger chain backed by Mark Wahlberg and his brothers Paul and Donnie. (So far there are locations in Massachusetts, Florida, Nevada, New York, and Pennsylvania.) The famed siblings crafted the Thanksgiving Day Sandwich with seasoned turkey, stuffing, and roasted butternut squash, and slathered it with housemade orange cranberry sauce and mayo.

12. JAM // WEST EGG CAFÉ // ATLANTA

At West Egg Café, burgers are topped with tomato jam, pimento cheese, and bacon to create the “PB&J." At Boston Burger Company, "the Sophie" uses fig jam with prosciutto, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and arugula.

13. CAVIAR // SERENDIPITY 3 // NEW YORK CITY

Ordering the Le Burger Extravagant at this Manhattan tourist landmark will get you a Wagyu beef burger infused with 10-herb truffle butter, topped with 18-month-old cave-aged cheddar, shaved black truffles, fried quail egg, and Kaluga caviar. Of course, you’ll need to plan in advance (48 hours) and pony up a whopping $295 for this burger, which is held together with a solid gold, diamond-encrusted toothpick. (You can finish off the decadence with the $1000 Tahitian vanilla bean and edible gold leaf sundae.) If that’s too rich for your blood, they also offer a more modest caviar burger with sour cream and cucumber, a steal at $18.50.

14. FRIED ICE CREAM // FLORIDA STATE FAIR // TAMPA, FLORIDA

Among the fare for sale at the annual Florida State Fair in Tampa: a bacon cheeseburger covered in lettuce, onions, pickles, tomatoes … and one sizeable scoop of deep fried ice cream.

15. PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY // SLATER'S 50/50 // SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

Aselicia S., Yelp

The Southern California outpost (there are also shops in Anaheim Hills, Huntington Beach, Pasadena, Rancho Cucamonga, and San Marcos) has no shortage of creative dishes. See: the Sriracha Burger and the Hawaiian, which comes with spam. But the Peanut Butter & Jellousy may be the most out there, with peanut butter and strawberry jelly covering a slab of beef and bacon (plus, it gets major points for its name).

16. FRITOS // FIFTH THIRD BALLPARK // COMSTOCK PARK, MICHIGAN

Each year, just north of Grand Rapids, fans of the city’s minor league baseball team the West Michigan Whitecaps are given the chance to vote a new food item into the stadium’s concession stand. The 2009 offering stuck: a giant slab of five patties, American cheese, chili, salsa, nacho cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and Fritos. The burger can be cut into four pieces with a pizza cutter for sharing, but finishing the entire 5000 calorie sandwich by the end of the game earns you a T-shirt and your photo in the Fifth Third Burger Wall of Fame. Batter up!

17. FOIE GRAS AND TRUFFLES // BURGER BAR // LAS VEGAS

Indulge your late night cravings on the Las Vegas Strip with chef Hubert Keller's $60 Rossini burger. He tops Australian Wagyu beef with sautéed foie gras, shaved truffles, and black truffle sauce. Or feel free to add your own creation. The restaurant’s list of toppings includes coleslaw, macaroni salad, asparagus, pineapple, and large shrimp, among others.

18. KIMCHI // UMAMI BURGER // VARIOUS LOCATIONS

The popular chain—with locations in California, New York, and Chicago—offers a Korean barbecue-inspired dish that comes with Gochujang glaze, sesame aioli, Korean ketchup, and caramelized kimchi.

19. SHRIMP // BURGER & BEER JOINT // VARIOUS LOCATIONS

At this Sunshine State favorite, you can order burgers named after classic rock songs like the Paradise City, where the beef is thick (a half pound) and topped with poached and seared Cajun spiced shrimp.

20. MAC AND CHEESE // ZOMBIE BURGER + DRINK LAB // DES MOINES, IOWA

SanDee W., Yelp

At the quirky, undead-themed restaurant you can choose from cleverly named burgers such as the Dawn of the Dead, They’re Coming to Get You Barbara, and The Walking Ched. The last shoves a burger, cheddar cheese, and a scoop of macaroni and cheese between two pieces of deep-fried mac and cheese.

21. PIZZA // NOSH // PORTLAND, MAINE

This is no ordinary pizza burger. At Nosh, the Slab Burger uses two slices of pie to sandwich a beef patty, provolone cheese, red pepper, marinara, and pesto.

22. HOT DOG // MOTHER'S FEDERAL HILL GRILLE // BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

No need to decide between two barbecue classics at this Maryland eatery. Order up The Dog [PDF] and have your Angus beef topped off with an all beef hot dog, chili, and cheese sauce.

23. SUSHI // 26 BEACH // VENICE, CALIFORNIA

Christine T., Yelp

This oceanside spot claims to make the only California roll hamburger in the world. To make the one-of-a-kind burger, they take a beef patty then stack it with snow crab salad, avocado, sushi ginger, lettuce, tomato, nori, and wasabi shoyu mayonnaise.

24. BUTTER AND MAPLE SYRUP // BUTTERMILK KITCHEN // ATLANTA

Breakfast burger? Bring it on! Order the special Dad’s Waffle ($13 at this Southern eatery) and bite into a huge burger patty on a sourdough waffle, doused in butter and maple syrup.

25. COMMUNION WAFER // KUMA'S CORNER // CHICAGO

In 2013, the Chicago kitchen created a holy controversy with their "Ghost" burger. After local Catholics objected to the deity—a burger with ghost chile aioli, goat shoulder, a red wine reduction they dubbed the blood of Christ, and an unconsecrated communion wafer—the restaurant promised to donate $1500 to the Catholic Charities of the Chicago Archdiocese. Their offering was refused.


Bipartisan effort underway to protect Minor League Baseball teams

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) ─ With spring training for Major League Baseball only a few weeks away, there’s a growing concern on Capitol Hill that a plan to reduce the number of minor league teams will hurt America’s favorite pastime.

The MLB announced the plan last December, which would cut more than 40 minor league teams from its farm system. Without support from the MLB, the teams are likely to fold, leaving smaller cities and towns around the country with empty ballparks.

Congressman Anthony Brindisi, D-New York, said there’s not a bipartisan resolution in support of Minor League Baseball and its contributions to small cities and towns across the country.

“I think one thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on here is we have to save Minor League Baseball,” Brindisi said. “Minor League Baseball is very important to many small cities across the country. We want to see the major league come back a relook at this plan.”

The Binghamton Rumble Ponies are one of the teams that could be cut.

Binghamton Mayor Richard David called the plan “completely unacceptable.”

“For Major League Baseball to float this proposal, to say ‘We’re going to give you one year and we’re going to eliminate an entire tier of teams’ is outrageous,” David said.

The MLB said Minor League Baseball must be willing to play ball, adding nothing can be done until minor league teams resume negotiation.

“The most constructive role Congress can play to achieve these goals is to encourage Minor League Baseball to return to the bargaining table so we can work together to address the real issues impacting minor league players and communities,” the MLB said in a statement.

Brindisi said lawmakers will continue their fight to protect the minor league teams.

“Members on both sides of the aisle are not going to be quiet about this,” he said. “We’re going to swing for the fences.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Before the Braves

Such debate may sound all too familiar, but it wasn't about the Richmond Braves. These arguments were raging in 1913 after the collapse of the Richmond Rebels, launched with pretensions of attaining major-league status, and the persistence of the lower-class Richmond Colts.

In a different time, before television and a multitude of modern diversions, baseball was the city's passion. The teams came in a variety of shapes and sizes: the Crows, Bluebirds, Giants, Grays, Climbers, Johnny Rebs, Legislators, Lawmakers and then, of course, the Braves.

Greats such as Ray Dandridge, mentor to Willie Mays and perhaps the greatest third baseman ever, grew up in segregated Church Hill. Babe Ruth flirted with Richmond, too, nearly landing on a Richmond team at 19.

Richmond's baseball history serves as a mirror on the city. Sometimes there are flattering images with great crowds, players on their way to Hall of Fame careers and pennant-winning clubs. Other times we see the years marred by segregation and racism, a time Richmond never seems to shake. And then every few years we wonder what to do with ourselves: Stadium disputes pop up about once a generation, the drive for modernization clashes with tradition, and yesterday's new look becomes a dated embarrassment.

For whatever reason, baseball is different from other sports. It's ingrained in American history, unlike football or basketball. Perhaps it's the only sport where history matters more than championships — the furor over steroid-popping Barry Bonds has nothing to do with how many titles he's won the concern is breaking Hank Aaron's home-run record could forever taint the record books.

Richmonders just don't get worked up over other sports, not like baseball. For the last three years, the region has vigorously debated if, and where, it makes sense to build a new stadium for the Richmond Braves. But no one sniffed when, a few years ago, University of Richmond's football team decided it would vacate UR Stadium, built in 1929. Eyeing a valuable property, in a few years the bulldozers will probably knock down with little fanfare all those memories from the gridiron to Tobacco Bowl parades to hippie rock concerts of the 1970s.

Yet we scrap over a 21-year-old stadium, living out an encore of all those painful redevelopment vs. renovation fights that racked the city through the postwar years, all over a proposed ballpark in Shockoe Bottom, a proposal that fizzled six months ago.

If you think the recent brouhaha is an exception, it is not. Baseball, throughout history, has always been one of Richmond's most passionate pastimes.

Carriages in the Outfield

Nineteen years after the Confederate capital burned to ashes, Richmond is booming.

In 1884, shaking off destruction, reconstruction and financial depression, a surge of factories and railroads bring new life to this suddenly modern city. The governor has funneled unheard-of amounts of money into the state's school system. In two years the nation's most important labor organization, the integrated Knights of Labor, will hold its national convention here. A year after that, the second-largest city of the former Confederacy begins constructing the world's first electric streetcar system.

With the 1880 census showing 63,600 people crammed into 6.16 square miles, Richmond is a rough-hewn city. Saloons line Main Street. Segregation lies mostly in the future, as the upper and middle classes live in close proximity to the poor. The poor are merely relegated to houses that faced the alleys, while the affluent homes line the streets. People mostly walk to work, school and the market.

Amid this first incarnation of the New South, baseball gains a foothold in the city. The game was popularized the year after the war, and a group of businessmen field a professional team in the new Eastern League, an ambitious minor-league circuit including teams from Baltimore Newark, N.J. and Wilmington, Del.

Evolved from a team of shoe-factory workers, the Virginia Club, commonly called the Virginias, serves as the city's first professional squad. Large crowds descend on Allen Pasture, a ballpark where the Robert E. Lee statue now stands. Groundskeepers mow the outfield with scythes and fans park their carriages there. For a spell the team jumps to the big leagues when an American Association franchise folds.

Richmond takes its place for a two-month journey in major-league baseball, though the squad posts a feeble 12-30 record.

"The thing that really impressed me in some ways [was] how different the game was," says Robert Gudmestad, a University of Memphis history professor and author of a scholarly paper on the Virginias. "These guys are playing without gloves. The balls would be hit to them and their fingers would be mangled."

"One time," he says, "… the ball got lost in a carriage in the outfield. These guys were amazing athletes."

Yet while this tide of modernization hits Richmond, a tragic undertow begins tugging at the city's heart. All through 1884, a new Democratic General Assembly — brought to power through a race-driven campaign that included scaring voters by playing up the fact that black principals held authority over white teachers and a race riot in Danville just before Election Day — sits in session almost the entire year. The legislature takes over the vote-gathering process, ejecting evenhanded boards and redrawing congressional district boundaries so the party guarantees itself seven of the state's 10 seats. It also practically eliminates the governor's patronage powers and ejects blacks from jobs across the state. The civil rights gained during Reconstruction are already ebbing, beginning to erode.

Blacks attend Virginias games. But with eight of the team's directors having served in the Confederate military and the son of the Confederacy's secretary of war acting as the club's president — not to mention the team's strong ties to the Democratic Daily Dispatch — Richmond's African-Americans cheer on opposing teams.

"I think the crowd was segregated, from everything I could tell," Gudmestad says. "The white spectators would have been the equivalent of middle and upper classes. There was a section of ladies." And the crowds were rowdy, he says: "We tend to think of these Victorian morals, where people sat on their hands and gave an occasional golf clap. … But people applauded when the umpire got hurt."

It is a potent mix. With black citizens cheering on the visitors, tensions nearly turn violent when the Toledo Blue Stockings, featuring black catcher Fleet Walker, arrive in the city. The son of Ohio's first African-American doctor, Walker is as educated as Virginias fans are rowdy.

Just before Toledo enters Richmond, the squad's manager receives a note: "We the undersigned, do hereby warn you not to put up Walker, the Negro catcher, the days you play in Richmond, as we could mention the names of seventy-five determined men who have sworn to mob Walker, if he comes on the grounds in a suit. We hope you will listen to our words of warning, so there will be no trouble, and if you do not, there certainly will be. We only write this to prevent much bloodshed, as you alone can prevent."

No one carries out the threat, because Walker, already sidelined with a broken rib, is sitting out the series. But the incident remains the most famous event in Richmond's brief spell in the big leagues. The American Association reorganized itself in the off-season, casting aside Richmond. The Virginias — stocked with players such as third baseman Billy Nash, a former Richmond shoe-factory worker who played 15 seasons in the major leagues — are back in the minors with the reorganized Eastern League, a predecessor of the International League, where the Braves now play.

In the following 1885 season, the Virginias run up an early lead over their archrivals, the Washington Nationals. But crowds dwindle, and the ownership sells off its best players. The remaining players rebel and form their own club, but attendance sinks further, and the Virginias disband before the season is over.

The best and worst era in local baseball history ends with a whimper.

Outdrawing the Yankees

The pinnacle of Richmond baseball comes on Labor Day 1908.

Baseball fever strikes the city as the Richmond Colts, also known as the Lawmakers, favored by a schedule that lets the local club play home games on weekends, packs in massive crowds. On this day, featuring a double-header against archrival Danville, thousands surge up Broad Street, stopping all traffic, blocking the sidewalks and piling into streetcars.

"The crowd was an inspiring one, and it was worth a trip to the park just to see it," pens a sportswriter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "The cars looked like a struggling mass of persons on wheels, moving like great ocean currents in the surging sea of human beings."

As the two squads battle for the Virginia State League pennant (at a ball field where the Science Museum now stands), fans stand eight to 10 rows deep in front of the outfield wall. Men mostly make up the crowd, but a large contingent of women supporters, known as fannies, turn heads with their brightly colored clothes.

A whopping 10,000 spectators see the morning game, a 2-1 Richmond victory that gives the Lawmakers the league lead for good, and an astounding 15,000 souls witness a 1-1 tie in the afternoon. The second game draws roughly 2,500 more people than could fit inside The Diamond, which can seat a maximum of 12,500.

"Such a crowd," owner W.B. Bradley told the Times-Dispatch.

The 1908 Lawmakers, with only one player who eventually reached the major leagues and playing in a modest organization, draw an unheard-of 442,622 people over 82 home games, an average of 5,300 fans a game, the equivalent of the Richmond Braves drawing 2.5 million over an entire season today. The Virginias outdraw five major-league franchises that year, including the New York Yankees, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In late July, boisterous Richmonders descend on Danville for a road game, marching from the train station to the ballpark accompanied by the Saint Leo's Catholic Club band. "Dignity went to the winds," one observer wrote, according to the Virginia Cavalcade. Ballots cast in a favorite player contest reach into the millions. The Times-Dispatch features three prominent supporters on its front page: Bleacher Jim atop his mule, Maude, and a figure simply known as "The Bugler."

After one August contest, 10,000 fans celebrate after a ninth-inning rally from a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win, and a cluster of children invades the field, grabbing the legs of Doc Sieber, who knocked in the two runs, and refusing to let go. When the game's hero finally frees himself from his admirers, the crowd erupts again.

The sudden surge of baseball mania remains a mystery. Attendance declined the next year and plummeted in 1910. The city turned on owner Bradley when he scuttled plans for a new team in what became the International League.

The authors of "Baseball and Richmond" found themselves slightly puzzled by the phenomenon. Scott Mayer, who wrote about the era, speculates that fans identified with a solid team. W. Harrison Daniel, a retired history professor at UR, felt the year encapsulated the era's chaotic baseball history.

"It's been up and down," he says. "It's been stabilized since the Braves were here." Daniel adds that during the early 20th century teams usually lasted no more than a few seasons. "There were a half-dozen leagues at different times."

Flirting With the Babe

In 1934, a Highland Park woman recounts the harrowing moment a few days earlier, when Babe Ruth approached her in bed.

"He sat down on the side of the bed and I was afraid he would break it down or toss me out, but it held," she told the Times-Dispatch.

The woman, Mary Ruth Moberly, is the great baseball player's sister, his only sibling to reach adulthood. Moberly lives with her husband, Wilbur, a garment cutter, and their daughter, Florence, at 3121 Edgewood Ave.

Ruth and the New York Yankees had played an exhibition game at Mayo Island before the start of baseball season. To his surprise, his sister didn't attend.

"He asked me what the trouble was and when I told him that it was something like a nervous breakdown, he snorted as he always does and said, 'You ain't going goofy on me, are you Sis?'" Moberly told the Times-Dispatch.

By then. Ruth's baseball career had begun its terminal decline. Every few years he struggled with his weight, and he'd begun putting on the pounds again. He started losing his home-run strength, his reflexes began deserting him, and his defensive skills seemingly disappeared. Once a fast, nimble player, he now bumbles around the outfield. He desperately wanted to start managing the Yankees, but his early reputation as a hell raiser had scuttled any chance of a leadership role.

At the preseason game, Ruth struggles as the Yankees down the minor-league Richmond Colts 20-12. After a weak pop-up, he playfully tries to bite his bat. People who came early for batting practice see glimpses of the Ruth of old when he smashes three balls out of the park. One ball hits the Naval Reserve Armory, the next rockets to the railroad trestle and the last splashes into the James River. The watery blast, a Richmond legend, was hardly unique. Young boys often rowed out beyond the fence for souvenirs. After a fourth-inning error, Ruth leaves the game.

Ruth, back when he was a trim 19-year-old pitcher, had nearly called Richmond home. He began his career in 1914 with the then-minor league Baltimore Orioles, but that club faced a big problem. The Federal League, an outlaw circuit that announced itself a third major league, invaded Baltimore with a popular new team called the Terrapins. The Orioles, who had been steadily losing fans, considered relocating to Richmond during the season. Local businessmen quickly raised money for the move, but the already existing Richmond Colts delay the move until the next year. As a result, the Orioles, hemorrhaging money, sell off a number of their best players to stay afloat, including the Babe.

Richmond sees Ruth play at least one other time. In 1922, coming off what many baseball historians consider the greatest season of any player in the sport's history, Ruth nails a homer against the Brooklyn Dodgers during another exhibition game in Richmond. People believed it was the longest hit in the Mayo ballpark's history, according to a Times-Dispatch account.

But it is a different Ruth from the one who'd visit his sister 12 years later. Young and badly lacking impulse control, the Bambino is already facing a six-week suspension heading into the season. He'll earn three more suspensions that season for arguing with umpires. After one incident in which he attacked a fan, he said, "I didn't mean to hit the umpire with the dirt, but I did mean to hit that bastard in the stands."

Years later, Ruth was more disciplined, thanks to maturity and his second wife, but he never shook his reputation as a big kid.

"He is a grand, big-hearted fellow, just like his father," Moberly tells a Times-Dispatch reporter, pointing out that Ruth paid for her doctor's bill and sent her a large arrangement of azaleas.

The note on the flowers read, "Get well quick, Regards, Brother Babe."

Richmond's Hall of Famer

To baseball buffs, the story's well-known and bittersweet.

In 1951, two black members of the minor-league Minneapolis Millers — the 20-year-old Willie Mays and the 37-year-old Ray Dandridge, a Richmond native who mentored Mays — sit in a Sioux City, Iowa, movie theater. A message, "Willie Mays wanted at the box office," runs on the screen.

Mays, at first reluctant to believe the message is for him, receives word he is promoted to the big-league New York Giants, where he becomes one of the greatest stars in the sport's history.

The Richmond-born Dandridge, despite winning the American Association's Most Valuable Player award the year before and ranking among the greatest third basemen of all time, never reaches the major leagues. A massive star in the Negro Leagues and in Mexico, where he worked as a wildly popular player-manager, the Giants feel the aging star is either too old or too big a box-office draw for small-market Minneapolis.

Born on Church Hill, Dandridge plays his first games in cornfields and attends George Mason Elementary School, where Mayor L. Douglas Wilder and State Sen. Henry Marsh would roam the halls years later. When he turns 10, his family moves to Buffalo, N.Y., but returns to the city eight years later. At 18, Dandridge plays for a series of Church Hill sandlot clubs.

After an exhibition game against the Detroit Stars, Dandridge and his family find a surprise in front of their home — the Stars team bus and manager Candy Jim Taylor pleading with his father, an injured textile mill worker, for the phenom to sign a contract.

Dandridge, who doesn't even know where Detroit is, hides in a pool hall. A few hours later, he sneaks home and finds the bus gone. He enters and discovers Taylor still inside. Dandridge rebuffs the squad again, so Taylor keeps the Stars in Richmond a second day and knocks on the Dandridges' door early that morning.

Finally, after Taylor slips his father $25 for some parental encouragement, the third baseman heads north on a $15-a-week salary.

Overshadowed in Negro Leagues lore — the ageless pitcher Satchel Paige created more legends, Josh Gibson smacked all those Ruthian home runs and Cool Papa Bell was so fast that Paige marveled that "once he hit a line drive right past my ear. I turned around and saw the ball hit his ass sliding into second" — the bow-legged Dandridge ranks among the greatest defensive third basemen in the game's history.

A quiet singles hitter in the outsized world of Negro League legends, Dandridge is the best player Richmond ever produced and the city's only member of baseball's Hall of Fame.

In 1953 the prospect of Richmond fielding a triple-A minor-league franchise offers a new level of worldliness for Richmond. The minor league's highest level includes Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and, grandly, Hollywood.

Once again, the International League's Baltimore Orioles find themselves chased out by a new major-league franchise and eyes Richmond as a new location. Mired in low-level baseball since World War I, the city's mayor and top businessmen scramble to take advantage of the situation. Visiting teams, if the deal can be completed, would include some of the more exotic vacation destinations in Eisenhower's America: Miami, Toronto, Montreal and Havana.

But Eddie Mooers, the owner of the Class B Richmond Colts, who owned his own stadium, isn't about to walk away from his investment. He and aspiring triple-A owner Harry Seibold fight for months, issuing demands, negotiating in high-profile meetings and currying favor with the press.

Seibold, who made his money installing fire-sprinkler systems, holds most of the public's support. The sports sections of Richmond's two daily papers enthusiastically back the new venture.

"It was a big thing," says Andy McCutcheon, who helped cover the franchise move for the Richmond News Leader and served as the triple-A squad's first beat writer. "I'm not sure that Mr. Mooers liked it pretty much."

Mooers throws up harsh demands during the months of negotiations, including $200,000 for Mooers Field on the corner of Roseneath and Norfolk, an outrageous sum for the time. He also demands that the new team grant him the advertising rights, most of the ballpark's office space and the right to buy back the club for $1 if Seibold sells it.

"I have a big investment and it is only fair for me to have that protection," Mooers told the press.

"If [Seibold] accepts these terms, he should have his head examined," Frank Shaughnessy, the International League president, countered in the News Leader.

Tensions mount as other cities — from Springfield, Mass., to Caracas in baseball-crazed Venezuela — offer to take Richmond's place.

Then Richmond receives the glum news that the deal has died Dec. 2, a victim of Mooers' demands and the condition of Mooers Field. Public sentiment turns heavily against the owner.

Two weeks later, in a mysterious meeting in Washington consisting of Mooers, Seibold, Shaughnessy, the president of the Piedmont League and a representative from Richmond's City Hall, the Colts owner sells for a pittance of what he asked.

Santa Claus brings wonderful gifts for area baseball fans. Seibold announces that former baseball star Luke Appling will be the manager, and Johnny Mize, another future Hall of Famer, will coach.

But the pressure keeps building on the city. The International League accepts the new location, but demands that Richmond refurbish Parker Field, a dusty football facility blocks from Mooers Field. The league gives Richmond 24 hours to come up with the money.

After three months of twists and turns comes the final cliffhanger. Somehow, a group of elite businessmen guarantee the cash four hours before the deadline. After one final hiccup over the nickname — "Confederates" irritated the city's blacks and many Lost Cause enthusiasts equally — the Richmond Virginians, better known as the Vees, start spring training weeks after the city completes the deal.

The battle wrecks both men. Mooers moves his ball club to Colonial Heights and leaves the sport a year later. Seibold loses money, threatens to move in the middle of the first season, and the IRS seizes the club after that. Mooers dies five years after his triumph and after the government seizes two of his Cadillacs.

But the struggle, and the battle in the first few years to steady the franchise, stabilizes the baseball scene in Richmond. The Vees left town in 1964. In 1966, a new team came to town, the Richmond Braves, the top farm club for the Atlanta Braves.


Memphis Essentials

Forget the huge mega-store chains. Miss Cordelia’s is what a grocery is supposed to be like. Nestled in the cozy neighborhood of Harbor Town on Mud Island, Miss Cordelia’s is a pantry-style grocery store that consciously stocks local and organic foods, and if you don’t find something you need, just ask: the staff at Miss Cordelia’s is incredibly friendly and helpful, and have even been known to special order items for customers. Attached to the grocery is a small eat-in area called Cordelia’s Table where you can grab breakfast or lunch during your shopping trip. While you’re feasting, you can enjoy the store’s free wi-fi internet, too. And if you’re in a hurry, don’t worry. Miss Cordelia’s lets you order your lunch online will have it ready for pick up when you get there.

SCORE A SPECTACULAR STEAK

Folk’s Folly, 551 S Mendenhall Rd, (901) 762-8200

When in Memphis, skip the national chains and search out this beloved local steakhouse with a fun name and fantastic history. Folk's Folly was started by a local businessman, Humphrey Folk, Jr., who missed the fine cuisine of Louisiana when he came home to Memphis from his frequent business trips to the bayou. So in 1977, he opened a restaurant he named Folk’s Folly, since all his friends told him he would lose his shirt in the venture. More than 30 years later, this steakhouse with a butcher shop is one of Memphis’ most beloved places to feast on filet and other fine cuts of meat. Try the fried pickles or Bleu Cheese Mountain (kettle-fried chips topped with a bleu cheese foundue and crumbled bleu cheese) for starters, but pick your favorite cut of steak for an entree. From T-bone to Porterhouse to New York Strip, you won’t be disappointed in the meaty delights at Folk’s Folly.

GRAB A LATE-NIGHT BITE

CK’s Coffee Shop, Numerous Locations

This local joint is a Memphis classic not because of its menu or its ambiance, but because it is just so very Memphis. The food at CK’s is reminiscent of an I-HOP or Waffle House, but better. The waitresses are the cooks, and this beloved local chain is open 24-hours a day. This classic all-hours dive with thin layers of grease that glaze the menus and a smoke-friendly atmosphere may not be for those with highly refined sensibilities, but for those who are craving a greasy spoon at 3 a.m., CK’s is the place to go.

ENJOY A CLASSIC PIZZA PIE

Memphis Pizza Cafe, Five locations

Memphis Pizza Cafe is a local favorite. It opened for business in 1993, and has been voted “Best Pizza in Memphis” fourteen consecutive years since 1994. With five locations in the Memphis metro area, you won’t have to travel far to feast on MPC’s thin-crust pizzas, stuffed calzones or sandwiches served with chips and pepperoncini.

Otherlands Coffee Bar, 641 South Cooper St., (901)278-4994 Starbucks it is not. Otherlands has a laid-back, crunchy-granola feel and eclectic sensibilities. Situated in the heart of Midtown’s Cooper-Young district, this kid-friendly, vegetarian-friendly, morning-to-night coffee house is unpretentious and delicious. The Chai latte actually packs some bite, and the carrot cake will sweeten your palette without sending you into a sugar shock. Bring your own mug to fit in with the decidedly eco-smart vibe, and pack along your computer to enjoy the free wi-fi and relaxed environment. Just don’t get there too late or you may find yourself in standing-room-only territory.

Boscos, 2120 Madison Avenue, (901) 432-2222

The tag line for Boscos’ is “The Restaurant for Beer Lovers,” and it doesn’t exaggerate. The food menu is not slouch, featuring brick-oven-baked pizzas and cedar-plank cooked salmon. But the handcrafted beers are the main attraction at Bosco’s, like the “Famous Flaming Stone Beer,” which is created by dropping 700-degree pink granite into the beer while it’s brewing to give the brew a sweeter caramelized flavor. Other local favorite beers include the award-winners like the hop-filled Boscos Bombay IPA and the malty, nutty Midtown Brown.

Felicia Suzanne’s, 80 Monroe Avenue Suite L-1, (901) 523-0877

Just down from the riverfront sits Felicia Suzanne’s, a top-flight restaurant run by chef Felicia Willet, who trained under Emeril Lagasse at his flagship New Orleans restaurant, starting as an intern and moving up to becoming one of his top assistants, even writing on his Food Network show. But Willet is emerging from Lagasse’s large shadow at her own restaurant, which has a hip-but-upscale feel and some of the best food you can find outside the bayou. Try the complicated-sounding but incredibly delicious “Tennessee Bonnie Blue Goat Cheese and Caramelized Sweet Onion Tart” for starters, and feast on perfectly cooked beef tenderloin or the “Grilled Organic Niman Ranch Double Cut Pork Chop” for your main course. Everything on the menu is good, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to give your compliments to the chef in person, as Willet sometimes emerges to mingle and make sure her patrons are enjoying their meals.

Outdoor Essentials: The Best Places To.

ENJOY THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Shelby Farms Park, 500 North Pine Lake Dr., (901) 767-7275

In the middle of Memphis sits Shelby Farms Park, a former penal farm where inmates grew food for the prison population that is now the best green space in Memphis. Filled with trails for running and biking and horseback riding, dense tree covered areas ideal for bird watching and even a dog park for your four-legged friends, Shelby Farms has something for everyone. Bring your picnic and enjoy the mid-south sun, or enjoy one of the many lakes where Memphians fish and sail in the middle of town. A BMX park attracts extreme bike enthusiasts, and an area designated for the take-off and landing of miniature radio-controlled aircraft will delight aviation enthusiasts.You can even spot the herds of grazing Bison in the middle of the land. Anything you can imagine enjoying in a pristine public park, Shelby Farms probably has a place for it.

Dogs Rule Daycare and School, 2265 Central Ave., (901)276-3210

At Dogs Rule in Midtown, the name says it all. This deluxe doggy day care and school has three outdoor playgrounds and two indoor playgrounds, including a big bouncy play area reserved for high-energy dogs, a playground with climbing stations and toys for mellower breeds, and a special area for small breeds that’s complete with a pool and right-sized toys. Each area is closely supervised by experienced dog handlers who watch all the pets closely to ensure each animal is kept safe and sound. Before enrollment, each dog has an entrance interview to ensure her temperament and needs are a fit for this chic pooch paradise.

Entertainment Essentials: The Best Places To.

BB King’s Blues Club, 143 Beale St., (901) 524-5464

If you want to hear classic blues while you’re in Memphis, head straight to Beale Street and find BB King’s Blues Club, an upscale and trendy hot spot that even the locals love in the heart of this world-famous music district. Founded by the eponymous musician (who still plays here occasionally), some of the best blues musicians in Memphis and the surrounding areas flock here to entertain the crowds, which are hearty every day of the week but really bustle on the weekends. And while you’re eating up the music, don’t pass over the club’s menu, which features classic southern fare like catfish and fried pickles.

Hi-Tone Cafe, 1913 Poplar Ave, 901-278-8663

This hip, casual hangout takes it vibe from the diverse, inclusive sensibilities from the Memphis College of Art, where it’s located. Housed in a building adjacent to the MCA’s auxiliary gallery space, Hi-Tone opens only at night and welcomes some of the best music in the city. Elvis Costello recorded his live DVD Club Date: Live in Memphis at the Hi-Tone, and it continues to welcome an eclectic mix of sounds, from jazz to punk to acoustic and everything in-between. The martinis are a house speciality, but all the spirits are good at this joint, where pizzas and sandwiches round out the casual menu.

Memphis Zoo, 2000 Prentiss Place, (901) 276-9453

Memphis may be a city known for its blues and barbecue, but there are also lots of great places to hang out with your kids. Animal lovers can get in touch with their wild sides at the famed Memphis Zoo. You and the kids can take in exotic animals like pandas, white tigers and komodo dragons at one of the top-rated facilities in the U.S.

The Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central Ave., (901) 320-6320

For history buffs, The Pink Palace Museum is just what it sounds like -- a gigantic pink marble mansion that, along with its annex, now houses an IMAX theater, planetarium, and many traveling historical exhibitions.

Memphis Botanic Gardens, 750 Cherry Rd, (901)636-4106

Little naturalists will swoon at the Memphis Botanical Gardens, which offers seasonally-themed programs for homeschoolers and school groups.

The Peabody, 149 Union Avenue, (901) 529-4000

Both kids and kids-at-heart will want to check out the famous duck procession. (Read the children’s book John Phillip Duck before you go to make the event extra-special!)

Memphis College of Art, (1930 Poplar Ave, 901-272-5100)

Finally, Memphis College of Art’s (1930 Poplar Ave, 901-272-5100) Saturday School programs for kids from 5-16 offers your budding Picasso the opportunity to indulge his artistic sensibilities with multiple media, from chalk to clay to paint to fabric, all in classes run by MCA students.

Memphians love their sports. From the high-flying University of Memphis men’s basketball team to the city’s beloved Memphis Redbirds and NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, there are tons of opportunities to let your fan flag fly in The Bluff City.

Basketball rules at the fantastic FedEx Forum (191 Beale St., 901-205-1234), which the Memphis Grizzlies and Memphis Tigers both call home. Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (335 South Hollywood, 901-274-8467) not only plays home field to Tiger football, but it also hosts the annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl. And Memphians love their AAA Redbirds, who play in the most expensive minor-league ballpark ever, AutoZone Redbird Stadium (175 Toyota Plaza, Suite 300, 901-721-6000). Memphis fans splurged on their team’s home field knowing they won’t ever be moved away like the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, the Memphis Redbirds are owned by the non-profit Memphis Redbirds Foundation, which ensures they’ll continue to thrill generations of Memphians for years to come.

Roof of the Peabody Hotel, 149 Union Ave.

After night falls, head to the top of the famed Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis and gaze out across the I-40 bridge to Arkansas to enjoy the best view in The Bluff City. The M-shaped bridge lights up the evening sky and the illuminated arches glitter over the mighty Mississippi, creating a postcard-perfect picture.

If you’re looking for something fun to do but can’t find the funds to do it, just check the calendar. Many Memphis attractions have free admission days, including:

The Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central Ave., (901) 320-6320

Free admission on Tuesdays from 1 p.m. until closing. This doesn’t include the planetarium, IMAX or Enchanted Forest.

University of Memphis Art Museum, 3750 Norriswood St., (901) 678-2224

This fantastic showcase for contemporary and Egyptian art is free every day.

Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 4339 Park Ave., (901) 761-5250

The Dixon houses a grand collection of impressionist art, and its gardens are some of the finest in the Memphis metro area. You can check it out free of charge on Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. until noon.

Mud Island River Park, 101 N. Mud Island Rd., (901) 523-9876

General admission to the park is free everyday.

Memphis Botanic Gardens, 750 Cherry Rd, (901) 636-4106

Admission to the park is free on Tuesdays from noon until 6 p.m.

SHOP A FUNKY LOCAL BUSINESS

Flashback, 2304 Central Ave, (901) 272-2304

If you want to find funky local Memphis businesses, head straight to Midtown and the Cooper-Young district and check out Flashback. This vintage department store will thrill lovers of authentic early-20th century goods, particularly its large selection of European Art Deco furniture. But don’t limit yourself to chairs and settees whether you’re looking for an authentic “Betty Draper” dress or a luscious lava lamp, check out Flashback. You never know what you’ll find, but the thrill of the hunt is half the fun.

Nightlife Essentials: The Best Places To.

Earnestine & Hazel’s, 531 S. Main St., (901) 523-9754

Don’t come to Earnestine & Hazel’s before 5 p.m., because you’ll find yourself sitting curbside waiting for this classic Memphis dive bar to open. But once the nightlife gets going, this joint far off the beaten path of Beale Street has a rep as one of the most historic places to savor a nightcap in the city. In a former life, this building housed a brothel with a bar on the first floor, but now this hot spot is known as a great place to grab a drink and a late-night bite with what some say is the best jukebox in town.

Paulette's, 2110 Madison Ave., (901) 726-5128

Step inside Paulette’s and you’ll be transported from Memphis’ urban blues vibe to a cozy European inn. If you’re going for a classically romantic feel, Paulette’s will serve nicely. The menu items range from escargot to Louisiana crab cakes, but the foods that really take center stage at Paulette’s are the desserts. The Kahlua-Mocha Parfait Pie is probably the most well-known and well-loved item on the dessert menu, but you (and your date) will love any of the palette pleasing sweet treats, from Jamaican almond crepes to the classic creme brulee.

Club 152, 152 Beale St., (901) 544-7011

If you’re looking for a dance party, Club 152 is the place to be. Situated along bustling Beale Street, it has three floors with three different feels where revelers bask in techno, house and alternative dance tracks. There’s no cover charge to get in until late in the evening, and the patio on the first floor is a great place to mingle away from the loudest music and engage in some people-watching. Live bands rock the main level until late, when a DJ takes over and spins dance tracks from several decades. As you move up to the second and third floors, the atmosphere can get a little hotter and the crowds a little more raucous--the club itself calls what happens on the third floor “upscale freakism.” But don’t be afraid to try Club 152, which has the hottest dance scene in town.

HANG WITH YOUNG COUPLES

The Cooper-Young District, Midtown The Cooper-Young district in Midtown is a hip, up-and-coming area, and the local restaurants that dot the neighborhood are some of the best places to find other young couples. Places like Blue Fish Oyster Bar, (2149 Young Ave., 901-725-0230 which is run by Gulf Coast expats who brought their fresh fish sensibilities to the blues city, and Celtic Crossing, a pub with a “see-and-be-seen” vibe that is packed on “Trivia Night” Wednesdays, attract young couples from around the trendy downtown and Midtown areas.


Vegas’s Decades-Long Journey To The Raiders’ Bittersweet Home Opener

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 13: QB Derek Carr #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders drops back to . [+] throw deep against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, North Carolina last week. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

When the Raiders announced in August that the coronavirus pandemic would force them to play 2020 without fans in the stadium, Vegas fans had already been waiting for decades to see their own major league team in person. For that firsthand experience, we will have to wait another year. But on Monday Night Football, the Raiders will finally arrive on The Strip - to an empty stadium, but an epic show.

From its founding as a railroad stop in 1905, gambling drove Vegas’s economy but scared off big-time sports. Shortly after World War II, Sin City got its first pro team. The Las Vegas Wranglers minor league baseball club played here during the early Mob era from 1947-52, and then 1957-8. A successful minor league hockey team, also called the Las Vegas Wranglers, played at the Orleans casino’s arena from 2003 to 2014. Baseball returned with the Las Vegas Stars in 1983. Renamed the 51s, they used to play downtown, north of The Strip. In 2019 the 51s changed their name to the Las Vegas Aviators and got new digs. The Aviators, the Oakland A’s farm team, moved into a dazzling new ballpark in downtown Summerlin, west of The Strip, that’s a lot cooler than their parent’s nondescript stadium. Hold that thought.

The PGA Tour has played Vegas for decades, and Tiger Woods won his first pro tournament here in 1996.

Vegas’s biggest sports moment, of course, came from college, not the pros. It came months after Steve Wynn opened the Mirage in 1989, ushering in Vegas’s post-Mob era. During March Madness, Jerry Tarkanian’s University of Nevada, Las Vegas Running Rebels won the 1990 NCAA national championship. Ever since, the city’s elders have been gunning for the major leagues.

LAS VEGAS, NV - Sacramento River Cats versus the Las Vegas Aviators on April 9, 2019 at Las Vegas . [+] Ballpark in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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Until the 2000s, Vegas’s population was too small, and risks of gambling too high, to risk a big pro team. But as the Vegas Valley expanded into a metropolis of 2 million people in the 2000s, gambling proliferated around the US at Indian casinos, on riverboats, and online. This changed the equation, making the financial rewards too big to ignore, and the risks of gambling and cheating more of a red herring. This sports-crazy town got arena football, an XFL team, Las Vegas Lights UFL soccer team, and in 2018 the WNBA Las Vegas Aces.

Vegas finally reached the major leagues in 2017, as the Las Vegas Golden Knights instantly forged a deep identity with the city. The Knights’ inaugural NHL season began in tragedy, after the Harvest Festival mass shooting. It ended with a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final that rivaled the Runnin’ Rebels, winning the hearts of Vegas fans. They’ve made the playoffs every season, reaching the conference finals in 2020.

With the Raiders, Vegas got one of the world’s most recognizable sports teams. The Raiders, one of the American Football League’s founding teams won two Super Bowls in Oakland - after ’76 and ‘80. Legendary owner-general manager Al Davis then moved the Raiders to Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994, winning a third Super Bowl after the ‘83 season. Wunderkind Jon Gruden took over as coach in 1998, building a perennial contender. Then Davis traded him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for premium draft picks. Gruden’s Bucs beat the Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice, and Tim Brown-led Raiders in the Super Bowl the following season - after their star center forgot to take his biploar medication and went AWOL in Tijuana the night before, thinking they had already won. The Gruden trade and 48-21 rout ushered in the team’s longest losing era.

After Al Davis died in 2011, his son Mark inherited the team, along with his father’s penchant for drama and wandering eye. After all, the Raiders shared the same blase stadium as the A’s. Mark Davis brought back Jon Gruden, hired NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock as GM, and cut a deal to move to Sin City, now a metropolis of two million people.

The cornerstone of the deal is new Allegiant Stadium. Costing $1.9 billion, including $645 million in Clark County construction bonds, it’s a domed stadium with retractable windows facing The Strip. Started in November 2017, and certified for occupancy on July 31, 2020, Allegiant’s crew can change out grass or artificial turf as needed. The UNLV football team will also play here, as will concerts, bowl games, and likely multiple Super Bowls. As Davis put it, “Welcome to the Death Star, where our opponents’ dreams come to die.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - Allegiant Stadium located near the Vegas Strip (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty . [+] Images)

We’ll see about that. Since the 2002 Super Bowl season, the only thing that’s died at Raiders games has been their own fans’ aspirations. The Raiders have made the playoffs once. In Oakland, some locals joked the Raiders’ website was www.5and11.com - that’s their average amount of wins since the Gruden Bowl. In the first two years of Gruden: The Sequel, they have yet to beat a playoff team, losing to them by an average of 20 points. Last year, they started 6-5, in the hunt for a playoff spot, before getting pulverized by the New York Jets 34-3. They finished their Oakland swan song 7-9 after going 4-12 the year before.

But they’ve built a strong nucleus, led by veteran quarterback Derek Carr, dynamic second-year running back Josh Jacobs, and a bruising offensive line. Mayock has stocked draft picks, filling the roster with top young prospects.

The Raiders started with a 34-30 season-opening win in Charlotte versus the Carolina Panthers. After scoring on five straight possessions to jump out to an early lead, they faded in the second half before regaining the lead on a late TD run by Jacobs and holding on. QB Marcus Mariota, a former first-round pick in Tennessee signed to give Carr competition, fizzled and got put on injured reserve.

One of pro sports’ most valuable brands, Forbes calculated the Raiders’ worth at $3.1 billion, which comes out to about $600 million per annual win. Helped by the move, the Silver and Black rank among the top NFL teams in merchandise sales. But lack of ticket sales in 2020 will make it harder to pay off the $1.15 billion the Raiders owe on Allegiant’s $1.9 billion cost. Over the long term, it remains an open question whether the Oakland Raiders’ passionate, unruly, and sometimes degenerate Black Hole denizens will make the trip down to Vegas.

Monday Night Football will present a true test with the Raiders 5-point underdogs at home against the New Orleans Saints. The Saints, perennial Super Bowl contenders since signing Drew Brees, are gunning for one more title. Brees, the NFL’s all-time passing leader, heads an All Pro cast on offense and defense. To take the edge off an empty stadium, local band The Killers will play at halftime from the roof of Caesars Palace. In Vegas, the show must go on, and in tough times we adapt, survive, and then come back stronger and more outrageous than ever. Stay thirsty, my friends.


Before the Braves

Such debate may sound all too familiar, but it wasn't about the Richmond Braves. These arguments were raging in 1913 after the collapse of the Richmond Rebels, launched with pretensions of attaining major-league status, and the persistence of the lower-class Richmond Colts.

In a different time, before television and a multitude of modern diversions, baseball was the city's passion. The teams came in a variety of shapes and sizes: the Crows, Bluebirds, Giants, Grays, Climbers, Johnny Rebs, Legislators, Lawmakers and then, of course, the Braves.

Greats such as Ray Dandridge, mentor to Willie Mays and perhaps the greatest third baseman ever, grew up in segregated Church Hill. Babe Ruth flirted with Richmond, too, nearly landing on a Richmond team at 19.

Richmond's baseball history serves as a mirror on the city. Sometimes there are flattering images with great crowds, players on their way to Hall of Fame careers and pennant-winning clubs. Other times we see the years marred by segregation and racism, a time Richmond never seems to shake. And then every few years we wonder what to do with ourselves: Stadium disputes pop up about once a generation, the drive for modernization clashes with tradition, and yesterday's new look becomes a dated embarrassment.

For whatever reason, baseball is different from other sports. It's ingrained in American history, unlike football or basketball. Perhaps it's the only sport where history matters more than championships — the furor over steroid-popping Barry Bonds has nothing to do with how many titles he's won the concern is breaking Hank Aaron's home-run record could forever taint the record books.

Richmonders just don't get worked up over other sports, not like baseball. For the last three years, the region has vigorously debated if, and where, it makes sense to build a new stadium for the Richmond Braves. But no one sniffed when, a few years ago, University of Richmond's football team decided it would vacate UR Stadium, built in 1929. Eyeing a valuable property, in a few years the bulldozers will probably knock down with little fanfare all those memories from the gridiron to Tobacco Bowl parades to hippie rock concerts of the 1970s.

Yet we scrap over a 21-year-old stadium, living out an encore of all those painful redevelopment vs. renovation fights that racked the city through the postwar years, all over a proposed ballpark in Shockoe Bottom, a proposal that fizzled six months ago.

If you think the recent brouhaha is an exception, it is not. Baseball, throughout history, has always been one of Richmond's most passionate pastimes.

Carriages in the Outfield

Nineteen years after the Confederate capital burned to ashes, Richmond is booming.

In 1884, shaking off destruction, reconstruction and financial depression, a surge of factories and railroads bring new life to this suddenly modern city. The governor has funneled unheard-of amounts of money into the state's school system. In two years the nation's most important labor organization, the integrated Knights of Labor, will hold its national convention here. A year after that, the second-largest city of the former Confederacy begins constructing the world's first electric streetcar system.

With the 1880 census showing 63,600 people crammed into 6.16 square miles, Richmond is a rough-hewn city. Saloons line Main Street. Segregation lies mostly in the future, as the upper and middle classes live in close proximity to the poor. The poor are merely relegated to houses that faced the alleys, while the affluent homes line the streets. People mostly walk to work, school and the market.

Amid this first incarnation of the New South, baseball gains a foothold in the city. The game was popularized the year after the war, and a group of businessmen field a professional team in the new Eastern League, an ambitious minor-league circuit including teams from Baltimore Newark, N.J. and Wilmington, Del.

Evolved from a team of shoe-factory workers, the Virginia Club, commonly called the Virginias, serves as the city's first professional squad. Large crowds descend on Allen Pasture, a ballpark where the Robert E. Lee statue now stands. Groundskeepers mow the outfield with scythes and fans park their carriages there. For a spell the team jumps to the big leagues when an American Association franchise folds.

Richmond takes its place for a two-month journey in major-league baseball, though the squad posts a feeble 12-30 record.

"The thing that really impressed me in some ways [was] how different the game was," says Robert Gudmestad, a University of Memphis history professor and author of a scholarly paper on the Virginias. "These guys are playing without gloves. The balls would be hit to them and their fingers would be mangled."

"One time," he says, "… the ball got lost in a carriage in the outfield. These guys were amazing athletes."

Yet while this tide of modernization hits Richmond, a tragic undertow begins tugging at the city's heart. All through 1884, a new Democratic General Assembly — brought to power through a race-driven campaign that included scaring voters by playing up the fact that black principals held authority over white teachers and a race riot in Danville just before Election Day — sits in session almost the entire year. The legislature takes over the vote-gathering process, ejecting evenhanded boards and redrawing congressional district boundaries so the party guarantees itself seven of the state's 10 seats. It also practically eliminates the governor's patronage powers and ejects blacks from jobs across the state. The civil rights gained during Reconstruction are already ebbing, beginning to erode.

Blacks attend Virginias games. But with eight of the team's directors having served in the Confederate military and the son of the Confederacy's secretary of war acting as the club's president — not to mention the team's strong ties to the Democratic Daily Dispatch — Richmond's African-Americans cheer on opposing teams.

"I think the crowd was segregated, from everything I could tell," Gudmestad says. "The white spectators would have been the equivalent of middle and upper classes. There was a section of ladies." And the crowds were rowdy, he says: "We tend to think of these Victorian morals, where people sat on their hands and gave an occasional golf clap. … But people applauded when the umpire got hurt."

It is a potent mix. With black citizens cheering on the visitors, tensions nearly turn violent when the Toledo Blue Stockings, featuring black catcher Fleet Walker, arrive in the city. The son of Ohio's first African-American doctor, Walker is as educated as Virginias fans are rowdy.

Just before Toledo enters Richmond, the squad's manager receives a note: "We the undersigned, do hereby warn you not to put up Walker, the Negro catcher, the days you play in Richmond, as we could mention the names of seventy-five determined men who have sworn to mob Walker, if he comes on the grounds in a suit. We hope you will listen to our words of warning, so there will be no trouble, and if you do not, there certainly will be. We only write this to prevent much bloodshed, as you alone can prevent."

No one carries out the threat, because Walker, already sidelined with a broken rib, is sitting out the series. But the incident remains the most famous event in Richmond's brief spell in the big leagues. The American Association reorganized itself in the off-season, casting aside Richmond. The Virginias — stocked with players such as third baseman Billy Nash, a former Richmond shoe-factory worker who played 15 seasons in the major leagues — are back in the minors with the reorganized Eastern League, a predecessor of the International League, where the Braves now play.

In the following 1885 season, the Virginias run up an early lead over their archrivals, the Washington Nationals. But crowds dwindle, and the ownership sells off its best players. The remaining players rebel and form their own club, but attendance sinks further, and the Virginias disband before the season is over.

The best and worst era in local baseball history ends with a whimper.

Outdrawing the Yankees

The pinnacle of Richmond baseball comes on Labor Day 1908.

Baseball fever strikes the city as the Richmond Colts, also known as the Lawmakers, favored by a schedule that lets the local club play home games on weekends, packs in massive crowds. On this day, featuring a double-header against archrival Danville, thousands surge up Broad Street, stopping all traffic, blocking the sidewalks and piling into streetcars.

"The crowd was an inspiring one, and it was worth a trip to the park just to see it," pens a sportswriter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "The cars looked like a struggling mass of persons on wheels, moving like great ocean currents in the surging sea of human beings."

As the two squads battle for the Virginia State League pennant (at a ball field where the Science Museum now stands), fans stand eight to 10 rows deep in front of the outfield wall. Men mostly make up the crowd, but a large contingent of women supporters, known as fannies, turn heads with their brightly colored clothes.

A whopping 10,000 spectators see the morning game, a 2-1 Richmond victory that gives the Lawmakers the league lead for good, and an astounding 15,000 souls witness a 1-1 tie in the afternoon. The second game draws roughly 2,500 more people than could fit inside The Diamond, which can seat a maximum of 12,500.

"Such a crowd," owner W.B. Bradley told the Times-Dispatch.

The 1908 Lawmakers, with only one player who eventually reached the major leagues and playing in a modest organization, draw an unheard-of 442,622 people over 82 home games, an average of 5,300 fans a game, the equivalent of the Richmond Braves drawing 2.5 million over an entire season today. The Virginias outdraw five major-league franchises that year, including the New York Yankees, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In late July, boisterous Richmonders descend on Danville for a road game, marching from the train station to the ballpark accompanied by the Saint Leo's Catholic Club band. "Dignity went to the winds," one observer wrote, according to the Virginia Cavalcade. Ballots cast in a favorite player contest reach into the millions. The Times-Dispatch features three prominent supporters on its front page: Bleacher Jim atop his mule, Maude, and a figure simply known as "The Bugler."

After one August contest, 10,000 fans celebrate after a ninth-inning rally from a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win, and a cluster of children invades the field, grabbing the legs of Doc Sieber, who knocked in the two runs, and refusing to let go. When the game's hero finally frees himself from his admirers, the crowd erupts again.

The sudden surge of baseball mania remains a mystery. Attendance declined the next year and plummeted in 1910. The city turned on owner Bradley when he scuttled plans for a new team in what became the International League.

The authors of "Baseball and Richmond" found themselves slightly puzzled by the phenomenon. Scott Mayer, who wrote about the era, speculates that fans identified with a solid team. W. Harrison Daniel, a retired history professor at UR, felt the year encapsulated the era's chaotic baseball history.

"It's been up and down," he says. "It's been stabilized since the Braves were here." Daniel adds that during the early 20th century teams usually lasted no more than a few seasons. "There were a half-dozen leagues at different times."

Flirting With the Babe

In 1934, a Highland Park woman recounts the harrowing moment a few days earlier, when Babe Ruth approached her in bed.

"He sat down on the side of the bed and I was afraid he would break it down or toss me out, but it held," she told the Times-Dispatch.

The woman, Mary Ruth Moberly, is the great baseball player's sister, his only sibling to reach adulthood. Moberly lives with her husband, Wilbur, a garment cutter, and their daughter, Florence, at 3121 Edgewood Ave.

Ruth and the New York Yankees had played an exhibition game at Mayo Island before the start of baseball season. To his surprise, his sister didn't attend.

"He asked me what the trouble was and when I told him that it was something like a nervous breakdown, he snorted as he always does and said, 'You ain't going goofy on me, are you Sis?'" Moberly told the Times-Dispatch.

By then. Ruth's baseball career had begun its terminal decline. Every few years he struggled with his weight, and he'd begun putting on the pounds again. He started losing his home-run strength, his reflexes began deserting him, and his defensive skills seemingly disappeared. Once a fast, nimble player, he now bumbles around the outfield. He desperately wanted to start managing the Yankees, but his early reputation as a hell raiser had scuttled any chance of a leadership role.

At the preseason game, Ruth struggles as the Yankees down the minor-league Richmond Colts 20-12. After a weak pop-up, he playfully tries to bite his bat. People who came early for batting practice see glimpses of the Ruth of old when he smashes three balls out of the park. One ball hits the Naval Reserve Armory, the next rockets to the railroad trestle and the last splashes into the James River. The watery blast, a Richmond legend, was hardly unique. Young boys often rowed out beyond the fence for souvenirs. After a fourth-inning error, Ruth leaves the game.

Ruth, back when he was a trim 19-year-old pitcher, had nearly called Richmond home. He began his career in 1914 with the then-minor league Baltimore Orioles, but that club faced a big problem. The Federal League, an outlaw circuit that announced itself a third major league, invaded Baltimore with a popular new team called the Terrapins. The Orioles, who had been steadily losing fans, considered relocating to Richmond during the season. Local businessmen quickly raised money for the move, but the already existing Richmond Colts delay the move until the next year. As a result, the Orioles, hemorrhaging money, sell off a number of their best players to stay afloat, including the Babe.

Richmond sees Ruth play at least one other time. In 1922, coming off what many baseball historians consider the greatest season of any player in the sport's history, Ruth nails a homer against the Brooklyn Dodgers during another exhibition game in Richmond. People believed it was the longest hit in the Mayo ballpark's history, according to a Times-Dispatch account.

But it is a different Ruth from the one who'd visit his sister 12 years later. Young and badly lacking impulse control, the Bambino is already facing a six-week suspension heading into the season. He'll earn three more suspensions that season for arguing with umpires. After one incident in which he attacked a fan, he said, "I didn't mean to hit the umpire with the dirt, but I did mean to hit that bastard in the stands."

Years later, Ruth was more disciplined, thanks to maturity and his second wife, but he never shook his reputation as a big kid.

"He is a grand, big-hearted fellow, just like his father," Moberly tells a Times-Dispatch reporter, pointing out that Ruth paid for her doctor's bill and sent her a large arrangement of azaleas.

The note on the flowers read, "Get well quick, Regards, Brother Babe."

Richmond's Hall of Famer

To baseball buffs, the story's well-known and bittersweet.

In 1951, two black members of the minor-league Minneapolis Millers — the 20-year-old Willie Mays and the 37-year-old Ray Dandridge, a Richmond native who mentored Mays — sit in a Sioux City, Iowa, movie theater. A message, "Willie Mays wanted at the box office," runs on the screen.

Mays, at first reluctant to believe the message is for him, receives word he is promoted to the big-league New York Giants, where he becomes one of the greatest stars in the sport's history.

The Richmond-born Dandridge, despite winning the American Association's Most Valuable Player award the year before and ranking among the greatest third basemen of all time, never reaches the major leagues. A massive star in the Negro Leagues and in Mexico, where he worked as a wildly popular player-manager, the Giants feel the aging star is either too old or too big a box-office draw for small-market Minneapolis.

Born on Church Hill, Dandridge plays his first games in cornfields and attends George Mason Elementary School, where Mayor L. Douglas Wilder and State Sen. Henry Marsh would roam the halls years later. When he turns 10, his family moves to Buffalo, N.Y., but returns to the city eight years later. At 18, Dandridge plays for a series of Church Hill sandlot clubs.

After an exhibition game against the Detroit Stars, Dandridge and his family find a surprise in front of their home — the Stars team bus and manager Candy Jim Taylor pleading with his father, an injured textile mill worker, for the phenom to sign a contract.

Dandridge, who doesn't even know where Detroit is, hides in a pool hall. A few hours later, he sneaks home and finds the bus gone. He enters and discovers Taylor still inside. Dandridge rebuffs the squad again, so Taylor keeps the Stars in Richmond a second day and knocks on the Dandridges' door early that morning.

Finally, after Taylor slips his father $25 for some parental encouragement, the third baseman heads north on a $15-a-week salary.

Overshadowed in Negro Leagues lore — the ageless pitcher Satchel Paige created more legends, Josh Gibson smacked all those Ruthian home runs and Cool Papa Bell was so fast that Paige marveled that "once he hit a line drive right past my ear. I turned around and saw the ball hit his ass sliding into second" — the bow-legged Dandridge ranks among the greatest defensive third basemen in the game's history.

A quiet singles hitter in the outsized world of Negro League legends, Dandridge is the best player Richmond ever produced and the city's only member of baseball's Hall of Fame.

In 1953 the prospect of Richmond fielding a triple-A minor-league franchise offers a new level of worldliness for Richmond. The minor league's highest level includes Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and, grandly, Hollywood.

Once again, the International League's Baltimore Orioles find themselves chased out by a new major-league franchise and eyes Richmond as a new location. Mired in low-level baseball since World War I, the city's mayor and top businessmen scramble to take advantage of the situation. Visiting teams, if the deal can be completed, would include some of the more exotic vacation destinations in Eisenhower's America: Miami, Toronto, Montreal and Havana.

But Eddie Mooers, the owner of the Class B Richmond Colts, who owned his own stadium, isn't about to walk away from his investment. He and aspiring triple-A owner Harry Seibold fight for months, issuing demands, negotiating in high-profile meetings and currying favor with the press.

Seibold, who made his money installing fire-sprinkler systems, holds most of the public's support. The sports sections of Richmond's two daily papers enthusiastically back the new venture.

"It was a big thing," says Andy McCutcheon, who helped cover the franchise move for the Richmond News Leader and served as the triple-A squad's first beat writer. "I'm not sure that Mr. Mooers liked it pretty much."

Mooers throws up harsh demands during the months of negotiations, including $200,000 for Mooers Field on the corner of Roseneath and Norfolk, an outrageous sum for the time. He also demands that the new team grant him the advertising rights, most of the ballpark's office space and the right to buy back the club for $1 if Seibold sells it.

"I have a big investment and it is only fair for me to have that protection," Mooers told the press.

"If [Seibold] accepts these terms, he should have his head examined," Frank Shaughnessy, the International League president, countered in the News Leader.

Tensions mount as other cities — from Springfield, Mass., to Caracas in baseball-crazed Venezuela — offer to take Richmond's place.

Then Richmond receives the glum news that the deal has died Dec. 2, a victim of Mooers' demands and the condition of Mooers Field. Public sentiment turns heavily against the owner.

Two weeks later, in a mysterious meeting in Washington consisting of Mooers, Seibold, Shaughnessy, the president of the Piedmont League and a representative from Richmond's City Hall, the Colts owner sells for a pittance of what he asked.

Santa Claus brings wonderful gifts for area baseball fans. Seibold announces that former baseball star Luke Appling will be the manager, and Johnny Mize, another future Hall of Famer, will coach.

But the pressure keeps building on the city. The International League accepts the new location, but demands that Richmond refurbish Parker Field, a dusty football facility blocks from Mooers Field. The league gives Richmond 24 hours to come up with the money.

After three months of twists and turns comes the final cliffhanger. Somehow, a group of elite businessmen guarantee the cash four hours before the deadline. After one final hiccup over the nickname — "Confederates" irritated the city's blacks and many Lost Cause enthusiasts equally — the Richmond Virginians, better known as the Vees, start spring training weeks after the city completes the deal.

The battle wrecks both men. Mooers moves his ball club to Colonial Heights and leaves the sport a year later. Seibold loses money, threatens to move in the middle of the first season, and the IRS seizes the club after that. Mooers dies five years after his triumph and after the government seizes two of his Cadillacs.

But the struggle, and the battle in the first few years to steady the franchise, stabilizes the baseball scene in Richmond. The Vees left town in 1964. In 1966, a new team came to town, the Richmond Braves, the top farm club for the Atlanta Braves.


The Gadfly

The Gadfly is a character who often says things that make fun of or provoke other people.

Usually they're not really bad people. They can be quite amusing as long as they're not going after you, but their main targets seem to be their allies, who understand that it's all a joke to them. In the Forum Pecking Order, they may be a member of the Old Guard. Their amicable nature makes them fairly benevolent but they can set off strange conversations and arguments.

The Gadfly varies in its subject matter, of course. Sometimes they are The Tease, forever raunchy, or they love political arguments, or they are flat-out crazy. Others are a variant of the Attention Whore, and encourage aggression towards themselves. To keep them in line requires a Mod who has a long leash and a big stick.

Compare and contrast with Troll, a character who draws pleasure not from ludicrousness but from suffering.

Contrast the Blithe Spirit and Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who often use a very similar M.O. to improve people's lives. The Devil's Advocate will do this in serious discussion to point out flaws in a stated position.

Not to be confused with the 1897 novel or unrelated 1955 film of the the same name.


Bomber Bites With Jumping Joe–Vidal Nuno is Still Terrible

Vidal Nuno earned his first win since May 7th on Friday night against the Boston Red Sox. He pitched one of his best games of the season, holding the Red Sox to two hits over 5 2/3 innings at Yankee Stadium. He seemed to benefit from the extra day off between starts as his fastball, which has spent most of the season around 88 MPH, was consistently hovering at about 90-91 MPH. This helped him strikeout five Red Sox. But make no mistake, despite this most recent good start, Vidal Nuno has been terrible and still needs to be replaced in the rotation immediately.

Nuno’s record stands at 2-4 after his win on Friday night. His ERA dropped to a still outrageous 5.42. He has given up 15 home runs already this season. He is not a strikeout pitcher, compiling only 55 punch outs in 73 innings of work. He does not have overpowering stuff. He is not an innings eater. He has gone over six innings only four times all season. He gives up way too many home runs, and often puts the Bombers in a hole early. He gives up leads. He is hurting the Yankees and needs to be replaced soon rather than later.

JMandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The internal options to replace Nuno are admittedly underwhelming. Adam Warren has been ruled out, as he is no longer stretched out and is too vital in his bullpen role. Manny Banuelos, the one-time super prospect, is still recovering from Tommy John surgery in Double-A. He was also recently placed on the DL with blister problems. Shane Greene has approaching six in Triple-A. Possible spot starters Alfredo Aceves, Bruce Billings, and David Huff are all unimpressive, and offer no clear upgrade over Nuno. But at this point, with his turn in the rotation due to come up three more times before the All Star break, the Yankees would do well to give those starts to one of the other options. While we don’t know how well the others might do, we know what little Nuno can be counted on to provide.

There is hope on the way however. CC Sabathia will throw his first rehab start today for the Yankees Single-A Tampa affiliate. This marks the start of a 30-day rehab clock for the former Cy Young winner, at the end of which, Sabathia will be back. Since Sabathia’s injury was to his knee and not his arm, his rehab is not expected to be overly lengthy. He has been throwing the whole time he has been out to keep up his arm strength. He will probably need about three or four rehab starts to get his pitch count up to a respectable level. That puts Sabathia on track to re-enter the Yankee rotation right after the All-Star break. At that time, Nuno should be banished to Triple-A to stay stretched out in case another injury occurs.

Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

While Sabathia was not pitching well before he got hurt, going 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA, he is a proven winner, and more importantly for the Yankees at the moment a workhorse. Other than Masahiro Tanaka, no Yankees’ starter has been able to consistently go deep into games, which has created a monstrous strain on the bullpen. The Yankees would love for Sabathia to return to his former glory, but given his age and diminished velocity that seems unlikely. However, there is little reason to believe he can’t come back and simply be an innings-eating force on the mound. The Yankees desperately need a second starter who can be counted on to give the bullpen a night off consistently. Even with Sabathia a shell of his former self, he is a substantial upgrade over Nuno, and will prove very valuable in the second half.


Medlar Field at Lubrano Park – State College Spikes

For most sports fans, the town of State College, Pennsylvania is known as the home of Penn State. No doubt, this is a university town even in the summer, but the only sport available at this time is minor league baseball. The State College Spikes of the Class A short-season New York-Penn League (NYPL) play on the PSU campus at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park , just across the street from Beaver Stadium , home of Nittany Lions football.

The stadium was opened in 2006 to house the franchise that had moved from Augusta, New Jersey where they were the Cardinals affiliate. One year after the move, the Spikes signed on with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but they returned to the Cardinal fold in 2013.

The playing field is named after longtime Penn State baseball coach Charles “Chuck” Medlar, who is honoured with a plaque, while the ballpark is named after former Penn State player Anthony P. Lubrano who made a $2.5 million donation to help build the stadium.

The stadium was the first ever Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified baseball stadium in the world. The playing field has the same exact dimensions as PNC Park home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, except the right field wall is only 18.55 feet tall (for the year Penn State was founded, 1855) versus the 21 feet tall height at PNC Park (for the jersey number worn by Roberto Clemente).

Food & Beverage 4

Food options here have improved over time, with two main concession windows, a Sweet spot, and several portable stands to tempt you. Flashpointe Grille is the primary stop, and with the tagline “Burgers, Dogs, and Chicken,” you know this is where you will get your typical ballpark fare. The menu is extensive though lacking anything unique, other than the Sloppy Joe Putnam that comes with corn chips for $6. Cheeseburgers are $5, hot dogs are $3.75, and a grilled chicken sandwich is $5. On the snack side, Oreo Churros are $5 and something worth trying if you are brave and need a sugar high.

Other stands include the Broken Bat BBQ, where you can get pulled pork and chicken sandwiches, or a full plate that comes with Mac ‘n Cheese and coleslaw. No prize for guessing what Steakadelphia sells the cheesesteaks are cooked right in front of you and cost $7.50, or you can get the meat served on a bed of nachos for the same price.

Burgertopia claims it is hamburger paradise, though I cannot confirm this. Their premium offering is the Nittany Lion, an $11 monstrosity with two half-pound patties, two slices of cheese and a bun. For those on a diet that precludes a pound of beef, four other varieties have a single patty and are $8 apiece. The Centre Slugger that comes with 2 Pierogies is certainly intriguing.

Sweet is the name of the dessert stand and they have Penn State Creamery ice cream served in the cone or helmet, as well as lemon chills that were only $1 on the night I attended.

Other stands include Smokie’s Sausage Shack for brats and Salsa for your nachos and tacos.

Beer comes in two sizes: small (16 oz.) and souvenir (24 oz.). Regular brews are $5.75 and $7, while the premium varieties run a dollar more. There are several options that differ by concession stand the free program provides a detailed list but some unusual names, at least in ballparks, are the Straub Hefeweizen and Troegs Perpetual IPA.

Pepsi products are available for non-drinkers, with a kid’s soda (12 oz.) going for $2.50, the 24-oz regular for $4 while those really thirsty can enjoy the large (32 oz.) for $4.50. Bottled water is $3.50 and small milk is $1.

Overall, the selection provides nothing exceptional and slightly overpriced for this level, but there is enough variety so that any fan should find something to their liking.

Atmosphere 3

The stadium is designed as a typical minor league venue with a full seating bowl, open concourse, and suite level above. The most frustrating thing here is that protective netting extends all the way down to the end of the dugout. This is perhaps because the park is also used by the Nittany Lions baseball team and the aluminum bats do send balls into the stands faster. Protective netting is now a hot-button topic, so I expect that more and more minor league parks will adopt it. Fortunately, there are seats past the bases that offer clear views of the action and these are recommended. All seats in the bowl come with cup holders.

There are nice views over the outfield fence, including Mount Nittany. For trivia buffs, the word Nittany comes from the Algonquian word Nit-A-Nee meaning “single mountain.”

There are four mascots that keep the fans entertained in various ways. Ike the Spike roams the concourse signing autographs, well LuCKy the Lion hangs out in right field tallying strikeouts. I enjoyed the Nook Monster, who lives in the fence and only appears to do a jig when the Spikes score. Last but not least is Bob the Baseball Dog, a yellow lab that runs the bases with kids after the game.

Children can also spend time in Ike’s Kids Zone, which includes an arcade, but it isn’t free. Adults can pass the evening in the Fun Deck, located down the right field line and overlooking the home bullpen.

Neighborhood 4

State College is a great little town and still vibrant in the summer with most of the student population back home. The campus itself is worth a tour with its many old buildings and manicured lawns. Be sure to check out the Palmer Museum of Art if you are a fan of painting and sculpture it is a short walk from the ballpark and free to enter. Of course, Beaver Stadium towers right next door and the Penn State All-Sports Museum is in the southwest corner. Open until 4pm from Tuesday-Sunday, this is a good spot for the Nittany Lion fan to reminisce.

If you want to grab a bite to eat, try The Fraser Street Deli , where you can select from a sandwich and salad menu that has over 120 offerings, plus a create your own section with over 5 million different meat and cheese combinations. All of the sandwiches are named after Penn State and Centre County athletes, coaches, professors and University presidents.

Another option is Cozy Thai Bistro or its fast food branch, Galanga, which offer affordable and tasty dishes from Thailand.

Of course, there are several bars along College Avenue and the two or three blocks east I’ll leave it to you to find one that suits your taste. Finally, there is the Happy Valley Winery a couple of miles away, through a tiny subdivision, that offers free tastings and reasonably priced bottles should you be taken with one of their many varieties.

Fans 3

The team draws well considering that much of the fan base is out of town for the season. The fans are responsive and pay attention, but I didn’t notice anyone outrageous or memorable. Overall it’s a good, friendly crowd that enjoys the game, which is all you can expect.

Access 4

State College lies at the intersection of one portion of I-99 and US-322. The university is located just south of here and very easy to get to. Driving around campus is not a problem as there are few students in the summer, but keep in mind the speed limit is quite low.

There are parking lots right near the stadium which cost $3, but if you drive just north of University Avenue, there is a lot there that is free on the weekends and only about a five-minute walk to the stadium. Note that parking regulations are stricter on weekdays so read the signs carefully to make sure you don’t get a ticket.

Inside the stadium, the concourse is wide with plenty of metallic picnic tables that offer views to the field, thus allowing a family to enjoy their meal in a more comfortable setting than their seats. Bathrooms are clean and never crowded.

Return on Investment 4

There are four distinct seating areas at Lubrano Park: Diamond Club seats ($14) between the bases (and hence no clear view due to the netting) Field Box ($12) the next two sections along Bullpen Box ($10) which is four sections along the left field line, but only 1 in right field as the Fun Deck takes up the rest of the space there and the $6 Outfield Bleachers, which are also reserved seats. There are no GA tickets, so my general advice is to buy the bleacher seats and sit in the Bullpen Box or spend time on the Fun Deck as you will get a clear view of the action from there.

Like food prices and the $3 lots, tickets are just a bit too high for the level of baseball being played here. Cut a couple of bucks off each ticket and make parking completely free and you’d have a perfect score here.

Extras 3

There are a number of small touches that I appreciated. There is the aforementioned plaque honoring Charles Medlar there is a defensive alignment board that includes notes on the starting pitcher an alumni report is also hand-written. The team won the 2014 NY-Penn League championship and there is a small display commemorating that title.

The stadium includes the typical “Made the Show” display, though it seems that they are overwriting previous entries with newer ones.

Finally, it was “Bark in the Park” night and the scoreboard had each player’s face inside a dog’s body. It looked as weird as it sounds.

Final Thoughts

Medlar Field does everything quite well, and is worth a trip to State College. The netting and slightly overpriced food and tickets are the only negatives and those are mere quibbles. Unfortunately their season rarely overlaps with the football schedule, but at the same point, it is nice to see the PSU campus when it is still quiet. Teams in the NY-Penn League only play 38 home games, so you have limited opportunities, but if you can make it out to State College in July or August, make sure to see a Spikes game.


Watch the video: All Minor League Baseball Stadiums 2021 (June 2022).


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