Porkopolis Blues

added 5/13/2001 by Darrell Pittman
Porkopolis Blues

Once again, my fianceé Susan and I were able to take in another Astros road series, this time in Cincinnati against the Reds. Susan was already in Columbus, Ohio on a business trip, and I flew up and joined her for the weekend. We drove from Columbus to Cincinnati Friday afternoon.

On the flight up from Houston on Friday, I met an interesting pair of gentlemen, Bob and his 90-year-old uncle Cecil, from Cibolo, Texas. It turns out that Bob has seen Satchel Paige and Stan Musial play. He is a big Cardinals fan. Cecil didn’t care much for baseball, he said, but he told me how he helped produce the Ziegfeld Follies back in his heyday, as well as a vaudeville show that Satch performed in.

We were to have attended Friday night’s game at Cinergy Field, but the weather dictated otherwise. The game was rained out, with the makeup game to be played the following day in a doubleheader.

We are staying at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Cincinnati, about six blocks from the ballpark… an easy walk. The hotel offers what they call a “Reds Package” for $115 per night, plus they throw in a $25 certificate good in the bars and restaurants in the hotel.

If you are in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by Champ’s restaurant in the Hyatt and say hi to Shawn. Get their Signature Sandwich. Shawn told us about how the businesses downtown are suffering because of the recent riots, which he said were over-hyped by the media. Truth be told, neither Susan nor I saw one single sign of the riots while we were walking around downtown shopping. There was no violence, no sign of unrest. I dare say that Shawn is correct. He issued an invitation for all Houston fans to come by and say “hi” when they are in town.

The downtown area is quite nice. Most of the buildings are connected by a “skyway” system, not dissimilar from our tunnel system in downtown Houston, except it’s above ground. There’s a three-level mall as the centerpiece of it. Susan and I bought some luggage for our upcoming honeymoon at the Lazarus department store there.

Saturday afternoon, we walked down to Cinergy Field. It’s in a beautiful setting, right by the Ohio River, with the green hills of Kentucky on the far bank. There’s a great view of the 1867 Roebling Suspension Bridge, and brand-new Paul Brown Stadium, where the Bengals now play. (About the bridge, after its completion, John Roebling went on to design and start construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, which his son Washington Roebling, a Civil War general, carried on after his father died. Washington too fell ill, and his wife was the one who actually finished the project. The bridge here is beautiful and we plan to walk it tomorrow.)

Cinergy Field (formerly Riverfront Stadium) has had its centerfield wall and bleachers torn down to make room for construction of “The Great American Ballpark” right next door, which will almost certainly wind up being named “New” Cinergy Field in 2003. The ballpark itself is still in pretty good shape, but the seats and restrooms are pretty decrepit. Just like Busch Stadium in Saint Louis, which has also recently become baseball-only, it now sports real grass: Kentucky bluegrass in this case. They told us that the Reds wanted to put in grass last year, but that the Bengals vetoed it in their last year there. Also, with what is obviously a temporary outfield wall, some of the original scoreboards were dismantled, and the ballpark now lacks for adequate scoreboards. It’s obvious that the Reds are now sort of “camping out” until the new ballpark is finished in a couple of years.

If you go to Cinergy and buy beer, be aware that many of the concession stands are manned by volunteers from various charities, and that a portion of the proceeds go to those charities. I favored one staffed by the Leukemia Society. Hard to image Aramark allowing that sort of thing to go on in Houston.

At the game, we met a family from Cleveland who had moved there from Katy last year. They had brought their kids here for the game, were in full Astros gear, and wound up staying for both games of the doubleheader. Their kids delighted in sounding out the “Woof, Woof, Woof!” whenever Doggie came to bat, with Dad leading the cheers.

Both games of the doubleheader were very well-played and exciting, both decided by a single run.

In the opener, Shane Reynolds started the first inning by giving up two doubles, two singles, and a walk, in that order. He only gave up one run, however, because Moises Alou gunned down Deion Sanders at home plate, then on the next play Lance Berkman threw out Dmitri Young at third. Shane then settled down to pitch six scoreless innings. Craig Biggio got a solo homer in the third, then Berkman doubled Biggio home in the sixth. The good guys won the opener 2-1. The heroes of this game were Alou and Berkman. Their strong arms kept what might easily have otherwise been a 3-0 ballgame to only 1-0. Billy Wagner got the save in the ninth, throwing his usual 94-97 mph stuff, befuddling the Reds he faced.

In the nightcap, the Reds, having shed themselves of Sanders, came out swinging. They jumped on Scott Elarton in the second for two runs on two hits, then one more run in each of the fifth and seventh. The Astros tied it up 4-4 in the top of the ninth with a three-run homer by Lance Berkman, but with Octavio Dotel on the mound, Alex Ochoa singled home the winning run for the Reds.

In my humble opinion, Deion Sanders should stick to football. While he has a decent (but not great) bat, he misplayed a couple of balls off the centerfield wall (what there is of it) which cost his team dearly. You would think that a defensive back could catch a ball, but go figure. Still, if the Reds want to trot him out against the Astros tomorrow, I say bring him on. Susan and I were cheering for the Astros batters to hit it his way, much to the chagrin of the Reds fans who were within earshot.

On the way out, we were treated to a concert of sorts by a group of teenagers on the outer plaza who were playing percussion. There was a crowd of perhaps two hundred listening to them play. There were about ten of the young men, most playing five-gallon plastic buckets with drumsticks. The “base drum” was an upside-down recycling bin. They sounded awesome!

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