Saturday, June 30, 2007

Take Us Out to the Ballgame, Part II

Mark Yost and son George have moved on from Milwaukee to Detroit and he brings us the next installment in his basebal blogging odyssey from Comerica Park, the scene of last nights Twins-Tigers game:

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Well ... I know the Fraters have been anxious to get this installment of the Baseball Blog. Earlier in the day on Friday, I had predicted a 10-run victory in the Tigers-Twins tilt Friday night. I just picked the wrong team. The Twinkies pounded the AL Central-leading Tigers at Comerica Park, 11-1.

The game was all-but-decided with Joe Mauer's grand slam in the top of the fifth. The Tigers added a run in the sixth, but the Twins added five more before it was all over. It was nothing short of a dominant victory for the Twins, a decisive win for Johan Santana, who improved his record to 9-6, gave up only five hits over six innings, and dropped his ERA to 2.76.

Learned Foot, who was a bit annoyed by my Miller Park post, will be happy to learn that Comerica Park finishes a distant second to his hometown field. Parking was $15 in Detroit, compared with $8 at Miller Park. In Detroit, you park in abandoned lots abutting drug-infested neighborhoods, while outside Miller Park the only danger was getting between the portly fans and the Klement's Sausage Haus.

One thing that Detroit's exterior does have over Milwaukee is gypsy peanut vendors. I hate paying ballpark prices for peanuts (usually about $3.50). Outside Miller Park, there were no peanut vendors to be found. In Detroit, they were everywhere, selling bags of tasty peanuts for $1. Detroit, which opened in 2000, does have wider, more open concourses. In fact, I would advise anyone tasked with overseeing the architectural plans for the concourse area of a new baseball stadium to visit Detroit. There's a lot worth copying here.

Like a lot of new ballparks, Comerica (which is a Detroit bank) has traditional concessions, as well as local restaurant outlets. For men of Sisyphinian proportions, there's a Bob's Big Boy, as well as a pretty good BBQ joint. There's also a Leo's Coney Island. One of the oddities of Detroit is that nearly every diner is called "a Coney." Their signature dish is a chili dog, which Detroiters call "Coneys." My friend Angelo Kalogiannis from Astoria used to love to visit me in Detroit, go into a Coney for breakfast, and ask the hostess and the wait staff if they knew where Coney Island was. Invariably, most of them said, "No." "Amazing!!!!" he'd say.

The food at Comerica was far inferior to that in Miller Park, and more expensive. The Hebrew National kosher hot dogs, brats and Italian sausage were all priced at $5. The standard Ballpark franks were $3.50. I had the Italian sausage with peppers and onions and was mildly disappointed. It was OK, but nowhere near as good as the brats with red sauce at Miller Park. The beer was a bigger ripoff. While you could get a good microbrew at Miller Park for $4.50, drafts of swill like Bud Light and the mildly better Labatt's were $8.50. And the "gourment popcorn" was $6. George did get a fairly decent fresh lemonade that was $4, about standard for ballpark prices. And his Little Caesar's pizza was only $2.75 vs. the slightly larger dreck that was served at Miller Park for $6.

I also noticed that no one on the concourse paid attention to the National Anthem. At Miller Park, all activity stopped and the countermen took off their hats. At Comerica, people continued to buy beers and brats, put mustard on their hot dogs, and walk toward their seats. Only when they emerged from the concourse did they pay tribute to the Star Spangled Banner,
but most didn't take their hats off. Disappointing.

On the upside, the tickets were a bargain. The series is almost a sell out. There were 42,361 there on Friday, but we were able to get $15 SRO tickets. We stood out on the centerfield concourse and by the third inning found unoccupied seats. Again, it was a bargain that would make the Nihilist blush

The fans were a little more into the game, too, than the ones we saw at Miller Park. The Detroit fans seemed genuinely concerned when the Twins scored two quick runs in the first off Tigers ace Justin Verlander. And they arose to the importance of 3-2 counts without having to be prompted by the PA system, organist, or some interactive scoreboard encouraging them to "Get Loud." In short, they seemed like a much more sophisticated, baseball-savvy crowd.

In general, Detroit was a good experience, but fell short of Miller Park on a number of fronts. I rated Miller Park an 8; I'd rate Comerica a 6.

Up next: PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Sunday for a 1:05 game against the Washington Nationals.

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