When I was a teenager, my father took me to Cleveland's Municipal Stadium (aka "The Mistake on the Lake") to see an otherwise meaningless game between the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers were in those days an American League team, and Hank Aaron, who had spent his whole career in the National League was ending his career as the Brewers DH, and giving AL fans a chance to see him play. (This was a big deal in the era before inter-league play, when one only saw the other guys in the World Series and the All Star Game.) My father, who treasured the memory of seeing Bob Feller pitch an opening day in Cleveland, said "You need to be able to say you saw Hank Aaron."
|It's gone now, but here's how it used to look.|
So when my son called me from college last February, shortly after Derek Jeter announced his retirement, to say "Mom, we need to take a road trip. We need to see Jeter play" I knew exactly where he was coming from. This was a player who was a sure Hall of Famer, and one of the last great players of the era my son grew up watching ball in, just as Aaron had been for me.
Such a road trip seemed to take more planning than the invasion of Normandy. After comparing the Yankees road schedule to the school and summer schedules of both children we determined that our best opportunity was the Memorial Day series in Chicago.
The cost of hotel rooms would have been too much, so we would take night time bus trips instead. This one day visit for special events plan is something we have worked on over the years, starting with the time we did a day in DC for a Girl Scout concert and some sight seeing. Over several months we purchased game tickets, then outbound bus tickets, then inbound. We invited one of the Boy's friends, a fellow baseball player, to come along as well. We stocked up on refreshments for the bus, gathered all the info on navigating the Chicago subway system.
The outbound trip was OK, except for a small glitch when we learned the bus from Columbus to Chicago had been rescheduled for an hour and a half later. Our original plans to arrive in time to watch batting practice was transformed into making sure we got there before the first pitch. (Plus they were giving out bobbleheads. No sense going all this way without getting bobbleheads right?) We weren't terribly appreciative that we were given no notice of this, especially as we had gone to customer service with our tickets earlier to check the departure gate, you would think they could have clued us in on the departure time while we were there. In fact customer service at Columbus Greyhound was a bit of a fail all the way around. The clerk said we should have know when the bus wasn't called at the original time that it had been rescheduled. Obviously he wasn't in Cleveland the night we waited for a bus from Detroit that was several hours late because it could only travel in first gear. (Those customer service folks kept us advised however.)
Then there was the line problem. If you have ever travelled by Greyhound you know that everyone lines their baggage up at the gate and that's the order passengers board. when you're on a day trip you have limited luggage, but I set down a backpack to hold our place in line. When it came time to board we all stood with our backpack, and i was accused of playing games with line cutting, since 4 people shouldn't have been with one bag. Unless the boys put their wallets down there, we didn't have anything else. All this was going on at 4 am, which wasn't helping any one's mood.
Once we got on board the bus, everything went fine though. We made good time to Chicago, arriving at the bus depot with plenty of time to find the subway station that would take us to the stadium. We were walking through parts of downtown, and saw some really cool buildings.
Early in my working life I was a customer service clerk at Sears, so I got a big kick out of seeing the Sears Tower, even though they aren't there anymore, and its called the Willis Tower now. (Also I guess the floor cracked on one of the viewing rooms a couple days later, sign anyone?)
We got a little lost finding the right subway stop, but a very nice Chicago police officer steered us in the correct direction.
We made it to the stadium in plenty of time for the bobbleheads. (I know you all were worried about that.) Walking up the ramp into the stadium we had a spectacular view of the Chicago skyline.
Had great seats in the right field upper deck. Excellent view of the batters.
The only flaw was that the sun was behind us so we were in the shade much of the day. It was cold enough the girl needed hot chocolate at one point.
|The girl guards her bobblehead and her chocolate.|
The game was exciting, the Yankees won it in the 10th inning, and the White Sox manager got thrown out of the game.
Of course the only thing that would have really ruined the trip was if Jeter hadn't played, but he did, as did Ichiro Suzuki, another great we had never gotten to see.Neither one got on base, but that of course wasn't what it was about anyway.
Walking from the subway stop back to the bus depot, we were appalled to discover that next to nothing was open for a family to eat at in downtown Chicago. We passed Dunkin Donuts, Sbarro's, even Starbucks and a Burger King that had all their lights out. We were reluctant to explore too much, since we didn't want to be caught out in a strange city after dark. In the end we dined at the bus depot, where
We spent our wait time reading and playing games on our electronic devices. Twice, once at sundown, and again after dark the boys went out side and took some more pictures.
By 10 we were on our bus and by 7 am we were home. 36 hours from when we started. It was nice being on the road with both kids again. Lately I have taken college road trips with the Boy, and by next year I'll be doing the same thing with the girl, and although it is nice getting the one on one time with one child or the other, there's something about travelling in a pack that's fun as well. There's a certain special sort of co-operation required of travelling together.
With one already in college, and the other zooming through high school, it isn't likely we will get to take too many more road trips like this together.
And for me there was also a certain feeling of coming full circle, of fulfilling a certain quest.
Baseball, like scouting has always been a means of connecting my children with the grandfather they never knew. My dad, who said I needed to be able to say I saw Hank Aaron play, would have understood. Every generation has its sports heroes, and one should get to see at least a few of them in person.
Hopefully my children will get the chance to do the same with their offspring some day.