The place had no personality, not even after they yanked out the artificial rug, and yet you tended to admire that it was placed in that neighborhood at all – in the rundown, semi-residential district of Franklinton, just west of downtown proper. Built in 1931 to house a St. Louis Cardinals farm team, it once served (and presumably continues to serve) a litany of teams, sports, and events, and yet it will most likely always be known as the home of the Columbus Clippers minor league squad for over 30 years.
They used to send me free tickets 3-4 times per season, although I never figured out why. Was this a normal occurrence for anyone else? Then again, these were usually accompanied by coupons for additional cut-rate seats, so perhaps it was all some zany marketing ploy. At any rate, I attended my first game in 1988, the last in 2006, one of their final summers in the stadium before moving uptown to the much more opulent digs found in Huntington Park. The ’88 affair was a treat our little league coach sprung on the whole team, at a time when the big stars on the roster – Columbus’s, that is, not our own basement dwelling club – were Turner Ward and Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens, a night where I was considered a tremendous dork by pretty much everyone for scoring the game in my program.
Not much had changed by opening day 2006. Though still the kind of dork who will score the game in his program, and prone to attending games alone if nothing else is going on, this time around I do manage to rope in a couple of friends, Kyle and Jim. Another contest for which they had mailed me free tickets, and found the club giving out small, inferior cowbells at the gate, along with fridge magnets with the team schedule, Sean Henn was considered their ace and would take the hill. The only players on the roster I’ve heard of before, aside from Henn, are Eric Duncan and Melky Cabrera, although in recently completed seasons we were all treated to the likes of future breakout stars Chien-Ming Wang and Robinson Cano on a regular basis.
We down hot dogs and cheap beer before the game even starts, then settle into our seats. I had forgotten all about my previous visit, however, a night where I drank just two draft Michelob Amber Bocks here at the game, yet somehow ended up barfing my brains out – and an identical dosage of the same toxic potion nearly has the same effect on me this otherwise fine night. Maybe they are being sent leftover dregs from the Budweiser plant across town, or maybe they suffer storage issues at this site. Maybe I am the only person drinking Amber Bock (well, no, Jim also partakes, and voices no complaints) and as a result it is spoiling. But something funky is certainly going on with this draft – and only here, for I don’t have any problems downing it at, say, Studio 35. As a result, I’m bolted to my seat like a seasick landlubber for what turns into a 13-1 blowout in the Clippers’ favor, against the Scranton Red Barons.
As far as routs are concerned, it’s interesting enough, for the offense is scattered liberally throughout the frames. But really, the most compelling aspect of this particular outing might have been the hot dog race, or at least that and its attendant juvenile humor. A familiar sight at many a baseball field, this race featured three characters dressed up as wieners, although in a somewhat inspired twist, two nice looking females, attired as ketchup and mustard bottles, respectively, are holding the finish line tape.
“If I was one of those hot dogs, I’d be working on either ketchup or mustard, one of the two,” Kyle notes.
“Both!” I say, “I’d have ketchup on one side, mustard on the other!”
“You have to leave your costumes on, though,” Jim elaborates with a laugh, “that’s my fetish.”
“You can take your spouts off, that’s it,” I suggest.