It’s 9:41 a.m. and in a little more than an hour I’ll begin my trek from my hotel room in Philly to another hotel room in Baltimore. Thank God for Marriott points — it makes it all worth it. Part of me wishes I could be at the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown today, but I’ve been to the Hall as a baseball fan twice. That’s the way to go — not having to worry about a deadline while you’re soaking up the history.
As promised, I’ll throw a few pics on here from my travels around town here in Philly. First off, there I am standing with Rocky Balboa (LEFT) in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It wasn’t at the top of steps like it was in the movies, but it’s better that way. Only in America can a city be known for a statue of a fictional character produced by Hollywood. Who am I kidding, I was pumped that the statue was there. I’m sure all of you Rocky fans will weigh in on this one. Here’s my ranking of the films:
1. Rocky IV, 2. Rocky, 3. Rocky III, 4. Rocky II, 5. Rocky Balboa, 6. Rocky V
On my walk from the Museum of Art toward downtown, I was surprised to see Rodin’s The Thinker sitting off to my left. OK, so it isn’t the original — the first casting is in France — but it was still pretty cool to see. Growing up, my dad had a miniature of the statue in his office. The Rodin Museum is in Philly and this replica of the famed statue (RIGHT) sits out front.
I ended up making the 2-3 mile walk from the Art Museum all the way to the Liberty Bell. Walking down the Ben Franklin Parkway was pleasant and it was a beautiful day — until I got to the ballpark and it started drizzling. On the way to the Liberty Bell, which was great to see, though the crowd was a little too much, there was a nice view of City Hall:
That’s City Hall there in the middle (left). Philadelphia reminded me a lot of Boston in the sense that there were a lot of historical sites mixed all around the modern buildings. Boston remains my favorite road city, though. Had I not gone into journalism, I probably would’ve done something involved with history (boy, do I sure know how to pick the high-paying professions).
Citizens Bank Ballpark was nice, but nothing about it really really jumped out to make it a great park. For me, it was too similar to Comerica Park in Detroit in many ways. I took some time out on Sunday to walk around the stadium and nothing about it said, "You’re in Philadelphia." It’s not the kind of feeling you get inside Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, or even newer parks like Camden Yards or Safeco Field.
This isn’t to say that the Phillies’ home ballpark (RIGHT) wasn’t nice. It definitely had a nice feel to it and wouldn’t rank near the bottom of my list by any means. One downside is it’s location, which is far enough south of the city — literally in the same complex as the areas for the Eagles, 76ers and Flyers — where you can’t see the skyline from inside the ballpark. From the pressbox and upper deck, you get a nice view of a beautiful skyline, but from the lower levels you might as well be in Iowa.
Enough about all that, though, let’s get to some leftovers from Toronto’s brief Interleague excursion:
DON’T SHOOT: Yours truly was the victim of a clubhouse attack this weekend. Vernon Wells and A.J. Burnett have become a regular firing squad with an arsenal of air-powered toy guns that shoot foam bullets — some with velcro on the tips. After the game on Saturday, Wells unleashed a wave of bullets — two of which struck me in the head and a few others that stuck to my back. Nice. Must have been that notebook I wrote about him that day.
Then, on Sunday morning, while us reporters were in the manager’s office with John Gibbons, Wells and Burnett, with Josh Towers close behind with a blow gun, snuck up to the doorway. While we were in the middle of the interview, Wells rolled into the room, Burnett and Towers leaned into view, and Gibbons was hit with a barrage of bullets.
This prompted me to ask: "Gibby, you getting along with your players OK?"
ZAUN’S HEROICS: I won’t go over all the details of Gregg Zaun’s called shot in the 1999 Hall of Fame Game, because you can read about it HERE. What I will do is share some of the stuff I didn’t fit into the short story.
One of the chants he remembered the crowd saying:
"They were saying the craziest stuff," laughed Zaun, recalling the event on Sunday.
The reason Juan Gonzalez wasn’t playing right field? He had a wardrobe malfuntion with his retro Rangers uniform:
"I’ll never forget it, they told me, ‘Juan’s not going to go out there today because his pants don’t fit.’ So, I started the game behind the plate, but when they needed somebody to play the outfield I said, ‘I’ll go out to right field.’"
Zaun also received some video footage of his called shot, which he said will eventually be posted on his upcoming Web site, www.greggzaun.com. In the video, he could see KC players Jermaine Dye and Mike Sweeney, sitting in folding chairs by the on-deck circle. Their facial expression when Zaun pointed to right field was kind of a "Yeah right" sort of reaction, but then:
"I hit it and they both stand up and their hands are above their heads like, ‘Oh my God! He did it!’ We ended up being teammates the very next year."
DECODING DUSTIN: As far as the erratic outing by Dustin McGowan on Friday — four ho-hit innings followed by a five-run meltdown in the fifth — Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg planned on broke down some video to see what the problem was.
What he saw was simply a change in McGowan’s release point, in what the coach referred to as "the window." Arnsberg said there wasn’t any difference in McGowan pitching from the stretch as compared to in the windup. Here’s some of what Arnsberg had to say on Saturday:
"I matched him up, even earlier today, with pitches out of his stretch that were strikes, and pitches that were out of the stretch that were balls, and it really comes down to one thing, and that’s where the ball’s coming out of the hand."
"It’s called the window — that we talk about so much. He didn’t repeat his window very well. I sat and broke it down frame to frame to frame and it all comes down to that last split second — what happens in that window. If it’s held on too, too long, it’s down. If it’s held on too short a time, it’s up.
"I didn’t see anything like in the load, or arm swing, front side, or anything else that really alarms me as a pitching coach. Or, obviously, I would’ve tried to go out and make an adjustment right away."
"We’ve basically said, ‘Shoot for the middle and hope it hits a corner.’ That’s the kind of stuff he’s got. He’s got a Burnett-type arm — tremendous stuff. We’ve got to get him in the zone. You saw last night, when he’s in the zone he’s tough."
"Besides the health of this kid, the main problem with Dustin over the last two or three years is his ability to throw the ball over the plate. You see the glimpses, but I’m just not a huge fan of flashes in the dark. You’ve got to show the consistency. There’s no doubt that we all know the arm is there. The consistency’s just got to continue to improve. I think he’s making headways. I know he was in Triple-A."
"Sometimes you just wonder if he tries too hard. That’s the first time after a game I’ve really seen him show emotion, when he came in and threw his glove. I kind of liked that. I want to see him light a fire. We’re all such huge fans and we’re all rooting for him so hard, and I believe we’ve all got his best interest at heart."
"Sometimes it comes down to the athlete getting it done. You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but until they really get that feel of what you’re talking about, you’re really climbing a greased pole at times. By no means are we giving up. This guy’s up here for the duration and we’re going to work our rear ends off to help him get better."
There was more, too, but that’s the bulk of it. Anyway, I’ve been blogging for a while now. I think this should be able to hold you all over until I get to the ballpark in Baltimore. Until then, you can watch the events at Cooperstown for free today on MLB.com. The game begins at 2 p.m.
Stay tuned for more…