Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Perfect Day In Cleveland

Whilst I managed the rough ride of a thirty year old single speed bike with a wobbly front wheel, we four pale riders rode from the relative comfort of Cleveland's inner west side, through downtown past Jacobs (yes, Jacobs) Field and into the Hough District via Superior Ave.

Our destination: League Park.

For over 50 years, League Park was the home turf of Cleveland baseball clubs such as the NL Spiders, the AL Indians and Buckeyes of the Negro Leagues. Due to the fact that the park was on a rectangular plot of land, the right field fence was only 290 feet from home plate and, to keep balls from flying out at a 1998 rate, was 60 feet high (thirteen feet higher that that little fence in Boston. Try hitting one over that without steroids, Big Papi.).

After dodging traffic on Superior for a few miles we hit the Hough District. We turned right on E. 65th Street and the neighborhood became increasingly run down, dare I say menacing. In the distance we could hear the faint bump and roll of a blues band playing. One of the Pale Riders commented that she felt like we were in a scene from The Wire and I noticed all the boarded up doors such as those in Baltimore where Chris and Snoop left their prey.

Strapped to my back was a 33 ounce wooden baseball bat. Brought for peaceful purposes.

The sky, which was an hour earlier leaden and threatening to soak the streets, had begun to smile in a sweet shade of blue while a guitar lick vaguely reminiscent of Albert Collins became clearer as Linwood Avenue came into view.

First, we saw the remaining brick facade of League Park that brought to mind a bombed out area of Berlin I once was in. Across East 66th Street was the Straight Up Missionary Baptist Church which was hosting a party out back where the blues band was set up.

Once we got onto the field, one of the Pale Riders gave us a well thought out lesson on the history of the park. We listened intently but really, I was just waiting to play on the overgrown grass where Joe DiMaggio had his 56 game hit streak broken, where Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run and where the Browns held their training camp until the late 1960's.

We played, it got hot and I started to sweat after shagging fly balls. Eventually we all decided it was time to find a beer and a banh mi at Superior Pho, but damn if that wasn't the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon . . . sharing a field with the ghosts of Indians teams that actually were the World Champions.

)I won't mention what happened that night to the current Tribe as Eric Wedge decided it wise to pitch to Albert Pujols four times . . .)

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