We’ve Been Everywhere, Man!
by John Delach
(Title used with apologies to Johnny Cash.)
From 2002 until 2014 our merry band of retirees made 14 baseball road trips. On most of these trips, four of us traveled together, Bill Christman, Mike Cruise, Don Markey and me. We missed 2012 and 2016. Bill, Mike and I made a non-baseball trip in the spring of 2016 to ride behind a restored Norfolk & Western J- Class steam locomotive, No. 611.
We lost Don who passed away in the fall of 2016. Mike couldn’t make the 2017 trip, but Bill and I are traveling to Phoenix and Tucson today for our next adventure. FYI, the forecast is 107!
Mike and I made the first trip by car. Our first stop was Pittsburg and a Pirates game at PNC Park. Granted, this was my first out-of-town ballpark, but its layouts, amenities and the great view of downtown Pittsburg blew me away. I still rate PNC Park as the best. We also visited Cleveland to see the Yankees lose to the Indians 11-3 at the Jake.
In 2003, we did Ohio flying to Cincinnati, Mike and I from LaGuardia, Don from Newark and Bill from Dallas. We rented a minivan: first stop Dayton for their Class A minor league Dragons who defeated the Lansing Lugnuts. The main event on this trip was an incredible air show staged at Wright-Patterson AFB celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight. Next up, Columbus and the AAA Clippers and finally two Reds games back in Cinci.
2004 found us in Chicago to see the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field and the Cubs beat the Cardinals in the “friendly (but uncomfortable) confines” of Wrigley Field. We finished with an Amtrak round trip to Milwaukee for a Brewers game at Miller Park before returning to Chicago.
A 2005 road trip took us to DC and Maryland. We watched the Nationals lose to the Cardinals at RFK before driving to Fredrick, MD the home of Barbara Fritchie who refused to strike the Stars and Stripes telling old Bobby Lee, “If you must shoot, shoot me and not this flag.” We saw their home team Keys play the Myrtle Beach Pelicans before finishing up in Camden Yards with the Orioles on the same day Katrina floods New Orleans.
Kansas and Missouri in 2006; stops included Omaha and the AAA Class Royals, Wichita for the AA Wranglers and Kansas City for the Big League Royals. In Omaha we saw a Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4023 displayed high on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River and John Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the NCAA World Series. We visited the Truman Museum in Independence and Kaufman Stadium in K.C. with its great sight lines and dancing water fountains.
2007 was our most ambitious car trip with stops in Toronto, Detroit, Akron and Philadelphia. My Yukon XL provided room and comfort. Bill met us in Toronto where we watched the lackluster Yankees lose to the Blue Jays, 15 to 4. The next morning we drove across the farmland of western Ontario to Comerica Park, the Detroit Tigers home that featured a carousel featuring tigers instead of horses. We spent the night in Ann Arbor, (Go Wolverines!) Next stop: Akron, for the Aeros. Bill left us in Pittsburg on our way to Philadelphia where we watch the Atlanta Braves beat the Phillies 7 to 5 at Citizen Bank Field. We said good bye to Don at a rest area on the NJT while Mike and I pushed on to Long Island having covered 1,769 miles in six days.
Our ranks swelled in 2008 and again in 2013 when we played “Backyard Baseball” in NYC. The first outing took us to Shea Stadium and old Yankees Stadium both in their last year of existence. The second took us to Citi Field and the new Yankee Stadium. We coupled those trips with a visit to the Staten Island Yankees in 2008 and the Brooklyn Cyclones in 2013.
On the road again in 2009, we drove down the Delmarva Peninsula to Perdue Stadium for the Shorebirds vs the NJ Blue Claws. Continuing south we caught the Norfolk Tides at Harbor Park, visited the Navy base, the battleship, USS Wisconsin, and a replica of the USS Monitor before returning to DC and the new Nationals Park. Bill flew home from Regan National and Don again met Helen at a NJT rest stop.
We gave Bill a break in 2010 as we played Lone Star Baseball. Don and I flew separately to DFW where we met Bill. First stop, Arlington, a tour of Jerry’s palace (aka Cowboy Stadium aka AT&T Stadium) and a Rangers game. We had lunch in Austin on the way to San Antonio to attend a Missions game that night. We finished in Houston, visited the battleship Texas in San Jacinto, rode the light rail and saw the Astros play in Minute Maid Park (aka Enron Stadium.)
Reunited, the four of returned to the Midwest in 2011. A Twins game in Target Field, Minneapolis, a cold, wet visit to A Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa, a rainout in Davenport, a Cardinals home game and a visit inside the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The Davenport rainout allowed us a serendipitous experience to enjoy an outstanding dinner at a fine restaurant called the Duck City Bistro and not at New York prices.
2014 made five of us with the addition of Geoff Jones. Geoff and I met in Atlanta and watched a couple of innings of a Braves game at Turner Field. The next day we drove to Charlotte, NC where we met Bill, Mike and Don. We rode their light rail, visited the NASCAR Hall of Fame and attended the AAA Knights game in their brand new BB&T Ballpark (named after a bank.) On our way to Durham and the Bulls, we came across Spencer and a sign for the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Located in old shops, once part of the Southern Railroad, they have an impressive collection of locomotives and rolling stock. Quite a find and a worthwhile visit. We watched a Durham Bulls followed by a pub dinner in a mall built around the old American Tobacco Company factory.
That turned out to be our last trip as a group. Curiously, I wrote an epilogue for that 2014 trip: “Older and not very wiser, we had a ball, great friends; lots of laughs. Baseball is our stated reason for making these trips but it’s really the good and bad, the things that go right and go wrong that make these trips special and what makes each of them a good time.”
I believe I can say for us all us, it’s been a blast!