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June 5, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Nationals are on a winning streak!

In case you missed it, the Washington Nationals finally seem to have gotten their act together, winning four games in a row for the first time this season, and four consecuive series as well. After their successful trip to Atlanta last week, they headed to Cincinnati on May 31, but Patrick Corbin had another poor outing (the second in his last three starts), giving up eight runs (six earned). He had to be replaced during the third inning. The smokin' hot Juan Solo had another homer, but the Nats still lost to the Reds, 9-3. The next day (Saturday), Erick Fedde pitched four solid innings, giving up two runs, while the bullpen prevented any more scoring. Home runs by Gerardo Parra, Matt Adams, and Brian Dozier tilted the outcome in favor of the visitors, as the Nats won, 5-2. On Sunday, Anthony Rendon led the offense, while Max Scherzer struck out 15 batters (!!!) over eight full innings. Dave Martinez was going to replace him in the bottom of the eighth, but Max refused to leave and went on to strike out Joey Votto to end the inning. Nats 4, Reds 1.

After a day of rest as they headed home to Washington, the Nationals welcomed the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. Stephen Strasburg had a nightmarish first inning, giving up four runs, plus another in the second inning. But then the Nats started to come back, and a clutch three-run homer by Anthony Rendon in the fifth inning put the Nats ahead 6-5. Three more runs that inning gave the home team a comfortable margin, and they held on to win, 9-5. This afternoon, Anibal Sanchez had a fine outing for the second time in a row, after losing the first six decisions of the 2019 season. He left the game with a 4-1 lead, in line for his second win of the year, but the bullpen let him down -- in the eighth inning once again! Kyle Barraclough and Wander Suero gave up back-to-back homers that tied the game 4-4. But in the bottom of the ninth inning, Trea Turner smashed a high pitch into the visitors' (left field) bullpen to give the Nats a 6-4 victory. It was Trea's second walk-off homer this year (the first one was one March 31), and the third for the Nats already this year. The Nats had four walk-off homers in 2008, 2010, and 2015, but never more than that. So, they may just set a team record in that category this year.

Tomorrow night, the Nationals will begin a four-game series in San Diego against the Padres. They are now only five games below .500 (28-33), and only 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Philadelphia Phillies.

Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium tweak

ThreeRiversStadium

Here is yet another minor touch-up of a "cookie-cutter" stadium diagram: Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium diagrams. I recently noticed that some time in the 1970s most of the lateral walkway in the upper deck was filled by seats, so there are now separate 1966 and 1974 upper-deck diagrams. In addition, compared to the last such update (on April 28, 2016), the upper deck is slightly bigger. That post had a preliminary list of stadiums that feature "ribbed" roofs, to which I have added Riverfront Stadium (updated on April 16, 2019). I think the following list is now complete:

Basketball in Canada!

Last Saturday marked the first time ever that an NBA finals game was played outside the United States. The home team Toronto Raptors beat the favored Golden State Warriors in Game 1, then lost (just barely) in Game 2, and won in Game 3 tonight. Basketball is not nearly as big in Canada as is hockey, of course. The Toronto Raptors played their first few seasons at what was then called Skydome and is now called the Rogers Centre, so I updated the basketball diagram on that page to more accurately depict the positioning of the temporary seats used in basketball games.

The mail bag

Mark London and Angel Amezquita each provided some information on the location of Three Rivers Stadium relative to other stadiums before and afterward, and I made a small adjustment to the "vicinity" thumbnail map/diagram on that page.

John Morris informed me that I had the wrong year in a caption of photo that my brother John took of the Fenway Park. So, I corrected the date on the Fenway Park page based on what John (Clem) told me: It was 1998, not 1996.

More news from Mike Zurawski and other to get to soon, including recent developments with the Oakland A's proposed new stadium. Stay tuned!!!


June 10, 2019 [LINK / comment]

After two flubs, Nats get back-to-back-to-back-to-back on track

The way things have gone for the Washington Nationals this year, you could almost expect them to find a way to ruin the precious momentum they had gained from their recent winning streak. Indeed, in the first game of the series at San Diego last Thursday, the Nationals blew a big early lead. Howie Kendrick and Brian Dozier both batted in two runs in the first inning, a nice cushion for starting pitcher Patrick Corbin. But the Padres came back with two runs in the second and three more in the fifth inning. With the bases loaded and no outs, Trea Turner fielded a grounder awkwardly and threw it to third base but Anthony Rendon missed it, and two runners scored. The next batter hit a sac fly RBI, which was the final run scored during the game, and thus the Nats ended up losing, 5-4. In game two, Erick Fedde pitched a fine game, only giving up one run until the sixth inning, when the Padres scored two more. But in the top of the seventh the Nats finally got a rally going, and a two-run double by Trea Turner tied it, 3-3. The visitors took the lead thanks to a wild pitch in the top of the ninth, but closing pitcher Sean Doolittle proceeded not only to blow the save but lose the game in the bottom of the ninth, giving up three hits and two runs. Same final score as before: 5-4. frown

With Max Scherzer pitching on Saturday, the Nats were in a much better position. Max struck out nine batters over seven innings, giving up six hits but no runs. Brian Dozier homered again, and the Nats racked up four runs total for the third day in a row, but this time the Padres only scored one run, and that was in the bottom of the ninth. In Sunday's game, Stephen Strasburg nearly matched the pitching performance of Scherzer, but the score was still 1-1 when he left after the seventh inning. And that is when something utterly implausible happened: pinch hitting for Strasburg, Howie Kendrick smashed a solo home run off the front edge of the upper deck in left field. Then Trea Turner came up to bat and homered to center field. Next was Adam Eaton, and he did the same thing! WOW! The next batter, Anthony Rendon, then hit a homer into the "new" seats in right center field. (Before the outfield in PETCO Park shrank in 2013, that ball would have landed in front of the wall.) Believe it or not: back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs!!! smile

Thanks to that offensive outburst, Strasburg got his seventh win of the year; the final score was 5-2. The Nationals thus made history, becoming the first major league team to ever hit home runs in four consecutive at-bats more than once. (I wouldn't be surprised if they set a record for the lowest total score of any team that accomplished such a feat: just 5.) The other time was July 27, 2017, which I mentioned in a blog post that focused mainly on my baseball travels and hence neglected to state which players actually homered. Thanks to today's Washington Post, I learned that they were:

It is interesting that not one of those players from 2017 is currently on the active roster. Anyway, the Nats salvaged a split in the four-game series. If they can hold on to their lead in the game against the White Sox in Chicago tonight, they are likely to pull within six games of the first-place Phillies in the NL East race. You never know...

Another foul ball tragedy

Two weeks ago a little girl in Houston's Minute Maid Park suffered a head injury when she was hit by a line drive foul ball hit by the Cubs' Albert Almora, who was stricken with grief when he realized what had happened. In response to this awful incident, USA Today summarized the current extent of backstop netting in all 30 major league parks. While such protective nets have been extended at most ballparks in recent years, none of them are as safety-conscious as in Japan's baseball stadiums, where nets extend all the way from foul pole to foul pole. Perhaps I should find a way to depict such nets in my diagrams...

Toledo Mud Hens!

My brother John saw the famed Toledo Mud Hens play a game at their home field last month. Thanks to the TV show M*A*S*H, and to the character "Corporal Klinger," the Mud Hens became one of the best-known minor league teams in the 1970s. In fact, the city of Toledo rewarded the actor Jamie Farr (a Toledo native) by naming a park after him. Fifth Third Field opened in 2002, and is located in a warehouse district of downtown Toledo. One of the interesting features is that historic buildings were preserved in the northeast corner of the city block in which the ballpark was built, and a triangular section of seats is wedged into a tight space in back of the right field foul pole. See www.milb.com. The Mud Hens are a AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, based roughly 70 miles to the north in Motor City.

Fifth Third Field from 3rd Base

Fifth Third Field from the 3rd base side; photo courtesy of John Clem.

So, what exactly is a "mud hen"? The team's web site explains the origin of their name, deriving from the avian inhabitants of the marshy land near the ballpark where they originally played in the 1890s. The American Coot, pictured below, is one of several birds that are sometimes called "mud hens."

American Coot

A few weeks ago, a visitor to this web site kindly offered me the use of some of his photos of minor league ballparks, and while I appreciated the offer, I'm afraid that until I finish the main objective of updating the remaining MLB stadium diagrams and get caught up with other web site tasks, I really can't make much use of them.


June 11, 2019 [LINK / comment]

A history of rock music, Part II:     from H to N

Over the last two months since I left off at "G" (Grateful Dead), I have continued my alphabetically-ordered musical odyssey almost every Wednesday night at the Queen City Brewing open mic events. (My review of Part I: from A to G was on April 17.) Playing in public with greater regularity, I am getting better responses from the audience.

H is for Hootie & the Blowfish: On April 17, open mic host Fritz Horisk instituted a new arrangement such that performers who arrive early get to play more songs than those who arrive later -- such as me, in this case. (Domestic chores often detain me.) That meant that I only got to do three of the four songs I had planned, but as you will see, that worked out for the best. Two of the songs were "first-timers" for me, but I did well enough and got good applause. I didn't use the harmonica on any of them, which is rare for me. HOOTIE! smile

* : first time in public
(This notation applies throughout this post.)

I is for Imagine Dragons: One week later (April 24) I was in a quandary, since the only suitable group I know that starts with "I" is Imagine Dragons, and I only know one song by them. (I ruled out INXS as way too loud for an acoustic instrument.) So, I began by playing the "left-over" song that I was unable to play the week before. That still left two slots open, and I was prepared to resort to one of my own modest musical creations (using the logic that I start with "I"), but that proved unnecessary because of the tight scheduling that night. With a full slate of performers, I only got to do two songs. Just as well. Both were OK, but I felt a bit uncomfortable doing "Radioactive." (Those are some thought-provoking lyrics, by the way: "This is it, the Apocalypse.")

J is for Joe Walsh: The very next week (May 1) I signed up in advance to make sure I got to do four songs. I paid tribute to the bad boy classic rocker who took the Eagles to new heights in the late 1970s. All four songs were "first-timers" for me, and I rose to the occasion by nailing them with technical accuracy and passion. I recently changed the way I playe "Rocky Mountain Way," and it sounded great with the harmonica filling in for the lead guitar. One guy wondered how I was ever going to get through the complex "Life's Been Good," and he was impressed that I pulled it off. That was a good night!

# : with harmonica
* : first time in public
(These notations apply throughout this post.)

K is for Kansas: I missed the next week mainly because I was exhausted from a busy day of chores, and it was just as well, because I really needed to polish the four songs by Kansas, which is very challenging material. They were one of the leading examples of "progressive rock" in the 1970s, along with Yes, Genesis, Electric Light Orchestra, and Rush. By May 15 I was ready, and I played my heart out. The first and third songs were relatively easy and familiar to most of the folks in the audience, but the second and fourth songs were musically complex and apparently new to almost everyone there. I got polite applause, but I was a little disappointed I didn't make a bigger impact.

L is for Led Zeppelin: And speaking of "challenging material," I had a plate full on May 22, when I decided to tackle one of the best rock groups of all time. I began by noting that my previous week's set (Kansas) kind of went over like a lead balloon, a humorous segue into Led Zeppelin. I started with the mellow "Going to California," and then switched gears with a wailing harmonica on "When the Levee Breaks." Damn, that sounded good! I learned both of those songs relatively recently. The third and fourth songs were ones I have played many times, and they happen to occur in sequence on side one of Led Zeppelin IV! (Indeed, all four songs were from that album.) For "Stairway To Heaven" the harmonica did the flute notes in the introduction, and the lead guitar in the grand finale. It was one of the biggest risks I had ever taken, and this time at least I really pulled it off. Some parts weren't quite as "clean" as I would like, but the audience reaction was fantastic.

Queen City Brewing open mic 22 May 2019

There was a nice-sized crowd at the Queen City Brewing open mic event on May 22, soon after I had finished playing four Led Zeppelin songs. That's Jacqueline standing next to the barrel.

M is for Moody Blues: May 29 went a little easier for me, since I had done all four songs in public before, so it wasn't as hard to prepare. I was poised, and everything sounded fine. I use the harmonica for the flute solo in "Nights In White Satin," and even though it wasn't perfect, it was a vast improvement over the first time I played that song at open mic a couple years earlier. Once again, I got some very warm compliments from the audience and other musicians. In the days that followed, I learned to play another Moody Blues song: "Question," which has some very fast strumming (necessitating a light pick) and striking chord progressions. I look forward to playing that at open mic after I finish my alphabetical sequence.

N is for Neil Young: Likewise, June 5 was a relatively easy night for me, since I had done three of the four songs in public before. In contrast to the rock songs in which my use of the harmonica is rather unorthdox, for Neil Young songs, it is strictly conventional. "Harvest Moon" could have been a little clearner, but it was OK. I prefaced "After the Gold Rush" with an observation that Neil Young has a dual performing character: sometimes he is a sentimental romantic, and sometimes he is a stridently protesting prophet of doom. The last verse of that song involves a spaceship taking refugees away from an ecologically ruined Earth. As the finale, I really got carried away with the the harmonica on "My My, Hey Hey." Once again, folks really enjoyed it.

I am now officially half-way through the alphabet, slightly over, in fact. At my next musical outing (this Wednesday?), I will be on the letter "O," and anyone who knows me very well knows which group's songs I will play!

Staunton Jams 2019

On May 18, Jacqueline and I went downtown to enjoy the last set of the first "Staunton Jams" street concert of the 2019 season. I greeted lots of people I know from church, from music circles, etc. The local rock group Sun Dried Possums was playing, but the amplifiers were too loud, so we retreated a half block away and enjoyed fine malt beverages at Shenandoah Brewing. (I played two solo shows there last year.) Hopefully I can get another gig there before long...

Staunton Jams 18 May 2019

The "Staunton Jams" event on Beverley Street, May 18.


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