July 13, 2022 [LINK / comment]
As usual, my long-distance road trips are usually not focused specifically on baseball, but I always try to squeeze in a few precious minutes to see new ballparks or baseball-related places of interest. Such was the case last year when I ventured into the Deep South for the first time. This year my main objective was to visit Niagara Falls, and fortunately, that took us very near to several current and former baseball and/or football stadiums. Perhaps more importantly, it provided a perfect opportunity to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time.
En route to Buffalo, I passed through the suburb of Orchard Park, which I learned from a friend who used to live up there was once noted for its fruit tree orchards. I made a point to take a slight detour to see Highmark Stadium, formerly known (at various times) as Rich Stadium, Ralph Wilson Stadium, and New Era Field. I learned recently that the Bills plan to replace it with a new stadium across the street to the west by the 2026 season. That has been added to the Football stadiums photo gallery page. It is the 17th photo of a current or past NFL venue that I have taken from close by, and I have seen a few others as well.
Once in Buffalo itself, I stopped to take photos of Sahlen Field, which was called Coca-Cola Field the last time I was there, in July 2015. Whereas my previous visit was in the dead of night, this time I had bright morning sun which was ideal for picture-taking. The Buffalo Bisons were hosting the Syracuse Chiefs, and I thought about going to see them play, but I was too tired from driving all day. Later in the morning I drove about a mile northeast to the athletic center where War Memorial Stadium used to be. I only learned a couple years ago that the ornate Art Deco gates at the southeast and northeast corners of that city block were preserved when the rest of the stadium was demolished in 1989. I was glad to see some of the old stadium with my own eyes. That land is now a facility for amateur sports, named after a local leader by the name of Johnnie B. Wiley. (NOTE: Diagram updates for those two stadiums, as well as for Rogers Centre, are pending.)
During the brief time I was in Toronto, I was hoping to see the historical marker for Exhibition Stadium, just south of BMO Field (for soccer), but the traffic there was so bad that we lost an hour or more driving time. So, I had to content myself with just a quick look at Rogers Centre as we passed through downtown. I learned that there was some kind of big music festival in the waterfront area, but it was postponed due to an Internet outage affecting Rogers customers, accounting for over half the Canadian market. That only added to the chaos. I made a few quick changes to the Rogers Centre page, such as adding a full-sized version of the photo above (taken from an awkward position underneath the freeway) as well as a crude map of Toronto showing the relative locations of Rogers Centre, Exhibition Stadium, and BMO Field. (The latter one overlaps the land on which the second one formerly stood.)
In retrospect, it seems odd that I waited so long to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. But things worked out very well on this trip, and I was able to spend about two hours at the museum (or "MVSEVM" as it it written in gold letters above the entrance) before I had to leave. In my haste, I neglected to stop at take a peek at Doubleday Field, located about a block southwest of the Hall itself. FRIENDLY ADVICE: Don't use the shuttle bus from the remote parking lot on the northwest side of town unless you are pretty sure that you need to. I paid $5.25 and waited over 20 minutes, but the bus never came, so my wife and I drove into town and found a streetside parking place that was free! Cooperstown is a beautiful town, located at the south end of scenic Otsego Lake, and there are plenty of natural and cultural attractions in the area, for those who are not full-time baseball fans.
Nationals almost avoid getting swept by the Braves again. The first game of the series in Atlanta was just awful, as Erick Fedde only lasted three innings, as the Nats lost 12-2. But the Nats came close in the latter two games, and they were actually ahead late in the third and final game, thanks to a three-run homer by Lane Thomas in the sixth inning. But the Braves tied it in the eighth inning, and after both teams wasted multiple run-scoring opportunities in extra innings, the home team won it in walk-off RBI single by Austin Riley in the bottom of the 12th inning. The Nats lost both the Saturday and Sunday games by the same score: 4-3.
After a day of rest on Monday, and a rained-out game last night, the Nationals played two home games against the Seattle Mariners today. In the first game, the Nats' starting pitcher Josiah Gray had terrible command in the first inning, and walked two batters. Then Eugenio Suarez came up to bat and made him pay for it, hitting a three-run homer. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Juan Soto also hit a three-run homer, but all that did was narrow the gap. Final score: Mariners 6, Nats 4. In the evening game, Erick Fedde had a much better outing, and neither team scored until the sixth inning. That's when Jesse Winker hit a solo home run, soon followed by a sac fly RBI. Just like in the first game, Juan Soto homered in the bottom of the ninth inning, but this time nobody was on base, and the game ended in a 2-1 loss for the Nats -- their sixth loss in a row. The Nationals are now tied with the Oakland Athletics in having the worst record in the major leagues: 30-60; that's a measly .333 winning percentage.
The Seattle Mariners were expected to do well this year, but the Baltimore Orioles had low expectations, much like the Nationals. Well, both teams extended their winning streaks into the double digits tonight. Throughout April, the Orioles performed at historically bad levels, but in May they gradually turned things around. After beating the Cubs in Chicago tonight, they are officially over .500, which says a lot given that they are in last place in the American League East Division. As things stand, all three of the American League wild card teams will come from the AL East. Believe it or not, the Orioles cannot be entirely dismissed as postseason contenders.