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Baseball Fever - Catch It!

Day 2: Thursday, June 14, 2001
Cambridge, OH to Battle Creek, MI - 397 miles

After a decent night's sleep, we wake up to a standard motel continental breakfast of refined wheat flour, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and high fructose corn syrup.  We then pack up, load our beverage cooler full of "ice" from a large refrigerated metal contraption labeled


and hit the road, heading north on I-77 toward Cleveland.

We stop for gas and fail in our first attempt to find a snow globe.  Matt has recently decided to start collecting snow globes as a record of where he's been.  He pretends to have a solely ironic interest in these wonderfully tacky creations, but in reality he is fascinated by the little winter fantasies that exist inside each little plastic hemisphere.  "Snowing in Ohio?  But it's summer!"  "Not in here, buddy.  My Ohio is a cozy dream world filled with sleigh rides, hot cocoa, and crackling fires year-round."  It is unclear why Matt has few friends.

Around noon we pass through Canton, OH, and decide to stop and see the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  So we see it.  A perfect storm of dinky-looking-ness, moderate admission fees, and lack of time conspire to prevent us from going inside, so we get back on the road.

Pro Football Hall of Fame
The Pro Football Hall of Fame: we told you it was dinky-looking

Photo taken by Coemgenus Salminis and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

About an hour later, having braved some construction-induced traffic, we roll into the parking lot of the Burke Lakefront Airport, on the shores of Lake Erie.  Part of the reason we chose to take this trip when we did was our hope that the weather wouldn't be quite at midsummer levels of temperature and humidity.  However, Mother Nature had other plans, and we labor through the streets of Cleveland in sweltering heat.  Determined to see a hall of fame of some sort, we make our way to the glorious air-conditioned geometry of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Thanks to its efficient modern design, the construction of the Rock and Roll HOF required far fewer slave laborers than the pyramids of Egypt

We realize we are in for a treat when we enter the building and find an extremely large hot dog hanging from the ceiling.  It's funny because it's larger than a normal hot dog.  The Hall may have admitted some questionable groups over the years1, but their museum is top-notch, and we enjoy some fantastic exhibits over the course of the afternoon.  Prominently featured are exhibits detailing the lives and careers of John Lennon and Jim Morrison, who went to the same high school as Rob's grandfather, albeit 25 years later.  Rob is nearly expelled from the museum after attempting to bust out a solo on Jimi Hendrix's Fender Stratocaster2.  We both agree that this is a place where we could spend much more time, both looking at the exhibits in more depth and listening to the computer jukeboxes that offer a wide array of songs by every member of the Hall.  With game time approaching, however, we take our leave, and head south, away from Lake Erie and toward Jacobs Field.  On the way, we purchase foam Indians heads from a street vendor for $4.  Undoubtedly a shrewd investment.

Giant hot dog
Takeru Kobayashi's arch nemesis

We are immediately impressed by the Jake, although its similarities to Baltimore's slightly older Camden Yards do not go unnoticed.  That said, it proves to be quite a pleasant place to watch a game, especially once the sun goes down and the weather becomes more tolerable.  We are particularly impressed by the high-quality Jim Thome/Andre Thornton posters given away as a promotion3.  Even better are the fans sitting behind us, who not only speak at polite conversational volumes but also exhibit a devastating sense of humor.

"HEY!  GET ME A HOT DOG!!!" one of them shouts at his friend who got up to visit the concession stand.

"COTTON CANDY!!!!" another one shouts, even louder, while everyone around explodes in an uproar of laughter.

"BEER!  NO WAIT...3 COKES!!!!!"  You get the picture.

At first this just seems mildly annoying, but then the "jokes" keep coming, one after another, until the names of nearly 20 different types of ballpark food have been shouted.  "GET ME SOME NACHOS!  WITH FRIES!!!!!!"  Fortunately they break the monotony by interspersing, at an equally high volume, comments that betray a remarkable lack of baseball knowledge.  And if there's one thing that makes up for a bad sense of humor, it's ignorance.

Cleveland stakes out an early lead in this AL/NL pairing, putting four runs on the board in the first three innings against the Brewers.  The action really picks up in the fifth, when Milwaukee's Geoff Jenkins ties the game with a three-run blast, his second home run in as many innings.  Adding to the excitement, a bug suddenly flies up Rob's nose.  It takes several minutes to expel it using discreet, yet powerful, snot rockets.  And no sooner does he successfully remove the nasal burrower than Milwaukee's Richie Sexson hits one of the longest home runs either of us has ever seen.  The stadium estimate is 460 feet.  More remarkably, he crushes the ball into the bullpen, where the Indians' reliever Steve Woodard, tossing some warm-up pitches, catches it without taking his foot off the rubber, making the late night broadcast of SportsCenter.  This pushes the Brew Crew out in front, 5-4, and they never look back, cruising to a 9-4 victory.

Jacobs Field
Jacobs Field, the site of Game 1 of our trip

A key to making any baseball game more exciting is having players in the game on your fantasy team.  Fortunately, each of us had two players to obnoxiously boo or cheer, as the situation might warrant.  Matt had Ben Sheets (P, Mil) and Curtis Leskanic (P, Mil), while Rob had Juan Gonzalez (RF, Cle) and Jose Hernandez (SS, Cle).  They performed as follows:

* Sheets - W, 6.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
* Leskanic - 1.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K
* Gonzalez - 1-4, blowing numerous RBI opportunities.
* Hernandez - 2-5

Happy to trade in the loudmouths sitting behind us for an empty back seat, we depart the stadium, climb in the minivan, and set our sights on I-80 west.  We both thoroughly enjoyed Cleveland, save for the worker at a deli who refused to serve Rob a soda until he called it a "pop."  Rob is still mulling over the possibility of litigation against the entire Upper Midwest for this perversion of the English language, although the statute of limitations on silly regional vocabulary is running out soon.

As we make our way through Ohio, we ponder the game we just saw, wondering why in the world anyone would bat Jim Thome sixth in that lineup.  The ultimate answer, as current Philadelphia fans will no doubt recognize, is "Charlie Manuel."  Other notes from the game: RBI Baseball fans will applaud Ellis Burks hitting his sixteenth double of the season.  And, according to the scoreboard, Geoff Jenkins' favorite movie is Dumb and Dumber.  Not only did he single-handedly drive in as many runs as the opposing team, but he also had his fine cinematic tastes broadcast to 40,000-plus fans.  We can only assume that the Geoff Jenkins fan club experienced a sharp spike in membership after the game, to say nothing of the number of marriage proposals he must have received (we know of at least two, personally).

We had planned on stopping in the town of Milan, OH, the birthplace of Thomas Edison, to pay appropriate tribute to this great man.  However, due to our run-in with a lesser-known of Edison's innumerable inventions, the "absurd traffic detour," we are unable to locate the birthplace.  The total detour is several miles in length, and we realize at the end that we are literally one block away from where we started.  As it is already approaching midnight, we bid good riddance to Milan and continue on our way.

Thomas Edison
A young Thomas Edison looking cool next to an early design of the phonograph

This image's copyright has expired and it is now in the public domain

We have to pay another round of tolls, this one for the privilege of driving on the Ohio Turnpike, the second-worst turnpike in the country (its neighbor to the east is #1, and will earn our wrath on the final day of the trip).  The only saving grace is that we are able to extend a salute to the fine town of Sandusky, OH, as we fly past it in the dark.  Sandusky, as some of you may recall, is the home of one Tommy Callahan.  Shut up, Richard.

Passing Toledo, once known as the "Auto Parts Capital of the World," we head north into Michigan on I-475 and then US-23, toward Ann Arbor.  This is the first time either of us has been to Michigan, and we are quite happy to check another state off the ol' list.  Reaching Ann Arbor, we turn west on I-94, chuckle heartily as we pass over I-69, and finally come to a halt at the Knights Inn of Battle Creek, MI at 3:30 AM.  At $32, it seems like a great bargain compared to the rip-off from the previous night, and we contentedly lay our heads down on the pillows and quickly pass into a land of slumber.


1 Rob finds the inclusion of Steely Dan baffling, while Matt grimaced in pain as Van Halen was inducted in 2007.  It is Matt's firm belief that the party responsible for "Hot For Teacher" should be fired out of a cannon into the Sun.

2 This may or may not have happened.

3 This marked the first time since the late 1980s that either of us had thought about Andre Thornton.

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