Major League Baseball Park #16 out of 39
Wednesday, September 11, 1996
Cleveland 2, Anaheim Angels 0
W– Jack McDowell
L – Chuck Finley
Attendance – 42,264
Tuesday, July 31, 2001
Oakland Athletics 11, Cleveland 2
W– Cory Lidle
L – Jake Westbrook
Attendance – 38,830
I started my baseball-park road-tripping in August of 1993. Old Cleveland Municipal Stadium (built in 1931) was still standing, but I just didn't have the funds to make the trip all the way out to Ohio to see the swan-song season of a building almost universally disliked for its appearance and known around the country as "The Mistake By The Lake." Sure, it was featured in a great baseball movie (Major League), but the interior "home stadium" shots were filmed at Milwaukee County Stadium -- almost 450 miles from Cleveland. Only the exterior of Municipal Stadium was visible in the movie.
However, once I started to plan out-of-town trips to see major-league baseball games, two words took up residence in the back of my mind like unwanted house guests: "rain check."
The one good thing about seeing so many games in a domed stadium is that you know you're always going to see games in a domed stadium -- unless, of course, acoustic tiles start falling from the ceiling (but that's a story for the upcoming Kingdome page). Now that I'm spending hundreds of dollars to go watch baseball games in other parts of the country, what happens when one of my games gets rained out? I can't just fly back to watch the makeup game two months later.
Our first trip to Jacobs Field was in mid-September of 1996. Tim took a picture of my wife and I standing in the right-field bleachers near our seats -- with the main scoreboard behind us showing the date and the matchup. Nowadays, my first thought when I see the date is that our game happened back when September 11th was just another day on the calendar. My next thought is (usually) that it had started out to be yet another nice day for an outdoor baseball game.
We bought a pair of tickets from an ex-co-worker of Dawn's who happened to have connections to Indians season tickets. Of course, there were three of us on this trip, but only two tickets and we would have to depend on a scalper (no pun intended) to help us acquire a third Indians' ticket. The Indians hadn't won a division title since the mid-50s, but Jacobs Field was in the middle of only its third season of existence. Tickets were nearly impossible for most people to get because the ownership decided to fill the stadium with season-ticket holders. Therefore, it was difficult for a lot of people to be able to get single-game tickets at any point during the season.
We parked a few blocks away from the stadium and while walking to the game, wondered how long it would take us to get a ticket and how much we'd have to pay. Just as we stepped onto the sidewalk just outside one of the gates, a guy in front holds up one ticket and yells, "Who needs a ticket?" Of course, we were all over him at that point. His extra ticket happened to be along the first-base line on the main level. A great seat for one person. Well, that's where Tim ended up after the two of us did an audio play-by-play for the second inning. Dawn and I sat in the other two seats in the second deck of the right-field bleachers next to a couple of teenage girls who were using binoculars to get a better look at Manny Ramirez's backside.
So, getting back to the weather story finally, as the sun set in the west (off to our right) I could see clouds coming in. When it was fairly dark, I noticed bolts of lightning in that same area. More bolts appeared and they seemed to start from higher up in the sky as time went by. Well, I'm no meteorologist, but I know this means a storm is getting closer. Sure enough, betweeen the 7th and 8th innings, a curtain of rain appeared on the other side of the stadium and moved toward us. People started to run for cover and the game was halted for about an hour. As is typical of a Midwestern storm, it ended as quickly as it had started and the game continued. That's as close to a major-league rainout as I've ever witnessed in person.
Dawn and I stopped by Jacobs Field again in 2001 and the Indians were still bringing in lots of fans for their games. The team even retired a number (455) to denote the number of consecutive games sold out (June 12, 1995 to April of 2001). We decided to do a pre-game tour of the place and when the guide found out where we were from she said, "Sorry, Seattle, but Cleveland has the best fans in baseball." Obviously, that kind of comment bugged me a little because 1) I was taking a tour of a new ballpark that helped team attendance and fortunes and 2) I was in Cleveland, but I waited until most of the group had wandered off to the next stop on the tour before I replied quietly, "Well, that's only because the team is winning right now." She nodded in semi-agreement and sure enough, attendance at Jacobs Field has steadily declined (the 2003 season total was half of the 2000 season total) as the team is now in its third year of a rebuilding period.
As for the park itself, it's one of the best of the new ones. The field has some odd angles, short walls so outfielders can bring potential homers back, left-field bleachers above their out-of-town scoreboard, and "toothbrush" light standards (also in left field). There's a restaurant on the third-base side featuring picture windows which allow patrons a great view of the game. Jacobs Field is also one of those new parks that have helped to make their respective downtown areas more attractive to residents and out-of-towners.
Cleveland's a great sports town and I hope one of their teams wins a title soon. Below are just a few of the pictures we took from the area, but the only ones I have access to (taken during the 2001 trip). From left to right, you're seeing the left-field bleachers, the right-field bleachers, a sculpture near the waterfront, and just outside the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (a cool place even if they don't let you take any pictures whatsoever of the interior exhibits).
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