Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 20, 2007
BLOG: Pennsylvania Travelogue

I have returned from my travels to exotic Pennsylvania. Thanks to Dr. Manhattan for filling in (the other planned guest blogger proved to busy to post).

Citizens Bank Park

We kicked off our trip to Pennsylvania by hitting Citizens Bank Park for a Saturday night game against the Braves (which offered a rare reason to root for the Phillies). We had bought tickets for the Sunday afternoon game, on the theory that a night game would be too late in particular for my 17-month-old daughter, but ESPN decreed that the Sunday game had to be moved to 8pm. Fortunately, the Phillies were very accomodating in exchanging our tickets, and we were able to get a row of six seats even though Saturday ended up being sold out.

It's a beautiful ballpark in the Camden Yards style, with large open-air walkways behind and under the seats. We took the kids to a Build-a-Bear in the lower level before the game, in which you could build a stuffed Phillie Phanatic (note: this was somewhat more of a summary process than your typical Build-A-Bear). We sat in Section 414 on the first base side of the upper deck (from the map you can see the view), which despite the height were good seats except that the steep angle of the upper deck puts you at the mercy of the good sense of the people in the front row to sit down and avoid blocking the view of home plate. Of course, the Phillies fans were not exactly shrinking violets about letting people know to sit down. We were sitting behind a rather indecently vocal collection of Braves fans (the guy in front of us was nice, the others were unwisely loud) and as for the Philadelphia fans, well, the reputation of Philly as the toughest park in the big leagues for the home team is well-deserved. The next day's paper didn't headline the game "Drunk on Boos" for nothing. The phans there hate Pat Burrell almost as much as Mets fans do, and they really hate Adam Eaton, the latter with good reason. I shouldn't laugh since the Mets have Brian Lawrence in the rotation and he is basically the same pitcher, but at least the Mets aren't paying Lawrence $8 million a year. Eaton was terrible, put the Phils in a hole they almost but couldn't quite get out of even against Lance Cormier.

Also on the stadium: the food didn't impress me. The Liberty Bell that lights up for hometown homers was OK but no Magic Apple. The out of town scoreboard along the fence takes some getting used to but is tremendously informative. There are too few places to get the count; I didn't love the layout of the big CF scoreboard. There were a preposterous number of moths in the air for the upper deck. The jerseys? Chase Utley jerseys were definitely the dominant theme. I did see one old-school fan wearing a Doug Glanville jersey. That said, the sign of a baseball town is the proportion of fans wearing the hometown colors, especially the female fans, and the Phillies phans don't disappoint (there were a very large number of young women and teens wearing the identical uniform of colored Phillies T-shirts and very short white shorts).

The racial makeup of the phans is a shock: I know in most towns your baseball crowds are largely white, but to get to Citizens Bank Park you drive through miles of all-black neighborhoods (what looked to my eye like working-class neighborhoods with clean, respectable houses, not slums), but in the park and the parking lot the only black people you see are ticket scalpers.

The Phillie Phanatic comes out at the 7th inning stretch, but unlike Mr. Met he fires hot dogs rather than T-Shirts into the seats. And lemme tell ya, Mr. Met is badly outgunned; while he uses a light shoulder launcher to fire shirts into the crowd, the Phanatic uses a hot dog shaped cannon mounted on a jeep.

Also on the game: I have never seen more dropped third strikes in my life. The Mets bullpen may be a mess but at least we don't have Jose Mesa. And Jeff Francouer has a freaking gun in right field; he uncorked one throw that had my jaw dropping before it was more than two feet out of his hand.

DUKW Tour

On Sunday, we took the "Duck Tour" of Philadelphia, which is cheesy but entertaining (we had always meant to take those tours in Boston and DC but never got around to it). One thing that made me think when we got off: they mentioned that the amphibious DUKW bus/boat you ride around in was manufactured during WWII and that they had sat dormant for years until the idea came to refit them for tourism...it made me wonder: were we riding on a piece of history? I guess that the DUKWs they use for these tours have been extensively refitted from military to civilian uses, but the idea that any part of the vehicle we were riding may have been used in the war gave some additional meaning to a tour that touched on everything from colonial Philadelphia to Rocky.

King Tut

Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia....sorry, couldn't help myself. On Sunday evening, we went to see the King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute. On the whole, the exhibit was interesting, indeed, riveting, just knowing you are looking at things made - in some cases, of wood - multiple thousands of years ago. We went as well to the IMAX film about the excavation of the bodies of many pharoahs in the 1880s. Unfortunately the staff misinfored us about the starting time so we not only missed the beginning but ended up sitting in the front row. The baby's eyes nearly rolled out of her head trying to comprehend an IMAX screen from the perspective of the front row. The film, narrated either by Saruman or Count Dooku, talked about how the pharoahs believed that they would be immortal as long as their names were said, in which case I suppose thy succeeded, but then it also talked about how they were using the mummified bodies of Ramses the Great and other pharoahs to study disease, like they were hoboes who gave their bodies to science for a few bucks. Somehow, I can't imagine they would have approved.

The exhibit starts with relics from tombs other than Tut and works its way up to his immediate family (interesting note: the Egyptian royals may have been primitive but they found time to remember unborn fetuses of the royal family), and then escalated to Tut's own burial chamber and the things on his body...but I was disappointed when it ended with the diadem that crowned his head - and no sarcophagus, no death mask. I guess it's perhaps a politically difficult time to get that stuff out of Egypt but the whole iconography of the exhibit - including the repainting of the museum's steps - is in the image of the sarcophagus. It was a big letdown when nothing of the sort was there.

Instead, after you leave the Tut exhibit, you enter...the gift shop. Which sold, I kid you not, a Tut tissue dispenser modeled on the head of the sarcophagus (you pull Kleenex out of the nose). I guess being donated to science isn't the worst of it. (My son got a Tut baseball - I was disappointed not to see Cap Anson at the Pyramids).

After the gift shop, the next room has a glass case containing Bobby Abreu's #53 Phillies uniform. Talk about being put on metaphor alert.

Hershey

By coincidence, I was vacationing the same place Dr. Manhattan was this week - Hershey, PA. And lemme tellya, Milton Hershey could have taught the pharoahs a thing or two. His name is on the town, it's on the candy company, it's on the amusement park, it's on a school he endowed with $60 million in 1918, there's a statue of him at the amusement park and biographical filmstrips, there are even Kiss-shaped streetlamps on Chocolate Avenue (which intersects with Cocoa).

OK, out of time - short takes on some things I may or may not have time to revisit later: we saw more Amish people at Gettysburg than we did in Amish country; we saw Ratatouille in the theater, and it was no Incredibles but still very entertaining; and Jesus must have a good press agent in Central PA because He has one heck of a lot of billboards in the area.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:40 PM | Baseball 2007 • | Blog 2006-13 • | History | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Phillie fans hate Pat Burrell, and they hated Bobby Abreu.

(Of course, they hated Mike Schmidt for many years too.)

What the hell is wrong with these people?

Posted by: Mike at August 21, 2007 5:50 AM

Did they point out Larry Fine's house on the Duck Tour? I remember they mentioned a few years ago when we took one.

Posted by: soccer dad at August 21, 2007 8:48 AM

Crank, thanks for sharing. Sounds like you had a great time.

Posted by: maddirishman at August 21, 2007 9:41 AM

soccer dad - Yes they did. I don't think the tour changes much over time.

Posted by: The Crank at August 21, 2007 2:28 PM

If you came down from NYC, you went the wrong way if you drove through "through miles of all-black neighborhoods". CBP, like the other Philly arenas, are in South Philly.

FWIW, I was across the street from you that afternoon seeing The Wiggles with my family. I tried to talk them into going to the game afterwards, but alas, they were tired.

The Tut exhibit is pretty impressive. In conjunction with it is a geocaching tour of the city that is interesting to complete. If I had realized you were traveling to Philly, I would have steered you to my shutterspots.

Posted by: Bob at August 21, 2007 6:36 PM

No Scranton? The Crank missed out on visiting the home of his favorite US Senator and the AAA affiliate of his second favorite baseball team in New York. Too bad.

Posted by: seamus at August 23, 2007 2:32 PM

I agree 110% on the Franklin Institute Tut exhibit; it is a ripoff from beginning to end. All the museum's marketing is around the mini-sarcophagus, which they show in extreme close-up. And it looks so much like the large sarcophagus that anyone would think that, well, you know, they have the real one lying around somewhere, except that they don't. Not that there's not interesting stuff -- and there is a big sarcophagus of Tut's mother-in-law or whoever it is -- but it's a major letdown nonetheless.

Posted by: Northbound at August 23, 2007 5:26 PM
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