Metallica, the World Series, and the Future of the Baseball Hall of Fame

October 27th, 2018

I’m sitting in a Tim Horton’s in Buffalo, NY ahead of tonight’s Metallica show, my 5th of the current tour.  (Canadian Maple all the way, btw.)  It’s been a surreal week so far as the baseball gods lined up, starting my week in Boston for Games 1 and 2 of the World Series!

October 23-24th, 2018  (Boston, MA)

I was fortunate enough to go to the World Series back in 2015 to see the Mets/Royals.  It was a fun trip and experience, but it’s so much different when you have an actual rooting interest in a team!  (Hell, in this case you could argue I have a rooting interest in both teams given my history with the Dodgers, but there’s no replacing the Red Sox.)

I’d scheduled my hotel in Boston about a month before, (I actually had 3 different standing reservations depending on how scheduling shook out,) which was huge, since prices for hotels near Fenway ballooned faster than World Series tickets!  I had to wait until a few days before to make my flight, passing on the early morning direct flight, opting instead for a Chicago connecting redeye.  We’ve been fighting a heavy morning fog in Seattle, so I didn’t want to chance a morning flight delay.  As it would turn out, my 1am flight was delayed… because of fog, putting my connecting flight in jeopardy!

I ended up making my connecting flight doors by two minutes after booking it to the B IMG_4380 (2)terminal in O’Hare.  There was a chance I was going to miss it, but I wasn’t super concerned since there were other flights.  I would have been at stress level 100 if that had happened on a morning flight.  (Especially considering what I’d already paid for my ticket, but we won’t talk about that here.)  I caught an Uber to my hotel to check in, then made a quick walk to grab a slice of pizza and take a quick peek at the park.  I was just in Boston back in May, but that didn’t stop the tightening perma-smile I get walking by.  I ran into my friend Jack from camp, who was waiting in the game day tickets line where he was hoping to snag a release closer to game time.  I wished him luck, then hit the hotel for an overdue and extremely necessary nap.

I walked across the overpass to Fenway a few hours ahead of the game to bask in the IMG_4375 (2)pregame energy at the Bleacher Bar, where I met up with another camper, John, and enjoyed a few beers before I was ready to head in.  It was raining and cold, but every drop of rain and every wind-induced shiver was going to be worth it!  I felt a tap on my shoulder on Yawkey – or I guess it’s back to Jersey St.  Jack had gotten a ticket.  Nice!  He texted a friend who was outside the EMC Club to see if we could come up and hang out.  We were in luck, heading in as I saw the first flash of lightning in the distance.

IMG_4384I watched the lightning and sudden deluge of rain with a beer in my hand from outside the EMC Club.  It was a “Who’s Who” of players walking by.  Millar, Sam Horn, Luis Tiant, Remy and more.  Rob Manfred walked by and Dan Shannesey rubbed elbows with the ‘higher end’ crowd.  I was happy to be a fly on the wall.

Shockingly the rain passed in time for the 8:09pm ET first pitch.  The full roster, the starting lineup, the giant flag on the Green Monster.  I was at the World Series.  RAD.

I’m not normally a ‘jersey guy’, it’s just never been my thing, but I made an exception for Game One though.  It’s crazy to think that the last time I’d worn it was in May, when I was playing at Fenway.  To say it’s been a fortunate year would be an understatement.

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The Red Sox take Game 1 behind subpar starts from both Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw.  I was lucky enough to score a ticket stub from the couple in front of me was the first chords of ‘Dirty Water’ echoed through an enthusiastic crowd.

Contrary to weather reports, Wednesday was met with the same rain and cold we’d had

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Whoops. Didn’t see you. Sorry about that, Kevin.

on Tuesday.  (I was happy I’d had layers and hand warmers the night before!)  I tried to time my walk into the city around the rain, but it didn’t work, and the rain was coming down in buckets when I ducked into Modells.  I brushed away the rain before bumping into a guy in the store.  Whoops.  Sorry about that, Kevin Millar.  As it happened, Nathan Eovaldi (who ended up being a stud in the series) was doing a signing there.

I finished my walk with a pair of slices from Ernesto’s in the North End before making my way back, about 6 miles in total.  I eat all kinds of junk on the road, so my random walks for hours at a time are the only thing that keeps things from getting out of hand.  (Even so, I try and avoid the scale my first few days back.) 

I kept an eye on ticket prices for Game 2 before pulling the trigger 2 hours before game time.  Prices stayed stronger than I expected, but when you think about it, it makes sense.  The Red Sox were 1-0.  Win tonight and you’re two games away with 3 games in LA.  I think fans started doing the mental math and realized they might not get to see them again.  (Which they didn’t, btw.)

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Red Sox win and go 2-0.  For me, it’s off to Philly for Show #4 of the tour!

October 25th, 2018  (Philadelphia, PA)

Working on the road is a blessing and a curse!  The flexibility of being able to do my job 2,000 miles away is a plus, but it can also turn a 5hr drive into 6-7 at a moment’s notice.

I got into Philly with just enough daylight to run the steps and get a shot with Rocky.  I’d been to Philly twice before, including back in August, but never had the time until today.

I made it to the Wells Fargo Center as the dusk faded to blackness.  I still had an hour and IMG_4609a half before the short and was famished, so I took the quick mile walk to the Philadium for a cheesesteak.  I had done Pat’s and Geno’s the time before and was hoping to try another few places before I leave.  Philadium was good, but it needed more cheese and a better bun.  The grease just kind of settled in there.  I made it back in plenty of time.  (Less than an hour to walk two miles and eat a cheesesteak.  Not bad!)  Metallica put on a great show like always.  ‘The Day That Never Comes’ and ‘Phantom Lord’ were both unexpected surprises!  I hadn’t seen them play Phantom Lord since 2011.

The end of the show felt like I was in a ‘splash zone’.  I scored a bunch of picks, including an elusive White Fang!  Getting out of the arena was a total cluster.  I’ve had an easier time getting out of Dodger Stadium!  I passed on cheesesteaks after the show; my hotel had a small window left to check in, so I stopped to check in, then hit the pizza place around the corner to finish out the night.

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October 26th, 2018

The highlight of today was the baby-sized (not small, as in the size of an actual baby) cheesesteak at John’s Roast Pork.  This thing was good.  Damn good.  Great flavor, texture was good, and just the right amount of cheese.  It’s probably my favorite so far, although I appreciate the clean flavor at Pat’s too.  (I compare Pat’s to eating candy.)

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Sufficiently stuffed I hit the road for what was close to a 7hr drive to Buffalo.  Ugh.  By the time I got to Buffalo it was dark, which is one of the few negatives to traveling in the Fall/Winter.  Hot wings are the thing to eat in Buffalo, but I don’t like wings.  I did a littleIMG_4729 searching and found another local specialty, the ‘Beef on Weck’.  The Weck is the bun/roll.  The top is covered in coarse sale then lightly dipped in au jus.  It was a nice snack, but I prefer a good pit beef sandwich from Baltimore.

I’d planned on an earlier night, until Game 3 went over 7hrs and 18 innings!  Jesus!  The Red Sox lose, but still up 2-1.  The game ends after 3:30am, but at least I’m already in Buffalo and don’t have the drive ahead of me in the morning. 

October 29th, 2018  (Albany, NY)

What day is it?  Saturday and Sunday were a couple of great days!  I was able to watch another kick ass Metallica show, the Cougs beat Stanford to go 7-1, and the Red Sox won games 4 and 5 to take home another World Series Championship!  Couple of great days?  Hell, it’s been a great week!

I parked in Buffalo close to 6hrs early to catch up on the journal as well as avoid any stress getting to the arena.  I did a quick drive by earlier and it looked like the right play.  I was able to catch the first hour of the Cougar game with a steak before walking across the street for my 5th show of the tour.

Like Philly, there were a few surprises!  ‘Leper Messiah’ and ‘Four Horsemen’.  Nice!  (This was only my second time seeing Horsemen live.  The last time was in San Antonio – As it would happen, I was even on the big screen at that moment in San Antonio, going bananas!)  It wasn’t ‘raining’ picks like the last show, but I was still able to score a few, including a song-used pick from James!  I’d had his pick glance off my fingertips in Philly, but scored this one after ‘Moth Into Flame’.  I was out of Buffalo, to my hotel, and in bed before 1:30am, my earliest night of the week, then up bright and early at 7am for my drive to Cooperstown.

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I’ve been to Cooperstown before, but it was ‘kind of’ on the way to Albany, so I made the trek.  I was curious to see if they did anything different during the World Series, but outside of a scoreboard out front, it could have been any Sunday of any month, which was a little disappointing.  Why not have a World Series exhibit setup during October, or even better yet a ‘haunted’ HOF?  Seems like missed opportunities for the museum. 

I’ll be honest, there were quite a few missed opportunities in Cooperstown.  Outside of one changing display, it was pretty much the exact hall I’d explored a few years ago, well, with one exception:  Businesses.  Cooperstown was littered with vacant storefronts.  I know we’re to the slow season, so I guess it makes sense that so many shops would be closed, but these were vacant.  I heard someone ask a shop owner how he did this year.  His response was ‘same as last year’.  There was no inflection or enthusiasm in his voice.  Same as last year?  Is that a good or bad thing?  Judging by the main street, my bet is not great.

For as much as I still love baseball, there’s no denying that it feels like a bit of a danger zone right now.  Games are stretching longer and longer, while the public’s attention span gets shorter and shorter.  Being at the Hall reinforces that too, its visitors a slow, steady trickle of mostly old people.  (Like me.)  A busload of teens came during my visit, which seemed weird for a Sunday.  They came in like a tornado and probably finished in under a half hour.  To them the Hall is just a collection of old stuff.  I love looking at old stuff, but how is the Hall evolving for kids?  Games, VR, better movies (still the same movies…), what are they changing to move with the trends?  There are ways to blend young and old, and the Hall needs to figure it out!  The same could be said for shop owners.

Businesses need to embrace change too.  It’s like 90% of the stores bought from the same vendor 20 years ago, and never turned over their inventory.  These shops are priced like their customers don’t have any money.  They’re all competing on price.  I’d contend that’s the exact opposite of where they should go.  Going to ballgames, sadly, has never been more expensive.  If a family is going to Cooperstown (which is in the middle of nowhere) they’re going for an experience.  An experience, which in most cases, they would pay for!  I should see more stores like ‘Baseballism’, and less stores that look like a t-shirt shop in Depoe Bay, Oregon.

Speaking of an experience you’d pay for, the Hall is missing there too.  I paid $23 to get in.  (I was a HOF member for around 10yrs before letting it lapse this year.)  I would have paid $500 for an enhanced experience like the VIP tour at Universal Studios the girls and I went though a few years ago.  I guarantee I’m not the only one.

Sorry, rant over.

I ended the afternoon at Cooperstown Cigar Company, picking up a few for a potential victory smoke, as well as a really cool looking cedar box, for roughly $50.  I didn’t buy a single $10 t-shirt.

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I had planned on watching Game 5 in Coooperstown, but decided to drive all the way to Albany instead.  Cooperstown on a Fall Sunday evening is Deadsville.  They just weren’t IMG_4887going to have the vibe I was looking for.  I ended up watching the game at Juniors, a sports bar a mile or so from my hotel, where I had one of the better bar pizzas I’ve had, by the way.  The Red Sox won and I celebrated with a cigar when I got back to my hotel.  I put my headphones in and listened to ‘Dirty Water’, the smoke drifting into the cold.   I was relieved they won.  I didn’t want the pressure of making a decision to stay or go since my flight was scheduled to leave on the day of Game 6 in Boston.  Phew!  Bullet dodged.

October 30th, 2018

The Albany show was good, but definitely the most low-key of the tour.  The crowd, quite honestly, wasn’t great.  Sorry Albany, it just wasn’t.  The band feeds on energy, so this show ended up just kind of being there.  ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ was the highlight.  Any Metallica is better than no Metallica, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was already looking ahead to some other shows where I know the crowds will ‘bring it’.

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This morning was the drive back to Boston.  I’d looked at an earlier flight, but the timing just wasn’t going to work out with the 3hr-ish drive from Albany.  Plus, I saw the World Series banner was up, so I had to stop by for a picture!  (Along with a lot of people, it was busy down there!)  One last look at Fenway was the perfect way to end what was an amazing, and truly surreal week.

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Next up, San Francisco for the ‘All Within My Hands’ benefit show, my first opportunity to see acoustic Metallica!

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