In 2000 we weren't able to go away for as long a trip as we had in the past but we were still able to get in four games, three of which were in ballparks none of us had visited before.
The trip got off to a strange start when we got stuck in a traffic jam on Rte 95 after Dave picked up DC and Dan when they flew into Baltimore from Vermont on August 12. We were inching along
when Dan pointed out a Vermont license plate and DC noticed that he actually knew the driver! Sometimes it is a small world.
On Monday, August 14 we got up and flew out of Dulles Airport near Washington, headed for Houston. We changed planes in Dallas - when they say everything is big in Texas, they were
certainly on the mark regarding airports - both Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport and Bush International Airport in Houston are huge.
We always try to get a little non-baseball culture on these trips so after checking into our hotel we headed for The Houston Space Center, a private enterprise which acts as the visitor's
center for The Johnson Space Center. The Houston Space Center has some interesting exhibits but it is mostly filled with arcade type games and rides. However, part of the price of admission is
a tour of The Johnson Space Center which was very interesting. We saw Mission Control and the area where astronauts were training for work on the International Space Station.
Houston was very, very hot - Dave quickly discovered that New Englanders don't fare well in Texas in August. DC and Dan were quickly missing their mild Vermont summer.
After we finished the Space Center tour, it was off to Enron Field, the brand new home of the Houston Astros. Enron Field replaced The Astrodome, whose construction was a black mark on the
history of stadiums - it was the first domed stadium and introduced artificial turf to the world. That was in the time of the multi-purpose stadium, places built for baseball and football
resulting in big, ugly cement circles with artificial turf and no character. Enron is part of a new trend in stadium design - the retractable roofed ballpark. Neither of the Two Guys is big
on the roofed stadium concept but we all had to admit that it was pretty nice to walk into Enron Field and have the temperature drop from the mid 90s to the mid 70s.
Part of the retractable assembly is a large glass wall which folds up when the roof is opened. When the roof is closed, there is still a lot of natural light coming in through this glass
wall and you can see outside the ballpark which makes the roof seem less obtrusive. The field is asymetrical and has a hill in center field which is in play - we actually saw two balls hit up
there (which would have been home runs in most ballparks), one of which fell for a double and one of which was caught on a fine running catch by the Astro's centerfielder. There is also a train
which runs along the left field wall whenever an Astro hits a home run. The game was a laugher - the Astros scored 14 runs - but stayed interesting because the Astro pitcher tossed no-hit ball
into the seventh inning, aided by a couple of nice fielding plays.
We were pretty pleased by Enron Field - a pleasant surprise because of our anti-roof feelings.
In front of the Apollo 18 Saturn rocket and Apollo capsule, a mission which never flew.
Enron Field in Houston, TX
The next morning we headed for Dallas. There isn't much to see between the two cities but we decided to make a stop in Dallas before heading to our hotel in Irving.
We stopped at Dealy Plaza, the site of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
The sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository building has been turned into a museum. While none of us are experts on the assassination, the museum didn't tell us a tremendous amount we didn't
already know. It is pretty even handed - it refers to the various conspiracy theories but doesn't take a stand on any particular one. Among other artifacts it contains all of the cameras used
to take the most famous photos of the incident including the movie camera Abraham Zapruder used, which still has an FBI evidence sticker attached to it.
But you get quite a chill when you look out the window in the corner of the building, the one where Oswald's sniper's nest was. It makes you wonder how the Secret Service could have NOT
checked out this building and kept people out of it - the shot was probably not very difficult from there, it's not very far and the motorcade had to slow down to negotiate the hairpin turn right
below the window.
All in all, a very sobering experience.
This picture was taken from the spot where Kennedy's car was when he was hit. The Texas Book Depository Building is the one on the left. The square window on the second floor from the
top is the one from which Oswald (or whoever) fired.
After that we headed for our hotel, passing Texas Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys on the way. While these trips are all about baseball, we have to take time out and comment on what a
dump this place is - it looks much smaller and significantly dirtier in person than it does on televison. DC pointed out that it looked like a big circus tent. The fact that DC roots for the
New York Giants and Dave
is was a big Washington Redskins fan should in no way reflect any bias towards the evil Cowboys.
Then it was off to The Ballpark in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers. From the outside, this is a beautiful ballpark. The parking lots are set back from the stadium, which sits on a
hill with a lake at the foot of it. It looks almost like a castle sitting up there.
We went inside and found our way to our seats. Over the years we have gone to several ballparks where tickets are scarce so we have gotten into the habit of buying tickets for the games on
our trips as soon as possible - we would hate to travel a long way and then not be able to get into a sold out game. We felt we had to get tickets right away for our game in Arlington - the
Rangers had been perennial contenders for the last few years before 2000 and they would be playing the World Champion New York Yankees this night. So Dave had logged onto the Rangers website and
bought tickets for this game literally the minute they became available. Given that, you can imagine our surprise when we went to our (very expensive) seats and Dave found himself looking not at
the field but at a pole! Not just a little ways in front of him - directly in front of the seat. You expect that in one of the old classic ballparks but not in a stadium that opened in the 1990s!
The people in the ticket office were very helpful. They said this only occured when people bought tickets on the Internet (which didn't explain why there was a seat there in the first place.)
They moved us into great seats, right on the concourse level near home plate. This is the area where people in wheelchairs sit. The seats we were given are normally used by people accompanying
the wheelchair bound ticket holders.
The Ballpark in Arlington is beautiful from the outside. On the inside it is dominated by a large office building in center field which doesn't do much for the atmosphere. If they had chosen
to make it an open ballpark instead of building that it would be very nice - the right field double deck bleachers are an obvious homage to Tiger Stadium and the hand operated scoreboard is a
nod to Fenway Park.
The people sitting next to us had come with someone in a wheelchair. The offered us an extra ticket from where they normally sat - directly behind home plate, about five rows up. Dan jumped
at the chance and spent most of the game down there. He was in heaven, especially since the Yankees destroyed the Rangers. Dave noted (without too much bitterness) that the last time he
saw this franchise play a home game was in 1971 in RFK Stadium, when they were the Washington Senators - and on this night the Rangers played like the Senators of old.
Outside the Ballpark in Arlington
Inside the Ballpark in Arlington
Dan says "You know what I think?" one too many times
The next day we got up at the crack of dawn and flew to Atlanta. Dave's father-in-law, Charles Kempter is a big Braves fan. He had moved to Florida in the early 1980s when there were no teams
in that state. Like everyone else with cable, he had access to practically all of the Braves games and became a fan. But he had never seen them play in person. In 2000 Charles turned 75 so
when we decided to go to this game, Dave offered to bring him up as a birthday present. He accepted and was there to meet us when we got off the plane in Atlanta.
We had a few hours to kill before the game so we took the train into town and did the tour of CNN Center. We were a little surprised to find that CNN's newsroom is about five times larger
than Mission Control in Houston. Dan was given the opportunity to read a news story off of a teleprompter, which he did beautifully. They should have let him do an editorial - like
most 14 year olds, Dan is not shy about stating his opinion, whether it has any basis in fact or not.
Then it was off to Turner Field. It's a pretty nice ballpark, but kind of non-descript. Turner Field was originally built as the track-and-field stadium for the 1996 Olympics. It was designed
so that when the Olympics ended it could be easily reconfigured as a baseball stadium. There are statues of several famous Braves in a plaza outside the stadium. You get a nice view of downtown
Atlanta from Turner's upper deck. You can also see the parking lot which is the site of the Braves previous stadium. That in itself wouldn't be all that interesting except for the fact that
they have retained a small portion of the old outfield fence from Fulton County Stadium - the spot where Hank Aaron's record breaking 715th home run cleared the fence.
As hot as it had been in Texas, the weather was even more uncomfortable in Atlanta, probably because it was a day game. There were very few people in the ballpark, so few that the ushers
came up to us before the game and told us to feel free to move back into the shade. We took them up on that and ended up in the middle of a bunch of people who weren't there to see the game,
they were on an office trip of some sort. That's fine but they were interfering with our view of the game so we moved again - downstairs, under cover in very good seats. Since there were so few
people in the ballpark, the ushers didn't care.
A couple of older men sitting behind us asked about the caps - "What exactly are you pushing?" DC explained that we went on these trips every couple of years and how the name Two Guys and A
Map had come about. (For that story, see 1991 - The Lost In Cleveland Tour). They replied "Oh! We thought they said Two
GAYS and A Map!"
Oops. We quickly told them that we aren't gay ("not that there's anything wrong with that" to quote Jerry Seinfeld) and decided that any future Two Guys apparel should use block lettering
instead of hard-to-read script.
We saw a good game - the Braves came from behind in the eighth to win, helped by the fact that Padres pitchers hit three batters. Andres Gallaraga, the comeback story of the year
(he missed the entire 1999 season with cancer and came back to hit over .300 in 2000) hit a home run and Dave got to see one of his favorite ex-Orioles, B.J. Surhoff who had been traded to the
Braves as a salary dumping move a few weeks before.
The Braves have worked out a great system for getting people away from the ballpark. We were on a bus and back at the train station fifteen minutes after the last pitch of the game.
It was very efficient - much easier than getting a car out of the parking lot appeared to be. We headed out to the airport where Charles boarded a flight back to Florida and we headed back to
Dulles Airport. It was a very long but fun day - all four of us had a great time.
Two Guys and a Mapholder with
honorary Two Guy Charles Kempter
The small green rectangle over
Dan's shoulder is the fence
Hank Aaron's 715th home run cleared
Turner Field in Atlanta, GA
The next day Dave, DC and Dan headed for Baltimore and an afternoon game between the Orioles and the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox had the best record in baseball at that time and the
Orioles were struggling to say the least. Baltimore had come into the season with a payroll of more than $80 million and a roster full of overpaid, underachieving veterans. As a result they
played well below expectations and ended up dumping salaries at the trading deadline. At this point they were playing a lot of younger players since they had no shot at the playoffs. The younger
players weren't winning many more games than the old vets but they hustled and took extra bases and manufactured runs - overall, they were much more fun to watch. On this day they even won when
James Baldwin of the White Sox completely lost control and hit four batters (bringing us to an unheard of total of seven in the last two days including the Braves game).
That was it for the 2000 Tour - after the game we headed for BWI Airport where DC and Dan caught a plane home. Apparently they hadn't had enough baseball as two weeks later the entire Cohn
family went on a trip to Seattle where they caught a game at Safeco Field, the home of the Mariners - DC swears the timing of the trip had nothing to do with the fact that the Mariner's opponent
was the Yankees.
Next up - The Two Guys & a Map Midlife Crisis Tour.