Friday, August 24, 2007

Game #21: The Winner Is.... The Polish Sausage

Into every vacation, a little rain must fall. Fortunately, after losing a couple of hours to rain delays the day before at Wrigley, the next couple of games were both held at roofed stadiums, this one at Milwaukee’s Miller Park, whose fan-like retractable roof was definitely the most notable feature of the ballpark. Collapsing to the baseline walls when open, the individual roof segments close to form an almost spider-like (from the outside) lattice inside the park. It’s an odd, but remarkably intriguing look, especially given the tremendous size of the mechanical structure. It’s completely different in look and feel from SkyDome in Toronto, and front what I hear, different again from Seattle’s Safeco Field. Perhaps they’re still trying to figure out what quite works, and given that there are stories that this one working quite as intended, this may not be the ideal solution either. But, it’s definitely worth taking a look at.

Beyond the roof, Miller Park is a really nice park, and, with the Brewers battling for 1st place in the NL Central, they’ve been filling it up game-after game. We were very fortunate, as having expected to have to settle for standing-room tickets (Milwaukee isn’t exactly a scalper’s paradise), there turned out to be some rather good tickets available at the box office that hadn’t been available online only a couple of hours before. Perhaps these were originally the team’s or the league’s, but either way, we weren’t complaining.

I was joined at the game, for the second time in a week, by Fabio, Irina, and Stefania, who, given the miserable weather outdoors, figured that an indoor ballgame would be a good way to spend their Sunday afternoon. It was good to see the lack of home-team run support by the White Sox hadn’t scared them away, and we were indeed treated to a much closer, and more tightly fought, match this time around.

There was some sort of mist and/or haze inside, perhaps due to the rain and all the humidity, but it didn’t interfere with our ability to appreciate the play. Also, and unfortunately, there’s a bit of a gap between the top of the HR fences and the crowd, which means that many home run balls may not actually make it into the hands of fans. That wasn’t a problem for our game, though, as most of the many home runs we saw went well out of the park.

This being Wisconsin, the pre-game entertainment was heavily tailgating-dominated. While we didn’t partake, the terrible weather did nothing to discourage many of the diehards, who were grilling, drinking, and playing away to their hearts’ desire in the vast expanses of parking lot outside.

I was impressed by the enthusiasm with which people participated in the national anthem, singing along in full voice, with the anthem placed almost immediately before the first pitch. I’ve often found it ironic that baseball, for which the pre-game anthem and “Play Ball!” call are so much a part of the common lore, often under-sells the anthem, while hockey games almost uniformly create a great and hair-raising experience.

The game itself featured plenty of fireworks, both figuratively and literally. With each Brewers home run, their mascot, Bob the Brewer, slides down a curved slide high above left field while fireworks are set off, even inside the closed dome. Fortunately for us, this game featured plenty of Brewers home runs, though unfortunately it featured plenty of Reds home runs as well. In the end, despite taking a quick 5-0 lead, the Brewers lost, remarkably for the 16th straight time in which starter Chris Capuano started a game (yikes!). And really, he didn’t pitch *that* badly, though he was definitely left in just a few batters too long.
See video of a Brewers home run celebration here.

Of course, the big highlight of any Brewers game is the famous sausage race. I’ve included video of this in the photo album as well. For our race, the Polish Sausage came first, leaving neither Fabio nor I in the money in our side betting, though Fabio still maintains that instant replay would have proven the Brat the true winner.
See video of the sausage race here.

The brat, meanwhile, was the hands-down winner in our evaluation of the classic Milwaukee trademark foods, i.e. the range of sausages available. It outdid both the Italian and the Polish (pictured), while we figured the hot dog clearly wouldn’t be able to compete. The new entrant, the chorizo, didn’t make it into our taste test – I’m only willing to give up my body so far for this trip.

Last but not least, Bob Uecker, longtime Hall-of-Fame radio announcer for the Brewers and star of Mr Belvedere and (co-star of) Major League, is still going strong, and, we realized at the end, was sitting pretty much right behind us. No autographs, but we did get a good look at him.

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