Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Running of the Bulls

Park on Hiawatha Boulevard, outside the stadium. Save the three bucks or whatever it is now. Moody sky, as in steel-wool and grouchy and changeable. Walk the length of the nearly-empty parking lot. The stadium lights ablaze. The boyhood thrill of the miracle of baseball in the quickening darkness. Big lights big baseball. Seek to buy one ticket at the one ticket window open, giving off a reverential residential light. "We're not selling anymore tickets. Just go right in." "Really?" "Yeah, go ahead." Waltz right through the open main gate, avoiding the turnstile and the turnstile-keepers, who ignore me. Or were they absent? Climb the stairs. The lambent landscape of Martian green with a backdrop of brighter-than-ambient-evening techno-brand-new scoreboard luminescence. Buy coffee. $2. "Need a stirrer?" "Pardon me?" "A stirrer?" "Sure." "Room for cream?" "No." Ask for creamers. Pour in the contents of one. Spy Tex. He is huddled. Hood up. For the first time, I pity him. Does he know he is at a ballgame? Looks terribly lost. And mournful. The 11,000+ seats are blue and visible because they are empty and wet from two days of rain. Maybe 200 or fewer here. Count them, if you want to take the team. Listen to the players. "Three! Three!" an outfielder yells to one of his outfield compadres, telling him to throw to third. Two players from the visiting Durham Bulls get ejected as balls and strikes are argued with the home-plate ump. In the bizarre silence you can hear them argue. "What? Yes, you what?" Sarcastic barbs traded. We the audience hear it as rude eavesdroppers. Similarly, the thin crowd amplifies the shouts of any lone complainer in the crowd, though crowd is not the word. The silly taunts to the HP ump sound all the more juvenile and shrill as the get put on center stage. The whole show has an eerie voyeuristic ambiance. "How many chicken tenders for $7.50?" "Four." "Too many." "How about the fried dough? I'll take that for $3.50." After 5 to 7 minutes, I get four cinnamon- and sugar-coated sticks of fried dough. Best bargain in the house, at least by sheer volume. So far I've spent $5.50 total to get there, park, get in. Foul ball hit to right-field over where the Bulls' bullpen sits, on the field. The foul bounces into the stands. A kid runs toward it. "That's my ball." Not that I care. I'd even give it away. It's just an attempt to be less invisible. As I walk to the five or six guys in the pen, "You know about my book on Game 162?" holding a card of it in my hand. Ignored. Ignored as if there is a Plexiglas wall. Not even a turn or shrug. Nevertheless, I sit right next to them. "Were you up in September?" "No, but he was," a stocky fellow says with a Latino accent but perfect English, nodding to the pitcher to his left, who ignores me. "The Rays will be in the Series," I venture. Ignored. Now I'm angry at them and at me. I'm not a gambler or hustler. Just say you don't want to talk to me. I continue to sit there, the lone human in right field's seats. I'm beginning to hope I'm irritating the bullpen. Then I start to enjoy the amateur-essness and doltishness of the jocks. As if scripted in a bad movie parody, my semi-friendly burly guy says "home run, home run" to any of his batters. It is so silly as to be comical. I walk away because RaysFanGio calls me in answer to my lament describing all this. He tells me the anatomical act he requests of Major League players when they are rude and arrogant to him like that. I wander around the empty, echoing stadium, settling behind the plate talking with two brothers, one a local funeral director who buried Bob Shawkey in Syracuse at the age of 90 in 1980. Shawkey pitched the first game for the Yankees in Yankee Stadium in 1923. Years later when Sehl Burns did go to the Stadium for the first time, he had box seats in left field. Left field? he inquired of the Yankees brass. When he told them he buried Shawkey he was transferred to a seat behind home plate and was treated like a sultan in the house built, as they say, by the Sultan of Swat. After the 2-1 win by the Bulls in Game 2 to gain a split of the double-header (seven innings per game), I see a guy wearing a Tampa Bay Rays hat. "Your team?" He says, "Yes." I tell him I love Joe Maddon and the Rays will be in the Series. And then I hand him and his friend cards telling them about "Baseball's Starry Night." "Oh, I saw that in the paper. That's you?" I walk out the empty parking lot. The CRV is still there on the pavement near Hiawatha Boulevard. The cars that were near it are gone, but the car is there. The stadium lights still glow in back of me.