B is for Baseball Tour

Babe Ruth, Jack Nicholson and a cast of others.

Because she loves us, my wife purchased trolley tour tickets for her father and me with the Albany Aquaducks on Sunday, June 27, the week after Father’s Day; no we didn’t go in the water. The tour was to touch upon the baseball highlights of the area.

We were instructed to meet at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in nearby Troy, NY, generally called “The Joe”, named for the former State Senate majority leader, who was convicted of a couple of counts of corruption (though a subsequent Supreme Court ruling may end up nullifying the charges).

It IS a very nice stadium.

Here’s the peculiar thing, though: at the appointed hour of 2 pm, there were 17 people registered, and apparently paid, to go on the event. Yet the only people present were the driver, the woman from the Aquaducks, our tour guide, my father-in-law, and me.

Our guide was Rip Rowan, for a time the sports guy for WTEN-TV (Channel 10 in Albany), later doing work with the now-defunct Albany-Colonie Yankees, then the Tri-Cities Valleycats, who play in the Joe, until Rip retired in 2009.

Rip and the tour guide were on their cellphones trying to find out where the other customers were. In the meantime, Rip and two ValleyCats employees gave us a tour of the stadium, including the press box, which was air-conditioned, a particular perk on such a hot day.

Back to the vehicle, still with no additional customers, we drove around the area to the former site of Hawkins Stadium in nearby Menands:
New York Yankees play the Albany Senators at Hawkins Stadium before 7,000 fans. Babe Ruth hits three homers in batting practice. In the third inning, Ruth hits the longest homer ever in the city’s history. Ruth plays first base. Lou Gehrig plays left field. (August 9, 1929).

The odd thing is that the backstop is still nearby, 50 years after the stadium was demolished, and in reasonably good condition at that.

We then drove over to Ristorante Paradiso in Albany. Paradiso Owner Matt Daskalakis, who played with the Albany Senators in the 1950s, told his impressions of the sport in the 1950s versus now. It was clear he had practiced his talk with a greater number of participants in mind, but he told his interesting stories to the two of us anyway.

(Paradiso was a set for the Jack Nicholson/Meryl Streep film about a fictionalized Albany, Ironweed, based on the novel by noted local author William Kennedy. I actually saw Nicholson and Mike Tyson backstage at an Anita Baker concert in 1987.)

Next stop, Bleeker Stadium, only about eight blocks from my house, yet I didn’t know, until my father-in-law told me, that Albany now has a team in the New York Collegiate Baseball League. It is a summer (June/July) wood bat development league for professional baseball. The local team, Albany Dutchmen, are in their second season, and were between games of a doubleheader – against two different teams, one game being a makeup game of a rainout. A spokesman told us about the team and the league.

Finally, back to The Joe to watch the Valleycats, a Houston Astros farm team, play against Lowell, a Red Sox farm team. The home team lost but we had fun, eating hot dogs and chips, and drinking our sodas, all part of the package deal.

A story about the 2009 tour, which was somewhat different.

It has occurred to me that my father-in-law likes going to ball games with me because I enjoy baseball so much, whereas his sons are/were more or less indifferent. It took me longer to realize that I enjoy going to the games with him, because he knows the game so well, certainly, but also because it was something I used to do with my dad.
Ball Park Reviews, a website devoted to documenting in words and photos both major and minor league baseball parks across the United States and Canada.

ABC Wednesday – Round 7

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