The Let Teddy Win Blog

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There are a zillion blogs out there. Many of them are very
well designed and feature great content. Many others are designed and feature
content. And there are a select few that not
only are well designed and feature great content, but also revolve around a clever
and unusual theme.

Let Teddy Win
is one such blog. The author of “Let Teddy Win”, Scott Ableman, chronicles almost
daily the fortunes of U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt in the Presidents’ Race
that takes place at every Washington Nationals home game. I came across it looking
for information about Nationals Park–which it wasn’t short on, I should mention.

Ableman is the CMO of Simplexity, an
e-commerce company based in Reston, VA, and a Nationals season-ticket holder. In
response to my e-mail asking him about it, he shared with me that he started
the blog when his young son pointed out that Teddy Roosevelt never wins the
Presidents’ Race, and he inexplicably found no information about this on the
Nats’ website. This is surprising; reading the blog, you would almost think he
was employed by the Nationals.
(And I mean that in a good way.)

The Presidents’ Race–featuring all of the Mount Rushmore
presidents–is Washington’s answer to the Sausage Race at Miller Park, and with
all due respect to the racing sausages, I’d say the Presidents’ Race is more
entertaining. And it is so largely because of the inept foibles of America’s 26th
President, who never emerges victorious. The reasons for his losses, as
reported on in Let Teddy Win, are often amusing: getting
tackled by someone wearing a Grinch costume
, passing
out Hispanic Heritage T-shirts during the race
, or losing his
glasses
. Teddy is the Wile E. Coyote of his day.

The blog is, ultimately, a Washington Nationals blog, and
comments on Nationals issues of the day–but the news is usually tied in with
Ableman’s unwavering support of the still winless President. When Stan Kasten recently
departed as president of the Nationals, Let Teddy Win openly pondered whether
the team would now take a tougher stance on Abe Lincoln’s cheating.

It can’t be easy to write a blog based entirely on a 30-second
between innings event and manage to make it an enjoyable read, but Ableman
pulls it off, and consistently so. He stays on top of the Presidents’ Race standings, posts
videos of other appearances of the Presidents, and occasionally pays some lip
service to what happened in the game as well. On top of that, for anyone
interested in seeing this Presidents Race that all of the fuss is about, Ableman
informs readers of Teddy-related promotions that the Nats occasionally offer to
fans.

Nationals Park is beautiful, and this is a team that appears
to be on the rise. But while they are yet a subpar team, there is an
entertaining between-innings skit that, while maybe not worth the price of
admission, provides chat fodder and amusement for the team’s fans. All made
possible by a very well-done and highly original blog.

Let Teddy Win: http://blog.letteddywin.com/

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Secret Stadium Sauce at Miller Park

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Wisconsin is brat country, something I learned too late
after my first trip to Miller Park.

While I liked Miller, I was a little bit miffed at the low
quality of the hot dog. I believe at the time I declared it to be the worst dog
I’d ever had at a ballgame, and I liked Wendy Selig less afterward for it.
(This was in 2001 when she still owned the Brewers.) As far as I was concerned,
there was no excuse for a ballpark in Wisconsin to have a lousy hot dog.

It became a theory of mine after learning that Milwaukee is
the only ballpark that sells more brats than hot dogs that the lesser dog was
intentional, as a way to get folks to buy more brats. I was probably wrong on
that one, although I’m not yet totally convinced.

Sausages at Miller Park are available in four varieties for
varying tastes. There is the Wisconsin brat, the Italian, the Polish, and the
Mexican chorizo. The four flavors are very different, but according to most
accounts, the one thing that makes them all taste better is the Secret Stadium
Sauce.

Secret Stadium Sauce is a Milwaukee institution, carried
over from the days at Milwaukee County Stadium. It is a blend of water, tomato
paste, corn syrup, vinegar, a blend of spices and capsicum.

The story of its creation is one of necessity being the
mother of invention: close to 40 years ago, the team’s concessions were running
out of ketchup and mustard, so a stadium vendor named Rick Abramson put
together a concoction of ketchup, mustard, smoked syrup and barbecue sauce,
slapped it all together, and became president of Delaware North Companies
Sportservice. Now there’s a company that recognizes genius when they see it.

Since that time the Secret Stadium Sauce has become a Milwaukee institution, with its own Wikipedia entry and Facebook page even. Indeed, baseball authorities Tony Kubek and Bob Costas would
trade off broadcasting duties when announcing games in Milwaukee, so they could
each enjoy their brats with Secret Stadium Sauce without enduring endlessly
long seconds of delay between bites.

Like the Stadium Mustard in Cleveland, the Secret Stadium
Sauce is available in local grocery stores in Milwaukee, which means that there
is also no shortage of it in the world-class tailgating scene of Miller Park
parking lots.

Condiments – bringing people together.

Citizens Bank Park – A Must Visit For Any Baseball Fan

I live in South Jersey, which is unequivocally Philadelphia sports country. Nobody around here is a Giants or Rangers or Knicks fan, and the occasional Devils fan you find is not very vocal about it. People here bleed Eagles green, Flyers orange and Phillies red, and no one cares too much about the 76ers.

 

I don’t live and die with the Flyers’ fortunes and care much less about the Eagles, but I must admit that the new, revitalized sports complex in Philadelphia is quite the sight, especially driving by it on I-95 on the way to or from the Philadelphia Airport. The outside of the new hockey/basketball arena is impressive to look at, Lincoln Financial Field is beautifully in your face off of the highway, and if you’re heading north (as you would be coming from the airport) it saves the best for last, the view of the stunning relatively new home of the Phillies, Citizens Bank Park.

 

The designers got just about everything right–from natural grass to the red brick fa├žade to the unique octagon shape. From the scoreboard to the sightlines to the counters in the concourse areas. From Bull’s BBQ to Tony Luke’s to Harry The K’s restaurant. Even the ushers are as nice as can be–which wasn’t always the case at their former home, Veterans Stadium. Citizens Bank Park is modern and humble at the same time, and that’s a more difficult feat to pull off than it looks.

 

To many baseball people, the only flaw of the Bank is its location away from the heart of the city. But they certainly maximized what they had, with ample parking and an Ashburn Alley that may not have happened in the cramped quarters of Center City (downtown for you non-Philadelphians).

 

It’s great that the new ballpark in Philadelphia was so well done. Philly’s reputation as a harsh, unpleasant sports town full of perpetually surly fans was worsened by the Vet, a concrete artificial turf donut known more for its jail cell than its baseball ambience. With its new baseball-only ballpark, people come to Phillies games and think of beloved local heroes like Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn, both of whom are nicely honored in the team’s new home. They see great pitchers who are also likable fellows in Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, who could have gone anywhere. They see a father who hugs his daughter after she throws the foul ball he caught back on the field. And if Philly is good enough for them, how bad could it be?

 

It also doesn’t hurt that the Phils are fielding an exciting team these days, a team that is full of colorful personalities and piling up winning seasons. The Phils are going to be one tough ticket this year, with perhaps the strongest starting rotation this writer has seen in his life.

 

I’m fortunate enough to be living just a 20-minute drive away, but wherever you live, you really should make the trip to Citizens Bank Park to see a Phillies game. You won’t regret it, especially if you’ve been to the Vet and can compare. Philadelphia went from having one of the worst venues in baseball to having one of the best, and now seeing a game is always a much more enjoyable experience.

 

And if you go armed with some knowledge, you can avoid the considerable traffic, park in a spot that will get you out easily, take the train without stopping everywhere, find a pretzel and drinks outside, get a hot dog for $1 and a gluten-free dog for your lovely celiac afflicted wife, decide which brand of cheesesteak at the game suits your taste, drink a free soda, and find a beer much cheaper than the ballpark price.

 

Believe it or not, despite having gone to close to two dozen games at Citizens Bank Park since its opening in 2004, I did not know how to do any of these things before researching for the Citizens Bank Park E-Guide.

 

Now you can too. And you should. The Bank is not to be missed.

 

A Goodwill Gesture: A Free Beer at the Ballgame

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Even in the most comfortable of great seats in some of
today’s ballparks, chances are you’re going to be sitting closer to a stranger
than you’d like. This, especially for somewhat introverted people like me, can
be a source of discomfort. Introducing yourself to strangers, something our
parents always told us not to do, is difficult, and we just want to have a good
time at the ballgame.

But you’ll likely get to talking to folks a little bit, as I
have done many times. And you’ll discover that you may have a few things in
common. Of course you do. You love baseball enough to pay the considerable price
to see it live, even if it means sitting just inches away from strangers.
Something in the brain must be functioning properly.

I find that nothing builds up goodwill with your new and
intimately placed neighbor than buying that person a beer, if they’re the sort
that likes one or two at the game.

It’s a friendly enough gesture anywhere to offer someone a
beer, but at ballpark prices, it’s above and beyond. Most ballparks charge
upwards of $7 for a brew nowadays, so you’re being especially generous there.
Maybe I’m weird, but while $7 is too much for me to buy a beer for my own self,
I don’t consider it overpriced as a matter of building a rapport with the
fellow in the seat next to me. What the heck, while I’m establishing
solidarity, I’ll have one too.

I remember my first trip to then-Jacobs Field. I was by
myself wearing Orioles gear. When I first sat down in my lone upper level seat,
there was no one to my right, and the guys to my left were not overly friendly
to the partisan outsider fan. Not unfriendly, but not shaking my hand or
anything either.

The people sitting to my right found their seats shortly
after the game started, and they chatted me up a little bit, which I
appreciated. I wasn’t causing a scene or anything else that ticks off the home
fans, but I thought it was nice anyway. So I bought both of them a beer–and
then the guy on my left suddenly started becoming friendlier, asking me how
many strikeouts Jamie Moyer had (I was keeping score). Coincidence? I think
not!

Another time, in my first trip to Toronto, a nice Canadian
chap was fascinated by the idea of my taking the trip all the way from New
Jersey to see SkyDome, and bought me a Labatt’s, assuring me that I did not
need to return the favor when I told him I couldn’t afford to. Up to that
point, I hadn’t had a drop, and the beer was good and cold. And I will always
think highly of that gentleman, as I would hope the Indians fans I shared brews
with would think of me.

Buying a beer for your neighbor is a swell thing to do for a
few reasons. First, of course, is the money you’ve saved them. I don’t mean
this in a way to say people are selfish, but while they may pinch pennies when
it comes to buying beer at the game, they will gladly drink one offered by
someone else with no strings attached. Second, a beer will help the person
loosen up and relax and not feel so uptight about sitting so close to a stranger.
Third, there’s a fair chance that the recipient of your largesse will return
the favor. Win-win-win!

And if you have a great time at the ballgame–which often
comes simply from having an enjoyable, relaxed, I’m-just-happy-I’m-not-at-work
conversation with the person next to you during the contest–isn’t that worth
$7?

Just don’t drink and drive, at least not in that order.

How To Take The Green Line “T” To Fenway

Most everyone who goes to Red Sox games at Fenway Park has two recommendations on getting there: don’t drive, and take the “T”.

 

Driving to and parking at Fenway Park can be done (especially with the aid of a Fenway Park E-Guide), but it can be a struggle to find affordable parking close to the ballpark, and even if you do, getting out will take some time. In some places you’re at the mercy of someone who has parked you in, never a good thing. Unless you’re familiar with the area, you’re much better off using the “T”, as Bostonians refer to it.

 

The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) operates several subway lines across the city of Boston proper, and they are among the cleaner and more efficient of big city transit systems. There are four color-coded subway lines; Red (for the crimson colors of Harvard University where it originally ended), Blue (for the water on the nearby shoreline and Boston Harbor), and Orange (for Orange Street at the middle, now called Washington Street) all connect with the Green Line at some point, which in turn takes riders to the Kenmore Station, a short stroll over the Massachusetts Turnpike to Fenway Park. The Green Line is so named because it passes through the “Emerald Necklace” section of Boston.

 

The Green Line has four separate routes: B, C, D and E, all of which end at different stations. All but E stop at Kenmore; the E train veers off north of Kenmore but stops at the Prudential Center, which is about a ten block walk to the ballpark. The D route of the Green Line stops at a “Fenway” Station; this is not terribly far from the ballpark but is not the actual Fenway Park exit. This may be for the benefit of Yankees fans, to wear them out before the game.

 

You should use the T for no other reason than to share the whole Fenway experience. On game days the Green Line becomes packed with Red Sox fans heading to Fenway, and after games trains become similarly sardine-packed. But this is of no nevermind to Red Sox fans, many of whom were smart enough to stay slim in order to fit into those Grandstand seats. A member of Red Sox Nation has no problem sharing a small space with a fellow member in good standing. And if they don’t feel like being crammed into a train, they wait out the crowds at fine establishments like Cask-N-Flagon or Boston Beer Works.

 

If you’re looking for more spacious alternatives, you could use the E route on a nice day if you don’t mind the walk, which would keep you out of the standing room only crowd that only knows to not use the E. Or you could use the Orange Line and get off at the Back Bay Station–this is a few blocks east of the Prudential Center. That one’s a hike, but you can get a good look at a beautiful city along the way. There used to be a “Ruggles Shuttle” that took riders from the Ruggles Station on the Orange Line to Fenway, but that is no longer active as of this writing. You can still use a bus from there but you have to pay for it.

 

A ride on a T train is $2 as of this writing; it’s cheaper for seniors and students and free for children 11 and under riding with an adult. So a two-train ride to the park and back is $8 a person, plus whatever you may pay for a park-and-ride lot (somewhere around $7). Considering that some nearby places charge upwards of $30 for parking and the traffic you will encounter, Boston may be the one baseball city where public transportation is a better option than anywhere else, even more so than Chicago, Washington or New York.

 

The T is fast, efficient, and generally safe; yes, trains do get extremely crowded on game days, but remember, all of these people know Fenway is worth it.

 

Not many folks drive to Fenway Park. They just don’t. So remember, don’t drive and use the T.

 

www.mbta.com

 

 

Boog’s Barbecue: Pit Beef from the Local Star

When Oriole Park at Camden Yards first opened, one of its more striking features was the constant flow of smoke from that green tent in the outfield. Games shown on ESPN would always include a shot of Eutaw Street next to the B&O warehouse, full of patrons waiting in line to shake Boog Powell’s hand and partake of some pit beef.

 

Boog’s Barbecue is usually featured on a top ten list of signature ballpark food items, and it’s frequently mentioned as a “can’t miss” part of visiting Camden Yards. People stand in line and meet the big fella, and then order a smoked beef or turkey sandwich covered with BBQ sauce and served with beans and cole slaw.

 

The culinary revolution at ballparks owes a lot to Boog Powell. After Camden Yards opened, for the first time, there was a popular food item at a ballpark besides the ubiquitous dog. Whether or not Boog’s Barbecue would have been a hit without the friendly local star shaking hands and signing autographs is hard to say, Boog’s place added an especially nice touch to an already spectacular ballpark.

 

The big power-hitting first baseman was a perfect choice to head a food stand at Baltimore’s new ballpark. He is not a Hall of Famer, and somehow one can’t imagine Cal Ripken or Brooks Robinson meeting fans every night. But he was certainly a great ballplayer, and every Orioles fan who was there in the late 60s and 70s knows who he is. Such stands featuring local stars are commonplace today especially in newer ballparks, but in 1992 this was a very unusual and interesting idea.

 

Since the success of Boog’s, the local baseball heroes who weren’t quite national superstars have places of their own, like Greg Luzinski in Philadelphia, Luis Tiant in Boston, Gorman Thomas in Milwaukee and Manny Sanguillen in Pittsburgh. It’s not that the Hall of Famers wouldn’t represent the team or the city as well, but these guys make the local fans feel like the team didn’t forget the lesser known names that were just as important to a team’s greatest moments.

 

The lines for Boog’s aren’t as long as they once were. In the 90s when Oriole Park was a very hot commodity and had a winning team on the field, the place sold out or nearly sold out every night, and plenty of folks waited in line for Boog’s autograph, even during the game. Today, while Camden Yards is still highly regarded, many Orioles fans have grown disgusted enough with 13 straight losing seasons and on especially slow nights, the once familiar smoke no longer wafts out from the green tent shortly after the game starts.

 

But Boog is still there, shaking hands and taking photos, and there’s now a Boog’s on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland–advertised as the “Best Beef on The Beach – No Bull!”, a sly dig at Bull’s BBQ in Philly, perhaps?

 

Whatever, as long as he’s still at the Yard.

 

Monument Park in New Yankee Stadium

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The new, updated Monument Park is just that, a park of
monuments to the greatest of Yankees. It is located beyond center field in the
new Yankee Stadium. The only real advice I give about seeing it is: get there
early.

But see it.

Look, you may not like the Yankees. You may have a problem
with the crowing of their fans, their buying championships, or the
Steinbrenners. Maybe Reggie Jackson’s ego got under your skin, or Hideki Irabu
annoyed you by wanting to only pitch for the Yankees (that worked out great for
them, didn’t it…heh heh). Or you had a favorite player that the Yankees stole
from your team through free agency: C.C. Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Mark
Teixeira, and Nick Swisher are just a few names on the current Yankees roster
that were on their way to becoming household words in other towns.

ARod Pie.JPG

Growing up in a family of Orioles fans, of course we hated
the Yankees. But that didn’t stop me from reading a few books about America’s
team…like Sparky Lyle’s “The Bronx Zoo” and “The Year I Owned The Yankees”,
Billy Martin’s “Number 1”, and Ed Linn’s “Steinbrenner’s Yankees”. Whatever
they were, they sure as heck weren’t boring.

When you step away from the hurt of the pinstripes beating
your favorite team, you realize that the Yankees mystique is like no other. Just
about every other team in baseball proudly displays championship banners, no
matter how few or relatively noteworthy. Winning a division or a pennant is,
after all, a great achievement. Only the Yankees consider any season that
doesn’t end in a World Series victory a failure.

Standing in Monument Park in center field of Yankee Stadium,
of course the names Ruth, Gehrig,
DiMaggio and Mantle jump out at you.

Gehrig Record 1.JPG

And then
you see Martin, Berra, Dickey, and Ford and you remember that those guys
weren’t too bad either. Reggie Jackson, boy I hated him as a kid, but man,
could he pound the ball. Don Mattingly–was there a better player who never
played in the World Series? Elston Howard–the first black player on the Yankees,
because they wanted the best. Rizzuto–always thought he was overrated, then I
saw his numbers. Ron Guidry – Louisiana Lightning. Now that guy could bring it.

And now there’s that big bust for Big George. George
Steinbrenner, for all his flaws, embodied the demand for perfection that is
both the gift and curse of being a Yankee. He never accepted failure, and all
of his players and managers always knew it. Say what you will, when all was
said and done he put seven more championships on the board for the Yankees…but
this was all in a day’s work, as he saw it.

Someday names like Jeter, Rivera, Posada, and Cano will be
honored here.

Outside Pics.jpg

And when Yankee-haters visit and think back, they’ll realize that
these were home-grown guys, and the Yankees didn’t just win with big name free
agents after all.

So check out Monument Park at the new Yankee Stadium. You
won’t regret it.

But yes, get there early.