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The Bleacher Bums: May 20, 2005 Archive

Better than lightsabers.

Posted at 12:14 AM on May 20, 2005 by Josh Lee

The final episode in the Star Wars series premiered yesterday. You might have heard something about it. Like fans of the classic science fiction movies, Twins fans have been feeling a little unsure of themselves lately, wondering if the institution in which they had invested so much of themselves was slipping in quality. This isn't a movie weblog, though, so I won't bother going into whether or not Star Wars was any good. Besides, the real action yesterday was on the field.

Joe Mays pitched a complete-game shutout, throwing an insanely efficient 93 pitches. And yet, that wasn't the highlight of the Twins' 4-0 win over the Blue Jays. The highlight was an epic, unending, gut-wrenching at-bat in the sixth inning, when Michael Cuddyer worked Toronto starter Gustavo Chacin for thirteen pitches before slugging a two-run double down the left field line to break a 0-0 deadlock. I was listening to the game on the radio, but even without seeing it, it was something to behold (or behear, or whatever). Who needs lightsabers and laser guns when you have a killer bat and a deadly sinker?

What's next for the Metrodome?

Posted at 10:09 AM on May 20, 2005 by Ben Tesch (6 Comments)

It isn't every day that 20 acres of Downtown real estate comes on the market, as this Skyway News article says.

"...people are starting to think seriously about what's next if we implode the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

You don't have to be a Dome-hater to dream of the possibilities; the city of Minneapolis already has. A 2003 plan includes a vision of a dome-less future: a mini-neighborhood of housing, retail and offices with a "central park" inside the ghostly outline formerly shielded by Teflon.

City planners were looking two decades out; but if the stadium craze breaks in earnest, that future might come sooner."

What would you do with that space? Keep the dome? Put in offices or stores or housing or parks? Let's hear some ideas!

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Of empty ballfields and vanishing childhoods

Posted at 1:19 PM on May 20, 2005 by Bob Collins (4 Comments)

Nobody plays pick-up baseball games anymore and it's a crime because no one should ever spend a moment as a child never having played the game just to play the game. Our kids are scheduled now. Everything has to be organized. And when they play, they have to have uniforms, and their ball bags lined up on the backstop like good soldiers. And, oh yeah, no move can be made without having a parent acting like the full scholarship to Yale is on the line.

Been by a ballfield lately? For the most part, they're empty. Or if there are kids on it, you can bet that there's an adult around running the show.

They're usually busy between 6 and 9 in the evenings when the local youth league has 'em, but you never see pick-up games on them. Kids don't know how to have pick-up games. And it's a shame.

I was fortunate to grow up in a home next to a ballfield. And every day -- or so it seemed -- we'd find enough neighborhood kids around to have a little ballgame. And if there weren't any kids around, then between me and my two brothers and two sisters, we could find something to do with a bat, glove, and ball.

The game was called Scrub and I don't remember who taught it to us but it's baseball without teams. When someone wanted to play a game of Scrub -- say on the playground behind the school at recess or before the doors opened (before Mommy and Daddy dropped kids off in the SUV to the school's front patio) -- he or she simply yelled "Scrub!" (pronounced Scruuu --- uhhh--- uubbb) and then the next person would yell "Scrub One," and the next "Scrub Two" and so on and so forth. (This was, we would later realize, our first foray into computer language in which the first item is not one, but 0.)

Scrub, Scrub One, Scrub Two, and Scrub Three would bat first and everyone else would take the field. You could bat as many times as you wanted, until you made an out. Hit a fly ball out to Scrub 11? Scrub 11 comes in to bat and you go to Scrub-11-field. For strikeouts and regular outs, the field would rotate as in volleyball until the pitcher was the next to go to bat.

It was perfect baseball. Nobody kept score. The goal was just to ... you know...play.

I don't remember anyone stopping to watch a game of scrub and if they did, they certainly didn't yell "C'mon Bobby, keep your eye on the ball" in a voice that was identical to the one that urged me to clean up my room.

We made and had friends, we organized ourselves, we dealt with whatever disputes arose. But more than anything, we loved baseball. We loved it so much we wanted to play it all the time. We loved it so much the fields became potmarked and rutted with the well-worn travel of Scrub 5 scurrying out to Scrub11-field. Did you ever watch the movie Sandlot? That was us.

We all grew up and left our home fields, of course. I went off to college where when I wasn't studying, I was playing pickup ballgames with some friends on the ballfields on Boston Common. I'd stand out there in leftfield and look at the Boston skyline, and the wide ballfield and think, "it just doesn't get any better."

So when I pass a ballfield now I'm back at third spearing a line drive that was headed for Dougie Shaw's face as he played umpire. I'm cork-screwing into the ground trying to hit whatever it is that Mike Kelly just did with that Wiffle Ball. I'm frustrated that the best ballplayer on Team Collins was a girl. And I'm sad that thousands of kids are growing up with no memories to accompany them on their walks past empty ballfields.

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