August 12, 2011

M-Blog: Arenas, Stadiums and Ballparks

One of the neat things about coming to Indianapolis is Conseco Fieldhouse. It's a great new "old" building, a throwback if you will. It's a modern building that is retro at the same time, prominently featuring red brick with old-style ads painted on those walls, to memorabilia celebrating the Pacers and Indiana basketball throughout.

You've already learned that I like coffee ... and eating. Not necessarily in that order. I also like arenas, stadiums (is it stadia? That sounds way too pretentious) and college campuses. Arenas and stadiums on college campuses? Now you're talking. I also like baseball. Okay, I love it. The best part is when the Silver Stars schedule dovetails nicely with MLB, or minor league baseball. If we're in town and you're playing, I'm coming to watch. And, of course, eating. By the way, I like to get a hot dog, pretzel and peanuts at a game. And ice cream in a helmet? THAT makes for a very good night.

From Dodgers Stadium to Yankees Stadium, I've been to a bunch, but not all, and not for lack of trying. On consecutive nights I've seen the Cubs from the rooftops outside Wrigley one night, six rows behind home plate the next. I remember going with a group of players to see the Indians on Saturday night at Jacobs Field, then going all by myself for a day game that Sunday before playing Dan Hughes' Cleveland Rockers team that night. Jim Thome hit a game-winning grand slam that afternoon. My kind of doubleheader.

I've had the good fortune to experience Orioles baseball at Memorial Stadium, as well as Camden Yards. Same with Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park. I've been to old Yankees Stadium, but not new. I've been to Shea, but not Citi Field. Same with old and new Busch Stadium. I've seen the Twins in the dome, but not at Target Field. (I hope that changes this summer). I won't list all I've been to, but there are just a few I still want to see.

And having worked in the Southern League, I'll romanticize about the charm of old Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, TN, the history of Beautiful Tinker Field in Orlando, FL and the soul-sapping heat at Tim McCarver Stadium in Memphis, TN.

If I can skip sports, I wish that I could have seen the Spurs play at HemisFair Arena. As a kid watching on TV (color, not black and white, wiseguys), it always seemed loud, and raucous, and Spurs fans looked like they were having the greatest time. Then getting to talk to fans who made it the loudest arena in the NBA makes me wish even more I could have experienced that for myself.

Part of me wishes those old, venerable buildings were never torn down. And then there are some buildings that couldn't be demolished quickly enough. Still, they all evoke memories of players, or moments, etched indelibly in fans' minds.

What follows are some of the places that will always hold special memories for me:

Cole Field House, University of Maryland, especially when Lefty Driesell walked out of the tunnel, onto the floor and flashed the peace sign. Yes, I am a proud Terrapin, Class of ... hahaha, you thought I was actually going to divulge that? Didn't I give you enough of a clue with the Charles G. "Lefty" Driesell reference? It's also the first place I visited when I took my campus tour.

The Palestra, Philadelphia. If you've ever experienced the streamers flying during a Big 5 game, then you were part of something special. And a doubleheader of college basketball in that building was pure delight.

The Spectrum, Philadelphia. I'm not sure I've ever heard anything louder than that building during Games 3 and 6 of the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals. The Flyers didn't win the Cup, but the comebacks in both those games almost blew the roof off the building.

New York's Madison Square Garden and The Forum in LA. Whether it was hearing the organ at MSG, or seeing and meeting Chick Hearn (and wondering, "That's Chick Hearn. I'm just me. What the heck am I doing here?") at the Forum, those broadcasts will always be special to me.

The Rose Garden, Portland. One moment stands out, for one very special person. I was working on a Miami Heat telecast and the Trailblazers were celebrating the 20th anniversary of their NBA Championship. Jack Ramsay, an absolute gentleman and class act (and I'm still not doing him enough justice), was the color man for Heat TV. When they showed the "77" banner in the rafters, then Dr. Jack on the scoreboard, Blazer fans gave him one of the warmest receptions I've ever heard.

The Palace of Auburn Hills. Even though I no longer go there, when I did, I would walk to a very special spot on the floor. From that spot, Todd Krygier scored one magical goal, :25 into the second overtime. It gave the Orlando Solar Bears a 5-4 win over the Detroit Vipers, in the decisive Game 7, sending Orlando to the IHL Turner Cup Finals. It also capped one of the most remarkable comebacks in sports, as Orlando became the only team in IHL to come back from an 0-3 deficit.

It also occurred during an unforgettable period, for me, in broadcasting, as one team chased a championship and another made its WNBA debut.

I'd tell you about it, but I'll leave it for another M-Blog.