LMT Stop #23: Peninsula (Hampton, VA)

Excellent Adventure Day # 62

There and Back Again

If you spend some time looking at the maps of recent days on the Excellent Adventure you will see that we drove north from Kinston, NC right past three teams in Virginia: Norfolk, Peninsula and Richmond, as far north as Frederick, MD only to turn around two days later and drive back down to hit those stops. Worse, we didn’t even go to Norfolk, 17 miles away from Hampton (Peninsula,) the day after we stopped there. Instead, we drove 250 west across the state to Salem, VA only to turn around again and come back to Norfolk and Richmond.

This is what separates this trip from the family vacation and even from the ballpark journeys of most sane people. We saw the Peninsula Pilots on Sunday and it would have made sense to see the Tidewater Tides in Norfolk the following day. But the Tides were finishing a seven-game-road trip that Monday and wouldn’t be back until Tuesday. It was June, on the coast of Virginia, normal people would have spent an off day at the beach but there was no allotment of beach days on the Excellent Adventure schedule, we had to go to a game somewhere.

If you watch the video below you will see that the local paper did a feature on us the next day. We liked when papers did this, I would be lying if I said we didn’t enjoy our summer of fame, I think being a little famous for awhile is something everyone should experience at least once.

But the reporter asked one of our least favorite questions, at least one of our least favorite that wasn’t about our personal life. What have been your favorite parks and how does this one stack up? To be fair, it was a pretty obvious question to ask two people who were going to 178 baseball parks…I would have asked it., but I still hated answering it and I wish the takeaway from the article wasn’t that we thought the park was “average.” I never intended the trip to be about critiquing ballparks.

War Memorial Stadium was a lovely place to see a game on a gorgeous early Sunday evening, it was a 6 pm start time as I recall and as we sat back in a grandstand that was still made out of wood (as I attempted to show in the video) it was like being back in time…even then. The Pilots were having a pretty awful season and you won’t find many household names on the roster of either team that night but Peninsula, a Seattle affiliate, did score five runs over the first two innings and won 5-2.

The Trip

The Video

Tonight’s video has a bit of a point to it. I left in kind of a goofy blooper at the beginning of it primarily because our raw video tape was made up of a lot of that stuff..my hat is off all over again for the crew at Major League Baseball productions that somehow made us look like we knew what we were doing with the video camera but if you think of it as a little more akin to the historical photos in a Ken Burns film rather than anything in the slick world of sports video production today you will be in the right frame of mind.

Baseball Today

The Peninsula Pilots relocated to Wilmington, Delaware and became the Wilmington Blue Rocks the year after we saw them. For eight years after that, War Memorial Stadium went unused for anything other than high school and American Legion baseball but in 2000 the Peninsula Pilots were reincarnated as members of the Coastal Plain League, a summer college league which has also found homes in several other classic minor league towns we saw. Here is a nice article on some recent upgrades to the old ballpark.

On Deck

We could have ridden along with the Peninsula Pilots after that Sunday evening game. They were headed out of town to Lynchburg, VA and we saw them there next the next night at City Stadium in Lynchburg, the home of the Lynchburg Red Sox.

LMT Stop #22: Baltimore, MD

Excellent Adventure Day # 61

Bigger than Baseball

There were many things about Bill & Sue’s Excellent Adventure that seemed like they were written for a Hollywood fantasy screenplay. Nolan Ryan’s last no hitter, seven games in the World Series, Yankee Stadium, Good Morning America…on and on it goes. Who would believe it?

But the script writers missed this one. I’ve been a, occasionally rabid, fan of the Baltimore Orioles since I was a little kid. They were supposed to win this game instead of giving up six runs in the 8th inning and losing 8-4. Come to think of it, they really weren’t supposed to be in last place in that game either or finish 6th in the American League East that year. But the Orioles just weren’t very good in 1991 and yet, then and now, it just didn’t and doesn’t seem to matter very much.

The game we went to 29 years ago tonight remains one of my fondest memories of the trip, not because of what happened on the field and not because of the stadium, though it was the final year for Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. There isn’t even much video tape from that night. But my mom had driven down to Baltimore to see the game with us and for Stephanie Craib’s youngest son, being with her that night was more than enough.

We got to Baltimore early and walked around the Inner Harbor where ten months later Sue and I would sit in the front row at game #2 at Camden Yards and be blown away by the Orioles’ new ballpark, which seemed like it had been dreamed up by combining everything we had liked about various stadiums the season before. But in June of 1991 the park was still being finished and while the Inner Harbor was already a tourist destination in its own right, it was not yet what it would become when Camden Yards became its crown jewel.

My mother took us out to a nice early dinner and then we drove through the city streets amid a sea of notorious Memorial Stadium traffic on the way to the game and got to the park a bit late. Sue and I got up a filmed a bit together but mostly I remember sitting and watching the game.

The Trip

The Video

My mom was dressed up, which will surprise no one who knew her and Sue and I put on somewhat fancier clothes than usual too. I recall that the Orioles gave us game tickets rather than the photo passes we usually had at major league parks but that was for the best since I can’t imagine my mother trailing after us as we wandered around shooting video. It also might explain why we don’t have any close shots of the game, along with the fact that the park was packed on a Saturday night…a crowd of more than 40,000 had turned out.

Bill’s mother – Stephanie Craib

Baseball Today

Memorial Stadium was demolished in 2002 but, of course, the Orioles still play in the city in beautiful Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I listed Fenway Park as my favorite major league stadium during the 1991 trip and I still love that classic park, but after going to OPACY the following year (and many since) I doubt that I will ever like any other park better again.

On Deck

The morning after our visit to Baltimore it was back to the minors for Bill and Sue. We drove down to Hampton, VA, the home of the Peninsula Pilots of the Carolina League.