Wednesday, August 06, 2008

For whom the bell tolls

Having attended a couple minor league games recently and having pondered heading to Akron a day early this past weekend for seeing one there, it was my duty to visit the team in my backyard. After all, the Columbus Clippers are getting ready to play their final games in Cooper Stadium.

One of them there newfangled ballparks will open in the Arena District next year, leaving the future of this 76-year-old stadium in doubt. The old yard isn't flashy but still gets the job done,; however, its location on the south side and the area's reputation are often raised as reasons why more people don't go out to see the hometown heroes. It didn't help that their longtime affiliation with the Yankees ended a couple years ago and was replaced with (ugh) the Washington Nationals.

After tonight the Clippers have just twelve games left here. I imagine that the players won't miss the concrete dugouts, and those fans who don't buy box seats will likely have more comfortable alternatives than the metal seats that the program asks visitors not to bang. There will probably be a better view than the cemetery that can be glimpsed through left center field.

I'm not sure why I haven't gone very often since I've lived here. True, I have no special affection for the team. I follow the Reds and the other Major League clubs, so if I'm going to go to a game, I'll head further south on I-71.

Still, I've been here a few time through the years. As a high school senior some friends and I had free tickets and made the drive east on I-70 to take in a game. All I remember is Oddibe McDowell playing for that day's opponent, going to Schmidt's in German Village, and seeing the TV movie Knight Rider 2000 when I got home. In college I came a few times, including one playoff game that might have even been when they won a minor league title. I saw the presumed Japanese phenom pitcher Hideki Irabu take the mound. A couple times I attended the Ohio Cup, a Reds-Indians exhibition game the day before the regular season started. My college played the crosstown rival in football when the field was covered with Astroturf.

Sliding into my seat behind home plate tonight, nothing seemed all that different from when I last sat in these stands. Oh, the scoreboard looked like it was trying to hold out just a little longer to make it to the end, and Captain Clipper had been replaced by a parrot who wanders the stands with a seal. The songs were the same, although I don't think I heard the two "classics" that embed in your brain and are hard to pry free. The "new" one, "Our Team Our Town", has to be several years old by now. God knows how old "Hometown Heroes" and "Ring Your Bell" are. (Dig that synthesizer.)

If there's one thing that defines a Clippers game, it is the cowbell. I'm not kidding. People ring 'em like mad during the song imploring them to do so as well as when the team does something worthy of approval. Sure, it's hokey and can even be annoying, but to hear them pealing one more time in The Coop...well, it's a part of this city's history that was worth experiencing this final time.

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At 6:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I didn't realize we ended up with the about a downgrade. :(

I do love the cowbells! :) Perhaps I will implore the boy to go to one game before they close the stadium.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger donnadb said...

Beautiful appreciation, Mark. Hooray for minor league teams and vintage stadia!


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