On Your Marc: 4/26/16

Quite a ride

Side trips are worth it
By Marc Katz

Sometimes, the sideshows are better than the destination obligations.

It will actually take me two installments to tell you about a few of those sideshows. The stand-alone is the visit to Iowa’s Field of Dreams, next week’s offering.

And, yes, I walked out of the corn.

For now, let’s try these.

There was a Saturday night Ohio State football game at Syracuse in 1992, which I noticed was only about an hour-and-a-half drive to Cooperstown.

Three colleagues and myself drove first to Cooperstown on Friday, toured the Baseball Hall of Fame in the early afternoon and made it to much more dreary Syracuse for a Saturday night game in which the Buckeyes walloped the then Orangemen.

I’ve also seen League Park in Cleveland on another assignment, Tombstone, Arizona, and the OK Corral where Wyatt Earp led a famous 1881 shootout—and taken a ride on the roller coaster Space Mountain at Disneyland.

And you thought it was all about sports writing.

The League Park venture came in the early 1980s, when I was assigned to do an Opening Day story on the Indians at ancient and crumbling Municipal Stadium, which opened in 1931 but didn’t become the fulltime home of the Indians until 1947.

League Park, with about 27,000 seats, was somewhat smaller than Municipal Stadium’s 78,000 capacity, which served it well when the football Browns were playing.

I became entranced with League Park since hearing about it at an Indians game I was covering for the Sandusky Register. Washington and its new manager, Ted Williams, were the draw and Williams talked about League Park during a pre-game media conference in his office. He said he had played in both Cleveland stadiums during his Hall of Fame career.

The Indians just didn’t have an every-day use for 78,000 seats.

Mesmerized at meeting Williams, I forgot about League Park, assuming it had long before been torn down.

About a decade later, I was back at Municipal Stadium and Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller sat down next to me. He had a comment about every play in the game, as I recall, and at one point mentioned League Park, where he struck out 17 Philadelphia Athletics as a 17-year-old rookie in 1936. He said parts of the place still stood just a couple miles up the road.

I had to see it.

Not much was left in what remains a housing neighborhood. Some of the third base grandstand was left and a small office building along first base. A swimming pool was cut out in a deep part of the outfield. The whole place was to be used as a youth center, but I didn’t see anybody around. I was struck by the hard, level, grassless infield and the thought that players such as Williams, Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth played there.

Ruth, in fact, hit his 500th home run over the right field wall.

Most of the remaining structure was taken down in the last decade, with a remaining office to house a baseball museum and staff to keep the area as a public playground.

The trip to Tombstone, “The Town Too Tough to Die,” was facilitated by an Ohio State NCAA tournament game in Tucson, just about an hour up the road from Tombstone. Between games, my wife and I went to take a look.

Had it not been for Earp and his brothers winning and the mythology surrounding the event, the area would be covered with sand. Instead, it’s a tourist destination (although, as I recall, I made a mental note to take my own food should I visit again).

As for the roller coaster, that was a mistake made prior to the Pigskin Classic, OSU vs. Fresno State in 1994 in Anaheim, which held a media conference at Disneyland, one of the sponsors. A colleague wanted to ride on the famed Magic Mountain coaster and figured we had just enough time to do that and make it to the media conference.

We rode in one roller coaster, only to find out it wasn’t Magic Mountain. The long line to the next coaster was for Magic Mountain, and we figured we had just enough time to make it.

We did, although I was in no shape to understand anything being said for the first 10 minutes.

It was quite a ride.

A place I never visited was Herbert Hoover’s birthplace and childhood home in West Branch, Iowa. It’s an historic landmark, and during one visit to play Iowa in nearby Iowa City in the 1960s, Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, a history buff, took his team to that farm home for a history lesson.

Unfortunately, the poor soul leading the tour made a mistake, and Hayes called an audible. He took over the tour for 40 minutes and asked the curator if he had made any mistakes. He was told he didn’t. His game plan was OK, too.

Ohio State beat Iowa the next day.

In other words, the next time you take a trip, take a look around. There might be something else you’d like to see.

Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at katzcopsnsports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@daytoncitypaper.com.

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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