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Louisville Slugger Museum

Louisville, KY
June 15, 2003

Great American Ball Park
Cincinnati, OH
Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds
June 15, 2003

By Ken Schlapp

OK, now I can actually write about an odyssey that actually consists of going somewhere.  Yankee Stadium was just a subway ride and San Juan was two months earlier.  So here goes; I left my home in Queens, New York early Sunday morning (June 15th) for Staten Island, New York to pick up my friend Paul Wojtak, who will be with me for the first 8 days, to drive to Louisville, Kentucky.  We didn't have any events or sites to see today, just an 865 mile drive that took us about 14 hours.  We tried to keep sane during the drive by thinking of the miles as HRs as we passed Mays (660), Ruth (714), and Aaron (755) to move up the all-time Major League HR list.  It should be noted that we fell 3 short of Sadaharu Oh's all-time professional record of 868.

Our first stop (June 16th) was to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum, which can be found pretty easily in downtown Louisville by looking up for the huge replica Babe Ruth bat that stands about 40 feet high and is in front of the museum.  OK, we did miss it on the first pass, but when we backtracked we had to laugh at how obvious it was to find the museum.  The museum is located on 800 West Main Street and is open from 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Saturday, and from 12 Noon to 5 PM on Sundays.  A $6 entrance fee gets you a tour of the factory where the bats are made, a movie about the history of the Louisville Slugger Bat Company and the players that use their bats, access to the exhibits, and most importantly a souvenir mini-bat.  You can even have your own personalized bat made either with or without your actual signature while you are taking the tour (it takes about 45 minutes for the bat to be personalized).  So of coarse I had a "Ken 'Trolley Car' Schlapp" bat made for myself without my own signature, because if I used my actual signature, no one would be able to read it! Note that "Trolley Car" is the nickname given to me by my fellow New York Gotham Vintage Baseball teammates.

The tour basically demonstrates how the bats are made from the tree all the way to the finish and use.  One of the more amazing aspects of the factory tour was the lathing machine that cuts the block of wood to bat dimensions in 30 seconds.  I also liked the replica "Camden Yards" inside the museum that includes a press box where you can listen to excerpts from some of the more famous announcers such as Ernie Harwell.  You can also see walls inside the entrance to the museum where all the Major League Players have a plaque based on the years (decade by decade) that they started playing and using Louisville Slugger bats.  Overall, it was completely worth the trip to Louisville.

From Louisville, we took the two-hour drive to Cincinnati to experience our first taste of special treatment on my cross-country baseball journey.  We got to the Great American Ballpark about 5 hours before game time to have a personalized tour of this first-year stadium from Dann of the Reds Communications department.  He took us on a walk through the entire stadium pointing out all the special features and mentioning some of the reasons why things were done a certain way. 

One of the things that stood out right away is that the Reds managed to honor Pete Rose without actually doing so in a way that would violate the regulations regarding his banishment from baseball.  There are two murals of past Reds teams in th stadium.  The first is to honor the original 1869 team that was the first all professional baseball team in history.  The second was to memorialize the Big Red Machine of the 1970s, and in that picture Pete Rose is included, but his portrait does not include his number 14 to officially state that it was Pete, while all other players numbers are present.  In addition, there is a Fox Sports Net Club 4192 where club seat ticket holders can enjoy a lounge and bar.  It should be noted that only the "4192" stands out on the outside of the club to signify Pete Rose's passing of Ty Cobb's all-time hits record.  The street outside the stadium parking lot is on Pete Rose Way and is the only direct Pete Rose honorarium and that is because major league baseball has no control over the city of Cincinnati as far as what they want to name their streets.  For my own protection, I will leave my thought about Pete Rose out of this article.It was a last minute decision to have the seats all red instead of all green like most of the other new ballparks.  I thought this was a good idea to associate Red with everything about the team.  It is clear that they did a good job of that from the internal offices to the clubs in the stadiums, the color Red stands out, and it should!  Some other things to look for as you walk around the stadium is the giant newspaper clipping of the Reds 1919 championship celebration (you can ignore the Black Sox scandal and enjoy from the Reds point of view) along the food concourse.  Be sure to notice when you walk into the ballpark through Crosley Terrace that there is a statue of one of the Reds old heroes, Ted Kluzuski (sleeveless of coarse) in the front.  Dann indicated that they will be adding additional statues of other Reds heroes such as Joe Nuxhall to the entrance area.  The stadium is also filled with all kinds of food and specialty restaurants throughout such as Redlegs Landing in the View level and the Machine Room Grille which is open year-round.  The Reds are also in the process of building a Hall of Fame for their past players on the lower level of the stadium adjacent to Crosley Terrace.

Right now, just past where the Hall of Fame will be is the lot where Riverfront Stadium (the home of the Reds since 1970) was recently demolished.  This is an area that appears to be under heavy construction as Cincinnati is in the process of building up this riverfront area.  I had planned to go visit the old site of Crosley Field (Findlay Street and Western Avenue where the Reds played prior to Riverfront) where there is an historic marker identifying the former site of Home Plate, but we ran out of time before the game.  We did, however, have time to go have some Skyline Chili, which is a must when you are in Cincinnati.  I had the 4-way chili, which is served over spaghetti with onions and cheese in a meat sauce that is made with cinnamon (I know this sounds strange, but it was really good!). We also had time to walk over the "Blue Bridge" which will take to over the Ohio River to Kentucky and give you great views of both Great American Ballpark and Brown Stadium (where the Bengals play).  What made this interesting for me is that I am a New York History buff and this was the Bridge that Roebling designed prior to the Brooklyn Bridge and was the reason that he was commissioned to build the larger bridge connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn.  The only bad note is that the Ohio River was so brown that day that it was not too appealing.

Dann also took us to see some areas the ordinary fan would not get to see. We took a walk through Scout's Alley, which is only accessible to those with club seating and to scouts.  What is special about this is that this is basically a Reds scout hall of fame honoring those that have found the Reds players.  There is even the contract signed by Paul O'Neil from when he first signed with the Reds.  We also got to go to the pressroom, which is laid out pretty nicely with a great view of the game and easy access for the writers to plug in their laptops.  It should be noted that the Reds do offer tours of the stadium in which fans can get to see these things as well.  

On to the game, which represented the first time that I saw the home team lose.  Therefore, my theory that the home team was winning only because of me was disproved.   The Reds got on the board early with a two-run single by Aaron Boone in the 1st inning, but the Cubs tied it up with an RBI single by Miller in the 2nd and an RBI groundout by Patterson in the 3rd.  The Reds got a run back, with an Austin Kearns RBI single in the 5th only to see the lead go up in smoke with back-to-back jacks from Moises Alou and Eric Karros in the Cubs 6th inning to round out the scoring.  Clement pitched 6 innings for the win, while Anderson took the loss giving up all four Cubs runs.

The fans seemed into the game and were rooting for their Reds, but I can't say that anything stood out either negatively or positively about the crowd. The only real significant contribution was that in mock of the Cubs fan's tradition of throwing back the visiting team's home runs, the Reds fan that caught Alou's Home Run threw it back onto the field.

One of the things I try to pay attention to at each game is what happens when the home team hits a home run, but unfortunately I did not get to see that happen today.  However, Dann let us know that in centerfield there are "Homer Stacks" that shoot fireworks when the Reds hit a home run.  The stacks also spew smoke when the other team strikes out, which I was able to witness.  The Reds electronic scoreboard race during the game consisted of a speed board race in which Redleg beat out Mr. Red and Rose Red.  During the 7th inning stretch they play the traditional "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", but change the "Home Team" to "Reds".  This was also the first game where I got to witness "Kiss Cam" where the cameraman focuses on two people on the giant Jumbotron to entice a kiss.  The big highlight for me was that during the 6th inning there was a big note on the Jumbotron wishing me well on the 3rd stop of my baseball journey!

Basic trip facts:
* Miles traveled - 1,019 via Car (Totals: Driving - 1,019, Subway - 20, Air - 3,196, Total - 3,216)
* States, provinces and/or commonwealths passed through - New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio  (Totals: States - 8, Provinces - 0, Commonwealths - 1)
* Seats - Loge Section 116, Row W, Seat 1 & 2 - Field level between home and third.
* Prices: Parking - $12, Beer - $5.75, Program (including pencil) - $5.00, Souvenir Soda Cup - $4.00
* Credit Card giveaway - 1869 Reds T-shirt
* First Pitch -  7:10 PM
* Attendance - 28,669
* Results - Cubs 4, Reds 3,  W: Clement, L: Anderson, S: Borowski
* Home team record to date - 4 wins, 1 loss
* Record of "team I was routing for" to date - 0 wins, 5 losses
* Lodging - Louisville, Kentucky on the 15th and Florence, Kentucky on the 16th

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