So, Bud, how about those instant replays now?

If you thought you’d never see a worse umpiring call than the one Jim Joyce made to rob Armando Galarraga of a perfect game last year, Jerry Meals comprehensively proved you wrong last night.

This might be the worst umpiring call in the history of organised baseball.  If there was a worse one – one that was not made because the umpire was corrupt – I’d like to see it. And this to gift a walkoff run in the 19th inning too – what a way to lose a game. No wonder Clint Hurdle looked like he was going to blow a head gasket.

With the technology available today, on decisions as critical as this and Joyce’s there is no excuse whatsoever for a call this bad to stand unchallenged and uncorrected. If Meals genuinely thought Lugo was safe, he should be immediately removed from the umpire roster. There is no excuse for an error that egregious.

Of course, if Major League Baseball had a commissioner with any decision-making cojones, he would, for the good of the game, give in to the clamour for instant replays on decisions such as this and Joyce’s and cease confining them to home run calls. But as we all know and Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports describes so well here, it does not, it has Bud Selig.

Three ballparks, part 1

I was reading the Joy of Sox article “21 Ball Parks” and thought I would write my own version about my ballpark visits. Being English and resident in the UK I don’t get to see many Major League baseball games and can’t even rely on getting to a game every time I go to the US, so not only can I list all of the parks I’ve visited – all three of them – but I can recall each of the eleven games I’ve seen.

Oakland, California

April 29, 2007: Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5, Oakland Athletics 3.
My first ever game, which I was really excited to attend. I was on a two-week work trip to Scotts Valley, CA and determined to squeeze in a game or two as it was my fourth trip to the US but the first that fell in the baseball season in a location remotely near a ballpark. I was staying in San Francisco the weekend I arrived and my friend Jason drove up from Santa Cruz with his son Orion, for whom it was also his first ever MLB game. We had seats along the first base line just beyond the opposition bullpen which afforded a pretty good view. The game itself wasn’t very exciting and I recall little about it.

What I do recall vividly is discovering for myself the truth of the MLB TV ads that ran a couple of years earlier: you really won’t see anything as green as your first sight of a Major League baseball field. It was a strange day – we discovered that a gasoline tanker had crashed and exploded on I-580 that morning causing a section to collapse; luckily Jason had taken a different route to the Coliseum from the Bay Bridge otherwise that would have caused us considerable delays. We sat in glorious sunshine during the game but as we drove back through San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge the weather turned and became very cold, overcast and then foggy; typical weird San Francisco weather.

September 24, 2009: Texas Rangers 3, Oakland Athletics 12.
My second visit to the Coliseum was Erin’s first Major League game, swiftly followed by her second later that day. These were actually her first ever baseball games of any form, even though she was born in Massachusetts and grew up in Maine and so is definitely a natural-born citizen of Red Sox Nation. So it was nice that we had a blazing hot day (I got sunburned), she got the ballpark hot dog she wanted, we had a fantastic view from seats a dozen rows back from home plate and the A’s put on a show for her, including a gargantuan Jack Cust homer way over the center field wall.

We both really liked the experience at the Coliseum, even though it’s a terrible facility by modern standards. It’s a cheap day out at an A’s game; tickets, parking (comparatively) and food are all reasonably priced.  Of course, the blazing sun each time I’ve been there has helped. Jason and I went to a Raiders game there against Seattle on Hallowe’en and sat up in Mount Davis and even then it was great. But I imagine it’s very different and altogether less fun when it’s cold and wet.

Three ballparks, part 2

San Francisco, California

May 7, 2007: New York Mets 4, San Francisco Giants 9.
My first visit to AT&T Park was eight days after my first game at the Oakland Coliseum. I had intended to catch the previous day’s game against the Phillies when I would have seen Tim Lincecum make his Major League debut but I was on the beach in Santa Cruz, so I made the trek up after work the following day because I wanted to see Barry Zito pitch, as risible as that idea sounds now.

Well, it was wonderful. This park is so beautiful I got a great ticket about 30 rows behind home plate and was rooted to my seat from first pitch to last, totally absorbed in every action of the game.

At some point I missed a Bengie Molina foul ball by ten feet. The Giants scored all 9 of their runs in the 5th inning, including two homers from Molina. I was completely entranced by everything about my first game there and rather fell in love with the Giants.

May 8, 2007: New York Mets 4, San Francisco Giants 1.
I went back the following day with Jason and Orion. It was a much less interesting game, but Barry Bonds obliged with a home run (#745) and almost gave us a splash hit too, but it hooked just foul.

I also had a chance to walk around the park and take a good look at the view from the left field bleachers, as well as the Coke bottle, the retired number plaques and the view of the Bay Bridge behind left field. It’s hard to believe there’s a ballpark in a better location with more charm.

September 24, 2009: Chicago Cubs 3, San Francisco Giants 2.
We drove over the Bay Bridge after the afternoon A’s game to complete a doubleheader at AT&T Park with the Cubs in town. The weather for the Giants game was totally different – cold, windy and foggy. We had excellent seats in the lower bowl to the left of the plate which gave a great view but were behind a white supremacist with a swastika tattooed on his elbow who spat tobacco juice into a beer cup throughout the six innings he was present. He returned from a three inning absence just in time to stand in front of me and block my view of the Giants home run. To add insult to injury, although the Giants had not played well they were eking out a 2-1 win without any obvious problems when with 2 outs and a 2 strike count in the top of the 9th, Brian Wilson blew the save, giving up a 2 run homer and the W to the Cubs, for whom I have a deep and abiding hatred dating back to the ’03 NLCS when I was still a Marlins fan.

September 25, 2009: Chicago Cubs 3, San Francisco Giants 0.
I wanted to squeeze in another game before coming home, so I went back to AT&T Park the next night with an A’s-supporting friend from Santa Cruz who saw almost no games because her partner didn’t like baseball.  This time we sat in the nosebleed seats in the top tier on the first base side where I really enjoyed the view both of the game and the bay, but GOD DAMN it was cold. The game was awful. Tim Lincecum pitched very well for 7 innings but since he had to provide 50% of the Giants’ hits himself he predictably took a loss. The abject lack of hitting meant the game went by a remarkable clip, which would have at least kept Joe West happy if the fat arrogant bastard had been on the field that day, but left me feeling a bit short-changed. However, I was very happy to see a genuine great take the mound as Randy Johnson pitched the 9th inning in one of his final appearances.

We were back in California in October 2010, which coincided with the NLCS and World Series, but unsurprisingly had to watch the Giants win it all on TV as tickets were going for astronomical prices.  Still, it was amazing to be in a bar surrounded by Giants fans as the team first took the National League pennant and then the World Series (which they conveniently did on our last night before we returned home).