“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.” — A. Bartlett Giamatti, former Commissioner of Major League Baseball
* * *
Rivalry was the name of the game tonight in Greensboro, which played host to the nearby Hickory Crawdads. A healthy number of Crawdads supporters made the 1-hour trip up to Greensboro and remained vocal throughout the game. Their favorite intimidation(?) tactic — which took me about two hours to decipher — was to count out loud the steps a batter took from home plate to the dugout after a strikeout or lineout. I’m looking forward to being in Hickory in a couple of days to see how these very energetic fans handle themselves at home. To everyone’s credit, no one got close to losing tempers; the back-and-forth between the visitors and the home crowd remained respectful . . . for the most part.
The home crowd was not to be outdone. I sat beside first-time attendees Sue and Chuck — both northern transplants — whose enthusiasm for the home team rose as the team rallied late (see recap, below).
Behind us was Kristi, whose 6th-inning participation in a quiz contest about honey(?) paled in comparison to her energetic rejection of an umpire’s controversial call on the field (more on that below in the recap): “He’s too short; he can’t see anything! He’s a hobbit! You know hobbits can’t see anything but flowers!”
The Fan of the Game award, however, goes to black lab bat-dog Miss Babe Ruth, who tonight participated in her 643rd straight game. She is retiring this year, and the ball pail in which she carries fresh balls to the umpire is on its way to Cooperstown. At the end of the game, she ran the bases, touching her nose to each one. Her replacements were present tonight as well, with one of them (Master Yogi Berra) spelling her for late-inning work. A third dog joined the other two in a three-dog scrum in the infield after the final out. UPDATE: The Raleigh News & Observer ran a story on Miss Babe Ruth’s retirement on 8/31/15.
* * *
I was joined tonight by friends Lauren and Jordan, who made the drive over from Raleigh today to see what Greensboro had to offer. We met before the game at the Pig Pounder Brewery, about a mile northwest of the stadium. Jordan made the discovery of the night at the ballpark — a plastic beer cup that is filled from a hole in the bottom (to minimize the waste that often flows over the lip of a plastic cup when filled from above) that is then sealed with a magnet.
* * *
Greensboro 7, Hickory 4. After a slow start during which Greensboro fell behind by 3, the home team rallied to tie it up at 3 in the bottom of the fifth, then rallied again for 4 runs in the 7th. The fireworks after the game were no match for the on-field fireworks that fueled the rallies, with several steals, a home run, and one Grasshopper vehemently arguing that his hit to right field had been trapped, not caught, by the Crawdads right fielder. The umpire wasted little time ejecting him, after which he threw down and kicked his batting helmet before heading for the tunnel. First baseman Austen Smith made a nifty catch of a line drive in the top of the 8th to stymie a short-lived Hickory rally, and the pitching staff settled own after that to close out the game.
* * *
Tonight’s beer: Pig Pounder Snout Stout — A smoky milk stout from a new brewery near downtown Greensboro. The brewery is owned by a guy who also owns the last Darryl’s in North Carolina. I’m sure my fellow Dukies remember fondly our trips to the Darryl’s on 15-501, and Raleighites will remember it as the restaurant that preceded David’s Dumplings and Red Hot and Blue on Hillsborough Street.