Friday, Sept. 7—The Brooklyn Cyclones, season-long nemesis of the Renegades, continued to baffle Hudson Valley in the first game of the playoffs, shutting out the visiting Gades 4-0 behind the masterful complete-game pitching of Hansel Robles. The Brooklyn right-hander faced 31 batters (four more than the minimum), allowed four scattered hits, struck out 10, walked none and looked as sharp at the end of the game as he did at the beginning. The Cyclones scored a run in the first and three in the second, after which the game turned into a scoreless pitchers’ duel. Please click here to read the game story on the Gades’ Web site.
The teams were scheduled to square off Saturday night, Sept. 8, at Dutchess Stadium for the second game of a best-of-three semifinal series but the game has been postponed to Sunday at 5:05 p.m. because of current and en route inclement weather. Meanwhile, I was pleased to learn that the Tri-City ValleyCats won a 5-4 nail-biter tonight against the Doubledays in Auburn in Game 1 of the other semifinal series.
Bob, fresh from completing a major project at work, swung by my house around 3:15 p.m., where I was waiting with hot coffee for the trip and ice and other essentials for tailgating when we got to Brooklyn. We loaded everything into his car and were on our way at 3:30. We made good time down the Taconic State, Sprain Brook and Bronx River Parkways and Sheridan Expressway (Interstate 895) to the Triborough Bridge. Traffic, as expected, was increasingly heavy but moving well for the most part until the bridge, where it was backed up and moving slowly. Despite some sharp maneuvering by Bob, we were moving more and more slowly on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (Interstate 278 west), so we left the BQE for the Prospect Expressway and Ocean Parkway. The latter, despite traffic lights and a fair amount of volume, moved well and about 5:15, 67 miles later, we pulled into the spacious parking lot ($5) next to MCU Park, home of the Cyclones.
First stop was the will-call window to pick up our tickets. Next stop was Danny Boys Pizza, one of a couple of establishments along the left-field side of the stadium, where we had a couple of slices and a nice chat with Rich, the Renegades bus driver. We then proceeded a block or so up Surf Avenue to the original Nathan’s Famous, the iconic hot dog stand established in 1916, and took photos of each other at the site of the annual hot-dog-eating contest. We then returned to the parking lot, where we offset lingering heat and humidity with a little tailgating and a breeze from the nearby Atlantic Ocean and had a nice chat with Jordan, who was on his way to a vendor table to sell subscriptions to the New York Daily News. Bob, who buys the paper faithfully on the newsstand, was pleased to learn that the News indeed delivered to homes as far north as Newburgh (as far as Albany, actually) and promptly signed up—at a substantial saving.
We headed into the ballpark around 6:30, where King Henry, the iconic entertainer, seeing our Gades gear, jokingly told us that the game had been canceled. We then had a nice chat and took a photo with King Henry, whose mother lives in Orange County.
We caught up briefly with Bev, Bob, Hal and Grant before the game and, since the place wasn’t exactly crowded, we were able to sit in the front row right behind the Renegades dugout. Several other Renegades faithful, including a delegation of Fun Team and other staffers, were in the general area, so we had a bit of a counterweight to the good-natured ribbing of some dedicated Cyclones fans. Jose Molina waved and smiled at us before the game.
The four umpires included two acquaintances from Dutchess Stadium—Jorge Teran behind the plate and Tim Hromada at third base, not far from us. Bob got Tim’s attention in the bottom of the fifth and invited him and his colleagues to join us for refreshments after the game(s) at The Dutch, prompting a big smile from Tim.
Brooklyn’s equivalent of the Renegades’ Fun Team is a group of young women called the Beach Bums. In addition to the usual inter-inning activities they sit atop the dugouts throughout the game and shake pompoms as they lead cheers for the Cyclones.
Adding to the ambience was somebody behind home plate who repeatedly gave a pretty good imitation of the Turtle Man, from Call of the Wildman. Bob noted that a recent episode involved the removal of a group of skunks—somewhat akin to the situation at The Dutch.
At the end of the game I caught a green and white Victory Ball, a softball-size cushy ball, one of many being thrown to the fans by the Beach Bums. Before heading outside I shook hands with a number of nearby Cyclones fans and congratulated them on the victory. They in turn wished me a safe trip home and a few said they planned to come up to The Dutch for Game 2.
A large number of fans had gathered outside the first-base side of the stadium, where both teams exit from their clubhouses to the parking lot. Bev, bless her, had a large platter of brownies and chocolate-chip cookies for the Renegades and a few fortunate fans like Hal, Grant, Bob and me. “Tomorrow at The Dutch!” was an oft-repeated mantra as we greeted the players near the bus, and we had a nice chat with Charles Epperson, Marty Gantt and Geoff Rowan. Meanwhile, Bob and I made periodic trips to the car to replenish our refreshments.
After the bus left we had a nice chat with Cyclones fans Patricia (who was wearing Cyclones earrings she designed herself) and husband Hernan, who may be going to The Dutch for Game 2. When we noted the low attendance tonight (officially paid, 2,824, but I doubt if there were even 2,000 actually present), they said a lot of folks just do not turn out for playoff games. Potential reasons include resumption of regular school and work schedules after the summer (although this was a Friday night) and the lack of giveaways and promotions; but how do you not support your team in a playoff game??? I guess part of the answer lies in the difference between folks like me who care primarily about the baseball as opposed to folks who care more about the entertainment aspects than the game itself (not that there is anything wrong with entertainment, but in this case the priorities seem a bit skewed).
After the bus pulled away and the crowd outside the clubhouse dissipated, Bob and I spent a quiet moment at the nearby Tribute Walk and Wall of Remembrance, which honor those who lost their lives during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, especially the firefighters, police and other emergency service workers. I choke up and cry every time I stand before it.
It was still a late-summer Friday evening on Coney Island, with a lot of folks out and about, so, rather than leave right away, Bob (whose legs were starting to ache) and I drove back to Nathan’s for a late supper of a hot dog, fries and soda (Bob) and a fish sandwich and coffee (me), which we enjoyed in the car as we headed out around 11:20. For a change of scene we picked up the Belt Parkway at a nearby interchange and followed it to the BQE east, then, in the interest of saving the $6.50 toll on the Triborough, crossed the Williamsburg Bridge (free) into Manhattan, where, after travel through congested local streets (including construction), we picked up the FDR Drive and had smooth, toll-free sailing the rest of the way home up the Major Deegan Expressway, New York State Thruway, Sprain Brook and Taconic State Parkways and local streets, arriving back at the house shortly after 1 a.m., safe and sound, thank God.