[MLB] That Bootleg Guy's 20 Little Stories About 20 Baseball Games

Welcome back to the Bootleg Intro! So, just how long has it been since I went solo with one of these features? I mean, there was that music one I did with Mrs. Bootleg and then, the baseball preview that I conspired with Inside Pulse’s Xamot and Tomax on. But, there seems to be an abject lack of “Bootleg by Himself” around these parts.

Oh, listen to me prattle on…acting like y’all didn’t forget me or something.

Hi, I’m Aaron Cameron. You might remember me from my three year run on The Friday Music News Bootleg, a weekly music news column that mixed bad comedy and personal blogging with obscure pop culture commentary. Try to imagine an African-American Dennis Miller that you can’t see laughing at his own jokes. Yeah, that’s me.

And, following in the footsteps of such fan-friendly sports features like this one, today I’m offering up something that I’ve been working on for the last few decades.

Y’see, I’m a baseball fan. Quite possibly, the last Black baseball fan in captivity. And, no sport lends itself to the wacky anecdote more than baseball.

What you’re about to read are 20 true tales from 19 games (you’ll see) that I actually attended. I’ve witnessed history and had an aisle seat for absurdity. I’ve sat through summer infernos and summer…wind chill. And, I once offered my wife to an all-star pitcher. (Spoiler Alert: I’m still married.)

Hey, speaking of Mrs. Bootleg…she’s taking her flat little potato-shaped feet and walking for a breast cancer cure. I’ve never solicited any of my readers in all the years I’ve been doing this, but this is a great cause in the fight against an insidious disease, so why not kick down some of this weekend’s Mad Dog 20/20 money and let’s beat down cancer in the boob. C’mon…aren’t we all pro-boob? Aren’t we?!

Think of this as a different kind of Goodness…

Alright, Stop! Hammer Time!
Final Score: Oakland A’s 7, California Angels 5
Date: April 17, 1990 Location: Anaheim Stadium

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In 1990, the city of Oakland was the undisputed center of the entertainment universe. Oh, don’t act like you’ve forgotten Oaktown 3-5-7. Maybe you were around back then, when Too $hort was just releasing his 18th album on the verge of his 48th birthday or when comedian Mark Curry was sharpening his comedic craft before keeping us Hanging with Mr. Cooper for five…long…years. The traveling A’s road show was baseball’s hottest ticket and their first trip to Southern California brought out the brightest of all the Oakland celebrity lights…MC Hammer. He wasn’t that hard to spot, as his posse represented the single greatest gathering of African-Americans in Anaheim since the short-lived ABA days. Amazingly, Hammer’s seats were worse than ours and we were already in the $5 “family section”, where profanity, smoking and drinking were all banned…according to the front of our tickets. Hammer didn’t stay long as a line of autograph seekers snaked up the aisle in search for his signature during the game. MC Hammer overwhelmed by his fans? Only in 1990.

Mike Fetters Doesn’t Care About Black People
Final Score: Oakland A’s 7, California Angels 5
Date: August 2, 1990 Location: Anaheim Stadium

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The “Bash Brothers” version of the A’s will always hold a special place in my heart. Of course, with 15 years of hindsight, that heart has likely been enlarged by a “creamy clear flaxseed oil” of some kind, but back in the day, this team had the rock star aura that the Yankees claim today. They were administering an early beating on the hapless Halos when, from our seats in right field, we heard the Angels bullpen phone ring. The call went out to warm up rookie reliever Mike Fetters. Only problem was that Fetters was, at the time, about eight wings deep into a 10-piece meal…literally. Me and my boys rode Fetters’ fat ass with every bullpen pitch, until he entered the game with two outs in the fourth…but, not without flinging a greasy handful of meat-free wing bones in our general direction. Heckling has never been so zesty.

The Never-Ending Game
Final Score: Oakland A’s 6, Texas Rangers 5 (14 innings)
Date: June 12, 1992 Location: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

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“Naivete” and “19 years old” go together in more than an alliterative sense. In the summer of ’92, three friends and I decided to make a road trip up to the Bay Area (from Los Angeles) to see our team in their own home ballpark. We reserved a motel not far from the Coliseum, only to find out when we arrived that you can’t get a room in Oakland if you’re under 21. At least, that’s what I think the front desk clerk said, as she was standing behind six inches of bulletproof glass and adamantium. We ended up staying almost an hour away from Oakland-proper which, with traffic, turned our Friday night drive to see the A’s face future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan into a road trip, all its own. By now, Ra’s al Ghul Ryan was three seasons removed from his 1989 swim in the Lazarus Pit and nearing the end, while the ’92 A’s were in the last, asthmatic gasps of the late ’80s Bash. The two teams combined for a five hour affair that ended at 12:42 AM. And, have any of you ever spent a summer night in the Bay Area? “The dark side of the moon” would be a suitable synonym. No wonder this guy moved up here. Fortunately, the Legend of Lance Blankenship ended the ordeal with a run-scoring single to the gratitude of the 200 or so frozen souls who remained.

Leyritz Beats Astros, Old White Lady Beats Young Mexican Man
Final Score: San Diego Padres 2, Houston Astros 1
Date: October 3, 1998 Location: Qualcomm Stadium

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Game 3 of the 1998 National League Division Series made for some phenomenal drama. Kevin Brown, pitching on three days rest and following up his 16 K performance in Game 1, pitched into the 7th inning before departing with the scored tied 1-1. In the bottom of the 7th, Yankees castoff and all-around irritant, Jim Leyritz homered off of reliever Scott Elarton, which would prove to be the difference in the Pads’ 2-1 win. From our seats high, HIGH above the field in the third deck, a young man in front of us got a little too excited. The combination of inebriation mixed with the inherent incline of the third level caused him to fall over the back, then into the lap of a wrinkly old white woman in front of him. It was uglier than it sounds, as Mae Young peppered her unwanted Hispanic human backpack with an array of open hand slaps to the back of the head, before security arrived…and dragged him away. Wild-eyed and easily over 80, the old lady shot everyone in our section a look that said, “Which of y’all bitches is thinkin’ ’bout snitchin’?” Not me, Methuselah, not me.

World Series of Tomfoolery
Final Score: New York Yankees 3, San Diego Padres 0
Date: October 21, 1998 Location: Qualcomm Stadium

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The city of San Diego may not be a great sports town, but when their teams are winning, no one pushes and shoves to get back on the bandwagon any better! Having never attended a World Series game, I was as happy as someone with no rooting interest in either team could be. Mrs. Bootleg and I went with dozens of her friends and co-workers, only to find that not all of them were interested in the game. In fact, a few of them only went for the tailgate parking lot libations, as their $100 sh*tty seat tickets were essentially an afterthought. Yeah, I’m shocked, too. Once inside, two of these guys targeted a pair of pasty Yankee fans sitting a few rows away and turned them into target practice with a cache of peanut shell weapons and ice cube cruise missiles. Truth be told, their aim, while so obviously blitzed, was exceptional…pretty much the antithesis of my late night alcohol-powered piss misses in bar bathrooms up and down the west coast. But, stadium security quickly pounced and bounced our boys out. An inning or two later, they snuck back in, past the Gestapo staff, back to their seats to continue their assault anew. Don’t worry…I’m sure karma kicked their asses the next morning.

Groupie Love and Ice Cold Bud…From the Future!
Final Score: Anaheim Angels 5, Oakland A’s 4
Date: June 26, 1999 Location: Edison Field

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“Turn Back the Clock” games have become something of a tradition, since the White Sox brought the concept (vintage throwback uniforms, discounted concession prices) to Comiskey Park in 1991. But, then baseball had the bright idea of bringing “Turn Ahead the Clock” to the big leagues. Select teams wore “futuristic” uniforms that were…well, you can come up with your own derisive description. Players were announced as playing “left quadrant”, instead of left field, which would’ve made more sense if there were four outfielders, instead of three…but, now I’m getting a headache. Anyways, it was a dull game, that didn’t get interesting until afterwards. Y’see, then-Girlfriend Bootleg and I were staying at the Doubletree, which just happened to be the A’s team hotel. At the hotel bar, I discovered that ballplayers actually drink! And, even more surprising, was seeing former rookie of the year Ben Grieve rocking the polo shirt/sweater vest combo. Awesome. Even A’s third base coach, Ron Washington (as far as I know, the world’s oldest Negro) was kicked back with a bottle of domestic. Throw in a gaggle of aging groupies who were working the room with varicose gusto and it all made for an evening of glee.

A’s Beat Yanks in Playoffs…Uh, Game 1
Final Score: Oakland A’s 5, New York Yankees 3
Date: October 3, 2000 Location: Network Associates Coliseum

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During Oakland’s first great run in my lifetime (the late 80s/early ’90s edition), I was too young to appreciate how fleeting a team’s success could be and too broke to attend more than one or two regular season games per year. After an execrable eight year playoff absence, my A’s won the division on the final game of the 2000 season and hosted the two-time defending World Champs in Oakland for Game 1. Journeyman Gil Heredia started and won, defeating Roger Clemens and giving a phenomenally raucous crowd hope that a new great run had begun. At least, up until the deciding Game 5 of the first round playoff series. In each of the next three years. F*ck.

The Spirit Squad
Final Score: Philadelphia Phillies 8, Colorado Rockies 1
Date: August 1, 2001 Location: Coors Field

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On the first night of a business trip to Denver, I decided to make the long, glacial drive down the I-70 for a summer night of Rockies baseball. It was there that I discovered…in some parts of the country…it actually rains in August. My $4 “rock pile” ticket scored me a seat atop the moistened metal bleachers out in centerfield, but by the first pitch, me and the other eleven people out there had some…uh, company. Several cheerleading troupes of 10-year-old girls, I’m talking busloads of ’em, filled the emptiness around us. And, for the rest of the night, they “cheered” the Rockies on…in unison…in the most nasally prepubescent harpy shrills you’ll never want to hear. I stayed three innings.

Barry Bonds Hits 65…66…then, sits.
Final Score: San Francisco Giants 11, San Diego Padres 2
Date: September 23, 2001 Location: Qualcomm Stadium

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Try as they might…baseball fans just can’t hate Barry Bonds. Sure, the media that Barry has bullied for almost 20 years doesn’t want to believe this, but pre-Pujols and post-’98 Sosa/McGwire, there wasn’t any other player that made you drop everything when he came to the plate. On an unusually humid day in usually mild San Diego, Bonds hit his 65th and 66th home runs of his historic 73 HR season off of a carbon mass called Jason Middlebrook. Bonds’ numbers against the Padres are better than any other opponent, but eventually, even the hometown fans were looking to witness the sheer dominance of Bonds, one more time. They booed him when he was announced, yet (hypocritically?) they booed every umpire’s “ball” call that might take the bat out of Bonds’ hands. They cheered when each HR left the yard…and booed when the immortal Dante Powell pinch-hit for Bonds in the 8th. And, that’s also when most of them left.

Rickey Runs Into the Record Book
Final Score: San Diego Padres 6, Los Angeles Dodgers 3
Date: October 4, 2001 Location: Qualcomm Stadium

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It’s funny how things work out, sometimes. Rickey Henderson is my all-time favorite player. And, in 2001, he had a chance to chase history just 20 minutes down the freeway from my house, as he was within striking distance of the career records for walks, runs scored and 3,000 hits. The tragedy of the 9/11 terrorist attacks resulted in a lost week of (postponed) games that were played after the originally scheduled end of the regular season. After watching Rickey tie the runs scored record the night before, I sat amongst an inexplicably sparsely attended day game as Henderson took Dodgers starter Luke Prokopec over the left field wall for a one-out solo bomb, his 2,246 career run scored, which broke the mark previously held by Ty Cobb. Rickey slid into home plate in an attempt to put his own signature onto the moment. The next day, the headlines read: “Bonds Hits 70!” Yeah, but right under that it read “Rickey Runs…”, well, you get the idea.

Rickey Gets 3,000th Hit
Final Score: Colorado Rockies 14, San Diego Padres 5
Date: October 7, 2001 Location: Qualcomm Stadium

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It’s funny how things work out sometimes (part II). The record-setting home run mentioned above was Rickey’s 2,998th career hit. In his next at-bat, he smacked a screaming liner past the first base bag and down the right field line. Despite replays to the contrary, the umpire incorrectly called it a foul ball. Rickey picked up hit #2,999 a few days later and, in the Padres final game of the season (along with Tony Gwynn’s final game ever) Rickey went the other way with a bloop double leading off the game to become the 25th man into the 3,000 hit club. Hard to believe that 10 years before this, Rickey was arguably the most reviled ballplayer in the non-Canseco division of the game. The standing “O” that Rickey got that day should serve as inspiration for Mr. Bonds, come 2016.

Mike’s Lemonade Hits Harder Than Bonds
Final Score: San Francisco Giants 5, San Diego Padres 2
Date: March 31, 2003 Location: Qualcomm Stadium

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The Padres’ final home opener at Qualcomm Stadium doubled as the final day of my 30th birthday weekend. The gates opened at 8AM, for the 3PM start time, and about six of us started our parking lot drinking an hour after ingesting several of IHOP’s preposterous promotional platters. Flapjacks followed by, uh…just Jack, as it were. Truth be told, whiskey was not my poison of choice on this day, as someone had brought several six-packs of college date-rape enabler, Mike’s Hard Lemonade. And, for the next six hours, this sweet little bitch-beverage made its way through my body to the tune of about 12 bottles. Maybe it was the lukewarm barbecue or lukewarmer MGDs that followed, but by game time, the only place in the Padres’ ballpark that I should’ve been was their broadcast booth. I remember nothing about this game other than our seats were in the sun. Mrs. Bootleg swears that, around the sixth inning, I went off on a freaked-out soliloquy about how I wasn’t sweating anymore and therefore dehydrated and/or near death. I do not doubt this happened.

Final Score: Oakland A’s 8, Anaheim Angels 1
Date: July 26, 2003 Location: Edison Field

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(From the August 1, 2003 Friday Music News Bootleg)

On Saturday, just as I got off the freeway in Orange County, who do I see in the car next to me? Why, it’s A’s pitcher Tim Hudson! A longtime reader of this column and an expert in “celebrity/civilian” interpersonal relationships once told me that whenever you meet a celebrity, don’t gush all over them.

Give him/her something to remember.

So, I rolled the window down and screamed out “Good luck, tomorrow!” as he was pitching the next day. He looked over from the shotgun position and laughed the laugh of a man who has never wanted a light to turn green more in his life. He politely asked if I was goin’ to the game, to which I said, “Yeah, but I still don’t have a ticket. Do you got any extras?”

Yep, I’m beggin’ a millionaire ballplayer for any leftover comp tickets he might have layin’ around the glove compartment of his rental car. Hudson laughed again (still prayin’ for the light to change) and informed me he had none. So, I told him that my wife loves him (she does) and if I called her would he say ‘hi’? He’s laughin’ his ass off by this point and said, “Sure”.

My call went to her voicemail. It’s just as well, cuz at that moment the light turned green and the car (driven by an older guy who I couldn’t identify) peeled outta there. I’m sure Hudson would’ve jacked my phone and tried to steal my wife. And, I really like my phone.

We’re Not ‘Scalpers’. We’re ‘Independent Ticket Brokers’.
Final Score: Oakland A’s 8, Anaheim Angels 1
Date: July 26, 2003 Location: Edison Field

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Yep, this is the same game as the anecdote from immediately above. After my brush with Hudson and some overpriced sports bar beers, my friend and I headed over to the ballpark, without any tickets in hand. Y’see, 2003 was the season after the Angels won their first World Championship. Overnight, they went from 15,000 fans per game to 45,000 fans who, if you ask ’em, have been there “since the beginning”. Anyways, there is no difference between soliciting scalpers and soliciting sex. The sellers advertise on every corner, while the buyers silently acknowledge them with nods of the head and hand gestures that mean, “Let’s ‘talk’ in that conveniently located alley behind you.” Ooh, and make sure to hear how fast one of us asks, “Are you the police?” After striking out in our first two attempts to make a deal, we ended up overpaying for sh*tty seats from a guy who made us empty our pockets before he’d talk to us. “Just making sure you ain’t no cop.”, he said. Our word wasn’t good enough? I don’t want to live in a world where illegal activity no longer has integrity.

My Son’s First Game
Final Score: Colorado Rockies 7, San Diego Padres 1
Date: June 1, 2004 Location: PETCO Park

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So, longtime readers of my Bootleg column might remember that my son, Jalen, was born nine weeks premature. He spent the next five weeks in intensive care, before coming home with us in mid-March. After that, his doctor ordered him on “house arrest” until mid-May and Kid Cameron was not permitted to go outside for more than a minute or so. Finally, he got the green light to go out and a few weeks later the entire Cam Fam found themselves in downtown San Diego for Jalen’s first ballgame. I guess you could call it anticlimactic. The boy slept the whole time and his mother brought an entire Babies R Us outlet store into our box seats…”just in case”. But, buried under those three or four baby blankets (that his mother thankfully remembered, “just in case” the temperature went south of 70) was my son. And, to me, the entire scene was like the end of Field of Dreams. (Just imagine that the two hours preceding that scene weren’t grossly overrated by every fan and critic in this country.)

The “Almost Saw a No-Hitter” Game
Final Score: Oakland A’s 7, Texas Rangers 2
Date: July 15, 2005 Location: McAfee Coliseum

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If you’ve been a fan long enough, you’re eventually going to be in the stands to see one of these. In fact, anyone who was in attendance for this game and the A’s/Rangers game the previous night were treated to two of ’em. Rich Harden held the high-powered Texas offense in check through 7 1/3 perfect innings before giving up a hit. The next night, I flew up and was treated to the often inconsistent Barry Zito putting it all together on a warm July evening. Seven no-hit innings later, Zito would take his little bit of history into the eighth. The crowd response was a surreal mix of excitement over witnessing this history and fear over how Zito could screw this up. With one out in the eighth, Designated Shrek, Kevin Mench, poked one over the left field wall. The next sounds heard were 22,000 people exhaling.

“That’s the Kind of Bold Flavor They Enjoy in…Albuquerque!
Final Score: Sacramento River Cats 8, Albuquerque Isotopes 5
Date: August 5, 2005 Location: Raley Field

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(From the August 12 Friday Music News Bootleg)

I had never been to Sacramento in the summer…and, now I know why. For God’s sake, it was 112 degrees, when I got there. (And, for the benefit of those of you reading this outside America: For God’s sake, it was 45 degrees Celsius). And, much to my surprise, there were actually people walking around…outside. Birds were just randomly catching fire and falling from the sky, yet there were still seemingly clear-thinking people who were willingly outside. And, by the way…Hell has a home team. The ballgame started at 7:05 PM and it was still 98 degrees. Although, it was made more manageable only because The Cats were hosting the Albuquerque Isotopes. I shouldn’t have to explain why. Should I?

Cameron’s Face, Meet Beltran’s Face, Beltran’s Face…Cameron’s Face
Final Score: San Diego Padres 2, New York Mets 1
Date: August 11, 2005 Location: PETCO Park

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Day baseball in San Diego is almost an embarrassment of riches. Mock us for our fish tacos and”¦ugh”¦Coronas if you wish, but “humidity” has no home here and our average August temperature feels like it’s 30 degree cooler than yours, as a result. And, with 35,000 fellow work hookyers (“hookers”?) in attendance, Mrs. Bootleg and I settled in for three hours of child-free rest and irresponsibility. A taut Tom Glavine/Woody Williams pitchers duel was broken up in the bottom of the 7th, when Mets’ outfielders Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran collided in pursuit of a fly ball. This was easily the scariest sight I’d seen at a ballgame as the two essentially ran full speed into each other’s heads. Most surprisingly, years of watching Junk Yard Dog, Kamala and other sports-entertainers had fooled me into believing that the Black man’s head was an indestructible cannonball of brute force. For as long as Cameron was down, my only working theory is that Carlos Beltran is actually Samoan.

Grand Slam Into Extras, Walk-Off to Win It
Final Score: San Diego Padres 8, Washington Nationals 5
Date: September 17, 2005 Location: PETCO Park

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In all the years that I’d been attending games, I’d never seen a walk-off home run. And, in downtown San Diego on this Saturday night, most of us in attendance were just about sober enough to start drinking again, after the game. Nationals manager (and, believe it or not, the original Mr. Bojangles) Frank Robinson fumbled away a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth as four Nats relievers gave up five runs, highlighted by a bases loaded bomb from a prepubescent girl. Three innings later, the Padres’ Ramon Hernandez went yard, with two on, to end the agony. Y’see…they stop selling beer in the bottom of the seventh and…oh, never mind.

Booo-nds! Booo-nds!
Final Score: San Diego Padres 6, San Francisco Giants 1
Date: April 3, 2006 Location: PETCO Park

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Baseball’s Opening Day is an event unto itself. And, on a drizzly spring day, the eyes of the baseball world watched and waited for one man’s every move. By the time Peter Gammons crawled back into his coffin and Pedro Gomez put away his powdered wig, the Barry Bonds Show (um, the one that hasn’t been cancelled) had already begun. Sure, there were a few dozen more “Barroid” signs than usual and at least one more projectile plastic syringe than I ever remember seeing at the ol’ ballyard, but all in all…nothing had changed. Barry Bonds was booed and baseball was back.

Let the next stories start…now.

Aaron Cameron previously penned The Friday Music News Bootleg from 2003 thru 2006. He can now be found, here at IP, writing album reviews, the occasional sports and music feature and polishing his three Writer of the Year award trophies. N’yahh.