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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Frigid Buffalo - Road Trip

We learned a few things on our trip to Buffalo to see the Bisons last weekend.

We learned where the safe and out umpire hand signals may have come from. We learned that fried pickles can be a good ballpark snack. We also learned that Buffalo's attendance totals are from ticket sales, not actual people in the ballpark. And, it's cool to snag a baseball.

What we knew going in: If you're planning a trip to Buffalo for a baseball game in April, be prepared to wear layers.

That's what we did Saturday, in 45-degree weather, dodging occasional sprinkles at Coca-Cola Field, to see a 2-0 Bisons victory over visiting Scranton.

My wife and I went to Buffalo for our first game of the year not only because her dad lives out that way and we had yet to see the stadium, but also because one of the visiting coaches, Scott Aldred was a member of the 1990 CMC set.

I had designs on getting my two CMC Aldred cards signed, as well an Upper Deck card Nick at sent along. But it didn't happen. The weather and a baseball movie got in the way.

The movie was a documentary called Signs of the Time. We saw a story on it that morning in The Buffalo News. The movie tried to answer the question of where umpire hand signals came from. The answer is either umpire Bill Klem, credited with the innovation at the Hall of Fame, or 19th century baseball player William "Dummy" Hoy, who was deaf. Interesting movie. That's the promo card above.

The movie got out at 3, the game started at 4. That left little time to track down Aldred at the park.

At the game, the weather was evident in the umbrellas and winter coats that dotted the sparsely populated seats. There couldn't have been 200 people there. The announced attendance? 5,022. Among the ticket holders who bailed due to the weather were my wife's dad and her stepmother.

What the stands looked like for the ninth.

But we saw a complete game, and, with the temperatures, a mercifully quick one.

We also had a couple extra players to root for: Scranton's Jon Weber (right) and Mike Cervenak (up top). It turned out they are both in their 12th season in professional baseball. They also have a total of 10 major league games between them, all Cervenak's from 2008 with Philadelphia.

Neither Weber, nor Cervenak have have gotten off to a good start, they're both hitting below .200. But they each got a hit Saturday. Cervenak's third-inning double put two in scoring position for Ike Davis to single in. They were the only two runs of the game. Davis, by the way, got a quick call-up to Citi Field, going 2-4 in his major league debut Monday.

Cervenak also played left field. Up top is a picture of Cervenak with the retired number of Jeff Manto, member of the 1990 CMC set.

A cold sprinkle prompted us to explore the concourse around the start of the seventh. We picked up a soft pretzel shaped like the Bisons' B. But what we really wanted was fried pickles. I'd read about Buffalo's park having them and we wanted them.

We were rewarded with some good fried pickle spears and returned to the game. It was the ninth inning and we stood in a walkway parallel to first base. Buffalo's Bobby Parnell walked the first batter in the 2-0 game.

In the middle of becoming the second walk, Kevin Russo fouled one back, off the upper deck. The ball landed in the walkway near where we were standing. My wife would have gotten it straight had the usher not gotten there first. But, with no kids around, or hardly anyone else for that matter, the usher handed the ball to her.
My gloved hand holding up our baseball
It was definitely cool. But I'm still waiting for the time when a ball comes racing at us in our assigned seats and we snag it. Hasn't happened yet. That would be cool.

Not wanting to press our luck any further (and wanting to warm up), we left it at that. We should be heading to another game next month. Not sure where yet, though. Maybe we'll get a CMC setter's autograph then.


  1. It's very strange seeing the ballpark that empty. I know the weather was bad and all, but when I lived in Buffalo and immediately afterward, the park was packed almost every night. That was when the city thought it was going to get a major league team. That thought is long gone.

    The park looks almost exactly the same though.

  2. I can imagine the club was doubly unhappy with the weather. The game started right as the Sabres-Bruins playoff game was about to end. I'm sure on a nice day (and with a Sabres win) there would have been many walking over to the ballpark for the game. Obviously that didn't happen.
    But the weather was just a bad combination for baseball, the threat of rain and the reality of the temperatures, not many will come out for that.

  3. Wow, Weber had such a hot spring that there was talk he could make the Yankees. I guess it's a good thing Girardi didn't get seduced by his spring numbers. Or maybe he believed he should have made the team and his disappointment is affecting his play?