I Almost Prayed in Albuquerque: Isotope Stadium’s Cruel Glow

In Summer 2007, I drove from San Diego to Cooperstown for Tony Gwynn’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This is the final installment of a nine-part series covering the first day of my journey.

After weaving a path across the heart and several limbs of Albuquerque, I found the hotel around 9 p.m. and checked myself in. I was exhausted and irritated, and my legs were hurting from softball. (I’d started playing earlier in the summer for the first time in more than a decade. I forgot that I’d aged since then and I strained both quads while “sprinting” down the first-base line.)

The woman at the front desk gave me my key — plastic with a magnetic strip, like a credit card. I asked her if there were any restaurants in the vicinity. She pointed to the “lounge” down the hallway.

“It closes in 10 minutes.” The front desk woman had straight, blond hair and wore a taupe suit that might have been part of the wall behind her. Her voice plodded like an old mule.

I glanced at the lounge. A couple of guys were drinking at the bar. Everything was funny to them. I decided to take my chances on jerky a la beef.

Back at the car, I managed to lose my room key under the seat. I got down on my pus-filled knee (softball again; don’t ask) and started digging around for it. The parking lot lighting was terrible (in an ironic twist, most of the light came from the glow of Isotope Stadium — my intended destination, not a mile from where I knelt) and my quads were barking. I was hungry, tired, and screaming words my mother never taught me.

I don’t typically indulge in prayer, but I thought about it — you know, as long as I was already on my knees. After a few moments of questioning everything — why had I dragged myself out of bed at 3:30 in the morning to drive all day, every day for the next two weeks? — I took a deep breath and, instead of praying for a better day tomorrow, swore that I would get one.

* * *

Thus concludes Day 1 of the journey. Day 2 takes us from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City and is chronicled in a chapter called “Hope for Us All” (after a Nick Lowe song)… but that is a story for some other year.

An abridged version of the entire trip from San Diego to Cooperstown and back (6417 miles, if you’re keeping score at home) can be found in the Ducksnorts 2008 Baseball Annual.

You can also see a boatload of pictures — including shots from several games along the way, the not-so-famous Bucksnort sign, the aftermath of my car’s unfortunate run-in with a big rig, and of course Tony Gwynn’s induction.

And for the music lovers, here’s a list of what I listened to while driving across the United States.

* * *

On another note, the weekly link roundup is becoming unwieldy, so we’ll try something different, i.e., smaller link dumps throughout the week. Who knows, it just might work…

  • Position Players by fWAR: 19th Century (FanGraphs). Joshua Maciel begins a series that will examine “the top 500 position players of all time by career Wins Above Replacement.”
  • Poor Kevin Brown (IIATMS). Mark Smith examines ex-Padre Brown’s case (now dismissed) for the Hall of Fame. From where I sit, Brown is a borderline guy, which means he should have gotten more than 2.1% of the vote. To pick an easy target, he was a better pitcher than Jack Morris.
  • The Insignificant Hall of Fame (Crashburn Alley). Bill Baer has strong thoughts on HOF President Jeff Idelson’s recent endorsement of the current voting process: “Baseball does not need a Hall of Fame. When the institution is run properly, it can be a great asset that people can use to better understand the various time periods and cultural mores. However, it is not a necessity. In fact, the Hall of Fame needs us a lot more than we need it.” As someone who has visited baseball’s version of Mecca twice in his 41 years on this planet, I can’t adopt such an extreme position. I get where Baer is coming from, and I feel much of his frustration, but I’ve come to view the Hall of Fame as a representation of baseball and larger society… it ain’t fair, and it ain’t gonna be… but it’s still pretty cool. And besides, what else are we going to complain about if they fix it? I’d rather gripe about trivial stuff than wars and what not, but that’s just me.
  • Andrew Gelman on Statistics (The Browser). Gelman, a professor of statistics, lists the five books that most influenced his thinking. Among them are the old Bill James Baseball Abstracts and a book by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. I’ve read some of Kahneman and Tversky, who influenced Nassim Nicholas Taleb, of whom I am a fan. [h/t B-R]
  • Before blogs, there was Warren Newson (Southside Sox). You may recall that I heart Warren Newson. [h/t BBTF]

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2 Responses »

  1. Before I read… just wanted to say the site looks sharp!