Oh, the places you go

planes-trains-automobilesNEW YORK – It wasn’t too long ago that Major League Baseball clubs used to fly commercial. These were in the days before a person had to take their shoes off and throw away their toothpaste just to walk into the waiting room before boarding a flying Greyhound bus, but it’s still amazing nonetheless.

Imagine dropping in to Denver International and seeing the Kansas City Royals these days. The traveling secretary would be gathering all the suitcases and bags while Mike Sweeney and Zack Grienke sported over-tailored suits with single-breasted jackets and mock turtle neck shirts.

Someone get those guys an Oxford shirt and a clip-on tie.

Yes, we’ve come a long way since 1974… kind of. These days teams like the Phillies fly chartered planes from city to city because they don’t want to mix with the rabble lying shoeless about the concourse inhaling Cinnabon and begging for autographs or snapshots from a cell phone. They also get to avoid the security lines by going through their preflight screening at the ballpark.

Yes, that’s right. Big league ballplayers go directly from the clubhouse and through a metal detector with a TSA representative waiting on the other side so the players can autograph the Homeland Security-issued handheld scanner.

Nope, don’t expect to see pro ballplayers dashing through the airport like O.J. in that old TV commercial on his way to the Hertz counter. Hell, don’t expect to see anyone you recognize from red-and-white pinstriped double knits renting a car at the airport. Not when it’s easier to send for a town car if the shuttle from the hotel to ballpark leaves early.

Anyway, aside from the splendor of private, first-class travel with no lines or shoe removal, ballplayers get their own private cars on the Amtrak train when they roll into towns less than two hours away. Oh, even though the MLB players’ union is the most powerful union in history (you know, since the average salary of the rank-and-file is over $2 million), even they aren’t so wasteful on insisting on a chartered flight from Philly to New York or D.C. … you know, because buses and trains are so efficient.

The point is the Phillies are rolling up to New York for a four-game (wrap-around) series this weekend and Monday. In an unforeseen twist of fate, the series isn’t built up as a clash of teams seeking revenge or battling for the top spot in the NL East. Instead, the big news is the return of an ex-Met turned Phillie and an ex-Phillie turned Met.

Weird, wild stuff.

ted_leoBut not as weird and wild as the stories coming out of some of the other transportation hubs in and around New York City. According to reports via the wonder of social media, musicians Ted Leo and Biz Markie were stranded at LaGuardia Airport. The thing about that is Ted Leo was supposed to be in Toronto with his bandmates, The Pharmacists, for an opening spot on a bill with Pearl Jam.

You know… that Pearl Jam.

Apparently three-fourths of the quartet, including Philadelphian Chris Wilson, made it Toronto ahead of the fierce weather the tore through the eastern seaboard. Leo, however, spent the day wiling away the time in Queens hoping for a flight to get him to the gig on time.

Word has it he’s still in Queens… right next door to CitiField, in fact.

A text message was sent to Chris Wilson – the splendid drummer as well as hardcore Phillies and Eagles fan – for the finer details of the evening, but according to preliminary tweets from Leo, The Pharmacists will play before Pearl Jam’s proper set this evening. We haven’t heard back from Wilson yet probably because, you know, he’s on stage rockin.

“Word I’m getting is that there WILL be a Pharamcists’ show, just w/o the ‘Ted Leo & the’ part!” Leo tweeted. “I have to admit, I wish I was in the audience.”

Yeah… here-here. Then again, it’s always a good thing to be in the audience for a Ted Leo & The Pharmacists show. More intriguing is the idea of Eddie Vedder & The Pharmacists, which just might be the opening act in Toronto this evening.

Ain’t that something?

Anyway, maybe the best way to make up the gig would be for TL/Rx to play one of the four shows at The Spectrum in late October.

Finally, it’s worth noting that even some of the Phillies had trouble getting out to Queens this afternoon. Pedro Martinez was supposed to be at CitiField for a press conference at 3:30 p.m. but got snarled up in the traffic leaving Manhattan. In one of the stranger sights the visitors’ clubhouse was completely bare at 3:30, though since the game was delayed by 76 minutes at the outset, it all worked out in the end.

It is worth noting that the baseball scribes were all seated in the press box long before 3 p.m. …

That No. 7 train runs like clockwork.

updated Aug. 25
Eddie Vedder + The Pharmacists

National League independence

It seems like a long time since we were at ol’ Citizens Bank Park, but here we are on an easygoing Independence Day Friday. Depending on how quickly we get out of here tonight, I might roll by the Graff House as a little tribute to Thomas Jefferson (as well as John Adams and Benji Franklin) for the fantastic document they wrote here in Philadelphia back in the summer of 1776.

But more on the task at hand here at the Bank where the Phillies can seek their independence from the rest of the NL East with a good weekend against the Mets. In fact, there’s some talk in these parts that the Phillies can properly bury the Mets with a four-game sweep…

Perhaps, but there remains a ton of baseball left to be played. However, a sweep by the Phillies puts the Mets 8½ games back and increases the intensity of the bickering and fighting amongst members of the league’s most dysfunctional club.

Regardless, the Mets will trot out their top pitchers this weekend with Johan Santana working tonight, John Maine slated to go Saturday night, the delicate Oliver Perez set for Sunday, and Pedro Martinez in Monday night’s finale.

The Phillies counter with J.A. Happ in his second big-league start, followed by Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick and Adam Eaton.

Yes, with that lineup a sweep will be difficult.

But this ain’t APBA or Strat-O-Matic… let’s see what happens.

***
Between the top and bottom of the first inning, the Phanavision showed Chris Wilson in the crowd. Chris Wilson, of course, is the excellent drummer for Ted Leo & the Pharmacists.

I’m sure I was the only person who picked up on the deserved celebrity of Chris Wilson…

That’s a damn shame.

***
Finally, it’s a big night in Eugene for the Olympic Track Trials. In addition to the semifinals of the men’s 1,500-meters, Hayward Field will be blazed up for the finals of the women’s 5,000 meters and the men’s 10,000 meters.

Villanova’s Jen Rhines is a favorite to make her third straight Olympic team in the 5,000, while Millersville University’s James Carney is a legit darkhorse in the 10,000.

Maureen McCandless from Nazareth Academy had one of the fastest qualifying times in the 5,000 and should be a threat, too.

Apropos of that, the 2008 track Trials have been some of most entertaining ever. If you aren’t watching you are missing out.