Guest Commentary

Baseball, hot dogs and dollar beer: Does it get any better than this?

I love it when baseball season starts--real baseball, not the steroidally impaired prima donnas who practice here every spring. I'm talking minor-league: yearning kids and washed-up Costner types looking for one last gasp. Five-dollar tickets, wacky promotions and every seat in the house a good one. Scores of 12-9, with 23 walks and seven errors. It ain't ever over 'til it's over.

I much prefer the old days of the Tucson Toros at Hi Corbett Field, but Tucson Electric Park has its own twisted charm. Take the big diamond dig last year. Hundreds of female fans were invited to dig up the dirt warning track around the edge of the field after the game in search of a certificate for some useless bauble at a local jeweler. It took forever. So much desperate digging. Some of the heftier miners flagged badly toward the end (a few sat down and cried), while Celine Dion wailed away over the stadium sound system. One of the most excruciatingly embarrassing exercises in cultural depravity I've ever witnessed.

On Sundays, it's dollar dogs, but I ate too many one time and briefly contemplated a stomach pump at the emergency room, until nature took its course. Mondays you get 2-for-1 margaritas, but they're too sweet to drink even one, in my book. On various holidays and weekends, there is usually an overblown fireworks display, with enough Lee Greenwood to choke a Republican. Toros Tuesdays just brings back bittersweet memories. Besides, it seems like they always lose when they wear the old unis.

But Thirsty Thursday (sponsored by the Weekly, it should be noted) is the day. The beer is cheap; the crowd is rowdy (funny how those two go together); the mullet counts are higher, with lots of saucy trailer girls. So I recently rounded up a couple friends and headed to the park.

PREGAME. A little late. National anthem in the parking lot. We just miss copping free tickets. Often, somebody's mom is giving away leftover group promo tickets by the front gate, but alas, in baseball, timing is everything. We pay our five-spots and go in.

FIRST INNING. Beer line. Boy, are we thirsty. We strategically bypass the longer lines just inside the main gate. Two-fisting the Widmer hefeweizen (a fine summertime beer, with lemons, no less!), we take our seats above third base, backs to the sliding sun. Cooling off already.

SECOND INNING. Here comes the T-shirt cannon. A regular in the row behind us makes an aggressive play for one of the rolled-up cotton projectiles, nearly knocking my hat off and spilling my peanuts with his big bench-riding butt. Dewd--it's only a freakin' T-shirt.

THIRD INNING. Man, are we thirsty. More beer, and a Polish dog. Put enough onions and mustard on these babies, and they go down (and stay down) just fine.

FOURTH INNING. One of my favorite promos: They get two people from the crowd, start 'em off at home plate and race 'em around the bases in opposite directions. Tonight, it's two little bitty boys, with four skinny mini-legs churning as fast as they can. They finally reach second base, more or less simultaneously, and stop. One shrugs; the other throws up his hands, and then they head off in the same direction, side by side, back around to home plate.

FIFTH INNING. Bat races. Brilliant move to schedule this one on Thirstday. Two lucky competitors bend over, put their foreheads on a standing bat, spin around 10 times and then (supposedly) run to the finish line. Usually, they go down hard after a few hopelessly sideways steps. Tonight, it's a cutie in a black skirt against a cocksure burly-man. Sure enough, the cutie makes a beeline to the finish while the burly-man goes face-first into the grass.

SIXTH INNING. Still thirsty. But thirstiness can only be quenched at bargain prices until two hours after the first pitch. Time to beat last call.

SEVENTH, EIGHTH AND NINTH INNINGS. Not sure we're at the right game. Sidewinders tossing a shutout. Crisp execution. Where are the walks? The errors? The six-run innings? No wonder they're hanging around near the top of their division. They close out the Round Rock Something-or-Others with only the slightest ninth-inning scare.

POSTGAME. "The nation's No. 1 Elton John impersonator" bounds out to a microphone and faux keyboard set up in front of home plate. Resplendent in a garish red and white plaid suit and oversized sunglasses, he belts out "Philadelphia Freedom" and "Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting" to the departing crowd. It's all too much for me.

The mustard. The mullets. The glory of our national pastime. It brings tears to my eyes. Baseball. America. Love it or ... aw, hell. Ya gotta love it.

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