Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Happy 100th anniversary, Moonlight Graham!

Yes, on June 29, 1905, Moonlight Graham made his one appearance in a Major League Baseball game, playing the outfield for John McGraw's New York Giants. Very few people would care if he hadn't been immortalized in the book Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. Of course, Graham became even more famous when he was portrayed by Burt Lancaster in the movie Field of Dreams. And the rest of the story about him as portrayed in the movie was essentially true - he left baseball to get a medical degree and practiced medicine in Chisolm, MN for 50 years. And he liked to buy his wife Alicia blue hats.

A couple of interesting things happened over the weekend. On Saturday night I took R. to see our first game at Campanelli Stadium as the Brockton Rox took on the visiting New Jersey Jackals.

Campanelli is an interesting place. Much like the city of Brockton itself, the ballpark has few frills, with metal stands and 4,750 plastic seats. There are a few luxury boxes at the top of the stadium. There is the usual assortment of concession and souvenir stands. A nice touch that R. really enjoyed was a real cotton candy machine. Most ballparks these days sell pre-made cotton candy, packaged in either a plastic container or a bag. At Campanelli a guy actually moved a paper stick around the cotton candy machine, coming up with a nice, pink sticky blob. Very cool, and very popular since it took us about 15 minutes to get through the line. We were able to follow the game, though, since like many modern minor league ballparks the concourse was at the top of the grandstand so you could see the field while you were getting your snacks.

A couple of nice touches graced Camanelli. First, the Rox (who's motto is "Fun is Good". One of the owners is Mike Veeck, son of Hall of Famer Bill Veeck), retired numbers in honor of Brockton's two boxing legends, Rocky Marciano (#49) and Marvin Hagler (#62). The numbers represent the number of wins each fighter had. Also, shoes hang from the grandstand rafters, recognizing Brockton's role as one of the great shoe manufacturing centers in the world in the 19th century.

The people of Brockton appear to love the Rox, and a crowd of 5,568 attended the game on a steamy summer night. Unfortunately, the Rox had a tough night as they were pounded by the Jackals 19-2. The Rox starter, Mike Henry, gave up six runs in only 2/3 of an inning in the first, and that sent the tone for the rest of the game. But we had a good time, and I can certainly see us attending another Rox game before the season ends.

Sunday night A. and I had a babysitter and we went to see Batman Begins. We were originally planning to see Bewitched, but she read the reviews and suggested that we see Batman instead! Needless to say my arm didn't require much twisting!

I thought the movie was great. The Batman series needed a reboot after the terrible Batman & Robin ended the last series of movies in 1997. This movie takes us through the Dark Knight's origins, from the death of his parents to how he became a fighting machine to where a lot of his gadgets came from.

One thing I loved about this movie was that it actually focused on Batman. The last series of movies seemed to focus a lot more on the villians, like Jack Nicholson's Joker or Jim Carrey's Riddler. The bad guys seemed to be a heck of a lot more interesting than Batman.

Not so with Batman Begins. This is all about Bruce Wayne/Batman, ably played by a relative unknown, Christian Bale. I thought this was another good thing - you weren't thinking about Michael Keaton or Val Kilmer or George Clooney as Batman - you were just thinking about Batman.

The story holds together very nicely. I also think a good idea was to use relatively unknown comic book villians, Ras Al-Ghul and the Scarecrow, as opposed to bad guys who are well known from the old Batman TV series.

I also liked the fact that Gotham looked like a real place. Gotham City in the previous movies looked like some kind of wierd Gothic idea of a city, not someplace anyone would want to live. This Gotham looked like New York or Chicago on a really, really bad day.

There were a couple of problems. I thought the budding romance between Wayne/Batman and Rachel (Katie Holmes) fell flat. The ending was OK, but the threat posed by the League of Shadows just seemed unfocused somehow. Overall, though, I thought this was the best Batman movie yet, and I highly recommend seeing it.


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