The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

The signage covered in ivy outside the factory

I stopped blogging for a short time in the winter of 2009-2010. I came back probably stronger than ever, but I left out a few of the features that I enjoyed writing. One of them was the Interesting Sports Destinations feature that I used to write. I just found a few places that were not covered in other segments, but that I felt deserved to be talked about a bit. I would like to re-launch the feature with a look at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory that is located of course in Louisville, Kentucky. Continue reading

Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse

Right in downtown Chicago is a great little restaurant that shows what is great about being in the big city. On my way to Wisconsin this past fall I spent the night in Chicago. Without even thinking I was walking around town wearing a Green Bay Packers hat. I never really took any heat except when I was eating dinner. That may be because I picked Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse to eat at. This great little restaurant/bar is located just off the Chicago River on Kinzie in downtown Chicago. As soon as you walk in you are greeted by the bust of Harry that is shown to the left. What makes this place so great is the atmosphere while you are eating. I was there the day that the Cubs sale was finalized so I missed seeing Frankie O the bartender doing his weekly bit for Comcast Sports Net. They filmed the show earlier that day so of course I just had the locals to talk sports with. Sitting in the bar you can talk sports until you are sick to your stomach. Beware though. These people are passionate sports fans.

Another great thing about Harry’s is all of the memorabilia that is on display. In addition to the bust as you walk in they have all kinds of artifacts from Harry’s career along with other Chicago sports celebrities. As you walk into the main dining area you see two Hall of Fame baseball jerseys on each side of the entrance. The jersey on the right is the famous #23 of Ryne Sandberg, and on the left is the black and white #72 of Carlton Fisk. Both jerseys are autographed, and have been in place for years. I probably spent 30-40 minutes just walking around looking at everything. One of the highlights of the tour is the famous Bartman ball. We all know the story about how Steve Bartman cost the Cubs the World Series. We all also know that Alex Gonzalez actually did that booting the ball later that inning. Nevertheless the ball has become famous. In 2003 Grant DePorter bought the ball in an auction for the Harry Caray Restaurant Chain. After much public debate the ball was blown up in 2004. The next year the ball was boiled in water, and the steam used in pasta sauce. So now you may have eaten pasta that had remnants of this ball in it. I am a ball collector so of course I wanted to see the ball. It is located just to the right of the Caray bust as you walk in. Budget some wandering time into your schedule if you decide to eat here.

As far as the restaurant goes it is very good food. I have eaten at Harry’s several times, and I have never been dissapointed. The prices are a little steep, but you get what you pay for. The last time I went I spent $25, and walked out very full. you may come in for the sports, but you will leave full. If you are in Chicago give this place a try. You will be glad that you did.

Target Field Construction Site

This July I was in Minnesota as part of our yearly baseball trip. We wanted to see the Metrodome one last time before it was torn down. We also wanted to see the new Twins stadium Target Field. Through a friend we learned that you could go to the top of a parking garage to get a great view of the stadium. We picked the wrong garage, but we still got a great view. We would have had to break down some barriers to get to the top of the other garage. From what we could see around the stadium, and the little inside the stadium this place is going to be nice. From the conceptual drawings you can see that this 40,000 seat stadium is going to look very nice. It has really taken shape even more since I was there. Looking at some photos online I would say that the outside is nearly complete. Just seeing the outside of the stadium is not enough. I will have to see a game here when it opens. Maybe my White Sox will have better luck here than they did in the old Metrodome. The stadium will have an exhibition on April 2nd, 2010, and will officially open on April 12, 2010 against the Boston Red Sox. My only question will be how much snow will be on the field that day.

Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and Museum

A week ago today I was walking around Lambeau Field. One of the highlights of the day was revisiting Packer history in the Hall of Fame. On gamedays you need a ticket to get into the Hall of Fame as it is located inside the Lambeau Field Atrium. The museum costs $10, and it is well worth it. As you walk in the first thing that you see is the Green Bay Theater. As you can see in the picture to the left they were showing ‘The Road to Glory’ the day I was at the Museum. The video is not very long, and gets you ready to visit the museum. You learn all about the history of the Packers, and really seemed to get me geared up to tour the rest of the museum. After the movie doors open behind you, and you come face to face with the scene at the goal line of the famous Ice Bowl. As you can see to the right you can look over Bart Starr’s shoulder to see exactly what he saw on that cold day. Just off from this display is a room dedicated to Vince Lombardi. They take you through his life on one wall, have a room dedicated to his quotes in the middle, and on the other wall they show you what he meant to his players. The highlight of the room is a recreation of the man’s office. I have put a picture of the office below. Notice the ash tray in between the players seats. It was a different time for sure. From here you are taken through the years on a historical tour of the Packers. They have kiosks at each display with a short audio presentation that takes you a little further than the display would. Towards the end of the exhibits you get to peer into the lockers of the Packer greats. They have a locker set up for each member of the Packers that has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The highlight for me of course was seeing the locker of Paul Horning. He is after all the reason that I am a Packer fan. It was his trip to Green Bay from Notre Dame that made the Packers my father’s favorite team. It was that simple decision that led me to become a Packer fan. Years later I was finally able to walk on hallowed ground. Seeing the locker of the ‘Golden Boy’ was a great way to start off the day. Just before you enter the actual Hall of Fame they have a little room off to the side where you can watch clips from great games in Packer history. All over the museum they have these little rooms where you can watch different clips from the Green Bay archives. These little rooms add to the experience. I watched most of the clips including the three Super Bowl wins, then went into the Hall of Fame to see the three trophies. It was really cool to see the trophy named after Lombardi in the Hall of Fame. The first two I had heard about. The last one I lived through. It was a great time for me, and it was a great way to leave the museum. After that I was ready to walk out, and see Lambeau Field for the first time.

Bart Starr guards the entrance to the museum

They even have a display of items that the fans have brought to games. I thought the Favre sign was very apt for the day

The mock up of Lombardi’s office. Note the ash tray in between the yellow seats. They also have his film projector on the desk where it was
Brett’s jersey is on display with the other Packer greats

Reggie’s jersey on display as well

A helmet signed by all the members of the 1997 Super Bowl team

The Original Baseball Hall of Fame Museum of Minnesota

This is another of the destinations from the book Roadside Baseball that I visited while on my recent baseball road trip. This museum is located in the Dome Plus store located across from Gate A of the Metrodome on 3rd street. As you can see from the picture it is not much to look at from the outside. I imagine since the Metrodome will no longer be hosting baseball games next year this museum will take a hit. It will either have to move, or become a relic to the old Metrodome. At first glance from down the road I wondered if it was even still open. Once inside the museum though you can see very easily that Ray Crump the owner is a huge Twins fan. Ray was a batboy for the Washington Senators, and then later was the equipment manager for the Minnesota Twins. Both of these jobs gave him great access to the players of the game. He has bats and balls signed by some of the great players of his day. He also has many objects from the glory days of the Twins. The teams of 1987 and 1991 are also well represented. The jersey of Kirby Puckett that is shown to the right is one of the jerseys shown in the museum. He has a small display of various Twins uniforms from throughout the years. Being the equipment manager that would be an easy task to do. Just think this was the guy who gave Kirby Puckett his first uniform in the pros. Did he suggest the number 34? I don’t know. Ray works in the store, and that would have been a great question to ask him, but I never thought of it. The other side of the store is a huge Twins/Vikings store with some good deals. I got the Twins Metrodome commemorative ball for $6 cheaper than I found it anywhere online. It was way cheaper than it would have been inside the stadium. This is a great stop for the baseball fan on the way to the Metrodome. The museum is free, and you can pick up some cheap souvenirs before you go into the stadium.

Ray is also a huge country music fan who has attended many concerts with backstage passes. He has many of them on display along with many pictures of him with various celebrities. He really has met many famous people in his time. Just looking through all of the pictures could put you in the museum for a while. I included a picture of one of the pictures that I really enjoyed. Ray has met people like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. This picture of Ray with Hank Williams Jr. caught my eye. Apparently the backstage section of Ray’s tour included a visit to watch him nap. This just looks awkward for everyone involved. They must have posed the Crumps in the right spot, then woke up Hank. There is also a great pic of Ray with a young Hulk Hogan. He has met so many famous people that you have to see the pics to believe them. He also has a great Elvis display from his touring days as well as a case for the Beatles visit to Minnesota.

Former Site of Metropolitan Stadium

I would never purposely go to the Mall of America. I am not much of a mall person so the worlds biggest mall has no appeal to me. One thing that actually had me excited to visiting the mall was the fact that a Major League Team actually played there. On the site of the mall the Minnesota Twins once played baseball. In 1961 the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Minnesota Twins. They played at the Met from 1961 until the end of the 1981 season when the team moved to the Metrodome. One of the highlights of the Twins time here was in 1965 when the All Star game and World Series was played in the stadium. On June 3, 1967 Harmon Killebrew hit a 520 foot home run. The shot was the longest of Harmon’s career, and was also the longest home run hit in Metropolitan Stadium. Today the seat that the home run landed in can still be found in the Mall of America. If you go to the Nickelodeon Universe section of the mall you will find a red chair on the wall over the log water ride. A picture of the chair can be found to the right. It is hard to gauge how far this shot must have went while in the mall. One thing that can help you is if you look across the Nickelodeon portion of the mall to the Sponge Bob inflatable. The old home plate can be found just beyond the inflatable. This is your best chance to try and picture how the old ball park was laid out. That chair was in center field, and of course we know where the plate was. Home plate as I said is found near the base of the Sponge Bob inflatable on the other side of the Nickelodeon Universe. It is in the middle of the walk way without much fanfare. You really have to be looking for both of these items from the old stadium to find them. It does make the mall experience more fun. A couple of great memorabilia shops also make the trip a little easier to take. If you have to go to a mall you might as well go to one that is on the site of a former Major League stadium.