Home > Culture, History, Sports > Intermission



Gail and I went to the Mariners baseball game last night. Our friend Judy invited us to join her and her niece Jacque (house/catsitter extraordinaire) in their family’s seats, which directly behind home plate, 18 rows up. It’s a superb location, and just behind that row are seats the team holds for family and guests of the players.

The evening had three story lines: the game itself, the special Turn Back the Clock Night activities, and our neighbors in the row in front. If you want the first story, you can see the article in the Seattle Times. That’s not what I’m here to tell you about. (But I will say that we lost 3-2, a very disappointing loss, as the A’s got the tying run in the top of the 8th and the go-ahead run in the top of the 9th.)

Regarding turning back the clock, its official description at the Mariners’ website reads: “The Mariners are turning the clocks back to 1939 and the Seattle Rainiers first Pacific Coast League Championship. The Mariners will don the ’39 Rainiers uniform, while the A’s will sport the old Oakland Oaks gear. Plus, the first 20,000 fans will receive a replica Rainiers cap.” The cap is pictured above. We were fortunate to be among the first 20,000. The caps are cheaply made, but they’re made of cotton, my preferred hat material, so I anticipate wearing mine again.

The uniforms were fun to see, but the best parts took place between innings. There was an announcer who sat directly behind home plate, in the stands just inside the wall that separates the stands from the field. In front of him on a table was an old-style microphone. He was mostly invisible, but after each out, he would stand up to announce the next batter, at which point one could see him in his 1930’s-style straw hat. Between innings, he would draw our attention to some item of interest. For instance, during some of the between-inning breaks, he would introduce the organist, who would provide music for the duration. It took me several innings to realize that during such intervals, the organist pictured on the large video screen beyond centerfield was in fact our organist, shown live, with some special effects that made the motion jerky in an old-fashioned way and with sepia coloring. Once I caught on to that, I realized that the old-time players being shown on occasion on the screen were in fact the very players in front of us. For example, each time the announcer introduced a player as he strode to the plate, the video screen would show him getting into the batter’s box, with a delay of maybe a quarter second. We were to imagine that this is what the experience might have been like if we were at a 1939 game, with the anachronistic presence of a massive electronic scoreboard but with cameras of the day.

One enormous benefit of all this was that we did without the blasting rock and hip-hop music played between innings and between batters. There was a quieter, more relaxed feel to the game. If music had to be played, when it wasn’t the organist’s music, it was 1930’s jazz. Of special note in this category was the playing of Cab Calloway’s great call-and-response song Minnie the Moocher at one point late in the game. Quite a few of us knew how to respond to such lines as “Hi De Hi De Hi De Hi”, though we seemed to be in the minority.

During one of the between-inning breaks, there was a wonderfully clever substitute for the electronic sleight-of-hand entertainment that normally takes place on the big video screen, with three Mariner hats and one ball. Usually, we see which hat is over the ball at the start and then watch the hats move around each other, slowly at first, but with a sudden burst near the end that is all but impossible to follow.
After the hats stop, the hat covering the ball is revealed, to the excitement or dismay of the fans. In lieu of that, the announcer drew our attention to the centerfield wall, above which appeared three hats, each maybe five feet wide, atop poles. The people holding them up were hidden from view. One hat was rotated 180 degrees so we could see the ball painted on it. Then, as music played, the hats moved back and forth, switching order. It was a slow-motion version of the usual entertainment, and when the hats stopped, just about everyone knew which one had the ball on its back. Great tongue-in-cheek.

That left the boat race. The usual arrangement is for the video screen to show a hydroplane race late in the game. The same three boats have been fighting it out for years: green, red, and yellow. They go around a course twice, kind of like in a video game, with the typical feature that one of the boats that drops way behind, or maybe flips and seems out of the race, recovers to make a mad dash towards the lead near the end. Sometimes it takes the lead and wins; other times it just fools the crowd. There’s really nothing for the fans to do. We can’t follow and predict what’s happening the way we can with the hats. But, for whatever reason, the crowd always loves it. This time, the announcer directed our attention to centerfield and reminded us that we may not have had hydroplanes in 1939, but we did have sailboats. One by one, three sailboats emerged from the centerfield wall — a red one, a green one, a blue one. Then, once the music began, they headed toward right field. One of them keeled over and fell behind, but righted itself and started moving again. A white finish line appeared to the right. They moved slowly, until one of them narrowly beat the other. I don’t remember which. The one that fell behind never did catch up. Silly, yes, but good fun.

Which brings me to the third story. Shortly before the game began, two young couples showed up to take the four seats just below us. The two guys had Oakland A’s hats on, turned backwards. They sat in the middle of the foursome, with the two women to either side. The women didn’t seem too engaged. Ichiro led off the third inning, and two pitches into his at bat, the women took off, returning late in Griffey’s at bat. There was no evidence that they knew or cared who Ichiro and Griffey are. And then the woman on the end to our right asked the question I would have been sure I mis-heard had I not looked to Gail for confirmation. The woman turned to her boyfriend and asked if there was an intermission. Now, I realize it’s not every American’s duty to know the rules of baseball, but did she really think there was a halftime? Regardless, they made their own halftime. They left during the fourth inning, the whole foursome, not to return for about 3 innings. The two women returned first, with four hot dogs, and then the two guys came back a couple of batters later, each with his own hot dog, meaning there were now two hot dogs too many, but they got eaten. And the intermission woman returned transformed. She totally got into the game, cheering and shouting for the A’s almost continuously. Both women were much more engaged. The wonders of alcohol. And I’m not even telling you the most interesting aspect of the two women. But I’ll have to omit that.

As for the game, the Mariners should have won. Oh well.

Categories: Culture, History, Sports
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