Back from a short trip to Phoenix to perform some Dodger duties. Having covered spring training in both Arizona and Florida I greatly prefer the “Valley of the Radio Shack on every corner”. More teams in closer proximity. You can spend your vacation going to ballgames not driving hundreds of miles just to see some split squad game or getting lost in “Deliverance” country.
And the fact that it hailed the first day, that could happen anywhere.
Stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Glendale. The couple in the next room took the word “express” literally. Who says Phoenix has no great theater? A crackling hate-filled performance of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” played nightly in Room 301. (I sided with her, by the way. He doesn’t spend enough time with the kids.)
Hooked up with a few buddies – Howard from LA and Mike & Bob from New York. Middle-aged Jews don’t hunt. They go to spring training games and eat less sensibly. Which you pretty much have to since Phoenix is the land of bar food. I don’t think there’s a place in town that doesn’t serve buffalo wings including sushi bars and vegan cafes. There are also gift shops in every restaurant. This is very strange to me. But you can enjoy a hearty breakfast at the Cracker Barrel and still pick out that perfect wedding gift for sis!
We dined our first night at the Saddle Ranch Chop House. What really sold us on the place was the décor. They had a mechanical bull! Add attractive women and beers from many lands and there’s no greater entertainment in the west! “Suburban Cowboy”. For middle-aged Jewish guys this was Hooters without the guilt.
The Chop House was just one of many fine establishments in the Westgate City Center. It’s as if a developer said, “You know what would look good on this empty field in the middle of friggin’ nowhere? Times Square! And just to give it that real authentic desert touch, let’s put a hockey arena in it!” All that was missing was a guy playing Three Card Monty and another urinating on your shoes and you’d think you were back in the greatest city in the world!
Warning: There are freeway cameras that capture you speeding. The fine is a hefty $161.00. I’m told the way to fight it is to claim the person in the photo is not you. Not sure that works in Phoenix. It does in Beverly Hills where most women have different faces then they did two months ago.
Good ribs at Famous Dave’s.
On Wednesday I got to announce the Dodger game from their spring mecca, Camelback Ranch. It was seen on Prime Ticket in southern California and just my luck, nationwide on the MLB network. What a train wreck… and by that I mean mostly me. First off, I still have an inflamed cornea so I really just have one good eye. I was fine as long as no one hit a ball to left field. I was counting on watching the monitor but because of the glare of the sun I couldn’t see it. They’d be flashing starting line ups on the screen and I’d be merrily talking about something else. Eight years major league experience and viewers must’ve thought I was there because I’d won an auction.
Then someone batted out of turn. Well, to be more specific – three players batted out of turn. This never happens. My daughter, Annie said, “How could they screw that up? Isn’t baseball like the only thing they do?”
So now I’m on coast-to-coast TV completely confused. Then all the substitutions began and it was like Lucy and Ethel at the candy factory and those chocolates just kept coming down the conveyor belt faster and faster. I may have called a Diamondback pinch runner Diablo Cody, I’m not sure.
Steve Lyons, my partner, said in fourteen years of broadcasting this was the hardest game he’s ever had to call. It was surely not my finest hour but still I had a blast. Thanks again to Steve for never saying on the air, “What the hell are you talking about? and the Dodgers for the chance. I look forward to doing another game when runners pass each other on the base paths and a meteor lands on the field.
If you do come out for spring training make sure you catch a game at Camelback. Tickets are affordable and new this year: free parking. Would you call that a “fee nix”? That’s maybe the only stupid thing I didn’t say during the telecast.
“Happy Hour” has two meanings in Phoenix. The standard one (that I took advantage of, downing six drinks in rapid succession after the game) and it’s also code for “Early Bird Specials”. The old people who aren’t filed away in Florida are in the Valley of the Sun. And they love their early dinner specials! So if you stop off at a local eatery looking to wet your whistle and order the “Happy Hour” special don’t be surprised if they bring you boiled chicken.
But you don’t have to be 80 to feel old. Howard and I asked the young desk clerk at the hotel where might we go for a good breakfast (and decorative soaps) and she said at the Westgate there was the “Jimmy Boo-fay”. What she meant of course was Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. Face it, folks; we’re all “wasting away”.
During the flight attendant’s safety instructions on my Southwest trip home she warned that there was no smoking in the lavatories and added, “The fine is $2200. And I’m sure if you were willing to blow that kind of money you would’ve flown Delta.”
Later on the flight when they were taking drink orders, the skeesix a row ahead of me actually asked for an Arnold Palmer. I know that’s unbelievable but I saw it with my own one-and-a-half eyes.
Now you may think that all I did in Phoenix was eat, drink, and make a jackass of myself on television. Not true. There was so much more! I rented a car, I hosted Dodger Talk, and I got vigorously patted down. What a jealous boyfriend! I was just taking a picture of her on the mechanical bull.