Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Beer in Hand is Better than Two Birds in the Bush Leagues

201 N. Elgin Ave.
Tulsa, OK

You’ve got to love minor league baseball.

Nothing exudes those wholesome middle-American values like a hot summer night at the local ballpark.

Who needs diversity training when you have bush league baseball?

On any given weeknight at any given minor league park in America, you can find the full spectrum of mid-major America.

Little kids smearing themselves in cotton candy.

Bigger kids screaming at fuzzy blue mascots for a free t-shirt.

Old time baseball traditionalists keeping score behind home plate.

Yuppies networking with coworkers in the group party boxes.

Fat guys gorging themselves on hot dogs in the all-you-can eat section.

Drunks chugging cheap beer in the bleachers while incoherently heckling the umpires.

Busty small town girls in tube tops looking for love.

Where does Suit757 fit into all this, you might wonder?

I consider myself to be something of a Renaissance Man who can appreciate all of the above.

That’s why on those rare nights in summertime when my flight lands before 6pm, you can find me here.

At the ballpark.

Making note of the prospects, chugging beer, gorging on hot dogs and admiring the view of America at its best from the aluminum bleachers.

Tonight, I just happened to be in Tulsa, home of the AA Texas League Tulsa Drillers who were taking on the Springfield Cardinals in a game featuring Rockies prospect Kyle Parker.

The Tulsa first baseman from Jacksonville, Florida was last seen by most sports fans throwing touchdowns for the Clemson football team in 2010 before being relieved by current Heisman candidate Tajh Boyd.

But any ole ballpark will do. From AAA all the way down to the Independent Leagues.

Heck, I’ve even endured the Appalachian League in forgotten hollows like Princeton and Bluefield where the Pentecostals have managed to ban the sale of beer.

Here in Oklahoma, it’s not so much the Pentecostals you have to worry about, but the Southern Baptists.

Different flavor, but the same joy-killing agenda.

By law, virtually all mass-produced American beer sold in Oklahoma must be no more than 3.2% alcohol.

The last game I attended in Oklahoma City a few years ago featured nothing but 3.2 beer.

I know. Why bother, right?

The thought of nothing but a steady stream of watered-down, low alcohol American puke beer almost resulted in my staying in my Comfort Inn room tonight.

I probably would have if the Reds - Cardinals game wasn’t blacked out by ESPN here in Cardinals territory.

As it turns out, I’m glad I came out for what was the last regular season game of the year here at ONEOK Field. (The Drillers will have a few more games to play in the Texas League playoffs.)

Much to my pleasant surprise, there seems to be a loophole in Oklahoma’s 3.2 beer law.

Imports and local craft beers are exempt.

Yeah. Like I need any more incentive to avoid the yellow mass-produced pisswater brewed by Miller and Anheuser-Busch.

So my choice was watered down, low alcohol Bud Light (even more so than normal) or Tulsa’s own Marshall Brewing’s offerings.

So who would you rather be stuck between in the middle seat on a trans-continental flight?

Kate Upton and Scarlett Johansson?

Or Chris Christie and Anthony Weiner?

Tough decision, I know.

Believe it or not, there was a steady line of misguided Tulsa beer drinkers opting for the Weineresque 3.2 Budweiser all night long.

See Suit757’s rant about America’s love affair with mediocrity.

My Marshall IPA was dark, hoppy and strong.

Definitely NOT 3.2.

And generously poured into a 24 ounce plastic cup for just $7.50.


I also tried a 16 ounce can of Native Amber from Coop Ale Works in Oklahoma City for $6.50. It was a flavorful balance of sweet malt and spicy hops. Not bad at all.

This is just the third season for ONEOK Field (pronounced “one oak”, after the Oklahoma natural gas conglomerate). And a big improvement over the old ancient ballpark near the Fairgrounds where I saw Drillers play a decade ago.

Wide aisles, cup holders at every seat, a fantastic view of the Tulsa skyline and a fun variety of ballpark junk food.

Capitalizing on America’s latest culinary fad, a gourmet hot dog stand was serving up a wide assortment of dog-condiment combos on pretzel buns.

I opted for the Fritos Chili Dog -- like a hot dog topped with a Frito Pie.

A Frito Pie is a Texas/Oklahoma specialty.

It’s not really a pie. There’s no crust involved.

At its simplest, a Frito Pie is a bag of Fritos split open with chili, cheese and diced raw onion poured on top.

On my Fritos Chili Dog, the chili and cheese added the flavor while the Fritos contributed the crunch.

It may be a bit faddish, but the pretzel hot dog bun was perfect as a sturdy yet tasty delivery vehicle for all this messy goodness.

Much preferred to the more traditional approach of just eating it out of the plastic Fritos bag.

My evening of minor league baseball was going great until I checked my smart phone between innings.

I felt a surge of panic course through my body.

Lo and behold, I discovered that one of my music heroes, Hank Williams, III, was playing at the legendary Cain’s Ballroom tonight -- just a couple blocks from ONEOK Field!
Here I was enjoying my evening of America’s favorite pastime, but I might be missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the greatest outlaw in Outlaw Country Music at one of America’s most famous music venues.

Do I leave the game I paid for -- and was enjoying immensely -- early?

Suit757 NEVER EVER leaves a game early.


No matter the sport.

Friends who go to games with me start looking at me out of the corner of their eyes in the fourth quarter.

When the home team is up by four touchdowns. And the sky opens into a deluge of rain. And every other fan in the stadium has fled to the parking lot.

But they don’t say a word.

They know.

Suit757 NEVER EVER leaves a game early.

As the hour approached 9pm, I did the unthinkable.

I walked out of ONEOK Field in the top of the 7th Inning in a tie game and dashed down the street to Cain’s.

Out of breath and sweating in the 95 degree Oklahoma heat, I slung open the front door of Cain’s and there he was -- in all his sweaty, tattooed, vulgar, strung-out glory.

The son of Hank Jr. The grandson of Hank Sr.

Only one problem. Hank seemed to be fully lathered into his set of Outlaw classics like “Straight to Hell”, “Whiskey, Weed and Women” and “Cocaine Blues”.

I turned to the ticket seller by the front door and asked, “Did he just go on?”

“Nope. He went on about an hour and a half ago,” the Cain’s ticket dude yelled over the din of the pedal steel and screaming vocals.

What? I missed it?

What self-respecting coke addict goes on stage before 8pm???

I couldn’t believe it.

I’m not paying $22 to get in now.

Now look what I’d done -- standing in the Tulsa heat with no baseball AND no Hank III.

And I walked out of the Drillers game in the 7th inning!

Every baseball fan knows what that means.

No. Not the signing of “Take Me out to the Ball Game.”

I mean last call.

Get a clue, man.

Crap! No way am I missing Hank III AND last call.

I literally ran back to ONEOK Field in my flip-flops.

By some miracle -- and a few strategic pitching changes -- I got back with two outs in the bottom of the 7th. And ran straight toward my lifesaving microbrew lady who served me the last Marshall IPA of the night.

Whew! What a relief.

There was some saying about birds in a bush that would have been appropriate here that I couldn’t recall in my sudsy state of mind.

As I settled in behind the visitors’ dugout with my 24 ounces of hoppy bliss and watched the Drillers mount an exciting late inning comeback victory, I made a solemn vow to myself.

I am NEVER leaving a game early again.


Rating: Bought the Shirt!

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