Essentially Ashland: Throwing hot mustard

While watching the World Series on Monday night I traveled back in time when, as an occasional sports writer, I got a chance to experience the thrill of the game from a perspective otherwise unobtainable.

Perched high above home plate at Cleveland Stadium (Lake Front Stadium) 30 sports reporters strained to make relevant a low-scoring and slow-moving home game for the Cleveland Indians. It was 1985 and I was there with my first laptop computer (a Toshiba T-1100), tapping along merrily while I searched for some real news.

The press box had a long tradition of robust food and drink though, by the year of my reporting, hot dogs and a beer were at the top end of culinary offerings. I initially turned my nose up at the dogs and, to be frank, succumbed only when I first tasted Stadium Mustard, which, to some, has been the best thing to happen to baseball for the last 50 years. Having originated in Cleveland it is a spicy brown concoction that seems to ward off the cold in an open air stadium during a night game. Anyway you define it, the mustard is a balm against both colder climes and just what the doctor ordered to re-enliven shivering taste buds.

I chatted with the regular reporters, who were, as I was, searching for an angle on a scoreless game. Most of them chain-smoked while scratching their heads, until, during the seventh inning stretch, a messenger from the Indians' trainers alerted us to a potential game-changing injury: A relief pitcher in the bull pen had jammed a finger while catching the ball and an x-ray suggested that all was not right. Nearly everyone in the room clawed for a look at the evidence, then went back to writing their stories while calling their respective sports desks to hold the presses. I took a close look at the image, then decided that it was no big deal, though I kept my fractured opinion to myself, lest I be made to take a headlong tumble into the last game of my life from high above the batters box.

Baseball is full of obscure references and endless statistics, both of which are usually necessary to keep the fans occupied while the game ramps up from languid to post meal torpor. The seventh inning stretch was to check for those who died of boredom and were permanently out of the game. A few minutes for the ambulance stretcher and everybody would be ready for the long snore into the bottom of the ninth.

I will not attempt to confuse you with definitions and clarifications of the Cleveland Blues, the Cleveland Spiders, Bob Hope, the curse of Rocky Colavito or the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, for this would take a week while riding backward on a donkey. I will mention, however, that in 1869 the Cincinnati Red Stockings were all the rage, as might pertain to the World Series game yesterday and, perhaps again tonight.

The game limped along, inspiring me to visit my wife, Annette, who was in the stands going after something covered with Stadium Mustard. We chatted briefly about the event, then I went upstairs to file my report. Actually I filed the report to myself, through CompuServe, as I looked about the press box for any signs of life. As I leaned back in my chair I caught a glimpse of Rocky Colavito leaving the kitchen with a top sirloin, a baked potato and an ear of buttered corn. In a blink he was gone, though to where I know naught. After the game we drove back to a relative's house in Akron while I was busy repeating the endless statistics overheard on high in the stadium. In the middle of the rant my wife opened her purse and produced a bottle of Stadium Mustard that she had somehow purchased while warning me: "If you cannot take the heat, stay away from this." was last seen sneaking up on a Nathan's hot dog with a shot glass of mustard. E-mail him a frozen rope with your latest thoughts.

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