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Phil Itzoe Tribute: Which road stadium would you like to visit for an O's game?

Nothing beats the winter blues like talking baseball.

It surely helped Thursday, when we discussed why we loved the sport. Another reason I didn’t mention previously is that I love baseball because it has such a tight-knit fraternity.

On Wednesday, that fraternity lost a cherished brother: Phil Itzoe, the Orioles’ long-time traveling secretary who died after a lengthy illness. It seems like I’m writing about baseball deaths way too often these days.

This one definitely hit home. For many of you, Phil was just a name you heard on the radio when announcers chatted about their travel arrangements.

Phil was more to me. He was one of the first people I met when I began covering the Orioles as a full-time, traveling beat writer for the York Daily Record in 2001.

Phil and I shared several common bonds: We both started our sportswriting careers at The York Dispatch, albeit three decades apart. We often ended up at the same church for mass on Sunday mornings on the road before heading to the ballpark, occasionally comparing mass times on Saturday evenings. Also, Phil was not only a loving and doting father, he was a smart one. He sent his son to Calvert Hall, my alma mater.

So there were plenty of reasons for me to bond with Phil. But I needed no excuses; he was one of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve met in this game.

I have a bunch of Phil stories, but here’s my favorite:

One year in spring training we were in Jupiter, Fla., when O’s PR director Bill Stetka announced that Green Bay Packers’ GM Ron Wolf was at the Orioles’ exhibition game.

Stetka told us Wolf was there as a guest of Itzoe’s. Stetka added that Phil and Wolf were football teammates and graduated together from Susquehannock High School in Glen Rock. The guys in the press box chided me, because they knew I was going to write it, since the York angle was always something I paid attention to at the Daily Record.

So I included it as the last item of my spring training notebook, just a throw-away line that Wolf was there as a guest of his old teammate and fellow Susquehannock alum.

About 7 a.m. the next morning, the emails started flooding in, letting me know that Phil was a proud graduate of York Catholic High School. He had transferred from Susquehannock and graduated from York Catholic.

I probably received two dozen emails for that one ill-informed sentence. I wrote a correction, and was fined $1 by our press kangaroo court for “Falling for Stetka’s Phil Itzoe ruse.”

When I retold the story to Phil, he released one of his trademark hearty laughs and then put his arm around me and said, “Dan, if I knew it was going to cause you that much trouble, I never would have transferred.”

Classic Phil. Great sense of humor. Great man.

So let’s raise our glasses to an Orioles’ Hall-of-Famer and wish him Godspeed.

And let’s dedicate the Think Special today to the man who likely piled up more travel miles watching baseball than anyone else in the game’s history.

I want to know if you could pick any road stadium to watch an Orioles’ away game, which one would it be? Would you pick a classic like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, or would you go with a newer one with a less rabid fan base?

If you’ve had a particularly good or bad Orioles’ road experience, share that, too.

Daily Think Special: Which road ballpark would you most like to visit for an Orioles’ game?

Comments

So we're not counting Camden Yards when the Yankees and Red Sox are in town?

I kid, I kid.

Danno, I just have to throw you some love for your wonderful tribute to Phil. Nicely done, my friend.

As for your daily think special, can we still include Olympic Stadium in Montreal? Worst ballpark ever, best road city ever.

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Barkeep's Reply: Rocco, thanks for stopping by. We might actually get a lady or two in this dive if word gets out. Olympic Stadium, the disaster it was in an amazing city, counts.

Being a non-Maryland resident who, and I'm ready and deserve any and all backlash, has never been to Camden Yards- any time I see the O's it is at a road stadium. Been to KC, Milwaukee, Wrigley, and the Metrodome. I'm interested in the new Target Field in Minnesota, if I had to pick, but boy I hope I get a chance to come be part of the HOME crowd someday soon. (I did go to a game at Memorial stadium in 1988, however, so I hope that counts as something.)

definitely either the Ballpark in Arlington or Coor's Field.


if I could time travel, the Polo Grounds.

Barkeep,

Two great topics back-to-back. What we love about baseball and now a tribute to another Orioles icon, Phil Itzoe. Dan, I'm sorry for the loss of your friend and colleague. He certainly lived a full life and touched many lives.

To answer your question: I'll travel anywhere to watch an O's game. Somewhere warm after this past week.

my favorite road ballpark is CAMDEN YARDS 18 times a year when Boston and New York come to town !!!

As an oriole scout for many of the good years I too mourn the loss of a good person. Phil did many a favor for me as to tickets and anything I wanted. The baseball world lost another great person.

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Barkeep's Reply: Thanks Ed for the comments.

About 5 years ago, my brother and I took my Dad up to Fenway to watch the O's play the Sox.

We had great seats right behind Pesky's pole, the good guys shot out to a large lead, and we won handily.

It was the first time at Fenway for both my Dad and my brother. I can vividly recall several aspects of that game; such as, it was Tejada's first year with us, it was the Monday after Memorial Day, and (am I'm not kidding on this one), the good guys were in first place at the time.

But the best part about the game and our trip was that my Dad and I went over to the bullpen and got the pleasure of meeting Elrod Hendricks. I recall he had the most powerful of handshakes, and was genuinely excited to see some Baltimore fans in the stands.

A picture of the three of us hangs in my house.

I'm sure that Phil Itzoe had a similar effort on several fans the way that Elrod had on my Dad, my brother, and me.

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Barkeep's Reply: Really nice story, Andy

Dan, thanks so much for such a wonderful tribute to Dad. It's stories like the one you shared that make the process of saying goodbye to Dad easier. As I read, I could totally picture Dad putting his arm around you and offering a quip.

Being a former sports writer himself, I think Dad felt a certain kindredness with you guys. I am so grateful to you, Roch, Schmuck, Jeff Z., Henneman, etc. for paying tribute to my Dad over the past couple of days. As modest and unassuming as Dad was, I know he would be embarrassed by the attention, but deeply gratified as well. He was as good of a man as you could ever hope to meet and the outpouring of support love and respect we've received since the news of his passing has been both incredible and overwhelming.

Thanks again and be well.

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Barkeep's Reply: Josh, thanks for stopping by. Your dad will be missed by all who encountered him. He knew how to treat people the right way. Your family is in my family's prayers.

I've done Milwaukee (both old and new), Montreal, Wrigley, Conerco, PacBell, NY (old and new) and DC outside of Balitmore, of course. Although I agree with Roch and you on Montreal the town, I'd have to go with Milwaukee new out of the ones I've visited. I'm probably most curious about Fenway.

Dan, thanks for these behind the scenes look at the people who are part of the business of baseball, without whom we would not be able to fully enjoy the exploits of the guys on the field. I never knew Phil personally but he seems to have been a real good guy, and will be missed by a very extended "family".

I got to see the Orioles pull off an improbable win in Philly last summer, and that was a great time. I've been to Fenway but would like to go again some time when the Orioles are the visiting team. Maybe in 2011 when they are more consistently winning will be better than 2010. Same goes for new Yankee Stadium.

Actually, I am somewhat haphazardly working on trying to see a game at every MLB ballpark so I'll take any of the many I haven't been to yet. I'd say my top three, in no particular order, would be Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium, and whatever they are calling the SF Giants stadium these days. I could probably even get in a game at those places while traveling with my wife if I played my cards just right.

New Yankee Stadium? No.
Fenway? Smelly and small.
Wrigley? Maaaaaaybe.

How about PNC in Pittsburgh? I've heard it's the only park that rivals Camden Yards in terms of glory.

And added bonus: there's a chance the O's might draw more fans!

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Barkeep's Reply: Pittsburgh is great. It is up there with San Francisco as far as my favorite "new" parks outside of Balmer.

Born in Balto, lived there two more times before moving the Colorado in 1976. Have seen the O's at the Metrodome, KC (both old and new), Oakland, Detroit, Cleveland, LA Angels, Yankee Stadium, Shea (when the Yanks played there that year), old Griffith Stadium in DC, Fenway, and Coors Field. Highlights: triple play in Oakland, Ballard to Ripken to somebody; Steve Barber losing a no-hitter, shutout, and the game with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th against the Indians; beating the Yanks on EAster Sunday in the snow three years ago; beating Denny McClain the year after he won 31 games, and watching him drop-kick his glove into the stands as he was yanked in the 4th inning (too many Pepsi's that day, I guess); Billy Ripken's first ML home run, in KC in 110 degree heat; BRob's grand slam in the top of the 9th, off of Shawn Chacon, a kid I taught in high school in Greeley, Colorado, to beat the Rockies, 4-2 on Father's Day a few years back. Overall, probably more losses than wins, but always fun. I have seen about 6 games at OPACY, including a 14-inning, walk-off single win over the ChiSox on the hottest night I can ever remember (also the last game I ever went to with my Dad, who taught me to love baseball).

Safeco Field in Seattle would be my first choice. If we're counting National League parks, I'd like to go to San Francisco's or LA's. And if we're counting time travel, I always wished I'd gotten to Tiger Stadium.

Fenway, Wrigley, and Tiger were all great. Surprising to me was my regard for Coors Field in Denver. It's within the city, modestly priced, polite fans, and interesting usher's decorum. The ushers politely prevent you from entering the lower seating bowl while a batter is in the batter's box. Once the at-bat is completed , you may go to your seat. Varied food and drink choices and, again, moderately priced.

PNC, San Francisco park, and Dodger Stadium where first O's WS victory began.

Danno,

Thanks for a very nice tribute to Phil and you deserved to be fined a buck.

Since covering both the Nats and Orioles ever since the Nats came to DC, after about the third year in which each team was playing one another, one day Phil approached me and ask, "So Craig, who ya rootin for?" I said, "Rob McDonald" (who is the Nats Traveling Secretary) Phil smiled and laughed almost as if to say after 20 years, this is what it has come to. It was our running joke with each other.

Phil was one of the classiest guys around and will be sorely missed.

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Barkeep's Reply: Heisty, glad to have you in. I'll buy you 3, 2, 1 beers. That's a great story about Phil and your McDonald quip. I can see him laughing now.

Very sorry to hear of the passing of Mr. Itzoe. I can only imagine what it would've been like to have a chance to sit and hear his stories.

I too have been to many parks, but of the ones where I went to see the O's, PNC was a great time. It was way back in those heady times of first place in '05 ( I also saw them take 2 of 3 from the empire in April that season, which surprisingly was also a great trip - fans were great in both stadiums). The worst was at the Trop, what an eyesore! And that was in the Rays first season ('98)! PNC was definitely the best and only four hours away!

Wrigley, without a doubt. The whole Chitown experience is great. You have Wrigleyville for before and after the game, and then there is Michigan Avenue for night time.

This was an easy one for me. I'd love to go see a game at Fenway. I might try to do that this year.

I've been to every MLB park** except for the following:

KC
Florida (although I've been to football games)
CLE

I plan on seeing the O's-Royals in late July this year.

Favorite stadium: Fenway

Worst: US Cellular (Chisox)

** I went to games Three Rivers in PIT, RFK, old Yankee, Tiger Stadium, County Stadium in Milwaukee**

Lots of dumping on Olympic Stadium but you couldn't beat the $8 Canadian general admission seating. Gotta see a game in St. Louis - the most underrated baseball town in the country. Great park, great fans and tons of beer.

While nearly all of my ballpark experiences have been at either Memorial Stadium or Camden Yards, I have visited a few "road" ballparks. My first professional game was the O's against the Senators in 1966 at what was then D.C. Stadium (my favorite player Boog hit a home run). I've also seen the Nats vs. Marlins at RFK, O's vs. Yanks in the old Yankee Stadium, the Rockies vs. Diamondbacks at Coors Field, and the Rochester Red Wings at Frontier Field. Frontier Field was great, but my favorite has to be Coors Field, not only because it is a great ballpark, but also because of the wonderful way that my wife and I were treated while we were there. It was a 55-degree day with drizzling rain (in July, no less) and the usher graciously allowed us to move to seats that were under an overhang and mostly out of the rain. After the game we were allowed to wander through the stadium and take pictures, even in the field level seats. We were were probably the last fans left in the stadium, yet no one chased us out, in fact one of the ushers helped us to get out of the stadium because several of the gates had been locked. While there I filled out a comment card and a few weeks later received some promotional items in the mail. That's certainly not the way I see folks being treated during my recent visits to Camden Yards. I am a die-hard O's fan but I will always have a soft spot for the Rockies as well.

Beginning in 1999 myself and 2 of my buddies have taken road trips to see the O's play. Favorites as follows:
Stadium - PNC and Comerica
Best City - Chicago and Montreal
Best Fans - St Louis
Most disappointing - old Yankee Stadium
Absolute best place to see a ballgame - Fenway, without a doubt.
I just wish that I could find out where the O's stay on the road.
Next stop Target Field in Minnesota in May.

Since already been to the major historical parks: Fenway (vs. the O's), old Yankee stadium, and Wrigley- there wouldn't really be any nostalgic parks for me to go to. I've also been to a lot of the newer/modern parks. Going to the new Yankee stadium is certainly coming soon. Apart from that, I guess one of the few I haven't been to yet that would be a good experience would be Coors Field since I've never even been to Colorado!

I've only been to a handful of MLB parks. US Cellular (White Sox), County Stadium (Milwaukee), Miller Park (Milwaukke), Wrigley Field, and Whatever the Name is for the Phillies New Stadium.

Both US Cellular and County Stadium were very forgettable. Although I do have an interesting tidbit from County Stadium (I'll keep it as clean as possible). We had bleacher seats and were watching the Cardinals play the Brew Crew. we were sitting right above the Cardinals bullpen, and Matt Morris was warming up. This was when Morris was coming off a major injury that forced him to miss at least one season. He was pitching as a reliever until he got his starting stuff back (which he eventually would). So Matty Mo (as my Cardinal-loving frriends called him) looks up and sees one of my buddies wearing a Phish shirt. He then (I swear i'm not making this up) puts his fingers to his lips in the all-too-familiar joint smoking fashion. Blown away, we all went down to the concourse, because there was an area where the fans were only separated from the bullpen pitchers by a chain-link fence. We went down there, and listened to Matty Mo tell us tails of how he and some of his team mates used to listen to certain albums and "unwind" while on the road. Needless to say, Matty Mo quickly became one of my favorite non-O's.

So while Miller Park may look nicer than County Stadium, you sure won't be able to get a story like that from the bullpens. There's something about sitting inside to watch a baseball game that turns me off. The fact that they have to turn on the heat to make it comfortable is enough to make you fall asleep (I once slept through 2 innings at Miller Park).

If I had to pick one ballpark that I loved the most, it was Wrigley Field by far. My Dad came out to visit me at school, and we made the drive from Wisco down to the Northside. Walking through that great neighborhood, you don't even notice the stadium until it's right in front of you. It just blends in with all the row-houses. We hit Murphy's before the game, and watched the Cubbies down the Mets. Even though it was cold, rainy, and the ivy hadn't grown in yet, it was an amazing experience. Those Cubs fans know how to turn any boring, crappy game into an event. One of these days, I'm going to go back around Labor Day when it's nicer.

First game ever was at Memorial Stadium when I was a about 8. Got to go to OPACY a few years after it opened and have been a bunch since. Been to Yankees and Mets (old and new) a few times each, Wrigley, US Cellular (dumpy but I had fun there) and Arlington (HOT!). I also worked a few seasons at Fenway Park so I have seen more than my fair share of games there (novelty wore off a while ago for me).

Lets start with the best: OPACY is by far my favorite. Wrigley is a close second. The spectacle outside in Wrigleyville before a cubs game is second to none. Fenway has some of that as well. Unfortunately I have never been to an O's game during a season where they played a meaningful game but I can imagine Pickles is rocking the same way when the O's are good...

Worst is probably Yankee stadium. what a dump. And the new one is just as boring. Heck, I walked 10mins around that place to get to the "Beers of the World" to learn my options were Heiniken, Guinness, Corona, Amstel....I honestly thought it was a joke.

Btw, I think that sometimes the best stadiums are the minor league experiences...I had a pitcher toss me the ball he was using to warm up on the side mound of a Tucson Toros game when I was a kid...not sure I've ever smiled for so long after a game. Or that strip of grass that is (was?) off of right field in Fredrick that was a foul ball haven? Maybe the best minor league stadium/experience is a topic for another day....

Also, I gotta say that some really exciting places to watch baseball are St Louis and Fenway. Even though I saw our O's lose when I went there, they're both still great baseball atmospheres, hardly matched by anyone I've ever seen.

I've seen the O's at Nationals Park (2008) and at Tropicana Field (2009). At the Trop we wore all orange and tried to mix it up with the few loud Rays fans. It was fun.

We've been talking about where to go this year. We may go to Fenway, Yankee Stadium, or whatever the hell new Comisky is called now.

As far as where I'd really like to see them play? Can't say. I hate interleague play so I feel I can't say a NL park.

Seattle's Safeco Field or Kansas City so I could see the Negro Leagues Museum before it closes.

I visit this bar pretty regularly; the ambiance is great, and the conversation with locals outstanding. But this entry sparked my interest to finally post something of my own because of its great tribute to Phil, and the interesting question it poses.
The new Nationals park is generic and overpriced, but I love visiting it when the O's are in town because it is a rare opportunity for us to take over someone else's stadium like the Yanks fans do to us!
I think the nicest stadium other than our own that I have visited was the Padres' beautiful stadium in sunny seaside San Diego, but the most fun I have had was watching the Orioles play in Toronto last year, if only because the Blue Jays fanbase is so much fun to talk to - they are as bored by their team's failures as we are, but keep coming back. They treated me to many a Molsen at the bars after the game for wearing my Ripken jersey into hostile territory.
This is my favorite part of the Sun online; keep up the good work!

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Barkeep's Reply: Thanks for commenting. No problem with sitting and listening and sipping your drink, but we like to hear everyone's thoughts, too.

Best parks I visited are 1)Fenway Park and 2) Wrigley Field, due to history and fan enthusiasm. Safeco Field and Coors Field are like Camden Yards in many ways. The new Busch Stadium in St. Louis is a great park also.

Miller Park in Milwaukee. Probably the nicest stadium i know.

Playing the Pirates in PNC Park. That park is a real gem with its great vistas and comfortably small design and it's not far from Baltimore either.

I have seen the Orioles play many times at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards. I would rank Camden Yards number one and Memorial Stadium number two.
My wife and I went to Boston on our honeymoon in 2007 and saw the Orioles behind Bedard beat the Red Sox and Beckett at Fenway Park. We had seats six or seven rows behind home plate. It was lots of fun seeing such a historic park. However, history is the best thing Fenway has going for it. The place is clearly inferior to Camden Yards.

In 2008 we saw the Orioles beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field. I was much more impressed by Wrigley Field and enjoyed it very much. While in Chicago we also went to US Cellular Field and saw the White Sox beat the Cubs. I liked that stadium and enjoyed watching the inter-city rivalry.

We have also seen games at the Rogers Centre in Toronto and Nationals Park in Washington, DC. Toronto's stadium was nice but it was not the same being indoors. We saw Holliday pitch just before the trading deadline which made the game memorable. I liked the park in DC and that game was memorable because a walk-off home run by Ryan Zimmerman.

So in short, Camden Yards number one and Fenway number six.

Dave Taylor, do you have inside info that the Negro Leagues Museum in KC is going to close? I was just there last May and it's wonderful. BTW, the American Jazz Museum, in the same building and headed by a friend of mine, is great, too. Saw two O's/KC games, got a split. But, please say it ain't so about the Negro Leagues Museum closing!

It's nice to see so many positive comments about St. Louis. I grew up there, watching the Cardinals into my late-twenties before moving to the mid-Atlantic, and players and fans really get spoiled by the depth of baseball knowledge and support for the club in that town.

My family makes the drive from D.C. to Baltimore for many of the same reasons, and that's why we proudly back the O's, rather than the club-that-used-to-be-the Expos. It's great walking into Camden Yard, clad in orange and being a part of a baseball-loving crowd.

On the road, of course, I'd pick the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis, so I could hang out with family and old friends...wearing an O's jersey!

To me, nothing beats a Friday afternoon in Wrigleyville. Bars are open, tons of people around blowing off work, and a afternoon baseball game at one of the most charming ballparks around. What more could you want?

I hope you Balmers know how lucky you have it, at least in park if not in team. I've been to 30 Major League parks in my life and Camden Yards is easily the best, all things considered. I live in Indiana and try to make it there at least every other year. I may be a little influenced by being an Orioles fan, but not much. Not sure I'd ever travel to another park if I could be near Camden full-time. Anyway, that said, I haven't been to Coors, so that's my next choice, and am curious about Target Field. As far as Wrigley, that's the most grossly overrated piece of ... on the ballpark planet. But that's a separate story.

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