Grin and Bear It

Tinsel and Rot made its first trip of the season to Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium last week to see the Atlantic League First-Half North Division Champion Newark Bears take on the perpetually homeless Road Warriors (they literally have no home stadium and are owned by the league). The evening was a salute to the 1937 Newark Bears, widely considered to be one of the greatest minor league teams of all time. The 1937 Bears were a Yankees affiliate and boasted future major leaguers Joe Gordon, Charlie "King Kong" Keller, and Babe Dahlgren, among others. The 2007 Bears, affiliated with no one, are perhaps slightly behind in the Future Major Leaguers category.

In any case, part of the salute was a cap giveaway to the first 1,000 people to come out to the game. Since I couldn't really recall a crowd of 1,000 at any Bears game, I figured it wouldn't be a problem. I was wrong. Though I got there at 6:30 for the 7:05 start and found, in a generous estimate, about 200 people in the stands, I was informed by the guy at the information booth that all the hats were gone. I confirmed that the giveaway was for the first 1,000 fans. He said it was.

"So, there are 1,000 people here?," I asked.

"Yeah, I guess so."


"There are a lot of people in the suites."

I debated arguing that each suite could have 75 people in it and there still wouldn't be 1,000 people in the stadium, but I figured it was best to just let it go and enjoy the game in the hat I came to the ballpark with.

The Bears are managed by former major leaguer Wayne Krenchicki (above), who seemed nice enough to the fans before the game, posing for a picture on the dugout steps for one fan, but got a little bit ornery as the game went on. After a fan told him to get somebody up in the bullpen during a rough first inning, Krenchicki yelled back that he'd have to get used to the pitcher, because he was staying in for four innings. A few innings later, as the pitcher continued to struggle, one fan implored, "C'mon, coach!" Krenchicki yelled back, "Shut up!" And he may or may not have added an "asshole." The guy in front of me said he heard it, but I was too busy laughing to hear if he did or not.

I imagine Krenchicki's mood improved by game's end, as the Bears were able to rally back from five runs down to win 11-8. Go Bears.

In addition to the cap giveaway, the team was also auctioning off the retro jerseys the Bears were wearing. Since there weren't that many people at the game (or at least, the people in the suites hid in the dark and didn't come down to the concourse level), I figured I'd check out the bids at the silent auction. The minimum bid for each jersey was $60, so I figured I might be able to go home with a jersey and support the Bears, who despite the cap snafu, I actually like to support. So I put in a bid for the #7 jersey (for no other reason than #7, Marcus Nettles, was having a good game, and it was one of the numbers that they could confirm was worn by one of the 1937 Bears). When I checked back a few innings later, I discovered that I had been outbid. But I also noted that the #15 jersey didn't have a bid. My lucky number is 15, so I figured it was worth a bid. Plus, the guy wearing #15, Corey Smith, had just grounded out to third and let out a hearty "Fuck!" that could be heard throughout the stadium after doing so. My kind of guy.

As I bid, I discovered that this wasn't really a silent auction. Instead, it was a silent auction and then a live auction. That made absolutely no sense to me, but neither did 1,000 hats being distributed to 200 people. So I returned for the live auction, was the only bidder for the #15 jersey, and am now the proud owner of former first-round draft pick Corey Smith's signed, gameworn #15 jersey. I got to go on the field to get my jersey from Mr. Smith and after signing the jersey, he said, "Here, you can have the hat, too."

And, so, I finally got my hat.

Dreams do come true in Newark.

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