A pair of provincial baseball Hall of Famers finished off a baseball adventure last Friday night, an unforgettable six years capped with a notable pitching performance in Seattle, Washington.
Terry and Diane Hart, and Roger and Mary Ann Grimes were among the 32,195 at Safeco Field to watch the New York Yankees shut out the homestanding Mariners 4-0 as Masahiro Tanaka scattered three hits over eight innings, and fanned 10 to pave the way for the Yanks.
Now while that’s noteworthy in itself, the real story here is the game ended a six-year odyssey for the couples from Newfoundland, whose Seattle stop completed a tour of every Major League Baseball ball park.
Yup, every single park. From Fenway and Wrigley Field, down to Minnesota’s Target Field and San Diego’s Petco Park.
“Of course, me and Rog grew up together, played baseball together, and the idea came up over a few beers one night,” said Hart. “We said, ‘Why not?’”
Hart is the now-retired, well-known voice from VOCM and Grimes, well, some may know him as the former premier of the province.
Putting aside the fact both are long-time friends from Grand Falls-Windsor, a common bond is baseball. Grimes is in the Newfoundland Baseball Hall as a player, Hart as a builder for his administrative work.
The couples aren’t the first Newfoundlanders to see every ball park. At least two others, Joan Madden of St. John’s and her cousin from Corner Brook, Don Luther, the former Newfoundland and Labrador chief justice, have also completed the tour.
For the Harts and the Grimeses, the journey started 2012 when they took in ball games in New York (to see the Yankees; the Mets were on the road), Chicago (to see the Cubs, as the White Sox were travelling) and Boston.
From there, they’d plan at least one trip per year and knock off a few different ball parks.
Sometimes they’d jump on a cheap flight from one city to another, but more often than not, they’d rent a car and hit the road.
“There was a lot of driving,” Hart said, “but it was fun and interesting.
“We went from San Diego right up to San Francisco and Oakland. Just a gorgeous drive, up the coast through Santa Barbara and Big Sur.”
Sometimes their journeys would take a week, sometimes two. And it wasn’t all baseball. In California, they took in the Ellen Show and visited wine country north of San Francisco, saw the Grand Canyon on the drive from Las Vegas to Phoenix where they took in a Diamondbacks game, and toured the Rock ’N Roll Hall of Fame while in Cleveland to see the Indians.
“Most times, it was one trip per year,” Hart said, “although we did two this year. We were in Philly in late June. That was fun, seeing the Rocky steps (at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Rocky Balboa famously sprinted in the movie classic).”
So, which ball parks grabbed their attention the most?
Naturally, the old ones, like Wrigley Field and Fenway. And the new Yankee Stadium is something to see.
“But Wrigley,” said Hart, “… the heritage, the history. Boy, they do it well there.
“Singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ during the seventh-inning stretch. The seventh inning is well done in every city.”
For the most part, the four had no trouble getting tickets, even at Wrigley and Fenway, although those usually took buying a few days in advance.
“The new ball parks are great. Pittsburgh, with the bridges and city in the background, and San Francisco, with the ball park out next to the bay. Washington was a lot of fun, too. We were there on the July 4 weekend.
“Cincinnati, Houston … they’re all nice.”
And those which weren’t up to snuff?
“Tampa, of course. That’s not a ball park. It’s awful. Oakland is big and spacious, but that really needs a facelift. You can see why the A’s need a new park.
“Seattle is a wonderful city, but the ball park is dark and dingy. And Safeco Field is fairly new (it opened in 1999).”
Hart isn’t sure what’s next, although he says there may be a few European trips in the future.
But the baseball tour will certainly be remembered for a long time.
“I remember seeing games at old Jarry Park (in Montreal) and Exhibition Stadium (in Toronto),” he said. “That was a long time ago.
“I never imagined it would lead to see every baseball stadium out there.”