Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Fleeing the Zooperstars

Minor league baseball: where all of the taint of money, drugs and entitlement are washed away, leaving nothing more than a game played by 19 year olds and former bonus babies paid millions to hit .220 in the Midwest League. Ok, so the minors aren't perfect either, and yes the Kane County Cougars have a former bonus baby in left field who the A's paid millions as an 18th round pick, and who is hitting .220 or something. In fact, he had some of the worst at-bats I've ever seen this weekend. But who cares?

That's the attitude that pervades a trip a minor league baseball game. Fans root for the home team, but they're not all caught up in the "other stuff". Tickets cost $10, parking cost $2, and a pop (soda, take your pick) still costs $4. The players throw t-shirts into the stands and return beachballs that drift onto the field. Pitchers collect walks and strikeouts by the basketfull.

This past weekend, my wife and I joined my colleague Scalia's Gavel (the name reflects his admiration of Justice Scalia, not my own) and Mrs. Gavel to go see the Kane County Cougars take on the Cedar Rapids Kernals, which is the only farm team in the Angels system entirely devoid of prospects. It was a great night. A beautiful little ballpark, and the game featured all of the attractions one expects from a minor league game, including free umbrellas for the first 2000 fans, and the post-game Retro 80's Fireworks Show.

But the highlight, by far, were the Zooperstars. Now I've wanted to see the Zooperstars ever since I first read of them on Deadspin. These are a group of truly frightening inflatable mascots that make grown men tremble, women faint, and small children flee in terror. They made their first appearance following the second inning, when Nolan Rhyno attacked Centipete Rose, splitting him in half. Apparently, it's some sort of punishment for Rose gambling on how many children would crap themselves in fear that evening. Anyway, this display was followed a few innings later by Cow Ripken, Jr., who terrorized a hapless umpire. (I missed part of Ripken's routine because I was getting a brat -- the Cougars have great food). Scalia's Gavel and I had the following exchange when we returned to our seats to find Cow Ripken cavorting on the field:
Scalia: What's Brady Quinn's sister's name?
Criminal: Laura.
Scalia: Yeah, she could be one of these Zooperstars.

The king of the Zooperstars however, is undoubtedly Clammy Sosa. Not only does Clammy combine the frightening visage of Sosa with a Clam, but his routine is the best of the night. You see Clammy is joined by this strange dancing guy. When the guy interferes with Clammy's shenanigans, Clammy eats him. Then he vomits up his clothes and shoes. Then he vomits the guy back up, who runs off, pants-less. This is comic brilliance. None of the remaining on-field antics would quite match the intensity of Clammy's performance. However, there was still one great highlight to come. As the crowd rose for the 7th inning stretch, we were greeted by that greatest of songbirds: Harry Canary. Unfortunately, I didn't realize in advance that I would be having this encounter with greatness, so I didn't bring my camera. Relying on my phone to document the excitement, I got few usable shots. Alas, Mrs. Appeal and I failed to get a quality family portrait with Canary following his rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Still, we shall never forget our run-in with pop culture greatness.


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