August 19, 2012 - 1:01 PM
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- The Bisons are here today to meet the Red Sox in the back end of their two-city, two-game roadie that will feature a combined 17 hours on a bus in a span of about 48. McCoy Stadium is the oldest park in the International League (opened in 1946 and fully renovated for the 1999 season) but it's still a complete time warp.
Parking is free -- yes, I said free -- and even though the place seats about 10,000, it feels like about half of that. There are wonderful murals and photos wrapped around the concourse of former PawSox greats. The concession stands are folksy, league standings are around in small magnetic numbers like they were at the Aud back in Buffalo (left) and there are terrific history displays all over the place. The Bisons need to take note of that; Coca-Cola Field is woeful in that area.
Quaint accommodations for the fans here too. Nice comfy seats with most under a roof and/or in shade. A grass berm in left field, a tent down the RF line and tables with umbrellas in front of the tent and in right field. You want to stay dry or stay cool, you can. You want a tan, you can get that, too.
The biggest public display is about the longest game in pro baseball history -- the 33-inning Pawtucket win over Rochester that began on April 18, 1981, continued through 32 innings until 4 a.m. on the 19th and then was completed in 18 minutes on June 23 in the midst of the MLB players strike and under the international spotlight.
I particularly like the giant linescore showing all 33 innings (right), as well as the actual home plate, photos of players who appeared in the game like Wade Boggs and Marty Barrett (Cal Ripken was in the game too). Pretty funny to see folks walk by it in the main concourse and stop and look. A lot of older folks explaining to kids what the heck happened here that night.
The concourse has displays for great moments in Pawsox history -- and one of them (left) is a plaque for the perfect game authored by Bronson Arroyo here against the Bisons in 2003, just a year before Arroyo became a key member of Boston's World Series champions. It was just the fourth perfecto in IL history at the time and remains the only one against the Bisons in their modern era.
In the basement between the clubhouses, the team has an incredible collection of memorabilia for both the PawSox and all the visitors who have played here over the years. I found pictures of Bisons old (think Terry Collins and Orlando Merced) and new (like Brandon Phillips). All the superstars of the game who have been in the IL are there too. The Arroyo game gets huge play with lineup cards and the actual pitching rubber signed by all the Pawsox (right).
One of the great traditions of McCoy involves the kids and it's called "fishing." And it's kind of exactly what you think. The box seats are about eight feet off the field because there are field-level suites. So kids who want autographs concoct their best homemade apparatus out of things like beach buckets and hollowed milk cartons and hang them over the dugout on lines (left).
The players simply reach in, sign whatever is inside and put it back in the jug. The kid hoists it up and (voila!) he's reeled in his autograph (hence the term fishing). There was not a whole lot of fishing going on today because the players were on the field warming up but the picture to the left gives you an idea of how the whole thing went.
What a place. As for the game (the press box is that little booth behind the "McCoy Stadium" in the picture at the top of this post), the Bisons are sending Jeurys Familia to the mound against Billy Buckner (incredibly, no relation to him).
The Herd lineup is Lewis, rf; Rodriguez, ss; Duda, lf; Pascucci, dh; Lutz, 3b; Loewen, 1b; Satin, 2b; den dekker, cf and May, c.
(Be sure to click on any of the pictures for a closer view!)