Thursday, April 18, 2013

Columbus Clippers, ring your bell!

Why did I save this for more than thirty years? And whatever happened to SuperX drug stores?
Although I look back fondly at going to Indians games at Cleveland Municipal Stadium with my dad and brothers back in the 1960s, I must confess I'm not an Indians fan anymore. A variety of factors  – players with bloated salaries whose names I couldn't pronounce, a stadium with no memories, a diluted American League, inter-league play (why would I want to see the Tribe play the Phillies?) – all ruined it for me. And to think I used to sit around and score the games in the late 70s and early 80s.

But I do root for one baseball team purely out of nostalgia: the Columbus Clippers of the AAA International League.

One of my souvenirs
I know it makes no sense, but I still have a soft spot in my heart (and my head apparently) for the Clippers. During my last few years at Ohio State, when springtime rolled around, it meant it was time to head out to Franklin County Stadium on W. Mound Street to catch some games.

Back then, the Clippers were the farm team for the Yankees, so they always had pretty good players (such as fan favorite Steve "Bye Bye" Balboni) and were inevitably league champs each year. Tickets were cheap (two bucks for general admission) and so were the hotdogs and beer.

They had lots of promotions at the games, including plenty of freebies and fireworks. The San Diego Chicken used to come around a few times during the season too; I saw him perform there a few times and he was always hilarious.

Although it was corny, the Clippers had their own theme songs too. Here's some of the lyrics to one of them: "Ring Your Bell."

Columbus Clippers, our team is number one!
Columbus Clippers, our fans are half the fun!
No matter who they're playing, they'll always play'em well!
Columbus Clippers ring your bell!

My Columbus Clippers retro cap
At the mention of "ring your bell," fans who had official Columbus Clippers cowbells would shake them and it created quite a ruckus. (Of course, my roomies and I made up our own lyrics to the song, which we sang while chomping on smelly cigars. I feel sorry for the people who sat near us.)

I have many happy memories of those games and those days.

Now, more than 30 years later, the Clippers are no longer the farm team of the Yankees. They're now affiliated with the (groan) Tribe. They've played in a new stadium since 2009, and I understand that they've pretty much phased out the goofy 'ring your bell' song.

But I'm still a fan, and still root for them. I even had my keys on a Columbus Clipper keychain up until a few years ago when it literally fell apart – just like I'm starting to.

What's left of my Clipper keychain
Nevertheless, during the Clippers' last season at the old stadium, I dragged the spouse down to Columbus for a game. We had a nice dinner at Schmidt's in German Village, and then headed over to the stadium.

The San Diego, er, uh I mean the Famous Chicken performed that night, the Clippers won, and it was just like old times.

Except for no smelly stogies.


Randall Chet said...

Thanks for the post Dan - I've never been to a clippers game but you've convinced me to take in a game the next time up in Columbus visiting my siblings. And I agree with you, for the last decade I've been much more into attending minor league games - go Asheville Tourists! - than the majors. Minor league teams are LOVED by their cities. The love is real, the parks are real (until recently I don't think there were real minor league "stadiums") and the players are real. I've played ball with many ex minor leaguers (I finally had to hang up my spikes last year because of back problems) and it's love of the game - not money that makes the difference and keeps everyone coming back.

Herman said...

It might be interesting for you to attend a Lorain Ironmen game and get some photos, if you havn't already. Is this considered "minor league" baseball, or is it lesser than that? I haven't attended yet, but look forward taking grandkids this year.

Dan Brady said...

HI Herman,

Good suggestion about attending a Lorain County Ironmen game. They are part of the Prospect League, which, according to its website, is a "summer collegiate wood bat league." They play a 60 game schedule.

Anonymous said...

I'm so upset to hear that they've phased out the "Ring Your Bell" song - I was just singing it to my 3 year old son and sharing my fond memories of Clippers games with my grandparents.

Just a quick correction though - the old stadium was called Cooper Stadium.

Dan Brady said...

You are correct, they renamed it Cooper Stadium in 1984 (after I was no longer living in Columbus).