Monday, May 9, 2005

My Beloved Toros, 1993-1996

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Show yourself (and/or family in friends) enjoying yourself playing sports, or watching them. Yes, all that fresh air willl be good us all. Remember your Claritin.

Okay, I don't do participatory sports, unless you count hiking/birdwatching (and I haven't done that on a regular basis in years and years). But John and I did go to baseball games, once upon a time.  I don't have pictures of us at Tucson Toros games, but I do have pictures of some of the Toros.  They were sort of friends of ours, especially the 1993-1996 teams. We hung out and got autographs often enough to be on a first name basis with a number of those guys: James Mouton, Brian Hunter, Chris Hatcher, Orlando Miller, etc.  I'm not sure they knew our names, but she did recognize us after a while.  Pitcher Alvin Morman once gave me his leftover tokens at a Peter Piper Pizza party for the Booster club.

First picture:  John is probably in this picture--somewhere.  Chances are he's either in the clump of people waiting for autographs on the first base (Toros) side, or in the clump of people waiting for autographs on the third base (visitors) side.  Taken in 1993, during the summer of the Toros' second Pacific Coast League championship, it also records the summer John and I discovered baseball.  John was into the autograph end of things, and I was into scorekeeping and hanging out.

Hi Corbett, 1993

Second picture:  I think this is pitcher Dave Veres, but I could be wrong.  Dave has been with the Houston Astros and the St. Louis Cardinals.  I've lost track of him now, but he's a good guy. 1993.

Dave Veres, 1993

Third picture: cow milking contest, 1996.  Toro means bull of course, so there was a dairy night, with cow milking and free cow bells.

cow milking contest, 1996

Fourth picture:  Roll Back the Clock Night, 1996, with a disco era theme.  The mascot is Tuffy the Toro, after whom our dog is named.

Disco Tuffy, 1996

We got hooked on the Toros in June or July 1993, and went to almost all the home games in 1994-6.  At some point, though, it all changed:

  • The Toros' longtime affiliation with the Houston Astros ended.  They became the AAA team for the Brewers for a season, and then began their current association with the Diamondbacks.  This affiliation makes perfect sense, but it means that the players we'd followed for years either moved thousands of miles to New Orleans, were called up to Houston, or were traded to Detroit. The continuity was gone, and the Toros from the Brewers year were, in effect, just temps as far as Tucson was concerned.
  • The team moved from good old Hi Corbett field, about a mile from Worldwide Travel, to Tucson Electric Park, way out on Ajo Way.  It was less convenient to get to, and had a much less fan-friendly layout.  Autographs were much harder to get, and it was no longer possible to interact with the radio broadcasters.
  • The team was renamed the Sidewinders, to be more compatible with the name Diamondbacks (both are Arizona snakes).  The wonderful Tuffy the Toro was phased out in favor of Sandy Sidewinder, an entirely unconvincing snake with arms.
  • Longtime General Manager Mike Feder was canned.  Exit Mike and Patty Feder, who were largely responsible for great promotions and the "family" feeling people used to get at Toros games.

In short, the only thing the 1995 Toros had in common with the 2005 Sidewinders is that both teams play baseball in Tucson.  Oh, and I think they have a Toros night on Thursdays.  They dismantled everything else I loved about the team over the course of just two years.

Some people enjoy the Sidewinders.  They were so integral to the Diamondbacks a few years ago that they picked up the nickname "Baby 'Backs."  But the handful of times John and I have gone to their games in recent years, we got bored and restless, and left early.  The dream is over, and we can't seem to get back to sleep.


P.S. Claritin doesn't work for me.


fdtate714 said...

I love minor-league baseball, but we had a similar situation here in Chattanooga.  The team moved from Engel Stadium, which was built in the 1920s, to the brand-spanking-new, corporate-named BellSouth park, and all of the family atmosphere was sucked right out of the experience.  I don't go anywhere near as often as I used to.  

You've seen some good players there.  There was a Brian Hunter in the Braves organization about the same time as your Brian Hunter was in the Houston organization.  Kinda made things a little confusing.  I was curious about Dave Veres - I'd heard that name before - so I looked him up.  He put together a fairly decent 10-year career as a middle reliever.  He averaged about a strikeout an inning, 95 saves, 3.44 ERA, and even racked up a pretty decent batting average in his handful of at-bats.  His career ended in 2003 with the Cubs.

I'm just glad y'all didn't try to milk a toro like some president I could name is rumored to have done.

ryanagi said...

I went to one minor league game here in NJ on a company outing...had a blast! What a nice stadium they have. Sometimes corporate sponsorship is a good thing. When Tyler is old enough, we'll go back.

cneinhorn said...

great photos and interesting story about the Toros! love the cowmilking one...that's not something you see on the baseball field every day!


stephweiss said...

Love the stories and pix. Who woulda thought of a cow at a baseball game... hehehe Those were the good ol' days, when the sport was fun & not a big business. Nowadays it's all serious baseball & merchandise. Not really aimed at 'fun.' I guess when a rich guy invests so many millions in something, he has to pretend to take it seriously.

dornbrau said...

The only thing Claritin relieves me of is $.  Great pictures by the way.