Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Day 31: AutoZone Park

All photos of Memphis and AutoZone Park available on Flickr.

Erik and I had a very busy day today in Memphis! I had been to Memphis previously last year and was anxious to see more of the city, but we of course started the day by heading over to Graceland because Erik had never been there. It was pricy so we didn't actually go in, but we walked around the property and hit up a diner and some gift shops nearby. Next, it was off to the legendary Sun Studios on Union Avenue. This is generally known to be the studio where rock & roll was invented and first recorded in 1952, and artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, B.B. King, and Elvis Presley have all recorded there. We were led around the studio by an awesome tour guide named Slim. He was a young guy who didn't look like he would know much about the place, but ended up being an genuine source of information - and he used the word "cat" quite often, which was awesome. It is still operational today, even though founder Sam Phillips passed away four years ago, and it is the only recording studio in America that is on the National Register of Historic Places. We then made our way over to the Civil Rights Museum, but it was closed. It is built next to the hotel where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and the hotel remains in tact to this day with a memorial on site. Lastly, we walked past the Gibson guitar factory and the Rock & Soul Museum on the way back to Beale St. for a quick drink before we headed over to the game.

The stadium is located downtown on Union Avenue, so we thought we would make a lot of money, since we generally have good luck at urban ballparks. However, today was not our day, as we only made around $10. The park itself is gorgeous, and is generally considered by most to be the finest minor league stadium in the country. It was built in 2000 and is home to the AAA Memphis Redbirds, affiliates of the Cardinals since 1998. It is a typical retro-brick structure and seats around 18000. The team shop, concourses, and entry pavilion were all very awesome, and the view from the field are pretty cool - we both immediately noted that there were condominiums across the street from which residents could watch free ball at every home game.

The game was a pretty lackluster effort by the Redbirds. I figured going in that since the Cardinals pitching staff is horrible, that their AAA affiliate would probably be even worse and that it would be an offensive game. Unfortunately, the Redbirds did not really reciprocate with many runs of their own. The star of the game that we were both looking forward to seeing was pitcher-converted-to-outfielder Rick Ankiel, who had a whopping 27 homeruns on the season going into the ballgame, and hit another one out this evening. The game feature a lot of surrendered homeruns, hit batsmen, and bases-loaded walks by the home team, and was not very action packed. J.J. Furmaniak had 4 hits and starter Mike Madsen went 8 innings for the winning Sacramento team. AutoZone Park was a nice park and a very nice night for baseball (once again), and the much-anticipated BBQ Nachos did not disappoint one bit. We look forward to returning for a Civil Rights Game in the near future.

After the game, we returned to the Rum Boogie Cafe once again on Beale to see the band we saw yesterday, Dixie Highway, do another set. I decided to suck it up and purchase a CD and got it autographed by the band. I ended up talking to them for a bit and found out the bass player was from Milwaukee and went to Washington High, which was pretty cool. We had a great time in Memphis and I hope to return a third time someday! The rest of the city aside from downtown seemed kind of dumpy, so I am not sure if I could ever fathom residing in Memphis, but it is definitely worth the visit for anyone who loves music and drinking. Every bar on Beale is open 7 days a week with live bands every night, and is an amazing atmosphere to experience. Tomorrow, it's off to Texas to watch the Rangers.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 7
views from park - 7
view to field - 9
surrounding area - 10 (Beale St. and Peabody Place a couple blocks away)
food variety - 6
nachos - 10
beer - 9 (good variety, souvenir cups)
vendor price - 8 (very good except for the 'chos)
ticket price - 9 (GA $6)
atmosphere - 6
walk to park - 8 (downtown)
parking price/proximity - 9 (we parked on the street for free 2 blocks away)
concourses - 7
team shop - 10

best food - BBQ nachos
most unique stadium feature - condos across the street with view of game
best jumbotron feature - slot car race
best between-inning feature - Memphis RedHots cheerleaders

field dimensions - 316/400/322
starters - Mike Madsen (SAC) v. Mike Parisi (MEM)
opponent - Sacramento River Cats
time of game - 2:51
attendance - 7720
score - 8-2 L
Brewers score that day - 5-3 W

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