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A Dodgers hodgepodge of cheesesteaks, Joe Davis, and mistaken identity

Or “Four short stories that are too short to merit their own essay.”

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Los Angeles Dodgers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

And now for your entertainment, before I head out to see the Dodgers play the Red Sox and Guardians, here are four stubs from my recent travels smushed together to form a single essay. If you are looking for serious trade analysis or in-depth commentary, look elsewhere.

Meeting Joe Davis

As we covered recently, I have had some fun with the Dodgers’ announcers on Twitter in my current role here at True Blue LA. Last time, when we covered this subject I had this statement to say specifically:

One of the things that I hoped would happen on that trip or any of the subsequent trips was that I would have a random happening with Joe Davis and/or Orel Hershisher.

On July 15, during the overpriced All-Star tour at Citi Field, it actually happened and in the most innocuous way possible. I did not discuss the tour of Citi Field in my field report because that essay was somewhat long. But it was during this tour that I finally had my (brief) encounter with Joe Davis, who was on the national broadcast for Fox Sports.

There is no photography or videography of this encounter and truthfully, if there were, it would be reluctant in sharing. Part of my tour had me watch batting practice on the field at Citi Field, which was far better in theory than in practice. In the corridor on my way to the field, I see Ken Rosenthal and Joe Davis standing and talking and walking in my direction in a hallway filled with people.

I recognized them both instantly. So feeling my pulse quicken, I did what I thought appropriate given the moment, considering the hustle and bustle of the scene. While wearing my jersey and cap, I call out “Joe,” smirk, and touch the bill of my cap. He turns, appraises my appearance, and smirks, which breaks into a full smile. He gives a head nod and says “Hey.”

The people milling about are either oblivious to this interaction or heckling Ken Rosenthal.

As an aside, I was struck by how much larger I am physically than Davis. This observation is not meant as an insult in the slightest as he is likely far healthier than I am. I did have to double check and he is 5 foot 7, which is a perfectly respectable height. To use an analogy, Davis is built like a kicker, whereas I am built like an offensive lineman. If he bumps into me, there’s no flag, whereas if I bump into him, I risk the permanent wrath of Dodgers’ Twitter.

It’s not the extended banter session I would have wanted, but for what it was, it ticked the box. Now only Papa Orel and the DTrain remain. At least I would not mix them up, unlike certain other pitchers...

Magoo, you’ve done it again!

Speaking of mix ups, this photo is of Emmet Sheehan, who came out to talk to someone during batting practice in New York. I was about three feet from him.

Emmet Sheehan. Citi Field. July 15, 2023.
Not Phil Bickford. Citi Field. July 15, 2023.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

So what cannot be understated is how absolutely hellishly muggy it was in New York and Balitmore that weekend. Combine that fact with the throng of people on the field trying to get the Dodgers sign their merchandise and the fact my arthritis starts feeling like agony once the rain is about to start, I was quite uncomfortable. Also, my glasses were steaming up.

When I saw Sheehan in this condition, I had the following natural reaction: “Hey Phil, good on you mate.” He was visibly confused. I was confused that he was confused. He eventually left. Literally moments later, he appeared.

Not Emmet Sheehan. Citi Field. July 15, 2023.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

I realized my goof. I heard the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme in my head, which was epic foreshadowing for later that night. So I did the only thing I could think of: “Hey Phil, good on you mate!” I don’t think he heard me, but we are not talking about extended banter here.

But speaking of extended banter...

Proof of being Bonafide

I moved to the Central Valley, which is not newsworthy of itself. The regularly scheduled travel will still proceed on schedule with an additional date for the penultimate day of the season in San Francisco. Next year will be a challenge as I now live two hours from a major international airport as opposed to 15 minutes away, but such is life.

I did do one last thing before leaving the Bay Area — getting recognized as a bonafide Dodger fan by Tim Neverett. As you may or may not know, he has written a book about the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series. Occasionally, Neverett goes on Twitter to promote his book and offers to sign and personalize it.

He had one copy left for the purposes of this story. You can probably guess what happened next.

I am just going to point to this photo when someone questions my fandom from here on.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

Now, I did not tell Tim what to write, as I normally just banter with him publicly about food recommendations on the road. And lo and behold, he bestows the bonafide: I am a great Dodger fan. 20 stadiums for Dodger games since 2020 will do that.

So I have proof — please stop doubting my fandom!

But this chase to all 30 stadiums is ongoing, as doing these last ten seven stadiums is going to be a true logistical challenge. For a ballpark chase, one tends to settle on rules to make sense of this silly adventure.

Mine are:

  1. The Dodgers must be present. Baseball without an emotional stake does not appeal to me.
  2. If possible, go on a stadium tour — because learning is fun and one should be curious, not judgmental.
  3. If possible, buy a plastic souvenir cup because one can never have enough cups for drinking water.
  4. If possible, remember a first game certificate.
  5. If possible, buy a magnet from the team store.
  6. Really, only rule one matters; everything else is gravy.

While I am technically a professional sportswriter, I lack certification. No certification, no press pass; as such, barely a rung above a writer in his basement. Normally, I do not mind living in the gray of humorist and essayist. But for one day, I would like to borrow Eric’s credibility. Why you ask? Well...

A dream of a sandwich

Tampa Bay Rays v Philadelphia Phillies
Not this sandwich — I am after much rarer game.
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Eric has his three- (or four-) inning saves, and this bit is my white whale.

I would like my 30th and final stadium to be Philadelphia. Not because I have any particular love for the region (Pittsburgh rules, Philadelphia drools...probably), but because I learned of a food Brigadoon that happens to exist in the visitor’s clubhouse of Citizen Bank Park: the arguable best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia.

In an excellent story published on by Matt Monagan last year, a sneak peek into this literal private wonderland was provided and I was enchanted:

The sandwiches are all made in the visitors’ clubhouse. Since 2014, they’ve been cooked by clubhouse attendant Eric Michaels and his team.

“We make them as they come in,” Michaels told Zolecki. “We don’t just make a bunch of cheesesteaks and then players come in and say, ‘Can I get one?’ And say, ‘Yeah, here you go.’ If you come into the clubhouse and say, ‘Can I get a cheesesteak with mushrooms, provolone and onions,’ we’re hand-picking the mushrooms and onions out of a little jar and taking the provolone out of the fridge and we’re making that sandwich specifically for you.”

The size seems to be at a standard 10-12 inches, and most of the time, the bun is loaded up.

(emphasis added.)

I would strongly encourage you to read Monagan’s essay as there are various eating records and quasi-horror stories about professional athletes eating a lot of cheesesteak. Like amounts no human should eat in a day or a weekend.

I am after a literal sandwich. I suppose two (one chicken and one beef), if I were allowed to dream.

When the Dodgers visited Philadelphia earlier this year, I got curious and asked Stephen Nelson and Tim Neverett whether they could or would partake. Both were excellent sports and answered in the affirmative.

Stephen Nelson: “...Best cheesesteak I’ve had in my trips to Philly is in that clubhouse.”

Tim Neverett: “Funny you should ask. Just had one [from the clubhouse today]. Best in the city.”

At this point, a lot of my life is playing with house money. But if it is not too selfish to dream, this Brigadoon would be my final stop — until they open expansion parks in Nashville, Salt Lake City, and Oakland and Tampa are resolved.