I Don't Care if We Never Get Back
I Don't Care if We Never Get Back is baseball travelogue by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster, originally published in 2014. The book is based on a trip undertaken by the two college friends starting on June 1, 2013, which saw them accomplish their goal of catching a game in each of Major League Baseball's thirty ballparks over the span of 30 days. The title is of course taken from "Take Me Out to the Ballgame".
Blatt grew a up in New Hampshire, both a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan and a numbers geek; combining the two interests, his favorite baseball figure growing up was not a player but front-office wunderking Theo Epstein. Brewster for his part grew up in California and while a big sports fan, never actually had much of an interest in baseball. The two became friends at Harvard University, where Brewster was president of the Harvard Lampoon while Blatt devised an algorithm that planned the “perfect” baseball road trip - one that would take a fan to every ballpark in the major leagues in the minimum span of thirty days. The road trip was a theoretical endeavor at first, but when the pair finished school in 2013, Blatt convinced his friend to join him in making it a reality as a sort of graduation ritual before joining the real world.
For Blatt, the objective is seeing a lot of baseball and making a theoretical construct real. For Brewster, it is an opportunity to see a lot of America he has never been to, being a prototypical coast person who had never been far from either ocean or made a car trip of over four hours; he figured that seeing so much of the continent at first glance could not be anything but an enriching experience. The bit about never having traveled long distances by car would need to change, though, as Blatt insisted that the entire trip had to be taken by car (no cheating by hopping a plane for some of the longer stretches) and that the pair actually had to be at the ballpark for the entire game, from first pitch to last pitch, although they need not pay attention to the game the whole time, as they were allowed to get food, use the washroom facilities or even get a few winks in. Sleep deprivation would indeed quickly prove to be one of the biggest challenges of the endeavor.
The trip starts easily enough, with a short drive from Boston, MA to New York, NY to catch a game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox at New Yankee Stadium. They are gifted some complimentary tickets by a friend of a friend who is a season-ticket holder in one of the poshest areas of the ballpark, an experience that will be very different from their usual perches in the cheapest seats available (they are doing this trip on a college student's budget after all). They start to get derailed pretty quickly as Brewster, who is first of all out to discover America, insists on taking a peek at Atlantic City, NJ on the way to their next stop, Pittsburgh, PA, and quickly proceeds to lose $100 at the blackjack table. The detour means they are pretty tired by the time they reach PNC Park, and they run into their nemesis for the first time there, the extra-inning game. Brewster is awoken from some pleasant dreams by the crowd noise as the Pittsburgh Pirates pull off a win in the bottom of the 11th inning.
Apart from a speeding ticket or two, the early part of the trip, around the northeastern United States, is easy enough, with relatively short distances which allows for some detours proposed by Ben in the spirit of the trip, one at the home of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA and another at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. These are not enough to shake Eric’s doubts about the sacred nature of the journey, however. As for Eric, the stops he requests are a look at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA and the Capitol in Washington, DC, albeit for the briefest of moments given the need to rush to the next game. Pretty soon, they need to pull an all-night drive to get from a night game in DC to an afternoon one the next day in Detroit, MI.
As a particularly brutal stretch of driving comes up, they are joined by a third friend, confusingly also named Ben, and while Ben 1 at first insists that only the two original trip takers can drive, it pretty soon becomes apparent that having Ben 2 share the burden so that someone can sleep on the back seat leaving the one on the passenger seat with the responsibility of making sure the driver is always awake is a good idea for everyone’s safety. So the purity of the trip is chipped by that, and then the group makes a rookie mistake as Ben 1 forgets the whole concept of time zones and shows up in Denver, CO thinking the game they wish to attend that day is starting two hours later than its actual local starting time. So the bits of the game they attend that day does not count towards completion of the trip, but Eric figures it will be theoretically possible to pass again through Denver on the one day on which they had not scheduled a game (a day/night doubleheader with both Chicago teams at home the same day is what makes this possible). The perfect trip thus remains a possibility.
As the long drives accumulate, Eric managed to nix Ben’s idea of making a detour via the “Field of Dreams” built in a cornfield in Dyersville, IA (his screw-up in Denver has dented his aura of infallibility). When the pair hit Chicago for two games on the same day, Ben gets to meet his idol, Theo Epstein, but at the same time learns when that night’s White Sox game is being cancelled as a huge rainstorm is predicted to hit the Windy City. The Cubs’ game gets completed, but the pair realize that they still have a way out: since the trip began on the 1st in the evening, the thirty days will only have elapsed on July 1st in the evening, so they can still catch a day game that day and meet their objective - and lo and behold, the Toronto Blue Jays are playing an afternoon game that day, and the trip can be rerouted to take advantage of the extra day and make an additional stop in Chicago. But the torrential rains that are starting to come down are moving east, towards their next destination, Baltimore, MD and another rainout there is extremely likely. After some more back-of-the-envelope calculations, they figure out that if they head to Houston, TX instead, they can still make the trip, albeit with some brutal drives added. But they chance upon another possibility, which is that the Orioles have an 8:00 pm Sunday night game scheduled on a day they are supposed to see the Mets in the afternoon, making it theoretically possible to take both games in, were the O’s game to be rained out. They decide to give that route a try and head to Baltimore.
They do suffer through a massive storm on the way, but by the next evening, skies have cleared on the east coast and they can take in the ballgame, only for it to turn into a 13-inning marathon while their next stop is in Florida, 16 hours away. In Tampa, where they meet up with Eric’s parents and coincidentally strike up a friendship with the father of Kansas City Royals player David Lough, they also witness a scary moment as Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb is felled by a line drive and has to be taken out of the ballpark on a stretcher (he avoids serious injury, though).
Their adventures over the next stretch include a desperate quest to find a foam finger in the pouring rain in Atlanta, getting their go-pro camera stolen because they accidentally leave it on its mount in the parking lot of Marlins Park, Ben going on a blind date set up by Eric and Ben 2 with a female Cardinals fan while in St. Louis (unfortunately, she turns out to be interested as much in Renaissance Fairs as in baseball, so they don't really hit it off) or getting in trouble with an angry ticket scalper in San Francisco when they accidentally twice sell a pair of extra tickets they have in hand. All of these could qualify as All-American adventures, if the chronic lack of rest was not starting to make the two a little bit stir crazy.
The final stretch becomes hectic, given the changes caused by the need to return to Denver and Chicago. The success of the trip hangs on the authors’ ability to complete a 17-hour drive (as estimated by their mobile GPS application) from Houston to Chicago in less than 16 hours, in order to catch the first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field. They get slowed down by yet another speeding ticket somewhere in the heart of Texas, but then throw all caution to the wind, and speed northwards, Cannonball Run-like, obeying no stop signs or speed limits, and make it to the ballpark with 13 minutes to spare, an accomplishment that completely eclipses the game they nominally came to see. On their way to New York, NY, they make another detour via Williamsport, and this time Ben gets to jump a fence and run the bases on the field used for the Little League World Series; a stern looking man on a lawnmower had told him no the first time, and he had sheepishly obeyed, but now, after his cross-country adventures, nothing will deter the new Ben. And then it’s on to Toronto, where they do make it in time for the final game of the trip, although they hadn’t realized that the only reason there was a game scheduled on a Monday afternoon was because of Canada Day - which means a sellout crown in Toronto. But with the help of scalpers and a friendly ATM, they do make it and complete the trip. At the end, Eric, having missed the end of the final game through sheer exhaustion can only say “I hope baseball won”.
1. The June 8 game did not count towards the completion of the trip as the authors broke a self-imposed rule when they missed the first couple of innings.
2. First game of a separate admission doubleheader; the authors left after the first game, their mission accomplished for the day.
- Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster: I Don't Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever, Grove Press, New York, NY, 2014. ISBN 978-0802122742