By KEVIN WEAKS
Cleveland’s last. Seems fitting, actually.
Longtime educator and coach in the Fulton School System, Wayne Lohaus has only Cleveland to check off his travel list.
The lifelong baseball fan has been to every other Major League city, and Cleveland will be the last stop on nationwide tour.
“I only have one city left — Cleveland,” Lohaus said.
Lohaus began attending St. Louis Cardinals’ games at old Sportsmans Park in the 1950s with his father, Earl.
From his father to his wife, Peggy, and daughter, Alecia, Lohaus’ travels have been as generational as they’ve been continental.
“When I became adult, we started taking vacations,” Lohaus said. “Everywhere we went was near a big league stadium, so I just started taking in games. After I got my 10th, 12th park in, I started keeping up with them. I did it, but I didn’t do it consciously. I didn’t keep half of these (ticket stubs) until just a few years back.”
A Cardinals’ fan, Lohaus tries to plan his trips so he can see the Redbirds play. It doesn’t always work out that way, like the year he went to Tampa and saw the Rays play Toronto.
Cardinal fans, he says, and Chicago Cubs fans really know their baseball. So, too, do fans of the two New York teams — the Yankees and Mets — and the fans in Philadelphia. Their attitudes, however, are a little too over the top for Lohaus’ tastes, though.
He was also impressed with the knowledge of the fans in Tampa, a fact that shouldn’t be too surprising considering the area’s longtime association with professional minor league baseball before the expansion Rays were born.
Sportsmans Park remains his favorite place to watch a game though it was long ago replaced by cookie-cutter Busch Memorial Stadium, which has since been replaced by the current Busch Stadium.
Coming in a tie for second in best places are old Comiskey Park, former home of the Chicago White Sox, and the Kansas City Royals’ stadium prior to being refurbished several years ago.
Old Tiger Stadium in Detroit, also extinct, was another Lohaus favorite.
“I went to old Tiger Stadium in Detroit, and I got that same feeling at 45 as I did when I was six,” he said. “I walked down the tunnel to my seat and came out to that blue sky and green grass, and it was just like I remember it being at old Sportsmans Park. So, I really like the old, old stadiums. There are only two left, Fenway (Boston) and Wrigley (Chicago).”
Lohaus said he was “awe-struck” by old Yankee Stadium and loved being able to look out at the Green Monster in Fenway.
His list of favorites includes a few of the newer places, too. Lohaus was impressed with Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, and Safeco Field, home to the Seattle Mariners.
Lohaus went to Coors while in Denver one Memorial Day holiday on a trip to see the U.S. Mint. A storm of golf ball-sized hail covered the ground in the afternoon, but by game time all the hail had been snowplowed off to the outfield corners.
He was in Seattle on his way to Vancouver Island and arrived in time to see Barry Bonds strike out with bases loaded in the ninth inning. “You’d have thought they (Seattle) had just won the World Series,” Lohaus said of the fans’ reaction.
Not all places have received the Lohaus seal of approval.
He didn’t like either park in Los Angeles and was no fan of Toronto’s domed home, either. “Baseball is meant to be played outdoors,” he explained.
When Lohaus says he’s been to every big league town, he clarifies that doesn’t necessarily mean every stadium. He has not been to the newer stadiums in New York, for instance.
Lohaus’ father grew up a St. Louis Browns’ fan and then started taking him to Cardinals’ games when the Browns packed up and moved away in 1954.
Fast forward to Lohaus as a husband going to games and the Field of Dreams site in Iowa with his wife and planned vacations to Minnesota, Detroit and Houston as well as spring training in Florida and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., with his daughter.
He has packed in a lot of memories in more than a half century of big league trips.
Perhaps the most interesting didn’t even include a Major League game.
“We went to Jupiter — my daughter and I — in Florida to watch Cardinals in spring training,” he said. “The World Baseball Classic was going on in Miami. It was only a 1 1/2 hour trip, so we went down to see the American team play Puerto Rico, and it was like being in a foreign country. In the stadium, we were the minority because there were a bunch of Latinos who were rooting for their Puerto Rican team. They were waving flags, they had cheerleaders, they were waving pom-pons, they danced, had bands in the stands. It was a completely different experience from American fans. And, they killed us. We weren’t even in the ballgame.”
Now, after all these years, Lohaus can go to a baseball park named after him. Lohaus Field in Fulton is the home of his Fulton Bulldogs’ team, upgraded several years ago to also host the Fulton Railroaders collegiate wood bat team.
“It’s a real honor, and I really don’t think I deserve it because there are a lot of people who have put in a lot of time and dedication,” he said. “I was very honored it happened. It’s pretty cool, I have to admit. It’s fun to see.”
Whether or not the Cardinals play in Cleveland next year, Lohaus will make his final big league stop in 2013. Also a fan of the pro minor league ranks, he jokes about his next travel list.
“Then, I’ll start on the minor league parks ... and get a divorce, because that’s what will happen.”
Published in The Messenger 6.20.12