THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT

The last week of the season the Royals finally visited New Yankee Stadium for the first time.  At a cost of 1.5 billion dollars, it’s an attention-getter.  Last year I gave you one last look at the old place. 

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During batting practice the skies were getting dark.  Here Ryan Lefebvre and Fox Sports Kansas City producer Kevin Shank catch up with former Royals Manager Tony Pena, now the Yankees bench coach.  Notice the big HD screen in center.  It’s big, but not quite as big as CrownVision at New Kauffman Stadium.Yankee Stadium -first base shot.jpg
 

 

Great sightlines, wider concourses, a wide variety of cuisines, all the modern amenities.  Better be nice, for a billion and a half!
 
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This is the signature image of the new park, the Great Hall.  Here people enter in grand style, where giant banners honor of Yankee greats.  Very impressive.Sultan of Swat.jpg
 

 

There’s a Yankee Museum in the new stadium.  Here fans learn about the man who got it all started, the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth.Yankee Stadium -club.jpg
You may have heard the most expensive seats cost 2500 dollars behind homeplate.  Well, that price didn’t go over very well.  They slashed prices in half, to a still-exorbitant 1250 dollars a seat.  You do get to eat in this beautiful club located behind home plate for all that coin.  And of course servers bring whatever you want to your seat.Joe Girardi Media Session.jpg
 

Yankees Manager Joe Girardi meeting with the media before a game.  Most Major League managers draw between 5 and 10 reporters for most pregame news conferences.  With the Yankees, it’s as though every day is the World Series.  Just the way George likes it.
 
 

 

EMOTIONAL NIGHT

While the Royals were in Detroit, we were lucky enough to be on hand when legendary, longtime Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell came to the ballpark to say “thank you” and, sadly, “so long…”

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Ernie is 91 and was recently diagnosed with inoperable cancer.  He visited the Ernie Harwell press box.  Here flanked by, among many others, current Tigers broadcaster Dan Dickerson on the left and team President Dave Dombrowski on the right.  Ernie looks great and was in great spirits.

 

 

 

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A Detroit Free Press photographer captured Ernie leaving our radio booth after he came in to greet us.  The nicest man you could ever meet.  He gave Don a big hug.  That’s Don on the left.Harwell on field.jpg

 

In the middle of the third inning he addressed the crowd.  He was in full voice, no notes.  He was probably the only one without a tear in his eye.  Ernie…we all love you…(speaking for baseball fans everywhere….not just in Detroit).

MOVING RIGHT ALONG…

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If the game is moving slowly, there is one proven method to make it speed up:  give George Brett a microphone!  George recently joined Denny and Bob to promote Royals Fantasy Camp next February.  The game had been played at a leisurely pace until the 4th.  That’s when Number 5 sat down.  Total pitches needed for a pair of 1-2-3 innings?  20.  For six outs.  Every time he stops by, it seems, his visit is cut short by quick innings.  I couldn’t get Bob to smile, he was busy working.

THE BLUEST SKIES

On one of our broadcasts in Seattle, Bob made a reference to a song Perry Como performed many years ago, “The Bluest Skies You’ve Ever Seen Are In Seattle.”
Hard to argue.  In four days there, we had a couple of brilliantly clear days…and the retractable roof was open for three of the four games.  Sure beats last year.

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Safeco Field is celebrating its 10th anniversary as one of the most beautiful of the retro ballparks built since Camden Yards opened.  Sure beats the dear, departed Kingdome.Safeco Booth.jpg

 

Joining Bob, Don Free and me was Royals fan Kevin Koopman (lower left).  He made the three and a half hour flight from Anchorage to see the Royals.  He saw Zack’s one-hitter.  Kevin grew up in Freemont, Nebraska and is a lifelong Royals fan.

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Looking back at part of downtown Seattle from the pier.  Breathtaking.  Of course the flip side are the dreary winter days (and spring…and fall…and occasionally summer).  But when it’s not cloudy, not many places in America are more beautiful.Seattle Market.jpg

 

 

 

At the bottom of the hill near Pier 66…is Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. It’s more than 100 years old.Market Inside.jpg

 

 

 

It’s always crowded inside the market.  On rainy days it helps that it’s covered!Pike Place Fish Stand.jpg

 

This is the famous Pike Place Fish stand…where the employees throw fish.  Just my luck, no throwing fish while I was standing there.  You know what they say…people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw fish….not sure who “they” are…but seriously…View from Pier in Seattle.jpg

 

 

 

One more shot of the water from the pier.  Water, mountains, blue skies.  Nice place to visit…especially with weather like this!

 

BODY DOUBLE

Tigers skipper Jim Leyland has been a Major League manager for many years…but did you know there are two Jim Leylands?  

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Actually there is only one.  But as you can see in the photos above, a Comerica Park security man is a dead ringer for the Detroit skipper.  On the left, Jim Leyland visits with Royals Bench Coach John Gibbons and Manager Trey Hillman.  On the right is John (didn’t get his last name). He has the same glasses and mustache.  Apparently the “Leyland look” is all the rage in the Motor City. 

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Here’s proof that Jim and John are not the same person.  Leyland leans over the railing, talking with Dave Owen and Gibbons (below with catchers mitt).  You can see security man John standing watch behind the railing to the right.


Detroit Security2.jpgSo we salute John.  No, he doesn’t have a multi-million dollar contract like his lookalike Jim Leyland.  But he could prove valuable to the home team.  Next time Leyland gets thrown out of a game, perhaps John would lend Leyland his shorts.  The Tiger skipper could stay in the game, incognito.  And his disguise would be a LOT more convincing than Bobby Valentine’s was years ago…

GOODBYE TO INDOOR BASEBALL

The Royals will finish their season at the Metrodome, the home of the Minnesota Twins (and Vikings) since 1982. The Vikings will remain in the dome for the foreseeable future.

Some mixed emotions both in the Twin Cities and around the baseball world.  The new ballpark, Target Field (seen here on the Around the Horn Blog!), will open in April of 2010. The Royals will be the last regular season opponent in this building in October.  The Royals were also the final opponent for the last outdoor game at old Met Stadium.

On the one hand, with the beautiful Minnesota summers, who wouldn’t love to play outdoors?  On the other, there’s April…and May…and potentially late October for a chilly World Series.  But it will be a much nicer, baseball-only facility. 

So this post is mostly about things we won’t miss about the Metrodome…and yet in many ways it’s been great seeing games there.  No rain (or snow) delays…perfect (indoor) weather.  Courteous people that work there….

Anyway…without further ado…here are some things that we will not miss….

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Of course everybody prefers baseball to be played outdoors…weather permitting of course.  The Twins will surrender one of baseballs great home-field advantages when they move down the street.  It gets REALLY LOUD in there.  Just ask the Royals…or the 87 Cardinals…or the 91 Braves.  Very hard on the opponent.Radio Booth at Metrodome.jpg

 

Don Free with Denny and Ryan in the visitor radio booth.  It’s small, but with a good view right on top of the field.  Have to be careful if you stand up too quickly you can hit your head on that overhang.  The overhang is only about 5 feet 6 inches off the ground.  At least radio’s version is padded.  TV’s is concrete.  Ouch.Bathroom door.jpg

 

 

 

Great, you’re thinking, a picture of a bathroom.  Well as you may notice, it’s for both men and women.  It’s a unisex restroom.  They have one on the broadcast level and one downstairs in the press box.  Maybe those fears about the Equal Rights Amendment forcing men and women to share restrooms carried over into the 80′s as they were building the dome…which was completed in 1982…

 

 

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Metrodome construction predated the Americans with Disabilities Act…so there is one tiny, phone-booth sized elevator.  But everybody gets plenty of exercise on these stairs…as well as another staircase you’ll see below.  These stairs take you from the press box down to the tunnel that leads to the clubhouses and the media dining room (which we’ll also miss…good food in that place).Trunks in tunnel.jpg

The Metrodome apparently offers its tenants precious little storage space.  In these trunks in the aforementioned tunnel, the Twins store batting helmets, uniforms and other equipment.  This isn’t just the way it looks on a travel day.  It looks this way all the time!  Presumably Target Field will have more storage space.Dugout Stairs.jpg

 

 

Another long set of stairs…from the tunnel down to the dugout.  It’s 4 sets of 8 stairs (if I counted correctly).  Ryan tells us that Cal Ripken legendarily used to hike these 32 steps in just 8 steps!  Hard to believe…but hard to doubt the Iron Man.

 

 

 

 

 

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Here’s one guy we WILL miss at the Metrodome.  John Kinderman has been the the man guarding the door to the visitors clubhouse for 19 years.  Before that he was a policeman for 31 years. He says 50 years is enough, so he will not make the move to Target Field.  John always seems to have my favorite old TV show on…Hogan’s Heroes.  He must watch the all-Hogan’s Heroes channel.  He notes that former Twins GM Terry Ryan is also a fan of the show…so apparently great minds do, in fact, think alike.

Gopher Locker Room.jpgThis is the locker room used by the University of Minnesota football and (occasionally) the baseball team too.  The football team is moving to a new on-campus outdoor stadium set to open in September.  Baseball will still play a few games here.  Ryan Lefebvre has changed and showered in this room many times.  But no more football players in this locker room.  The Vikings will basically have the dome to themselves after this baseball season ends.


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Here’s a sign that won’t be necessary in a couple of months.  And, no, I didn’t try to steal it.  (It was really stuck to that wall!)…Ryan with Soria Pitching.jpg

Royals Director of Media Relations Dave Holtzman took this photo of Ryan in the building in which he’s spent so much time, as a player, an announcer for the Twins and, of course, an announcer for the Royals.  This is the area behind home plate where the air blows very hard, apparently to help keep the roof inflated.

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Dick Bremer, the TV voice of the Twins has a great saying about the unusual “suction” that you feel as you exit…”The game isn’t over til you’re sucked out the door.”  Farewell Metrodome.

 

 

YOU WILL LOVE THE ROYALS HALL OF FAME!

The Royals Hall of Fame opened after the All-Star break…and the reviews are in.  Everybody who’s been through it that I’ve talked to has given it two thumbs up.  If they had 3 or 4 thumbs…they’d give it 3 or 4 thumbs up.

 

I will attempt to give you a taste of it…but to truly appreciate it you need to check it out for yourself.  And allow yourself some time.  It’s free with your game ticket by the way.  And it is open year-round.

 

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Located in left field…the first thing you see when you walk in is a giant wall that salutes Kansas City baseball history.  On display are lockers with uniforms of the three Royals retired numbers: George Brett, Dick Howser and Frank White.
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Also in the lobby of the HOF is this photo of Harry Truman throwing out the first pitch at Municipal Stadium on Opening Day for the A’s in 1955, their first of 13 seasons in Kansas City.
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The first thing many rave about is the film you view before seeing the Hall.  It’s in the “Dugout Theater,” an exact replica of the actual Royals dugout except that there are two rows of benches and not one (to accommodate more people).  The film gives you the history of baseball in Kansas City, going back to the 19th century…right up to today.
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And a wonderful touch, down at the end of the dugout, in the theater, sits a statue of Kansas City treasure, the late Buck O’Neil.  The smile and twinkle in his eye will never fade.
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Once inside the gallery, there’s so much to see.  This is a popular attraction within the Hall.  Fans can design their own ballpark.  Of course, you have to pay for the ballpark yourself…Pine Tar Display.jpg

 

 

 

 

Among the many displays:  the “Pine Tar Bat” that George Brett made famous 26 years ago.  George actually owns the bat, but it’s normally on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  It is currently on loan to the Royals Hall of Fame until the end of this calendar year.GB 5.jpg

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

Here is a great salute to Brett:  a giant number “5,” made up of 3,154 baseballs, one for every hit in his great career.  Within the “5″ is the bat he used when he recorded his 3000th hit.  Upon seeing that bat, George noted that his 3000th hit bat actually has more pine tar on it than his “Pine Tar Bat!”
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Another cool feature is the Royals Radio Network booth, with a large window looking out on the field at New Kauffman Stadium.  Fans can record their own play-by-play.  Sorry, Don Free is not included.  He’s the one that makes us look good.  Seriously, it’s a fun feature of the new Royals Hall of Fame.Royals Academy.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

This display is a salute to the “Royals Academy,” a revolutionary concept in the early years of the franchise.  The idea was to take athletes and turn them into baseball players.  Frank White is one of many Academy graduates.  In this display case, you can actually read the scouting report on Frank before he became a Royal.

 

 

 

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The man who led the Royals Academy was the late Syd Thrift, a longtime baseball executive.  Here’s a photo of Syd’s son, Jim, (on the right) with the Director of the Royals Hall of Fame, a guy who did a super job in putting it together, Curt Nelson.  Jim Thrift is currently a scout for the Baltimore Orioles.  He and his mother have donated several items to the Hall.World Series Trophy.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also on display in the Hall is the World Series trophy from 1985.  Perfect spot for you to get your picture taken with it.HOF Gallery.jpg

 

 

 

At the end of your walk through the Hall, is the actual Hall of Fame gallery, with all the Hall of Famers properly honored, each of them with their portrait and information on their career.Thumbnail image for George at HOF Classic.jpg

 

 



 

 

 

 

On the day the Hall opened, the Royals played in the Willie Wilson Hall of Fame game.  Among those who played was George Brett, here talking with former Royal Willie Aikens.  The Royals Hall of Famers were decked out in powder blue from head to toe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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While our radio booth is not a hall of fame, we now have chairs that are “hall worthy.”  Here Don Free wheels in one of the new chairs in our radio booth.  Pretty nice, eh?  They were provided by John A. Marshall Company.  It’s the Aeron Chair.  We all got chairs that are just the right size for our frames.Barry and Stephen.jpg

 

Here are the gentlemen who brought them over:  Barry Scogin and Stephen Marshall, who’s the great grandson of company founder John A. Marshall.  We’ve now test-driven our personalized chairs…and it’s unanimous….like the new Hall of Fame…two thumbs up! 

 

 

That’s Entertainment!

As the Royals began the mathematical halfway point in the 2009 season, they visited a couple of first-place teams…Detroit and Boston.  After returning from that trip, my 10-year-old son John and I headed to another city whose team was in first place…St. Louis.  I saw my first State Farm Home Run Derby and my first MLB All-Star Game! (and, yes, I had to pay for my tickets…)

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Cedric and John.jpgHere’s John with St. Louis native and Cardinal fan Cedric the Entertainer.  He wasn’t the only celebrity at the game…but he was the only one who stopped by our section in the right field corner.  Actually Craig Sager of TNT Sports wandered by too…but Cedric is bigger…both literally and figuratively.  Cedric was incredibly nice and patient-signing tons of autographs and taking pictures with lots of fans.  We actually missed Carl Crawford’s great catch in left field to take this picture…but it was worth it (nice catch, Carl!!)

 

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This was from our seats at Busch Stadium.  Both nights were great.  I think that’s Zack pitching…took lots of pics with camera phone…but it doesn’t zoom in.  What a great job by Zack!!

Steve and John.jpgHere we are…giving Zack and Trey Hillman (who was an American League coach) all the love we could.  First All-Star game for both father and son.

reststop.jpgOK…confession time…this is the rest stop at Exit 167 on I-70.  I…uh…locked my keys in my car at this rest stop on our way to St. Louis for the Home Run Derby.  Thanks to Bud’s Towing Service for allowing us to get into the car, and allowing us to make it to the Derby on time.  “Bud’s Towing Service, the official towing service of the Royals Radio Network”…has a nice ring to it…  At least it was a nice day.

 

Fenway with flag.jpgFenway Park may give the Red Sox the best home-field advantage in baseball.  It’s a great place to visit.  I recommend it if you haven’t been.  Before one of the games, a giant American Flag was draped across the Green Monster for pregame ceremonies.  They were honoring those participating in the annual Pan-Mass Challenge, a bike-a-thon that benefits the Jimmy Fund, the Red Sox charity that fights children’s cancer as well as funding cancer care.

The Rileys.jpgThese are the Rileys…Kelly and Ron…from Ponca City OK.  Ron’s a life-long Royals fan and for a combined Father’s Day/birthday present, Kelly got him a new Royals cap and a trip to Boston to see a Royals game at Fenway.  Ron is holding an autographed ball from the 1970 Royals, signed by, among others, Manager Bob Lemon and Lou Piniella.  They emailed us in the radio booth (feelthepower.com) and told us they were coming to the game, and bringing a nice piece of Royals history with them.

Birmingham MI.jpgWhen the Royals visit the Tigers, the travelling party stays in beautiful, tree-lined Birmingham, Michigan.  It’s about 30 minutes north of Comerica Park.  It’s a clean, bustling great little town in Detroit’s northern suburbs.  Detroit has obviously taken many economic hits the past few years, but this town seems very vibrant.  Great shopping, dining, parks.  Hard to truly capture its charm with a few photos.

Birmingham Mi 2.jpgHere you see one of downtown Birmingham’s landmarks, the Birmingham Theatre.   Eight screens.  When it was built in 1927 it had one.  It was rebuilt and restored in 1996.

police station.jpgHow nice is Birmingham, Michigan?  This is the Police Station.  Looks like something out of a movie….of course so does the whole town…

 

INTERLEAGUE CHRONICLES: THE FINAL FRONTIER

The Royals final six games of interleague play took them to Houston and Pittsburgh.  That meant a couple of unique modern ballparks…as well as the chance for me to visit (re-visit) the Johnson Space Center in Houston…the home of NASA (with apologies to Washington DC….Kennedy Space Center in FL…etc)

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PNC Park in Pittsburgh opened in 2001.  It offers a great vew of the Alleghany River…the Roberto Clemente Bridge that many fans cross for ballgames…and of course the Pittsburgh skyline.PNC right.jpg
  

Before the gates open you get an idea of the impressive total view of downtown.  The broadcast booths are very high up…so it takes some getting-used-to when broadcasting a game…but you can’t beat this perspective on the city.Bob, Don & Royals Fans.jpg
 

A Saturday stroll through downtown with Don Free and Bob Davis meant bumping into Royal fans in town to cheer on the visitors.  They made the trek from Overland Park and loved seeing a new ballpark.  Royals coordinator of communications and broadcasting, Colby Curry, also made the trip to see PNC for the first time. Minute Maid Park.jpg
 

 

Bob and Denny on the air inside air conditioned (thank goodness) Minute Maid Park in Houston.  When it’s closing in on 100 with Texas-sized humidity readings, the roof and AC come in mighty handy.Cousin & Jeff.jpg
 

My cousin (and Houston resident) Jeff Nunn, with me and another Jeff: Jeff Lovell.  He was a Sigma Chi fraternity brother.  His father is Jim Lovell, a Gemini and Apollo astronaut, and before that a Naval Aviator…an American hero.   Tom Hanks played the part of Jim Lovell in Apollo 13.Apollo 13.jpg  
 
 

 

 

 

 There’s Jeff Lovell’s dad, Jim, on the left.  He flew on that ill-fated mission with Jack Swigert and Fred Haise.  Kevin Bacon played Swigert in the movie, Apollo 13.  Bill Paxton played the part of Fred Haise.Mission Control.jpg
 
This is the room formerly used as “Mission Control.”  NASA used it on missions from the mid-60′s to the mid-90′s, the “glory days” of NASA.  They’ve replaced this room with a new modern Mission Control.  They’ve restored this room to look exactly as it did during the Apollo days.Saturn V Rocket.jpg
 
 

My cousin, Jeff, standing in front of a Saturn V rocket, that would have gone to the Moon if not for budget cuts in the early 1970′s.  It now lies indoors in a climate-controlled building.  It’s amazing how big it is…and how powerful these rocket ships were.Moon Rock.jpg
 

 

In the museum at the Johnson Space Center, there are several Moon rocks on display, including this one that the public can touch.  This was a piece of a rock brought back on Apollo 17.Space Vehicle Mockup.jpg
 
This is NASA’s Space Vehicle Mockup Facility.  This is where the astronauts train for missions to the International Space Station.  It’s in a massive, warehouse-sized building.  These “pods” are linked up in space, providing living and working quarters, and this facility allows astronauts to train in an exact replica, minus the zero-gravity of space.Space Shuttle.jpg
 
This is a “pretend” space shuttle.  Astronauts use this and other shuttle simulators to practice, practice, practice.  Here, the payload bay is open.  Crews deliver and retrieve satellites, among other things, in this compartment.  The Shuttle fleet is due to be retired next year after almost 30 years of use.  Ares 1 is due to start carrying Americans into space in 2015.Mars photo.jpg
 
 

 

They say men are from Mars.  My cousin and I may never make it to Mars.  I hope I live long enought to see people travel there.
 
 

THE WORLDS BIGGEST ROYALS FAN…AND OTHER IMAGES

The homestand got off to a great start…I thought I’d show you a few of the things we’ve seen on the road…and at home….as the the season rolls through June…

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Our friend Marine Sgt. Nathan Cosby made his first visit to the New Kauffman Stadium for the Cincinnati series…and the home team rewarded him for his trip from Jacksonville, Florida…where he proudly serves his country..with a sweep!!  Nathan’s been a Marine for six years.  He already had most of the tattoo on his arm, but recently “finished the job” with the addition of the crown on top…just like the New K!Nathan and Family.jpg
 

 

Here’s Nathan with wife Melissa…sister-in-law Erica…sister Chelsea…with Don Free and Ryan Lefebvre.  They stopped by the radio booth as our special guests.Hot Dogs on Sticks.jpg
 

 

Cleveland was (mostly) miserable for the Royals…losing 2 of 3..when they should have swept…so this is the only Cleveland pic that makes the cut.  From their version of the hot dog races.  Those guys are just a bunch of empty suits!Wayne Gretzky's restaurant.jpg
 

 

While in Toronto…I wanted to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame. I didn’t make it…but Bob and I did dine at Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant in downtown Toronto.  It’s almost as good…plus they serve ribs!   The address is 99 Blue Jays Way.Hockey Jerseys.jpg
Gretzky is revered everywhere but especially in his home country.  “The Great One” was born and raised in Brantford, Ontario…an hour or so from Toronto.  There are many impressive artifacts from his incredible career on display at his restaurant/shrine.. Here…jerseys from his days with the Rangers…Kings…and Edmonton Oilers.Gretzky's patio deck.jpg
 

 

On the roof of the building is a nice little oasis in downtown Toronto…Gretzky’s patio deck.  I recommend it (in the summertime of course…).

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