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My Minor League Promotion Roadtrip

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After writing last week's post about failed baseball promotions, I was left a little disenchanted about being a baseball spectator. This wasn't helped by game I attended last week, where the free promotion ended up being a camouflage trucker hat that I will certainly never wear again. Luckily, I remembered the joy that are minor league baseball games, where the tickets are cheap, the games hardly matter and the promotions are extravagant. Here's a look my two-week plan to hit the coolest minor league promotions in America.

July 29: Blair Field, Long Beach, CA

The Long Beach Armada of Los Angeles of California of the United States of North America Including Barrow, Alaska reacted to the recent NFL dogfighting scandal by hosting Michael Vick Animal Awareness Day. Fans were encouraged to bring their dogs to the game and anyone who brought a Vick jersey or shirt was given free admission. The in-game promotions were changed to make the dogs more welcome, including a doggie first pitch, a wiener dog race and dog washes. And don't worry about the dogs leaving a mess on the field. What do you think they did with all those jerseys?

July 31: Edward A. LeLacheur Park, Lowell, MA

I've always thought of baseball as a pretty offensive game, so it's a good thing the Lowell Spinners put on Political Correctness Night. The names of the positions were changed, leaving the Spinners playing "first base-person" or "vertically challenged stop." In a classy touch, errors weren't announced to the crowd so the players didn't get embarrassed.

August 1: Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter, FL

Fans coming to see the Palm Beach Cardinals on My Two Cents Night were each given two pennies at the door. They were encouraged to drop the pennies off at various themed tables around the stadium and spout off about the topic at hand. I'm sure that didn't stop mullet1.jpganyone from sharing their opinions about the umps from their seats.

August 2: PGE Park, Portland, OR

Mullet Night is the kind of promotion only Jeff Foxworthy could love. Fans seeing the Portland Beavers are urged to dress up like rednecks and participate in toilet seat horseshoes and the unofficial hub-cap tossing world championship.

more craziness after the break...

August 3: Ernie Shore Field, Winston-Salem, NC

Drag in Drag Night has been in the works for a long time. Brave volunteers from the Winston-Salem Warthogs front office volunteered to dress up in drag for this game, but only four will get the, um, honor. Throughout the month of July, fans could donate money to one man's jar; the four lucky winners will get to drag the infield in dresses. And no, it's not all for kicks; all the money raised is going to the Special Olympics.

August 4: William Peccole Ballpark, Reno, NV

vote_button.jpgSince all the candidates have already been campaigning for the 2008 presidential race for months now, it's about time we started voting. At Election Night, fans of the Reno Silver Sox will get the opportunity to vote on the candidate they prefer. The declared candidates have been invited to speak before the game, but the team's website doesn't mention if any have accepted. And, because it just wouldn't be a promo without swag, all fans get a commemorative piece of straw.

August 5: Lake Elsinore Diamond, Lake Elsinore, CA

The Lake Elsinore Storm are giving away free toothbrushes for this game. I bet they also hand out "promotional" apples on Halloween.

August 7: Eastwood Field, Niles, OH

Baseball can get quite stressful and I'll admit to losing my cool more than once at a game. The Mahoning Valley Scrappers planned for some outrage on Anger Management Night; all fans will get a free stress ball.

August 8: Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter, FL

It's been my dream job to be GM for a major league team someday (heck, the Devil Rays would probably take me right now), but I can get a step closer at Make Your Own Promotion Night. The Jupiter Hammerheads organization is taking fans' suggestions for future promotions at this even, part of their "Wackier than Normal Wednesdays."
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August 9: Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY

Flocculent fans can show of their unintentional sweaters at the Hairiest Back in Louisville Contest at this Louisville Bats game. The winner of the contest gets free hair removal courtesy of Avanti Skin Centers.

August 11: Elfstrom Stadium, Geneva, IL

How could anyone pass up the World's Biggest Pillow Fight at this Kane County Cougars game?

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11 Classic Facts About Converse Chucks
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Converse’s Chuck Taylor sneakers have been around since the early 20th century, but they haven’t changed much—until recently. In 2015, The Chuck II—a new line of Converse that looks much the same as the original shoe but with a little more padding and arch support—hit stores. In honor of the kicks' staying power, here are 11 facts about Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars.  

1. They were originally athletic shoes. 

The Converse All-Star debuted in 1917 as an athletic sneaker. It quickly became the number one shoe for basketball, then a relatively new sport (basketball was invented by James Naismith in 1891, but the NBA wasn't founded until 1946). By the late 1940s, most of the NBA sported Chucks. They remain the best-selling basketball shoes of all time, even though very few people wear them for basketball anymore. (Many teams switched to leather Adidas in the late ‘60s.)

2. Converse previously made rain boots.

The company started in 1908 as a rubber shoe company that produced galoshes.  

3. The All-Star design hasn’t really changed since 1917.

The updated Chuck II is Converse’s first real attempt to update its flagship product since the early 20th century. The company is understandably reticent to shake things up: All-Stars make up the majority of the company’s revenue, and like any classic design, its fans can be die-hards. In the 1990s, when the company tried to introduce All-Stars that were more comfortable and had slightly fewer design inconsistencies, hardcore aficionados rebelled. “They missed the imperfections in the rubber tape that lines the base of the shoe,” according to the Washington Post. The company went back to making a slightly imperfect shoe.

4. Chuck Taylor was a basketball player and trainer ...

Chuck Taylor in 1921. Image Credit: North Carolina State University via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Taylor was a Converse salesman and former professional basketball player who traveled around the country teaching basketball clinics (and selling shoes) starting in the 1920s. His name was added onto an ankle patch on the sneaker in 1932

5. ... And though he sold a lot of Chucks, he wasn't always a great coach.

Taylor is in large part responsible for the shoe’s popularity with athletes (the company rewarded him with an unlimited expense account), but his training advice wasn’t always the best. As former University of North Carolina player Larry Brown told Spin in an oral history of the shoe:

My greatest memory of Chuck Taylor—probably ’61 or ’62—is that he told Coach [Dean] Smith that he’d make us special weighted shoes in Carolina blue. The idea was that we’d wear the weighted shoes in practice, and then during the games, we’d run faster and jump higher. Well, we tried them for one practice and everyone pulled a hamstring.

6. Converse didn’t intend for their shoes to be punk.

“We always thought of ourselves as an athletic shoe company,” John O’Neil, who oversaw Converse’s marketing from 1983 to 1997, told Spin. “We wanted to sell a wholesome shoe.” The company was still touting its shoes as basketball sneakers as late as 2012, and some of its non-Chucks sneakers still have pro endorsers.

7. The company owns a recording studio.

Finally embracing its role in the music scene, the company launched Rubber Tracks, a Brooklyn-based recording studio where bands can record for free, in 2011.

8. Not all the Ramones were fans. 

Chuck Taylors are associated with punk rockers, especially the Ramones, but not everyone in the band wore them. “Dee Dee and I switched over to the Chuck Taylors because they stopped making [the style of] U.S. Keds and Pro-Keds [that we liked],” Marky Ramone told Spin. “Joey never wore them. He needed a lot of arch support and Chuck Taylors are bad for that.”

9. Chucks were initially only high tops. 

In 1962, Converse rolled out its first oxford Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Previously, it had just been a high-top shoe. Four years later, the company would introduce the first colors other than black and white.

10. Rocky ran in them.

In 1976, All-Stars were still considered a viable athletic shoe. If you look closely at the training montage from Rocky, you’ll see the boxer is wearing Chucks. 

11. Wiz Khalifa loves them. 

The rapper named his record label Taylor Ganag Records, in part due to his appreciation for Chuck Taylors. In 2013, he launched a shoe collection with Converse featuring 12 styles. 

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