Playing Tourist in Cleveland – August 27

For all the traveling I do for The Ballpark Guide, I don’t often have much spare time to play tourist. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve had the opportunity to check out a bunch of great attractions over the years, but it can be a real challenge to find considerable time to devote much time to sightseeing. (Not complaining, by the way!)

That’s why, when I was putting together my second-last baseball trip of the 2015 season and had games in Cleveland on August 25 and 26 and an indy-league game outside of Pittsburgh on August 28, I was excited with the idea of having an off-day on August 27. My schedules are such that off-days are rare — actually, I’ve never had one on any of my trips.

I’ve been lucky to visit Cleveland for Indians games a number of times over the years and have done a bit of sightseeing, but never a full day’s worth. So, on the morning of my lone off-day, I was up early and headed out toward the North Coast Harbor area of the city to check out a whole host of touristy things. Once I parked my car and started the short walk to my first destination, I stopped and took this photo that shows some of the attractions ahead:


From right to left, you’re looking at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center and, directly behind it, FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns. (Not to be confused with FirstEnergy Park, home of the minor league Lakewood BlueClaws, which I’ve visited twice.) I’m a huge music fan, so I planned to spend several hours at the rock hall:


I don’t know if I ever knew of Cleveland’s connection to rock music history, but checking out this historic plaque cleared that up for me:


My first stop before entering the hall was the late Johnny Cash’s longtime tour bus, known as “The House of Cash.” It’s parked outside the rock hall and while admittance was closed during my visit, I took this exterior photo …


… and then hurried into the hall just a few minutes after it opened for the day. Tickets aren’t cheap — adult tickets cost about $25 — but you can spend several hours checking out all the artifacts, so the value is really good.

Now, if you’re not a music enthusiast, you might want to skip ahead a little bit. Also, I’m a guitar player and general guitar nut, so you’ve been forewarned that guitar photos are coming. Otherwise, here are a bunch of varied and interesting (to me, at least) photos of items that have played a role in music history, in no particular order.

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s 1961 Fender Stratocaster:


A bunch of Chuck Berry artifacts, including a guitar, suit jacket and handwritten lyrics:


Jeff Beck’s 1954 Fender Esquire, looking like it’s been played a minute or two over the last 60 years:


Joey Ramone’s leather jacket:


(You’ll have to pardon the glare in some of these photos. Virtually everything was protected by thick glass and, in general, the lights were dim throughout the hall to help preserve the items.)

The original lyrics sheet to AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” along with one of Angus Young’s famous schoolboy outfits:


A pair of Jay-Z’s shoes:


Dickey Betts’ 1954 Gibson Les Paul:


Bruce Springsteen’s rough lyric notes for “Born to Run.”


The second line of the song is, “At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines,” and you can see that The Boss was working out a bunch of variations to this idea. I’m a big Springsteen fan, so this was incredible to see.

Speaking of Springsteen, here’s a hotel telephone message that shows that Springsteen missed a call from Cat Stevens of all people. It’s dated January 7, 1978  — and, hey, Cat Stevens’ phone number is there if you want to try to give him a shout:


By the way, kiddies, back in the day before smartphones, this is how messages were taken.

The handwritten lyrics sheet for “London Calling” by The Clash, which looks a little worse for wear:


Michael Jackson’s jewel-studded glove:


And, just for the general hilarity, Sly Stone’s vest from 1970 — I’m sure no drugs were involved in the designing, making of wearing of said vest:


Ringo Starr’s drum kit that he used from 1964 to 1968:


One of Mick Jagger’s outfits from the 1980s, although I imagine he might be wearing it right now if it wasn’t behind glass:


The family couch from Jimi Hendrix’s childhood home, complete with stains and cigarette burns. This is where Hendrix sat while he mastered the guitar:


All told, I spent about four hours touring the rock hall before I stopped for a terrible lunch at the cafeteria, browsed the gift shop and then headed outside to continue my sightseeing. I decided not to stop at the Great Lakes Science Center — I suppose I like music more than I like science — but I did want to check out the William G. Mather Great Lakes freighter that operated between 1925 and 1980, carrying ore, coal, grain and more throughout the Great Lakes:


I don’t know very much about big ships, but I always enjoy checking them out when I get the chance. Back in 2012, I spent part of a day touring Battleship Cove outside Boston in what’s probably my other biggest day as a tourist. And, while I didn’t bother to board the William G. Mather, it was cool to walk its entire length (618 feet) and marvel at its sheer size:


After checking out the ship for a bit, it was time to continue my walk by visiting Voinovich Park, a park that juts out into the lake and provides a great view of the city’s skyline:


I sat for a little bit on a bench and watched the boats and airplanes pass — the Burke Lakefront Airport is also part of the North Coast Harbor complex, so there was an almost steady parade of small planes flying past me on their descent:


Voinovich Park was super peaceful. Despite so much going on in the surrounding area, it was really relaxing to sit and enjoy the sound of the water and all the interesting sights around me. It’s definitely a spot that I’ll return to on my next trip to Cleveland, time permitting.

Once I’d watched the boats and planes for a while, I decided to continue my walk. I wanted to check out more of the scene and still be able to get back to my hotel, the Hyatt Place Cleveland/Independence, before it got too late in the day and I got stuck in traffic. I went to a Cleveland Browns game several years back, so I wanted to take a look at FirstEnergy Stadium and grab some photos. It’s sort of hard to tell in this photo that I snapped as I approached, but there were a lot of people waiting in line outside the stadium and milling around in general:


Given the time of year, I wondered if perhaps the Browns were having some sort of open practice, so I was curious to check out what was going on and maybe add a fun twist to my day. Soon enough, though, I realized that 99 percent of the rapidly growing crowd was made up of teenage girls, so I tossed the football theory out the window. I couldn’t make much sense of what the event was, but I decided that pushing my way through the throng of teens wouldn’t be a fun experience, so I started to make the walk back toward my car. About a minute from the stadium, there were a bunch of police officers — several cars and even the bomb squad truck towing a very curious-looking trailer. I stopped to check it out and when an officer approached me, I asked what was going on at the stadium.

“One Direction concert,” he replied, sounding sort of amused.

“And they called you guys in, just in case?” I asked.

I know nothing about One Direction, but it sounds like maybe some people do not like the group as much as the hundreds of teenage girls that I saw a few minutes earlier.

Anyway, the police officer was super friendly, so I asked him about this funky-looking trailer that the bomb squad truck was hauling …


… and had a really informative discussion about what this device is and what it does. It’s called a total containment vessel, or TCV. When the bomb squad’s robot picks up a suspicious package, it places the object inside this white sphere, which is made of steel and lead. The package can then be detonated safely and the TCV will provide air quality readings so that the nature of the bomb can be assessed. I asked if this was for pipe bombs and other things of that nature, and was wildly surprised to hear that a nuclear dirty bomb can safely be detonated inside the sphere — wow!

I guess the officer sensed my fascination and curiosity, so he asked if I wanted to get my photo taken in front of it. The answer:


Although I could’ve asked a bunch more questions, I didn’t want to interfere with the officer, so I started to head back to my car. As I thanked him for his time, he asked me where I was from, and I told him about my baseball trip. He shook my hand (“crushed my hand” is a more accurate assessment) and told me to feel welcome in the city and to approach any police officer without hesitation if I ever needed something.

By the time I made it back to my parking lot, it was jam packed and the parking rate had doubled! Satisfied with my parking success, I hopped in the car and was back relaxing in my hotel before long — after I’d enjoyed an enormous steak dinner at a nearby Outback.


  1. Minoring In Baseball

    Love the pics from the Rock N Roll HoF! I would have loved to have taken that in while there, but ran out of time. We did take in the Baseball Heritage Museum that was downtown at the time. I do recommend that when you’re back there.

    • Malcolm - TheBallparkGuide

      Thanks, Mike!
      Gosh, I’d never even heard of the Baseball Heritage Museum before you mentioned it. Just looked it up, though, and it looks cool. I’ll try to make time for it next time I’m in Cleveland. So many things to see and do!
      How’s Louisville treating you? Looking forward to reading about your visits to Louisville Slugger Field this season!

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