Saturday, June 28, 2008

Deathtour~!: Wrigley Field, Chicago

Wrigley Field is an experience unlike any other in baseball. Over 90 years old, Wrigley is a living relic among the spate of modern ballparks cropping up around the country. It is the gold standard. It is the park by which all other parks are judged. It is the closest you can come to traversing space and time to watch a game in 1925 without the aid of a Delorian. Only a few modern amenities have been added through the years. Lights were not installed until 1989. There are a few luxury boxes that almost hide between the first and second levels. The out of town scoreboard is still hand operated and there is no big screen scoreboard with flashing lights. There is only a modest digital panel under the centerfield scoreboard that displays the batter’s name and few statistics. Most of the music is played on the stadium organ and the PA announcer comes over on a speaker that doesn’t sound like it’s been replaced since 1914. No park blends together with its neighborhood like Wrigley. The surrounding streets are tethered to the game and the team. Cubs gear line the sidewalks. The Church of the Cubs, firm believers for over 100 years, is a few blocks away. And it takes strong faith to continue to believe in something that’s proven to fail for the last 100 years.

Ernie Banks

This is not my first trip to Wrigley. I’ve been twice before, once as a kid and once a couple summers back. Despite my previous trips, or perhaps because of them, I’m looking forward to this game more than any other on my tour. And this time I’m being joined by two lifelong Cubs fans, my buddies Jon Dye and Brewtown Andy. Jon hadn’t been to Wrigley before this season and Brewtown, who as his nickname suggests, lives in Milwuakee and hadn’t been down in over 10 years. Both jumped at the chance to participate on the Deathtour.

Haray Caray

Jon and I took the CTA to the game from Rosemont, a city built on the last of Al Capone’s money, and whose only attraction is a giant convention center. Jon and I were halfway there when I realized I’d forgotten my camera in the hotel lobby. After I didn’t get pictures in Detroit, Andy had joked that this better not happen in Chicago. I sheepishly called him and asked if he had his camera. He had his iPhone. Crisis averted, and with surprisingly no grief thrown at me.

We met up with Andy by the famed Wrigley sign. Once inside I walked around the concessions which have no view of the field and are completely cut off from the bleacher section. Like most older facilities Wrigley seems cramped and more crowded than a modern park. We’re getting bigger as a country and this is the proof. Before walking up to our seats that I overpaid for by an obscene margin we got in line for food and a drink, in my case mostly for a drink. As used to the temperate climate as I am, I can hardly take this 85 degree weather for long. As it turns out Wrigley sells Pepsi products, not Coke, so no buys. Instead I settled for soft serve ice cream.

We find our seats, right on the aisle. I dig into my quickly melting ice cream. “How’s your soup,” Brewtown quips.

They’re announcing the lineups but I can’t hear a thing.

Game time. I still don’t have a scorecard filled out. Brewtown’s also keeping score. This is good news for me as it will give me a chance to walk around without fear of missing anything.

Orioles go up 5 nothing in the 3rd. I’m calling the game right here. I also begin to think about the home team’s record in games I’ve been too. It’s not very good.

7-0 now. We’re shocked Pinella kept Marquis in the game. He had two guys ready to go in the ‘pen and kept him in after a double scored the two runs.

The Cubs look pretty terrible. Aside from the second when they had the bases loaded, they haven’t had any runners past first base.

Pinella brings in Scott Eyre, former Giant, in the sixth. He’s the third pitcher for the Cubs. The move strikes me as odd in a game where you want a middle reliever to eat up 2 or three innings and Eyre is a lefty specialist.

And just like that Eyre gets hurt which must royally suck for the Cubs. Another pitching change and they’re going to lose their lefty for a while.

Still top of the 6th and it’s 11-0. Brewtown decides to head to the Cubs shop to pick up a few things for his kids.

Cubs score 3 in the bottom of the 6th, so at least the fans have something to cheer about. By now I’m about to fall asleep. The week is catching up to me.

Brewtown gets back and I go for a walk. Hopefully it will wake me up. I think some more soft serve ice cream might help.

Wrigley has a tradition of having a celebrity, usually someone local, sing 'Take me out to the ballgame". It's a tradition that dates back to Haray Caray's era when he would lead the crowd during every game. Today, Yosh Kowano, the Cubs version of the Giants' Mike Murphy, led the crowd. Except that I'm not entirely sure he knows a word of the song, or speaks any english at all.

I’m back for the last two innings of this blowout. Brewtown and Jon have turned on me. I’m taking the blame for this loss apparently. Brewtown has banned me from future Wrigley games. Jon wants to go a step further and strangle me.

1 comment:

ed said...

So you're now banned from Wrigley and Busch and as far as I'm concerned you shouldn't be allowed at the yard when Cain pitches.

Pickins are getting pretty slim for you...

lost faith
Barry Zito