Finally, Chicago: It’s great to be a baseball fan

Wrigley Field is one of baseball’s crown jewels, and as such, if you’re a baseball fan, you should want to go there.

As my wife and I were planning our vacation to Chicago, I wanted to make sure it included a day the Cubs were playing at home so I could go. Today was that day.

The Cubs lost 2-1 to the Reds, but you can read about that in any number of places (like this one. And regarding the play in question, I was in line for ice cream and only saw it on TV.)

But going to any game is also the story of a day.

So here’s mine.

I didn’t realize it until I cleared my nightstand today before we went out, but our downtown hotel gave us earplugs to help with “Sounds of the Windy City” — garbage  trucks, police cars, fire trucks, snowplows what appears to be large groups of people celebrating.

But there’s nothing on the card about a man emerging from his hotel room at 7:30 a.m. to sing “Go Cubs Go” to his buddies eating breakfast below.

Or returning a few minutes later to declare that it “smells like weed, beer.”

And even if I couldn’t hear him (or my wife, which would have been an unwanted  side effect of the ear plugs), nothing could have protected me from his shirtless self.

Maybe it’s the unusually warm weather, or maybe it’s something in the water, but in our two days in Chicago, we’ve seen a lot of guys without shirts on. Maybe half of them had suitable physiques.

Dude may have been right, but he certainly didn’t know what he was talking about based on his own experiences.

”You should see it in the playoffs,’ said the guy standing next to my wife and I on the crowded train out to Wrigley.

Thinking his insight might be interesting, I replied with something along the lines of “Really? How bad does it get?”

He answered that he actually only comes to Chicago once a year for a Cubs game, and this is only the second year he has done it.

In other words, dude may have been right, but he certainly didn’t know what he was talking about based on his own experiences.

Meanwhile, the women sitting near us were talking about whether they’d get into a car with a stranger. One of them said she would because “God takes care of babies and fools.”

It was far more interesting than our guy, who really didn’t have much more to say.

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For reasons known only to him, someone in this mass of people outside Wrigley was wearing a Curt Schilling Red Sox jersey.

The good news is that the two people I saw wearing Los Angeles Chargers jerseys at Millennium Park means they have outnumbered Red Sox jerseys 2-1.

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Ernie Banks would have definitely wanted to play two today, and given the Cubs’ schedule lately — flamethrowers, anyone? — it’s surprising they weren’t.

On a day where the late innings included a video of a Cubs comeback in April on a day with a 25-degree windchill, a better day for baseball probably wasn’t possible — temperatures around 80, sunny and nothing in the sky except an airplane or two and  a butterfly that kept flying around our section.

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Do I have any great interest in Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr.? Not much more than I do in Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck.

But do I want an Albert Almora Jr. bobblehead? Oh yes I do, and it will go nicely next to the Hellebuyck bobblehead in my sports room.

I also bought a cool Wrigley Field T-shirt for $20. Nothing wrong with that.

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One thing we hadn’t done by this point was actually find our seats.

We’ve come to realize that our favorite seats at the ballpark are high behind home plate. The prices are generally reasonable, and you can see everything.

But I don’t think either of us had any idea we’d walk out and see this. Are you kidding me? It was even in the shade!

Between the blue skies, the green at Wrigley, the Red in Cincinnati’s uniforms, the dark blue of Cubs fans’ shirts and hats and the gleaming white of the Cubs’ jerseys, it looked like the sharpest, clearest picture you’ve ever seen.

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I like to take pictures of the first pitch of the game, but this is the first time it ended up in the bleachers, courtesy of Scott Schebler.

Despite his effort being the dictionary definition of “laboring,” Cubs starter Jose Quintana only game up that homer and another to Phillip Ervin over five innings.

Trouble is, his teammates weren’t doing anything with the Reds’ Luis Castillo.

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It is a scientific fact that ice cream tastes 22 percent better when eaten out of a plastic baseball helmet.

Unless they want to say it tastes more than 22 percent better, no one argues this point.

Also, Yankee Stadium gets its pizza from Papa John’s. Wrigley gets theirs from Giordano’s. Although I am a supporter of pizza in all its forms, advantage, Wrigley.

Because a rally can start out of nowhere, like a one-out walk to a shortstop hitting seventh in the lineup and a pinch-hit by a slumping catcher, a mostly quiet crowd can get excited very quickly.

The Cubs didn’t even have a baserunner until Anthony Rizzo singled to lead off the fourth, and that rally fizzled when Victor Caratini hit a ball down the first-base line that if it was foul, it was only foul by about an inch, before popping out to end the inning.

We went for ice cream at the end of that inning, and the Cubs’ next rally started while I was waiting for our ice cream and watching the TV in the corner.

Addison Russell walked. A pinch-hitting Willson Contreras doubled off the wall in center (and apparently got a lot of people mad by acting like it was going to go out and not running right away, although it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway) and we rushed back to our seats.

Because a rally can start out of nowhere, like a one-out walk to a shortstop hitting seventh in the lineup and a pinch-hit by a slumping catcher, a mostly quiet crowd can get excited very quickly.

But all they got for their excitement was an Almora sacrifice fly just as we were getting back to our seats.

I don’t know why it never occurred to me until I turned around and saw Harry Caray’s caricature that the press box was both right behind home plate and pretty close to where we were sitting.

This meant that today’s rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” led by actor/comedian Tom Dreesen, would be taking place right behind us.

It was most cool. Now I just need to sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at Anfield someday.

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My wife and I remember when Anthony Rizzo was going to be the savior in San Diego.

It was 2011. Rizzo had been traded from the Red Sox to the Padres in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, and his picture was all around Petco Park when we went to a Padres game that summer.

But he didn’t become a star until he was traded to Chicago, and in the seventh inning, he had a chance to be the hero.

Kris Bryant had a pinch-hit single, and after Almora singled, the Reds replaced Castillo with Amir Garrett, who threw a wild pitch to advance the runners.

This was the spot. This was the time. A single puts the Cubs ahead and everyone at Wrigley goes nuts.

Rizzo struck out, bouncing his helmet toward the dugout and flinging his batting gloves to the ground.

“El Mago” — Spanish for “The Magician” and Javy Baez’s nickname, because he seems to do something amazing every day, like score from first on a routine single to center against Milwaukee because Lorenzo Cain momentarily dropped the ball.

He didn’t start today, but I had a feeling we’d see him at some point.

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That point came as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the last of the ninth. Including the “MVP” chants, the sight of him made the crowd as loud as it had probably been all day.

It was a chance to add to the MVP resume, to create a highlight that would be shown as a late-inning video for home games to come.

He tapped back to the pitcher.

No W to fly today.

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I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to Wrigley Field, not that I wouldn’t go; it’s just a matter of if we vacation in Chicago again. (For the record, we’ve been here two days, and it’s fantastic.)

So I got to go to Wrigley. If I believed in bucket lists — I don’t because that acknowledges you’re going to die — it would be a prominent item checked off.

But just saying it was doing a thing I wanted to do didn’t do it justice. Instead, it was a reminder why people become baseball fans in the first place.

On a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, I got to spend a little less than three hours watching the Cubs and Reds play in one of our great sporting venues.

And it was fun. Sure, I was hoping the Cubs won, but it was fun.

Which is why any of us started with this game in the first place.

23 thoughts on “Finally, Chicago: It’s great to be a baseball fan

  1. “But just saying it was doing a thing I wanted to do didn’t do it justice. Instead, it was a reminder why people become baseball fans in the first place.”

    The history, the atmosphere, the game, the game, the game. Baseball is wonderful. Hope to get to Wrigley some day myself. God bless!

    Like

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  3. Hi Bill,
    I’m not a sports fan at all but I did enjoy reading this post. If I were to become a fan, it would be baseball. Probably because my grandson plays and has aspirations to become a professional baseball player.

    He just turned 13 this month and they took him to New York to see the Jets play (his favorite team).

    I also think I would “Love” to eat ice cream from a baseball cap.

    Thank you for sharing your trip with us.

    Like

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