It was hard to not love the Chicago Cubbies. I was 10 years young and there were no lights at Wrigley Field. My only responsibility was to deliver Milwaukee Sentinel newspapers every morning. I finished by 9 AM and Cub game started after lunch on WGN TV. Life was good.
A major league team refusing to install lights? I was smitten before I even knew about sexy librarians in glasses. No team messed with major league baseball. But this was Wrigley Field-“the friendly confines”; originally built in 1914 for the Chicago Whales in the Federal League that league trying to take down the MLB monopoly.
Wrigley Field was the last hope. They were talking about 8 PM prime time playoff games to jack up the ratings. Ideal for old farts sipping prune juice and feeling nostalgic about baseball the kid’s game and the kids? They were already sound asleep.
Throw in Saint Harry Caray pronouncing player’s names backwards-esseJ ocsorO and singing songs about Jody Davis; “catcher without a fear, catcher with the long ball swing.” Who needed Fenway Park or Chavez Ravine or any other over hyped team on either coast. And who needed The St. Louis Cardinals and their New York center of the universe state of mind.
There was Wrigley Field and its home run fence dripping with ivy and day games galore. Harry Caray and Steve Stone taught us at a very young age that the The Cubs were historically bad and that it didn’t matter. This was the Midwest. Have some fun, drink a beer and go to church on sunday, unless the Cubs are playing, then come to Wrigley Field or watch on WGN.
The Cubs last won a World Series in 1908. It was their second WS triumph in a row. They were in 7 other World Series and lost them all ; the most recent being in 1946. And yet, Cub fans are alive regardless of wins or losses.
Yeh, lights were sadly added in 1988 and yeh, attendance has dropped since 2008; from 40,000 per game to 32,000, but that number still dwarfs the interest in Tampa Bay, Miami, Oakland, even Kansas City or Cleveland.
My journeys to Wrigley Field were once every two years and I’m ashamed that the last one was almost without baseball. I typically rode the Amtrak 90 minutes from Milwaukee to Chicago; not much of a journey, but views from train windows are never dull.
The Why Not 2 bar and grill in Milwaukee organized a trip to Wrigley. I took off work and paid the fee for a bus ride, some food and tickets to a double-header against the Astros. The bar was a pleasant dive so it didn’t cost much.
We were drunk on the bus to Chicago and it was still morning. Beer is water in Milwaukee and so we adjust and learn how to not drown in our own vomit. We drink one glass of water per beer. Works like an endurance charm and keeps the sun from spinning and melting.
Important tactic because life around Wrigley Field is not industrious and serious. It’s an old neighborhood and home run balls hit to left field empty onto Waveland Avenue. There are bars within walking distance to celebrate if you don’t mind 7 dollar beers. I always preferred spending 7 dollars on half pints of Old Crow Whiskey or Captain Karkov Vodka and wandering around.
Love for drunks is a great thing about America. Beer and booze is cheap and if you remain inconspicuous, the testosterone of cops won’t notice and you can meet people like Hillbilly; a Korean army vet, rider of rails, panhandler. We were good drunks that day and Chicago bought us beers. I pretended to have balance and walked into Wrigley Field for game 2. It was already the 6th inning. That’s all I remember. I’m a bad baseball fan or I’m a Cubs fan.
I think the song goes something like “Take me to the ball game. I won’t pass out. We’ll get a 40 along the way and root for Cubbieeeeees. I like cracker jacks too. Oh, let’s drink that screwy delight. Yeh, we did smuggle it into the game. Hot damn for some vodka and sunny delight. Oh yeh, it’s in your coat pocket. I gotta take a piss. Look at those lines. Leon Durham is up. The olllllld balllllllll game.”
Cubs fans make the trip 90 miles to Milwaukee. Three game series begins Friday night at Miller Park. Roll out the barrel.