4.16.2006

A great day for a ballgame ... or two



In the space of just under 24 hours, I attended baseball games at one of the country's oldest major league parks followed by the newest.

Being in the business I am in, some found it odd that I had never been to Wrigley Field in Chicago. Sadly, it was true. I had never been the old Comiskey Park either on the South Side, but had gone to new Comiskey -- now generically named U.S. Celluar Field -- once in 1995 and again last season in the infamous American League Division Series in which Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski's dash to first started the Pale Hose on their way to their first championship in 88 years.

I got a ticket through one of vice presidents of our company to go Wrigley for Wednesday's game against Cincinnati. I almost didn't make it. I thought I set my cellphone to wake me at at 11:45 AM -- more than enough time to jump on the El and get to Clark and Addison for a 1:20 start.

So, imagine the look on my face when I finally did wake up at 12:45. Minutes later, I was in a cab headed downtown, discovering cabbies in Chicago are not nearly as crazy as the ones back home in New York City. Still, he got me to the park in time to walk in with people pouring out of the local watering holes.

An observation: baseball on Chicago's North Side is an event that is savored 81 times a year. Never mind that the Cubs have not won a World Series since Teddy Roosevelt's second term or participated in one since the end of World War II, fans each year have hope that this year, finally, will be the one where their beloved Cubbies win it all.

Much like the ivy that will adorn the outfield walls later this spring, it is renewal.

For one day, it looked that way. Future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux won his 320th career game and Chicago took advantage of five Reds errors -- three by third baseman Edwin Encarnacion -- in a 4-1 win.

When I go to a game, I do more than watch what's on the field. I look at the architecture, scoreboards, people. Wrigley has been around forever and day it seems, but they mix the old and the new well from the manual scoreboard in center field to new bleachers in the outfield. Add the charm of rooftop bleachers past the left field wall and across Waveland Avenue, and Wrigley is like an old leather armchair, worn by years of use, but still comfortable.



After working that night and spending about 90 minutes at the gym, I headed to St. Louis to see baseball's newest jewel in the new $365 million Busch Stadium.

Thanks to Stub Hub, I was able to get a ticket in the upper deck for $24 including Fedex delivery. Having been in the old Busch for a few games during McGwire's home run chase in 1998, the difference between the two parks is like that of a Maserati to a Yugo. Old Busch wasn't horrible -- Olympic Stadium in Montreal, for example, was -- but it has the 1970s cookie-cutter feel that until recent years was what ballparks were.

You get pictures from, say, 1979, of old Busch, Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati and Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, and put them side by side. Few would tell them apart. Guaranteed.

Anyway, much like Wrigley, going to a Cards game is an event. I drove down Interstate 55 to St. Louis in about 4 1/2 hours, checked into the Radisson (that will be the Adam's Mark next time), walked to the Gateway Arch and checked out a museum there before heading over the stadium for a 12:10 p.m. start. By 11 a.m., red-clad Cards fans were starting to make their way over.

There is not a bad seat in the house from what I could tell. The only quibbles I had were a hot dog, small order of fries and a 20-ounce bottle of diet Coke was $13.75, so it's a good thing I cannot eat a lot. The other was something no one could control -- weather. It was nearly 90 there, and even though I was in the shady section for the entire game, that and a lack of sleep started to make me naseous. I left in the seventh inning, walked slowly back to the hotel and watched the remainder of the game in air-conditioned comfort with the Arch just outside my hotel window.

Cards fall, 4-3 in 11 innings to Milwaukee. Life goes on.

1 comment:

The Secular Middle said...

Good to have you back.