In honor of the valiant Chicago Cubs and their steadfast supporters, I present today’s #ThrowbackThursday piece in which Wrigley Field is a prominent player…
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We piled into the El train, Chicago-bound, a motley crew of university freshman jostling for seats, sipping surreptitious Schlitz from paper bags, giddy with the first hints of spring, audacity of skipping class, the prospect of a Cubs double header. The guys’ faces lit with remembrances of boyhood games past, father-son watershed moments. My own face flush as we clattered on the rickety tracks to my first MBL game since my father retired, since I was forced to swap baseball parks for kindergarten classrooms.
We lacked tickets and proper team colors, possessed passable fake IDs. Stopped for Yagermeister shots and beer chasers, scrambled to Wrigley Field, which seemed smaller than the ballparks of my memory. We scored seats, teetered to our section, the cheapest seats in the house, bantered with Bleacher bums.
In the expectant stretch between frenetic arrival and first crack of bat, the guys —and they, we, mostly, guys — traded statistics, debated alternate scenarios had #45 not been injured, brandished hometown affiliations, steadfast beliefs in the superiority of Yankees, Patriots, Cardinals, Dodgers. The bravado of boys.
Unlike the peripheral girls, I was included in the conversation, assumed to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of game history, perfect recall of double plays and near shut-outs. They assumed I, by proximity, possessed the same arcane knowledge as ardent fans.
Harry Carey’s baritone boomed, the crowd arose as one, hands over approximate areas of hearts, stadium swelling with partisan patriotism, fervent belief their team, this season, destined to ascend, World Series Champions.
From our outfielder vantage point, the players, the monumental men of my youth, appeared in miniature, blips on a screen, like a video game. I choked on my beer, tepid as tea. It had not occurred before, that baseball was a game.
Classic Cubs: valiant struggle, a couple of brilliant plays buried by bouts of bad luck. We shouted for hot dogs and cheered for cold beer. Our winterized skin tinged pink in the weak spring sun. The crowd thinned at the bottom of the sixth, we stayed to the bitter end. I refused to dishonor the players with an early exit.
We drank at the bar directly across from Wrigley while fans salved their wounded team pride with post-game beers, back-slapping buddies, sympathetic wives. We rehashed pivotal plays with the panache of pros, unlike the real pros, the ones on the losing end of nine innings. The players with families who know there is no succor for a bobbled ball, mismanaged steal, botched bunt, sure slider breaking into a curve, strike three with the bases loaded. Crucial plays rehashed in endless lacerating loops, punctuated by tossed equipment.
My friends announced — to all within earshot and a few beyond — me as the daughter of a pro ball player, the Cubs fans inhaling with excitement, exhaling disappointment when they failed to recognize his name. I obliged with stories of my father’s legendary teammates, accepted shots from strangers enamored by even this tangential link to their Boys of Summer idols.
American football has fans, basketball ardent followers. FIFA induces worldwide World Cup fever. But baseball, baseball is for believers.
I did — really! — attempt to handwrite this story in a sports bar. I failed (noise, temptation to wager on a game). I did, however, write this with a SMOKING GUNS cocktail (created by Daniel alum Xavier Herit) at the jewel box of a bar nestled inside Wallflower (west village). Editing took place at the Gotham West Market outpost of Blue Bottle Coffee.
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