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FIELD TRIP OF DREAMS

AROUND THE MAJOR LEAGUES IN 49 DAYS


Wrigley Field
Chicago, IL
Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs
June 21, 2003

By Ken Schlapp

I have to say that this is probably the game that I was looking forward to more than any other game during my trip.  Wrigley Field is simply the classiest of the 3 oldest stadiums still standing.  Don't get me wrong, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium are still high on my list of great Baseball Parks, but Yankee Stadium has become a little too modern, and Fenway has too many of those obstructed view seats.

In addition, this game was between the White Sox and the Cubs, which has become quite a rivalry between two Chicago teams and their fans.  I know I've gone on record as saying that I am against Interleague play, which hasn't changed, but if you have to see one it might as well be this one. Only the Mets/Yankees, Cubs/White Sox, Dodgers/Angels, Cardinals/Royals, and Giants/A's games are truly exciting and meaningful to the fans.  For instance, I don't quite get the rivalry aspect of the Padres vs. the Mariners, but it won't stop me from going to the game.  Luckily enough, I will see three of these match-ups during the Interleague portion of my trip, and I have attended many of the Mets/Yankees games in New York, including the very first one in1997, when Dave Mlicki shut out the Yankees 6-0 at Yankee Stadium.

Back to Wrigley Field.  One of the best things about Wrigley Field is that the majority of the games played there are during the day, and not under the lights, just the way Baseball was supposed to be played.  As you may know, Wrigley was (by far) the last stadium to install lights to play night Baseball.  The first night game was in 1988 against my Mets, in which the Cubs won thanks to a botched play by Lenny Dykstra in the outfield (although no error was scored).  It should be noted that the only reason the first game was against the Mets was because the Cubs got rained out the night before.  I am glad that it worked out for me that it was a day game I saw here today, because I did not think about that when I originally laid out my plans.  I was just worried about whether I could make it from one city to the next in sufficient time.

You are taken in immediately when you enter the field through gate F on the corner of Addison and Clark, where you see the "Wrigley Field Home of the Cubs" sign over the entrance.  It just exhumes history.  Now, you can't continue to talk about Wrigley without thinking of the Ivy on the outfield walls covering the brick walls behind it.  Then you have the red brick walls down the lines and behind home plate, the bleacher seats above the "batter's eye", and the giant manual scoreboard overlooking centerfield.  This is also where you notice the lack of a Jumbotron or modern technology.  Also, take note when you pass the stadium after the game to see if there is a flag bearing a "W" or an "L" to signify whether the Cubs won or lost on that day. Everything about this place is old, special, and just Baseball. Unfortunately, what also comes with the old part is that the Men's rooms here are horrible.  Without going into detail, these are the most impersonal bathrooms that you could imagine.  I think the only place worse is the Upper Deck at Shea Stadium.

Even the stadium seating on the roofs of the buildings overlooking the outfield are special to this park.  There is a 460-foot sign on the foul pole of the house down the left field line to signify the distance it would take for a ball to land there.  In addition, one house in left center field has been painted into a Budweiser advertisement.  Therefore, those who live and/or own the houses across the street on Waveland Avenue benefit from the setup of Wrigley Field.  The only problem with this setup is that Wrigley is truly in an inhabited neighborhood, which makes parking for the game not so easy.  In fact, we parked on the street over a mile away.  I blame Paul for this one, because when we came up to Addison Street from Damon he saw the train going over Addison and suggested we park.  Unfortunately it was not the Red line, which means that we were a lot further away than we thought. Therefore, we had to take a long walk through the neighborhood (and avoid the $25 parking lot fees).  It's best just to take the Red line to the game anyway where you can get a good view of the stadium from the train platform as you arrive.

Now for something that may not be that well-known about Wrigley, which is the second oldest park in Major League Baseball (the Red Sox started playing at Fenway Park in 1912).  Wrigley Field was originally called Weeghman Park, for the owner of Chicago's Federal League team that began play there in 1914.  {Note that the Federal League was a competitor of the Major Leagues in 1914 and 1915, before folding in 1916.}  The Cubs didn't play here until 1916, when the name was changed to "Cubs Park", and the name didn't become "Wrigley Field" until 1926, when it was named after the team's owner since 1918, William Wrigley.

Now there was a lot of fun and excitement at this game even before it started.  There were both Cubs and White Sox fans in attendance for this heated rivalry.  No violence erupted from what I could see, but you certainly heard a lot of razzing going back and forth throughout the game. This was a very similar feel to the clashes between the Mets and Yankees, which was also going on today.  Note that I'm glad I wasn't in New York to the Yankees win again!  Before the game started, I had to take care of eating some Wrigley food first.  You have to have a Chicago style hot dog while you're here.  As those around me know, I'm a Baseball fan that does not like hot dogs, but in Chicago they put enough onions and relish on it that it tastes really good.  I also tried a Wrigley Pig, which is a pulled pork sandwich, which is also worth eating.  Finally, you have to wash it down with some Old Style beer.  You can eat other thing here too, but I've said all I needed to.

The game started in the way that all Cubs games do....with Sammy Sosa running out and around to right field to greet his faithful fans.  Not everybody likes him, such as the White Sox fans that were yelling "cheater" and wearing shirts saying "cork" in the style of the traditional Cubs emblem, but you have to love his enthusiasm to start the game.  Once the game actually did start though, it appeared that the Cubbies were going down fast.  Before you knew what hit you, the White Sox were winning 7-0 going in to the bottom of the 4th, with Matt Clement having given up all 7 runs. White Sox pitcher Mark Buerle actually got things going with an RBI single in the 2nd.  Willie Harris had RBI singles in both the 2nd and 3rd innings, while Brian Daubach and Joe Crede each doubled in runs in the 3rd.  Crede also knocked in the 7th run in the 4th with a single.  The Cubs appeared to be dead, but Alou got things going with a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 4th with another run scored on a double play grounder.   The Cubs added 2 more in the 7th on an RBI double by Gruzeilanek and an RBI single by Patterson, but Damian Miller was gunned down at the plate in the inning by Harris by about 20 feet.  Wendell Kim, the 3rd base coach, took a lot of heat for this one from the media and the fans calling in to radio shows after the game.  This became even more of an issue when Sammy Sosa singled in another run in the 9th to bring the Cubs to within 1 run, leaving the final score at 7-6.  Buerle got the win and Clement, of coarse, took the loss.

Unlike many of the other stadiums that have various things going on in and around the game via the Jumbotron or other sources, Wrigley Field is really just about Baseball.  The only exception is the 7th Inning stretch, where there is a guest at every Cubs game that goes to the press box to lead the singing of "Take me out to the Ballgame" where you are root, root, rooting for the "Cubbies" of coarse.  This was a tradition started by the Cubs long time announcer Harry Carey.  He always sang, but since he passed away they have used guests to fill in.  Today's guest was Chris Chelios, who was a star defenseman with the Chicago Blackhawks for many years.  However, today he received mostly "boos" as a repercussion for leaving Chicago to play (and win the Stanley Cup) for the Detroit Red Wings.  The other Wrigley tradition, which I was hoping to see, was the fans throwing the ball back when the opposing team hits a home run.  This even happens when a ball is hit onto Waveland Avenue, where many fans wait with the hopes of getting a ball.  But today, although the Cubs lost, the White sox did not hit any homers.

Bottom line - If you get the chance to go to Wrigley, do it!  This is the best Ballpark experience you are going to get!

Basic trip facts:

* Stadium # 7
* Old Stadium Sites visited - None (Total - 3)
* Miles traveled - 215 via Car (Totals: Driving - 2,873, Subway - 20, Air - 3,196, Total - 6,089)
* States, provinces and/or commonwealths passed through - Illinois (Totals: States - 12, Provinces - 0, Commonwealths - 1)
* Seats -Section 205 , Row 21, Seat 1 - Left Field on the Terrace Level
* Prices: Parking - $25 (but I parked on the street), Beer - $5.00, Chicago Style Dog - $3.00, Wrigley Pig - $3.50, Program (including pencil) - $6.25, Souvenir Soda Cup - $3.00
* Credit Card giveaway - 1876 Cubs T-shirt and Sammy Sosa Bobble Head Doll (I got both!)
* First Pitch -  12:15 PM
* Attendance - 38,938
* Results - White Sox 7, Cubs 6,  W -Mark Buehrle, L -Matt Clement, S - Billy Koch:
* Home team record to date - 5 wins, 4 losses
* Record of "team I was routing for" to date - 2 wins, 7 losses
* Lodging - Chicago, Illinois (My sister Linda's house again)

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