Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Happy Birthday Wrigley Field

By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

With this being the 100th Anniversary of Wrigley Field In Chicago, it reminded me of my trip to the Chicago Cub's magical home.

Ever since I was a little boy listening to Kurt Gowdy and Tony Kubek and watching baseball on the NBC Game of the Week on Saturdays from Wrigley Field and then as an adult listening to Harry Carey and Steve Stone call the Cub games on Super Station WGN, it has always been a dream of mine to get to Wrigley Field to watch a game. Recently, that dream came true.

It was exactly as I imagined it and more.

My train, The Amtrak Empire Builder, came into Union Station around 5 PM and after walking down Adams Street in the wrong direction....I righted myself with the help of a valet and got on the Redline around 6:20 PM. I took the rail... first underground and then as an elevated train as it got closer to the Friendly Confines.

As an aside, I love the transportation system in Chicago...it's so easy to get around and I, who can be dense sometimes when it comes to these matters, figured it out rather quickly.

The Chicago fans are nothing like any fans I have encountered in mellow Southern California. There are two teams...the Cubs and the Bad Guys...the team they are playing that night. And they cheer loud and proud. And it's always two notches higher when they are in first place as they were the night I was there. This night they were playing the Cincinnati Reds.

As I was wandering through the halls of Wrigley and staring in awe and drinking in all of the old ballpark, I spotted a guy in a Reds cap and Jersey. Poor guy. One Cubs fan...a big guy steps up and gives Reds fan a big shove and just walks away shaking his head. Everybody including the assaulted Cincinnati guy were laughing...it was in semi-good fun...I think.

I wore something neutral...my Cal State Fullerton baseball cap. Somebody mentioned that I was taking my life into my hands because some Cubs fans may have mistaken the cap with a big "F" for a Florida Marlins cap. As you remember, the Marlins and a fan down the left field line were the team and the circumstances that kept the Cubbies from going to the World Series a few years ago after 70 years. They are still trying to get back.

One thing I picked up on right away...a familiar voice. Steve Stone is the public address announcer. That was a cool touch.

Walking around the inside of Wrigley is like walking into a time warp. I imagine it was exactly like this in the 1920's or 30's. The aroma of beer, brats, hot dogs, peanuts mix and fill the air. The only thing missing is the cigar smoke. The photos of Cubs players and announcers past like Ernie Banks, Cap Anson, Fergie Jenkins, Glenn Beckert, Harry Carey, Ron Santo, and more hang from the rafters.

The attendants in Wrigley understand the history of this special ballpark. They allowed me to step up and take photos from all angles of the stadium. They even cleared the way a couple of times for me to take the photos.

When you go to Wrigley Field you must walk the perimeter around the outside of the stadium. It is so cool. There are the bronze statues of Harry Carey and Ernie Banks and the marguee that reads "Welcome to Wrigley Field" Beyond the left field walls are guys standing on Waverly with mitts waiting for homerun balls. I asked Mike, one of the guys with mitts, if very many balls come out on Waverly. He said not really but he was prepared in case it did.

Mike would switch back and forth between outside of rightfield and outside of leftfield every half inning. Also beyond the right field wall is a big door where people on the outside can look in and get a glimpse of the field. It made a great photo with people standing on their tip toes looking in.

On the street bordering right field you can also gaze up from the outside and see the large manual scoreboard. And all around are the condos and apartments where people sit and look in. Just as I remember from Game of the Week.

It was over way too soon. The Cubbies won that night 7-3 and as I went back to Union Station on the redline my smile could have lit all of Chicago that night.

Later during that trip, I went on, by train to Portland, Maine where I saw the Portland Seadogs (The Red Sox affiliate) - New Hampshire Minor League game.

Then I fulfilled another dream of mine...I went to Fenway Park in Boston for the Red Sox and Orioles game.

But Wrigley was my favorite and I will never forget the experience as long as I live.

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