Over the Memorial Day weekend I had the opportunity to attend my first baseball game at Wrigley field. This trip is an important pilgrimage that is a requirement for every diehard baseball fan, and I was excited to do all the things you're supposed to do: ride the L to Addison, drink Old Style, etc.
The Cubs did not disappoint, putting on a showcase that was like a microcosm of their last 100 years.
First, the seats. Julie's cousin did a great job of hooking us up with tickets, and we were on the first base line about 20 rows or so back from the field. The "Friendly Confines" is a great nickname for this park, because it feels like you can reach out and touch the grass from most anywhere in the place. Even though those foul poles are some of the farthest away in the majors, the park FEELS a lot smaller than most.
The game was an absolute slugfest. Some fellow named Jae Kuk Ryu made his Major League debut for the ailing Cubs, and got lit up to the tune of 6 runs in one and a third innings. The Braves were knocking Cubs' pitching silly the entire game: they hit a club record EIGHT home runs.
Point of order: Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the 7th inning.
In the bottom of the 9th, the Cubs came from 4 runs back to tie the game. Very impressive stuff, although I must admit I had seen plenty of the vaunted Cubs fan base heading for the exits in the previous inning. There were still plenty of people in the stands, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't really above average like many folks would have you believe.
Those fans that DID stay were cheering like crazy. You could see the hope in their eyes, feel it in the stadium... maybe THIS would be the game to get them off the schnide and onto a roll. Maybe with a little winning streak they could get to .500, and then from there, who knows?
But, in typical Cubs fashion, all hopes were dashed by horrible defense. Seriously, this Cubs team has got to be one of the worst defensive teams I have EVER seen. I don't just say this based on one game, but it was defense that would ultimately lose this particular game for them. A routine pop up to the third baseman, Aramis Ramirez, proved to be too much as it hit him in the face and dropped to the ground. That runner would eventually score on a two out hit to put the Braves ahead by one, and that would be the game in 11 innings.
Altogether it was a terrific experience that was everything I thought it would be. I don't "respect" Cubs fans any more or less... they seemed like pretty average fans to me, honestly. But Wrigley is a beautiful park, even with the load bearing nets inside holding up the falling concrete. It will be a sad day when the park goes down, which you know it must someday.