Saturday, May 26, 2018

Hey, Batter, Batter

I have been to Wrigleyville and it was berry, berry good to me. Look it up, kids, it's vintage SNL.

Yes, my Dad had supplied several pertinent facts for me to toss out in conversation - among them that Bryant is a real looker and Rizzo plays a mean first base - and my partner-in-crime had made certain we'd made a Cubs t-shirt purchase the day before so I'd fit in, so I was as ready as I'd ever be for my first trip to the ivy and bricks.

See what a quick study I am?

Mind you, it wasn't just my Chicago-born partner I had to impress at the game against the San Francisco Giants, it was also three of his associates from Milwaukee, all of them die-hard baseball fanatics lovers. As it turned out, they were a cinch to dazzle, far more curious about me and how we'd met than batting averages.

And while I'm no sports fan, I'd be the first to admit that a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field is a cultural experience as much as an athletic one and heaven knows I'm all about the culture. A Friday afternoon game meant that from the time we left the hotel, we were caught up in a sea of blue and red-clad people and while I'd never claim to say I could pass for a Chicagoan, I certainly fit in.

Sort of anyway.

Besides, it was a gloriously sunny, blue-sky kind of a day and our seats in the fourth row on the first base line ensured that we were right up in the action. The only ball that came our way, though, hit a woman in the second row in the head before being nabbed by a nearby man and handed off to a kid who looked like he'd won the lottery: out of school, in possession of a Cubs baseball and the three-day weekend hadn't even started.

Of course I had to have a hot dog and peanuts - I'm not a complete baseball idiot - and the afternoon passed in a blur of personal questions, baseball commentary and Cub mania on all sides. The few Giants fans were pretty much ignored, though I admired them for their bravery in showing up with this rabid bunch.

I'm talking the kind of people like the woman in front of me who was trying to rustle up some betting action, stuffing dollar bills in her cup holder as strangers around her bet on whether or not the ball would roll off the mound or stay put.

Hey, enough beer on a sunny afternoon and why not bet on the minutiae ?

Once the Cubs had put another win in their column, we walked through Wrigleyville to Uncommon Ground, an adorable, sprawling (it began by occupying one small building and kept adding others until now it's like something from "Alice in Wonderland," a series of interconnected rooms that require a step up or down) farm-to-table restaurant with a long history of live music.

We're talking Jeff Buckley dropping by with an acoustic guitar in 1994 and playing to a small crowd of gob-smacked Chicagoans. My kind of place, in other words, so I gave major props to the Milwaukee crew for the choice.

While I tucked into my dinner of spicy Korean calamari and shrimp tacos, the guys ate and regaled us with love life stories, from one's friends throwing in cash so he'd propose to his girlfriend via an airplane banner the next day to the merits of proposing via scoreboard at a baseball game and having it announced on the radio so Grandma knew about it by the time they got home.

All I can say is, who knew guys working in the financial world would be so romantic?

My Cubs t-shirt got baptized with mustard and relish and I managed to slide in all but one of my purloined baseball facts over the course of a perfect baseball afternoon in the Windy City.

We got so busy talking about travel and where we'd all been that I forgot to mention to the boys what a terrific manager Madden is. I mean, c'mon, he's got to be one of the best managers in the history of baseball.

Yea, I knew I couldn't pull that one off.

But that handwritten sign saying BRYZZO RULES I'd spotted earlier? The pure satisfaction of knowing what it meant without asking was almost as satisfying as the state of my Cubbies shirt.

I believe both are enough to qualify as a major score for this first-timer.

1 comment:

  1. Did you "7th inning stretch?" And more importantly, did a Cubbies cap muss that hair?