Wrigley Field

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Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

Number of Games:  3
First Game:  June 16, 1993 (Cubs 6, Marlins 4)
Most Recent Game:  July 19, 2004 (Cardinals 5, Cubs 4)

Okay–Wrigley Field is nice, but it’s not my favorite ballpark, even among the old ones.  I like it, sure, but I like Fenway Park a little better, and even Tiger Stadium gives it a run for its money.  The reasons why–well, I think they’re a result of me being of the MTV generation.  I love the old-fashioned hand-operated scoreboard, but I’m young enough also to like having something that can give me replays and information more readily.

When there’s an amazing catch or double play or monster home run, I like the chance to see it again to see if there was any aspect of the play I missed.  Maybe I was focused on a base-runner and didn’t see an outfielder bobble the ball.  Probably I have no idea the location of a pitch that a ballplayer just smacked out of the park.  Usually, I’m a bit of a traditionalist, but this is a case where progress actually has been good for spectators’ enjoyment of a game.  Tiger Stadium didn’t suffer from its DiamondVision scoreboard.  I’d say that only the deepest of the purists objected to its installation.  The scoreboard allows me to see big plays more carefully and deeply than a first reaction will allow.

Also–and maybe there was just a technical flaw that day–I felt the PA sound was difficult to hear.  This doesn’t matter unless there’s a tough scoring decision I need to put into my book.  For instance, at the first game, I had a question as to whether a play was a wild pitch or a passed ball.  The PA guy reported it, but from my seat under the overhang and behind a pillar, it just sounded like a mumble.  With no scoreboard to look at and an unintelligible PA guy, I missed the ruling, and that bummed me out.  Please don’t attack me–I like Wrigley Field, its charm, its atmosphere, the ivy, the massive hand-operated scoreboard.  I just think that, in its efforts to stay pure, it has missed a couple of positive changes that would have made me enjoy the game a little more.

I certainly enjoyed the ELABST game plenty, in good part because I saw it with college buddy Josh (whose mother’s close personal friendship with Oliver Stone would cost me Comiskey Park lodging two weeks later).  He scored the game, but he did it differently from the way I did.  On the bottom of his scorecard, he wrote:  “Today is the 100th anniversary of Cracker Jack.”  And indeed it was–we all got a free sample for showing up.  When he stopped paying attention to his scorebook in about the third inning, he wrote on his scorecard:  “If ever I need to know what happened in this game, I will call Paul.”  You can still do that, Josh–I still have all relevant information.

Josh also introduced me to the art of moving down to better seats.  Did you know that this is an ethical thing to do?  Randy Cohen, who writes the New York Times “The Ethicist” column, responded to a eleven-year-old boy from Houston who was embarrassed by his dad’s practice of moving down to better seats, and asked if it was ethical.  Cohen says it is.  He chastised major league stadiums for being “gated communities.”  I agree with him.  It used to be that a ballgame was one of the only places where different social classes truly mixed as equals–the workers rubbing shoulders with doctors and lawyers, everybody rooting for the same team.  I think of Jackie Robinson’s first couple of seasons, where major league stadiums provided rare moments of racial mixing in some cities.  But that’s not true anymore, what with so many “Diamond Club” seats with buffets and everything else like that.  I’ve certainly enjoyed my time in such seats at Coors Field, PacBell Park, and Jacobs Field, but I’d gladly trade that for ticket prices that enabled everyone to sit in the best seats–and be together.

Not that it was some Marxian desire for social upheaval that caused Josh and I to try to move to better seats.  The main cause was, well, that our seats sucked–so far under the overhang that we couldn’t see the big scoreboard or a fly ball of any height.  Josh scouted out the seats, and then we serpentined our way down to the fourth row, avoiding the radar of the usher/guard.  I thought we were home free until the rightful ticket holders showed up in the fifth inning.  Fifth inning! Even for a weekday afternoon game, that’s inexcusable.  The usher kicked us out, and said “I was looking for you ever since I saw you scouting for seats earlier.  I guess I missed you.”

“Well, we’re good,” Josh replied.  Fun guy to be with.

And a fun stadium on the whole–although I might get flamed because it’s not my number one favorite.  But then, the Fenway people would flame me if I preferred Wrigley.  People take these things way too seriously. (But then, I should talk.  I’m the one spending all these hours writing this stuff.)

I didn’t return to Wrigley for nine years after the first visit, and when I did, I did a matinee there followed by a White Sox game that night.  That was quite a fun experience, and one that enabled me to make some comparisons between the two ballparks and the fans within them.  If you are so inclined, you can read about the two-Chicago-ballparks-in-one-day saga here.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Florida catcher Mitch Lyden becomes the 68th person in Major League history to hit a home run in his first major league at-bat.  He hits it over the screen and onto Waveland Avenue.  His major league career lasts a total of six games.  He finishes his career with only the one home run–and his name in the record books.

Cubs’ Matt Clement pitches a strong game, striking out 12.  Not that I can be too sure–it was so cold that I can barely read my scorecard.

A marvelous Cubs/Cardinals game in 2004.  Carlos Zambrano hits Jim Edmonds with a pitch.  Next time up, Jim Edmonds homers.  Words are exchanged.  Benches clear.  Things are intense.  Next time up, after giving up what turned out to be the game-winning homer to Scott Rolen, Zambrano hits Edmonds again.  He is ejected.  He also appears to be a highly unstable young man. Cardinals win 5-4.

(Written August 2001. Updated August 2004.)

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