I had an amazing trip to Chicago this week. Flew in to O’Hare Airport on Sunday afternoon, caught the make-up game against the Rockies on Monday, doubleheader against the Giants on Tuesday (day game was another PPD make-up) and then flew back to New York on Wednesday. One win, two losses, a ton of robot unicorn attack plays and a pink, pink sunburn to show for it. Incredible way to spend your days indeed.
Is there a place where apple juice and peanuts taste better than in a coach class seat on a Delta Shuttle plane? I venture to guess no. No, there is not. Sitting there, next to my Delta neighbor on our way to the Windy City, she ordered cookies and a Coke. I had the peanuts and apple juice. Cookies and coke? This is a flight. You’re 40,000 feet in the air. Have the apple juice and peanuts and ride like a king, or queen in this case. Some people just don’t know what they’re missing.
On the flight there and back I was reading a book I picked up recently, ‘Veeck, As In Wreck’. Fascinating tale of Bill Veeck, Jr’s time as a true baseball man working his way up the ranks from selling programs at Comiskey, to owning his own baseball team. The things he would do to draw a crowd to the park and the promotions he would run to add entertainment value to the paying customers’ experience were at times hilarious and usually brilliant. Reading the stories brings you behind the curtain and into the mind of Veeck where anything is possible and not everything is what it seems. Home field advantage was taken to a new level, raffles were rigged for the highest entertainment possible and one time he even made it appear as if it had rained hard enough to postpone a game by three hours even though only a couple drops had fallen. As long as he was doing all he could to keep his team/business running, the team winning and the people paying, he was happy. Baseball minds of that time didn’t always appreciate Veeck’s strategies however these same people that were against some of his practices were also the folks that would be included on a long list of people who either took a long time to see past the surface or never quite got there in ending up ‘getting it’.
Monday’s game against the Rockies was a make up game for a contest that had been postponed back in April. I like it when people call baseball games a ‘contest’. It’s certainly a contest where your odds are pretty good of winning. Think of all the contests you’ve entered in your lifetime. I bet you would have taken 50-50 odds every time. I enjoy it because it seems out of place and it never ceases to amuse me. It is a game. You play the game. You win the game. You lose the game. You don’t have a contest. Sure there are many contests within the game. Who can get the other team to 27 outs first? Who can score the most runs? Who can tally the most hits? Who can keep their starting pitcher in the game the longest? Who will win the battle of the stolen base, the runner or the catcher? There are lots of contests going on within the game. However, baseball is a game. Not, a contest.
The game was incredible. It was threatened by rain once again in the early morning however the skies cleared up in time to hit up the local bagel shop and down a quick cinnamon raisin bagel and coffee before heading to Wrigley. It was not necessary that the rain stop in time for me to have breakfast mind you. It was simply a nice thing to have happen, not having to worry about the weather on my way to the game.
My friend, Michael, and I headed to the stadium and picked up his ticket from will call. Will Call. Another term I’m not so crazy about. Why not ‘Will Pick Up’? ‘Will Call’ sounds like they will call you. I am pretty sure that baseball teams don’t have people on stand by to call you up if your ticket is left in the Will Call booth a few innings into the game to see if you’re on your way, need a ride, or want to arrange for someone to bring the ticket to them somewhere. I mean, those ticket fees and service fees are high enough where I could see justifying such a service being in included, I simply don’t believe that is the case.
We immediately hit the snacks before heading to our seats. Michael hit up the peanut guy. I went straight for the nachos. Now, if Michael was on a plane at the time, I would have commended him for making such an outstanding decision. The fact that he was at a baseball game, I could also appreciate the choice given that it’s such a traditional game-viewing snack companion. Only Cracker Jack could have earned the same response. However, while I enjoy the occasional bag of peanuts and cracker jack at a baseball game when at Wrigley, you always start your day off with one thing. The nachos.
I’m not talking about the helmet nachos. I saw a woman walking around with what was an official MLB helmet size nacho order. It was covered in cheese and jalapeno and looked like it was about to kill someone, namely the woman carrying it back to her seat. No, not those nachos. I’m not suggesting you bring tofu, but come on people. Let’s not try to kill ourselves at one game, in one inning. Let’s let the unhealthy food get us over time. Take in a few years of Cubs baseball before you completely jam shut your arteries. No, I’m talking about the regular nacho. The most delicious treat in all of baseball. The Wrigley Nachos. Not sure why they yell out ‘I need a cold nacho’ when I order them because while the nachos are cold and the jalapenos aren’t included…the cheese is HOT. For about 10 minutes that is. In that 10 minutes though? Find your seat at Wrigley Field (especially where I was, section 110…best seats in baseball) and experience the best 10 minutes of your life. Delicious.
The woman that sat us in our seats was named Lenore (above) and she was very friendly. She fit the Confines perfectly. She was amped to find out I was sitting in her section as her son’s name is Ryan as well. He also lives in New York. It was like a paying customer/section valet match made in heaven. Lenore was awesome and the Cubs should be proud to have her on board. Mr. Ricketts, if you are reading this, Lenore is the best. She said she loves working for the Cubs and it showed. Good people. Just saying.
The Cubs then went off on the Rockies pitching like in no other game I have seen all year. An amazing welcome and kickoff to the three games in two days trip I was on. Ten hits, including four home runs later (two a piece by Ramirez and Pena) and I was proudly singing ‘Go Cubs Go’ louder than Michael would have cared to hear. Here is a picture of my victorious pose after the game, transformed into what it would have looked like had someone commemorated the event with a collector’s coin:
Campana was in center. DeWitt was at second base. Otherwise, the line up was what the Cubs and Cubs fans thought we’d be getting this year all along. And the results were just as ideal as well. Without all the injuries, this team could have been firing at this level of cylinder all year and who knows where we’d be in the standings now. Once this team stops limping, they will be exposed for the team they truly have been behind the DL lists all along. I believe that. It’s coming and it’s going to be fun to watch.
We need to stop limping around and start competing. Byrd is on his way back, slowly but surely. Barney is back. Zambrano went out with lower back pain today so who knows where that is headed and Cashner is still working his way back. If this team is able to stop limping around and show the world their true self, much like Kevin Spacey did as Keyzer Soze at the end of The Usual Suspects, I like our chances in making a true run of it very much.
While we are limping around though, Tuesday was more of what the team has presented as of late and it was more of the usual suspect play.
The World Champion San Francisco Giants were in town. These weren’t the Colorado Rockies. It was the Freak, the Panda and the Beard. Before the trip I figured Garza was our best bet at a win. Other than Garza, we were going to see Doug Davis against the Giants and then Rodrigo Lopez as well. Unfortunately I was right. The first game was beautiful with seats in the shade and more amazing nachos. After that it was downhill from there as the Giants destroyed the Cubs. The night cap didn’t go much better and I walked out of Wrigley with a trip record of 1-2. Forget trying to win three in a row (which is what I wanted – would have been the team’s first time this season). I would have been lucky to see either Davis or Lopez walk away with the W. In both the Tuesday afternoon game and the night cap, a five-run inning would prove to be too much to handle. A controversial call at the plate helped blow one of the games, but overall, we just weren’t as good on Tuesday as we were on Monday.
I thoroughly enjoyed singing Go, Cubs Go and belted out the seventh inning stretch at all three games like nobody’s business. You have to though, right? You’re at Wrigley Field. The greatest stadium in all of baseball (sit down Mr. Gammons, you’ve had your say). You’re there watching the Cubs on a beautiful weekday afternoon and as was the case on Monday, the Cubs just put on a power display to excite the masses. How do you simply sing any song in that situation? You don’t. You belt it. I did. And it was awesome.
While I was in town on Tuesday, I had a chance to meet with Kevin Saghy, the Cubs’ public relations and marketing specialist. Like Lenore, you can tell he loves working for the Cubs. It was great to thank him in person for what he and the Cubs did for my son Rhys when he had his surgery this past December. If you haven’t already read the story about it on Cubs.com, you can check it out here. I encourage you to check out the link as it’s a great example of the Cubs going out of their way for a fan in a way that is certainly not required, but very much appreciated.
As I write this, the Cubs are tied with the Giants 1-1 in the top of the 12th inning. Rami came through huge with a solo shot to tie the game in the ninth and change the momentum of the game after the crowd saw Zambrano leave in the second. Kerry Wood is due back off the DL tomorrow. The team I watched Monday is the team I believe this team can be on a regular basis. The fact that Zambrano went out with pain so early and yet the team hung in to shut out the Giants the rest of the way and then tied it to go to extra innings shows that we’re not giving up today and shows well as far as the rest of the season is concerned, too.
The team is slowly getting a few key guys back and I’m happy to hear Hendry isn’t planning a ‘fire sale’ just yet. The trade deadline isn’t for another month. Stranger things have happened than a ballclub coming back from being down 11 games on June 30th.
We don’t need a fire sale. We need the team to stop scrambling to find the missing pieces on the depth chart that are going to keep this thing together. We need this team to stop limping and show it’s true colors. We need this team stop messing around, get on a run and show what it’s truly capable of. We need it to show that we have one more good run in these veterans and that we’re not really the limping team the fans, league and media have followed so far in 2011. We need it to prove that the team is much, much more than that.
We see that happen…and the rest of the league won’t know what hit ’em. Go Cubs Go!
(And ‘Robot Unicorn Attack’? If you’re not familiar with it, click here. I’m addicted.)