Also in attendance

At tonight’s Cubs game, though I didn’t notice it, both Stacey and our friend Becky assured me that the message board between innings at one point read:

The Chicago Cubs welcome Smellosaurus Rex

I don’t think he

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was in our section.

Wrigley Field

As I’m about to head out into the cold and show to enjoy yet another Opening Day at

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Wrigley Field, I thought it would be appropriate to point out Michael Barrett’s thoughts about the future of the ballpark. The Tribune asked him, and some other Cubs, about the ballpark because of the uncertainty created by impending new ownership. Barrett, it turns out, thinks the ballpark should stay exactly the same. The same, that is, except for one little improvement:

“Ideally, especially for this time of year, you’d like to see a dome put on the outside of it,” Barrett said. “Don’t change anything about Wrigley Field. Just reinforce it and have a dome covering it.”

Well, that should be easy enough.

Losing baseball

Some notes from last night’s Cubs-Pirates game, which featured the two worst teams in the league performing a sloppy “After you”/”No, I insist”/”No, no, you first”/”Well, if you insist, I’ll muff this bunt” routine to see who would get the privilege of losing: 1) In my shoulder bag was a grocery sack of sage from Stacey’s garden for my seatmate, Michelle. The bag inspector at the gate looked at it askance. BI: “What’s that?” Me: Sage.” BI:”What?” Me: “Sage. It’s from a garden, for my seatmate.” BI: “What?” Me: “Sage.” BI:”Like you put on food?” Me:”Yeah. You can smell it.” [BI Smells it. Makes a face.] BI: “I’m gonna have to ask about this.” Me: [Astonished] “You’re kidding. Really. You’re not serious.” BI: “I am, too.” She called her manager over, he took one look at it and, presumably deciding that I could neither blow up the stadium with it nor injure anyone by throwing it at them, waved me into the park. 2) During the game, the season ticket holders who sit in my section–those who bothered to attend, that is–had a discussion of whether this is the worst Cubs team we’ve had to watch. I’ve been attending games at Wrigley Field since 1993, and I’ve had season tickets since 1999, and I, like all the rest, weighed in with a resounding “Yes.” You could argue that the 1997 team was worse, but it at least had Sammy Sosa doing his strikeout/homer/strikeout routine. This team didn’t even have Derrek Lee for most of the year, and Ryan Theriot’s remarkable mustache can only go so far towards making up for such bad baseball. 3) The good thing about the Cubs suffering through their third straight disappointing (and second straight flat-out bad) season is that the fair-weather fans are starting to see the storm clouds. The announced attendance for last night’s game was only 32,000 or so, way down from the 40,000+ the Cubs were drawing earlier in the year. But I’d be surprised if the actual attendance was half that. In the center field bleachers the night before, the cameramen had shown a guy stretched out flat, sleeping, and he could have easily reprised his nap in any section of the bleachers last night. Meanwhile, there were only about five beer vendors working the whole of the upper deck, and nary a Super Ropes guy in sight. It’s kinda nice to be able to stretch out a little again. It reminds me of the wonderful days of 1997, pre-Kerry Wood and that first wild card run, when you

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could decide to go to the game day of, with three or four friends, buy upper deck tickets and sit pretty much anywhere. So for all you folks who love Wrigley Field but have given up on attending in recent years–I’m looking at you, Bob and Luke–this is your warning: the glory days may soon be back. Start practicing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” 4) Then, in the 8th of what had been a forgettable ballgame, Matt Capps hung a curve to Derrek Lee, who immediately reminded him of why his pitching coach had advised against such behavior. It was a beautiful night in a beautiful ballpark, and that moment was a good reminder of why we were there.

Not in Levi’s catalog

This is from the 1988 Baseball Abstract, but it’s not written by Bill James; it’s the work of Mike Kopf (briefly mentioned in this article), and is one of several “book reviews” taking up three pages’ worth of space between the National League East and the National League West.

Darkness at Noon (The Battle Over Night Baseball at Wrigley Field)
Mike Royko
University of Chicago Press, 286 pages, $19.95 ($14.95 when purchased during daylight hours)

More interesting, these days, than the Cubs performance on the field is the ongoing battle over installation of lights in the friendly confines. This is a controversy, as Royko points out in his inimitable manner, that has torn close-knit Chicago families asunder, much as the Dreyfus affair is said to have done in France. Indeed, police reports for the past two years note an otherwise inexplicable increase in intrafamily homicides, as well as a seemingly endless array of bar wars, the patrons dividing into vitriolic camps of “suns” and “lights.” Even teenage gang warfare in the Windy City, it is rumored, has crossed racial and ethnic lines to become a battle between “days” and “nights.”

Not surprisingly, Chicago’s notoriously corrupt politics has played a major role in the controversy. At first, skittish aldermanic and mayoral candidates tried to straddle the ivy, so to speak, but inevitably were forced to take sides. An already volatile situation was made worse when both pro- and anti-abortion activists jumped into the fray. The anti-abortionists began holding protest marches and labeled themselves “right to lightsers,” while the pro-abortionists, predictably, came out in favor of “choice” and called for a Supreme Court ruling. This moved the “right to lightsers” to contemplate a constitutional amendment mandating the installation of lights.

Against this hysteria, even the remnants of the old Democratic machine felt themselves powerless. The late Mayor Washington, after flip-flopping on the issue at least twice, found himself finally vituperated by all factions, and Royko, in his most shocking disclouse, reveals that not everyone in Chicago is convinced that the Mayor died of natural causes: foul play by right to lightsers, who have long threatened a terrorist campaign, is suspected by many. Into this whirlwind stepped a newly appointed Mayor, and as the book went to press, his promise to appoint Jesse Jackson as head of a mediation committee seems at least temporarily to have calmed the storm. But lights or no lights for Wrigley remains one of the most volatile issues of our time, and readers are Royko’s book are sure to come away enlightened and yet disheartened, because, as with Catholic versus Protestant in Ireland, or Arab versus Jew in the Middle East, no solution seems on the horizon.

Also reviewed: Water Under the Bridge: The Mysterious Death of Ed Delahanty; What, Me Worry?: An Insiders’ Account of the ’87 Twins (by Al Newman); The Secret Diaries of Shoeless Joe Jackson; and Ate Men Out: A Culinary History of Fat Men in Baseball.


At last night’s Cubs/Reds game, two rows in front of me, sitting with a couple of season ticket holders whom I recognize but don’t know, was a guy who had neglected to bring his shirt. He had, however, brought–and was displaying in their full glory–his late-seventies porn-star curls and moustache and his oddly incongruous gothic-lettered “Chi Town” tattoo, which was in the spot on the back where a tramp stamp would go on a gal.

His appearance alone, and his obvious joy in it, would have been worthy of note. But then he added to his allure by catching not one but two foul balls. Our section hardly ever gets foul balls hit anywhere near it, but last night Mr. Chi Town No-Shirt got one while strolling the aisle just to the left of us and a second that bounced right up to him in his seat. I had hopes that he would trade one of them to a drunk for a shirt, but it was not to be.


I believe it is every team’s–and every fan’s–duty to make a trip to an out-of-town ballpark to watch his team as the visitors an enjoyable experience. I believe it’s incumbent upon fans not to shower abuse (or beer) in greater quantity than they would shower same on any hometown fan. I believe the correct response to “Is this Aisle 527?” doesn’t involve profanity.

But I don’t believe that hospitality should extend to playing a song the visiting team is familiar with from its home ballpark, so imagine my surprise when “Sweet Caroline” began blasting from the Wrigley Field speakers last night. Now, if the P.A. guy had, right after “Touching warm . . . touching you!” given the turntable a solid kick, sending the needle skittering and screeching across the vinyl, then it would have been okay. But just playing the song, straight, is like the French translating all the road signs just in from the Maginot Line into German.

Original comments…

thatbob: “Blasting from the Wrigley Field speakers…”?

Wrigley Field shouldn’t even have speakers that blast. That would solve your problem right there.

Ah, Wrigley

From today’s Tribune, a story about three guys being charged in a brawl outside the ballpark Sunday evening.

The two highlights of the story:
1) The guy they attacked, who was running a memorabilia stand, at the start of the verbal altercation identified himself as a police officer, off-duty . . . then the guys attacked him.

2) The last sentence of the article points out that police suspect alcohol to have been a factor in the incident.

How long and dreary is the night?

Said the poet Burns:

How long and dreary is the night,
When I am frae my dearie!
I sleepless lie frae e’en to morn,
Tho’ I were ne’er so weary:
I sleepless lie frae e’en to morn,
Tho’ I were ne’er sae weary!

But even the poet Burns would surely be feeling a bit more of the vim and vigour these days, what with photos of ballplayers in the paper once more.

The rites of spring are upon us: sportswriters in such brackish backwaters as Kansas City and Milwaukee are dusting off their hopeful columns from last spring, Ozzie Guillen is running down his list of former White Sox to run down in the media, and the news that Matthew Wade Stairs has shed both his belly and his mullet is, well, news. If St. John of the Cross were here in my office with me, warming his long-dead insides on a pre-work coffee while we gazed out at the sub-freezing winter wasteland that is Chicago in March, we’d probably find ourselves in general agreement that the dark night of the soul is giving ground to dawn.

I had two dreams of baseball last week. In the first, I simply listened to a WGN broadcast of a Cubs game. Low on action for a dream, maybe, but hearing Pat Hughes‘s voice again after these many months made me wish for extra innings and maybe even a rain delay. Alas, I got my alarm instead.

Later in the week, I dreamed that I was cycling to Wrigley for Opening Day. The game was to start in ten minutes, and I was halfway there. But I was only wearing a t-shirt and pants. No jacket. No hat. No gloves. No mittens. No long underwear. No balaclava. No battery-powered heating socks. No seal oil with which to protect my face from chapping. I was torn: should I return home to properly prepare for the first game of the cruelest month at Wrigley, guaranteeing that I’d miss the first pitch? Or should I proceed to the game, more or less guaranteeing that my death from exposure would be a lead story on WGN that night?

Instead of choosing, I woke up.

Actual games are on tap for today, though Opening Day is still a ways away. But we can surely be patient now, even through the heavy hours. The poet Burns reminds us:

How slow ye move, ye heavy hours,
As ye were wae and weary!
It wasna sae ye glinted by,
When I was wi’ my dearie!
It wasna sae ye glinted by,
When I was wi’ my dearie!

Tipping at the ballpark

This is a short post, because I’m busy at work and probably will be right up until Friday.

Apropos of an earlier discussion about Bud Selig’s tipping habits, here’s a commercial about George W. Bush’s tipping habits at the ballpark. They’re not so good.

Beer prices in themselves seem to more or less set the value of tips at Wrigley Field. When they end in $.50, the vendors seem to get more tips, if only because they are very good at the little “You’re not really going to ask me to pass your two quarters all the way down the row?” pantomime. I have to admit that when the quarters hit my hand on their way to their drunken owner, I’m frequently tempted to send them back the other way, just to see what would happen.