Yes, my wife and I plan to make a little trip to Chicago today. And Wrigley Field is on the agenda!
Our main goal is to pick up our newly married son, Thad, and his bride, Sarala, on Saturday afternoon. They will be returning from their two-month honeymoon in India, where they took a train-tour of the entire country, visiting the land of Sarala’s origin.
But when we knew we would be making this trip, we checked the Cubs’ schedule, and sure enough, there was a game scheduled at Wrigley the day before. And now that day is here. 3:05 p.m. this afternoon. Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves. On a sun-splashed, 100-year-old baseball field. With ivy on the walls. And cheering fans. Smells of hot dogs and popcorn. Sounds of popping gloves and cracking bats.
No matter that the Cubs are in last place, thirteen games under .500. Or that they recently lost their ten thousandth game in the course of their history. These are the Cubs! The “lovable losers”! And loyal fans support their team regardless! And the experience of going to Wrigley to see these young fellas play America’s game (No, it’s not soccer! That’s so European!)? Well, that is priceless!
So, off we go, to enjoy a special couple of days. Go Cubbies! Yes, I do have my Cubs shirt on already :)
And to give you another taste of the history of this marvelous game and of this special team and place, we take another piece from George F.Wills’ new book on Wrigley and the Cubs – A Nice Little Place on the North Side (Crown Archetype, 2014). As I make my way through this wonderful book this summer, this is what I found the other night:
One Cub’s career conformed to the sentimentality that surrounds Wrigley Field because he was practically a boy from the neighborhood. He is also the answer to a nifty trivia question: Who is the only player who was in the major leagues when Babe Ruth hit his last home run, in 1935, and when Henry Aaron hit his first, in 1954? Phil Cavarretta. He graduated in 1934 from Lane Technical High School, which then was 4.7 miles from Wrigley Field. At Lane, as he would with the Cubs, he played first base and outfield, but he also pitched eight one-hitters, and his final game was a no-hitter. He signed with the Cubs before he graduated, at seventeen. The Cubs then sent him to their Peoria farm club, where he slugged a home run in his first at bat as a professional, in a game in which he hit for the cycle. He was eighteen when, on September 16, he joined the Cubs in Brooklyn. On September 25, he hit a home run in his first Wrigley Field at bat to win a 1-0 game. He played in the Cubs’ last three World Series: 1935, 1938, and 1945, the year he was named the National League’s most valuable player. He played for the Cubs for twenty years, a team record, and was a player-manager in the last three, beginning in 1951.
But wait – it gets better!
On March 29, 1954, at a spring training meeting with Philip K. Wrigley, Cavarretta annoyed his employer by saying the Cubs would not compete for the pennant, that they were a ‘second division team.’ Cavarretta promptly acquired the distinction of being the first manager ever fired during spring training. He was, of course, right about the team. The Cubs’ 64-90 record – their fourth season with 90 or more losses since 1948 – landed them in the seventh place (pp.77-78).
Such is the history of the Cubs. And of baseball. Unmatched.
P.S. – A little post-script is in order, since we enjoyed such a great day and an amazing game, even with a little rain thrown in at the end of the game. In a see-saw game that saw the Braves tie the Cubs twice (2-2 and 4-4), including in the top of the ninth (arghhhh!), the Cubs won it in the bottom of the ninth on a double and a two-out single from two of their young stars. Pandemonium at Wrigley! And then we sang away with the organ and the crowd, “Go, Cubs, go!” at the top of our lungs.
I did my usual walk around the stadium and took lots of pictures, including some nice ones from the top deck looking down on the field. Because this is the 100th anniversary of the park, there are special emblems everywhere, including behind home plate.
And yes, I did get my souvenir – from the Wrigleyville Sports store across the street: a little pennant with the 100th anniversary theme to hang below my Wrigley Field picture in my home office.
All in all, it was a great day to be a Cubs fan.