Sunday, June 21, 2009

A beautiful day for a ballgame

Last Friday was supposed to be the boy's first trip to Wrigley Field, a rite of passage for any Chicago youngster. He's been to Sox games at the Cell but the noise from the fireworks bothered him so much that it turned him off to baseball and worse, turned him into a Cub fan. I kept threatening to take him to a Cubs game, but as the years went by the moment never presented itself, in other words, I never had tickets fall into my lap.

Until this year that is when my wife bought a pair (at face value!) for a work outing and gave them to me for Father's Day.

Game day came and it seemed that the forces of nature, the baseball gods themselves perhaps were conspiring against us. Thunderstorms predicted for the whole day, 90 percent chance of precipitation. Even if the rain held off temporarily, I never thought my son would venture out in a thunderstorm which for him is as bad as fireworks.

The day started off ok, in the morning the sun even made a brief appearance. But it quickly became apparent that it was gong to get ugly and fast. The sky darkened and pretty soon the thunder claps started and the sky opened up with torrential rain. My son and daughter were both hiding under the covers. During a brief hiatus we piled into the car and started heading south. Before long the torrents returned. A lightning bolt pointed straight down hit I'd say about two blocks in front of us. On the radio they were predicting a break in the storms for a couple of hours and they said they might be able to get the game in. But at that point I was more worried about the children's safety than seeing a ball game. I was actually hoping they'd call the game so we wouldn't have to go to the park to claim the rain checks. My boy said "maybe we can just listen on the radio."

Finally we picked up my wife at work and we decided to have lunch together. While we ate, the rain stopped and the sky opened up a bit. Much to his credit, my son never once balked about going to the game, he was very brave. I had my wife drop us off in front of a souvenir shop two blocks from the ballpark so I could buy him a Cubs cap. Then we got into Wrigley and all the emotions of seeing that glorious field hit me, and perhaps the boy too if just a little. We got to our seats and it looked like they could be ready to play any moment. But the announcer said that another storm was predicted to pass through the area and the game wouldn't start for another hour.

That was cool, we could just take everything in.

There is simply no better place in the world to watch a ball game than Wrigley Field. Our seats were in the upper deck, first base line and we had a spectacular view of the entire north side and the thunder heads that were dumping more rain there, but not on us. While we were in the "cheap seats" we still were close enough to the game and could see almost the whole field with the exception of the right field foul line.

Of course there's the ivy and the ancient hand operated scoreboard that even with my failing eyesight I could still read. The folks behind us were amazed at the speed in which scoreboard guy posts balls and strikes which was true, sometimes I think he calls them quicker than the ump.

And the history. The Homer in the Gloamin, Babe Ruth's called shot, 93 seasons without a championship.

When they finally started to play, the Indians (it was an inter-league game) took an early lead with a three run homer in the second. They posted an other three-spot in the third and added another run soon after. I thought, boy if I had a dime for every 7-0 game I've been to...

The Cubs until the day before when they staged a big comeback against the Sox, had been struggling at the plate. But they slowly chipped away at Cleveland's lead with solo home runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Then came the bottom of the eighth. The Cubs batted around that inning and when it was over came to within one run.

The beauty of baseball is that is isn't governed by a clock like other sports. Which means there is no such thing as an insurmountable lead. A team could be down ten runs with two outs in the ninth and still however unlikely, come back. The same can't be said in other sports where time constraints would make such a comeback a physical impossibility. Yogi Berra's famous line; "It ain't over 'till it's over" really holds true for baseball.

On the flip side, by this time we'd been there about four hours and even though my Cub fan son wanted his team to win, he was ready to go home. He asked me how long before it was over. I said not too reassuringly, "well if the Cubs tie it up in the ninth, it could go on forever!"

Which they did.

Derrek Lee hit a solo shot, his second home run of the day.

Now my son was really worried that we'd never get out of there. He's only eight after all and has never been to a complete ballgame, let alone an extra inning affair. I promised him that no matter what happened, we'd leave at the end of the tenth. The Cubs got out of a jam in the top of the inning and then got two quick outs in the bottom.

As much as I hate leaving a ballgame before it's over, a promise is a promise, and by now I was resigned to leave without knowing the outcome of the game.

But then the much maligned Alfonso Soriano came to the plate and did what every good leadoff hitter should do, he drew a walk. Then he stole second. Ryan Theriot came up to the plate and with two strikes on him hit a sharp grounder to first which should have ended the inning. But it took a crazy hop which the Cleveland first baseman couldn't handle. Soriano scored, Cubs win.

Even the Sox fan in me got swept up in the passion of the crowd which much to my surprise was into every pitch, at least where we sat.

My boy didn't quite grasp what was going on, I've been woefully remiss in teaching him the game.

Until last last Friday that is. It was a great day.

No comments: