Kyle Means, Regal Radio Online Editor
Everything that’s ever been has started with a thought. Some things are great, most are shitty, but one thought today brought about something great, or at least pretty cool.
Hitting me like a bolt while coming out of an appointment in the Uptown neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago, the thought of hanging out around Wrigley Field in time for the first pitch of the Cubs’ 2013 home opener was one of those moments where having a brain doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.
While riding the CTA’s Red Line today, as I was doing, knowing that the Cubs were kicking off their home season is utterly inescapable no matter how much you were into baseball. For those that don’t know, the Addison stop on this line is less than a block from Wrigley, riding the train allows for a close view inside the park from over the right field fence and just on the other side of some of those ever-controversial rooftop bleachers. Cubbie blue was to be seen no matter what “L” car you were on, helping clog up the near-north arteries of the heart of one of the, if not the, busiest transit system in the country on a good day.
Since I am writing on a sports blog, you may have assumed that I was not oblivious to the fact that the Cubs were opening up their home slate on this day (using a phrase like “home slate” helps that too). Kickin’ it outside Wrigley still wasn’t an obvious thought, though. Admittedly, I’ve never attended a Cubs game at Wrigley – the only time I’ve ever saw the Cubs live was in San Francisco in August 2011 (won 7-0, Randy Wells pitched a complete game 2-hitter).
Nor, despite being born and raised in Chicago am I a devoted Cubs fan. I am one of those pitiful souls who have sworn no complete allegiance to the Cubs or the White Sox- I follow both, always have and I want both teams to win (aint like either one does so with great regularity), when they play each other I tend to side with the one playing better that year, those inter-league games play their role in pennant races just as any other.
Still, the Cubbies own my favorite Opening Day moment, and I’ll be damned if anything will beat Tuffy Rhodes hitting 3 homers off Dwight Gooden. Back to the train. Riding it during the winter and seeing the then-lifeless Wrigley in the dark or under a coat of snow I could only think that I have to attend a game at Wrigley this year, I owed it to myself, I owed it to Tuffy. After all, it’s painfully obvious that the amount of years are numbered for this stadium as it stands in the imagination of sports fans worldwide, or as it stands period.
Now before you get ahead here, this isn’t a Ferris Bueller story. I didn’t hustle my way into the park, didn’t really have any intention to. I had enough things I wanted to do today and I didn’t really want to spend three hours seeing the Cubs struggle against the Brewers. I’ll take the struggle in full force at least once this summer but for today I just wanted to feel what Wrigleyville – officially known as Central Lakeview, famously known as the most optimistic beer garden in the world – was like on a game day and a special game day for that matter.
Coming off the train I stood on Addison and the noises were the first thing I noticed- calls for tickets, peanuts, the horrid top-40 party music from out the open bar doors. I knew just what I was in for so none of it was a turn-off and I could understand how if you were all-in for the Cubs and the Cubbie culture how you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else at this moment. If I was raised differently, on a different side of town, I’d probably be rocking a “Fo Shizzo, My Rizzo” shirt with an Old Style in one hand and one of the many platinum blondes available on my arm as well.
Walking west on Addison towards Clark and the front of the park there wasn’t too much that stood out, it was just a lot of people- a lot of cops as well, I’d have to figure the Wrigleyville beat is a popular one. Among the hawkers were young women handing out some new brand of Red Bull, I believe. A lot of the empties ended up around the Billy Williams statue. Billy deserves better.
Four statues dot the main entrances at Wrigley. The main, main entrance with the “Home of the Chicago Cubs” sign is at the corner of Addison and Clark, Ernie Banks greets you there as well as representatives from Chevrolet with some of their new models. Maybe one of them will be parked somewhere down the line at that new 3 or 400 car parking garage that the Ricketts want.
Speaking of what the Ricketts want, walking north on Clark takes you to Waveland, which runs adjacent to left field and where some of the rooftop bleachers hang above. I found the media entrance along Waveland. God willing, maybe I’ll be paid to enter Wrigley one day and not just be broke walking around it.
Saw more of the other dots of sporting apparel on Waveland amongst the various shades of Cubbie blue other Chicago teams, even the Sox, and Brewers reppers. The journalist in me wanted to talk to people but I kept to myself. I’m sure I would have got a lot of good stuff, I used to write sports in Wisconsin so I know how to navigate a crowd of “maybe inebriated, maybe-not” white people. This moment was more for me though.
At the intersection of Waveland and Sheffield stands the Harry Caray statue. I wondered how many people there were directly because of him and WGN, certainly he played a big role in my fascination of the Cubs and my not dumping them fully to the benefit of the White Sox, who won more during my baseball coming of age and has maybe won the only World Series I’ll ever see for Chicago. Plus, how can you not love a man who tried to pronounce Mark Grudzielank backwards?
Above Sheffield are more of the rooftop bleachers, the owners of which are fighting a 300-like battle along with Alderman against seemingly-inevitable renovations at the park. There was no controversy rearing its head on this day though, no shows of protest or Alderman Tom Tunney burning himself in the middle of the street, it was business as usual, the business of good feelings. As they will for at least another 80 days, some of the luckiest building owners in Chicago lined up thousands of dollars of revenue into their residences and everyone enjoyed themselves.
I don’t have a side in the whole rooftop thing, by the way. I just don’t want people to have to travel Rosemont to see the Cubs, that’ll be tragic. It certainly wouldn’t have the ambiance that I was witness to today. All I will say is that in matters of propriety vs. entitlement, propriety tends to win. I think you guys can figure out who has the proprietary edge in this one.
As it got close to the 1:20 first pitch, which I figured would be the end of this little tour of mine, I stood in the shadow of Ron Santo’s statue at Addison and Sheffield. Santo stands as the personification of the Cubs spirit and optimism so it seemed like a good place to be for the first home pitch this year.
It got a couple minutes past 1:20 and I wondered if I missed the moment but I hadn’t even heard anything on the PA past the Star Spangled Banner about 10 minutes prior. I then noticed a big screen from within Gate D and I saw I was just about to see the pitch. Of course it was too far for my near-sighted ass to notice if it was a ball or strike despite the big red stat strip at the bottom. Oh, well, I had my moment.
Making my way back to the “L” station a nice lady handed me a couple of free chocolate squares as I crossed Sheffield and I saw the southbound red line train pass me just as I got on the platform. Would have made it if I hadn’t ate that first square, it was worth it though actually.
While waiting for the naturally-delayed southbound train to follow I took in the remainder of the first inning through a crack in the rooftop bleacher buildings and had my second good idea of the day, one that put me in the tradition of many Wrigley Opening Day revelers of years past (and this one, I’m sure), one that allowed me to feel more at place in a beautiful day in Wrigleyville than my awkward iPod filming and maroon Champion hoodie would allow.
I skipped work.