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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mecca And The Vatican Rolled Into One

Although a life-long fan of baseball, I have been to very few professional ballparks. I have lived in three major league cities: Baltimore, Miami, and now Seattle. I did more than my share of riding the pine in the bleachers in these three towns. It has never taken much of an excuse to get me to go to a game and they were all enjoyable. I’ve been to a World Series game in Miami and a few playoff games here in Seattle, but by far my biggest thrill thus far was going to Wrigley Field for a game this past Memorial Day weekend.

I’ve seen Wrigley so many times on TV that I feel like I’ve been there, but the sad truth is that up until this past Thursday I was just a virtual fan of the 100 year old stadium.

My first impression of Wrigley could not have been better. We parked across the street from Murphy’s Bleachers, a great bar somewhere beyond right-center field. It was a beautiful day in Chicago and the outside patio of the bar was already filled with fans performing their pre-game ritual of consuming the communion of baseball which differs slightly from the rite that I learned growing up Catholic. The blood and flesh of baseball consists of beer and a hot dog. I like mustard on my communion wafer and I went back to the bar to have another round from the chalice. Here at Wrigley the chalice takes the form of a 16 ounce can of Old Milwaukee. The blood of baseball costs $5.50 outside at Murphy’s—which is expensive—and $5.50 inside the ballpark—which is incredibly inexpensive.

We walked around the small city block that encompasses the park just to see the neighborhood and scope out the other bars. I’ve only been to one game there but I can already say without hesitation that Murphy’s is my Wrigley Field pre-game tradition, and that is something that I don’t take casually.

The injured and completely hapless Cubs played Atlanta on this afternoon of May 25, 2006. Seeing that this is baseball all of the facts of the game are somewhere in the record books for anyone to see. Take it from someone who was there: don’t bother. This was probably the worst major league baseball that I have ever seen live—and I’ve seen some lousy baseball in my career as a fan. The bush-league play didn’t affect our enjoyment of the game in the least. It didn’t seem to bother anyone else in the sellout crowd of over 40,000.

Since we were a group of 11, some of whom care little for the game, I introduced everyone to my beer cup betting game that I have described in detail somewhere in my writing. The rules of the game necessitate the need for everyone to watch every single pitch that is thrown, and watch we all did. Try pulling that off with a group of 11. I was disappointed that the two kids participating didn’t win one of the pots but I supposed it is important for them to learn, sooner better than later, that life is cruel. I won my pot when my batter hit a home run. Sorry kids and don’t forget to put in an extra buck when you hand me my winnings.

To answer the question that I asked several weeks ago it turns out that after everyone sings “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” they don’t play a song on the P.A. at Wrigley as they do at other parks, but they do play “YMCA” at a later break in the game. I think that they need a new tradition at Wrigley. They need to dump “YMCA” and find a cool song to play at the end of the 7th inning stretch.

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