The Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field, Chicago, USA
20.07.1997 - 20.07.1997
View Work Trips 1997 - 2004 on GregW's travel map.
We caught the el within the loop, heading north on the red line. The sun was out, high in the early afternoon sky, perfect weather for an afternoon baseball game. “Where are the seats,” I asked.
“Section 509.” 509? I’d only been to two major league ballparks, Exhibition Place and the Sky Dome, and in either of those parks watching a ball game from the fifth tier would be equivalent to watching ants play. Suddenly I was feeling pessimistic about my trip to Wrigley Field.
The date was Sunday, July 20th, 1997 and the Colorado Rockies were in Chicago to play the Cubs. The Cubs, after winning two games against the Rockies the day before were 41-56. The Rockies weren’t much better, sitting at .448 with 44 wins and 54 loses.
The train continued north, filling up with fans wearing their Cubbies gear. Two teenagers, standing at either side of the car, started rapping back and forth, trading line for line with each other. They rapped for one stop then walked through the car collecting loose change from admiring riders.
The train pulled up to Addison station. From the platform raised above the street you could see into Wrigley Field. Wrigley was built in 1914, though the Cubs didn’t start playing there until 1916. The moniker Wrigley was applied to the park in 1926 to honor William Wrigley Jr., the owner of the team since 1920. It was one of the oldest ballparks in the major leagues.
We walked into the park, close to the famous red Wrigley Field sign, announcing the “HOME OF CHICAGO CUBS,” and walked up to section 509. We took our seats in the last row of the park. Far from being away from the action like I had feared, we were as close to the field as people in the last row of the first tier in Skydome would be. Section 509 was down the third base line, just past the infield. It had a great view of the ivied outfield wall and the bleachers and scoreboard above them. The day was hot, but we were covered by grandstand roof above us from the sun, and because we were in the last row, had a cool breeze blowing against our backs that those closer to the field didn’t enjoy.
A singer started the American National Anthem and I let my eyes wander across the outfield. Sammy Sosa stood in right field at attention, the ivy blowing gently in the wind behind him. I looked up at the scoreboard and the Stars and Stripes flapping in the breeze as the singer belted out, “…gave proof through the night that our flag was still there…” I felt like I wanted to cry, the history of more than Eighty years of baseball history overwhelming me.
The game got underway. We ate hotdogs and drank beer while trying to explain the rules of baseball to the Belgians accompanying us to the game. Larry Walker, born in Maple Ridge, BC in Canada, hit a home run, and I felt a tinge of Canadian pride. I started cheering for the Rockies, until the seventh inning when Harry Caray leaned out of his window to sing “Take Me Out To the Ballgame.” His off-key crooning made me feel like a Chicagoan and got me back cheering for the home side again. As the bottom of the seventh inning started, the Cubs were down 7 to 5, still within striking distance.
But July 20th, 1997 was not to be a day when the fans could scream “Cubs win! Cubs win!” In the ninth inning, Larry Walker hit a 2 run homerun, his second of the game and 29th for the season, on his way to 49 for the year and the NL MVP title. We filed out of the ballpark, I secretly feeling a sense of Canadian pride again, but sad that the Cubs had lost. Before exiting Wrigley and catching the red-line back downtown I took one last look back at the scoreboard where, as is the tradition in Wrigley field, they were raising a blue flag with a white L on it, telling the fans outside the park on Waveland Avenue that the Cubs had lost.