Tuesday, August 12, 2014
A VISIT TO ANOTHER CATHEDRAL – WRIGLEY FIELD
The grin felt welded into my jaw. Muscles there ached, but I couldn’t release the smile. I walked through the bowels of Wrigley feeling like a dope. A dope with a big, beaming, uncontrollable grin.
Here was Grover Cleveland Alexander throwing junk. And Tinkers and Evers and Chance completing yet another impossible double play. Here was Ernie Banks yelling, “Let’s play two!” And the curse of the Billy goat. Here was a bespectacled Harry Carey leaning out of the pressbox and singing the Anthem during the seventh inning stretch. And the Bartman incident.
“The Friendly Confines” turned 100 this year. And thus far, never has a baseball championship been gained here. Yet all of this is forgotten as one enters the stadium teeming with like-minded fans each imbued with short or, perhaps more accurately, forgiving memories.
I once was Mets fan. It was because they were loveable losers. Sure, it was easy to like the Dodgers or the Giants or the Yankees. They were always in the thick of it, winning a pennant or ensuring that their rival did not. But the Mets? It was not until their seventh season that they turned in a winning record, and in their eighth, they went all the way. In the process, they overtook these very Cubs during the last week of the season to win by only a game or two. I was a senior in high school and no longer such a loser. (Actually, I still was, but quite a number of blue and orange ball caps sprouted up on campus in October of 1969.)
I should have turned my attention to the Chicago northsiders right there and then.
Wrigley Field is the second oldest ball stadium still in use by major leaguers. The oldest is in Boston. Both are cathedrals. And just as cathedrals in Siena and Milan and Rome are decorated with timeless frescos harbor centuries-old pipe organs calling us to bow down and revere, the soundtrack at Wrigley is organ music and the only true lyric is baseball.
Climbing the stairs and looking out on the hallowed ground, my jaw clamps tighter and my eyes wet. Here is where the real believers worship – in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Blue-hatted fans are friendly. Their expectations are realistic. Two weeks into any given season, they are heard to sigh and suggest, “Well, there’s always next year.”
Over the right field ivy-covered wall, bleachers perch atop apartment buildings on the other side of Waveland Avenue. Even though tonight was not to be a sell out, souls dotted those seats a full eighth of a mile distant from home plate. Believers.
A beer. A dog. Some chatter with fans in the row of seats behind us. We all stood when former Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas (1970-73) led “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Believers.
How the game was played didn’t matter. Just as what might have been preached at the Sistine Chapel last Sunday didn’t really matter. All that mattered was here we were: in a cathedral called Wrigley, surrounded by – shrouded in – baseball history.
On the Cubs miseries: http://thegoodpoint.com/chicago-cubs-seasons/
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