Diary of a Cubs Fan – Part Seven

SW Game 4This is part 7 of a series. You can start at the beginning here.

Game 4, Indians at Cubs, Wrigley Field

I texted Jeff Santo to see if he was in town for the games. Jeff is the son of Cubs legend Ron Santo, and I had worked with Jeff a decade ago on a film about his Dad. Jeff replied that he was indeed in town, but that he only had tickets for Game 5. He would be watching Game 4 at a bar in Wrigleyville called the Schoolyard. We conspired to meet there prior to the game so we could see each other.

Meanwhile I started to get antsy, so I started waking toward the ballpark even though it was quite early. I purposely wove my way though side streets that I was unfamiliar with. When I finally reached the Wrigleyville area, it was almost time to head to the bar to meet up with Jeff. Just like every other bar in the area, the Schoolyard had a long line of people waiting to get in. I mentioned to the bouncer at the door that I was with Jeff Santo, and he said Jeff hadn’t arrived yet, but he had a table put aside for him and his party. As I hung out in front, a couple of other guys arrived asking for Jeff. We connected and started talking about all things Chicago while waiting for Jeff to arrive. Then I got a text from Jeff saying that his Uber was tied up in traffic. By the time he finally arrived, I had to run off to meet up with John Iltis, who had the tickets for tonight’s game. A quick hug and off I went.

John now lives in Maine, so he was staying with friends in a beautiful townhouse about a mile from the ballpark. We met up there and John, his two daughters and I ordered an Uber to get us as close to the park as possible. The area around Wrigley was wall to wall people. Even on foot, we had to squeeze through to get to the entrance.

Ira and IltisAs I mentioned in an earlier post, John’s seat are amazing. We were right up front, literally feet away from the players, the media, all the officials. We were surrounded by a different type of fan from the ones in the Bleachers. These were the folks who could afford to own season tickets in the most prime location in the park. The conversations were about how long they had had their seats, how much the ticket prices would be hiked next year, who knows who, etc. In fact, John knew a number of people around us, many of whom he had not seen for a while. Everyone was taking pictures of each other, trying to keep the famous Wrigley Field scoreboard in the background.

Rizzo at batAs the game began, the crowd was crazy, and it only got crazier when the Cubs scored the first run in the bottom of the 1st inning. As someone pointed out, it was the first run scored by the Cubs at a World Series game at Wrigley Field since 1945. And generally, when the Cubs drew first blood, they were formidable.

Unfortunately the rest of the game was all Indians. The Cubs only scored one more run, and as the innings dragged on, the enthusiasm started to turn to dread. It was only last playoff feveryear that the Mets had swept the Cubs at Wrigley in the NLCS. That kind of memory sticks with you. But these Cubs don’t quit, or do they? Final score, Indians 7, Cubs 2.

I left the ballpark, walked until I found a bar I could get into, and drank until I felt a little better.

Game 5, Indians at Cubs, Wrigley Field

Could the Cubs really get swept again at Wrigley? No one believed it was possible. After all, tonight we had Jon Lester pitching, and throughout the postseason, these Cubs had always come back.

Once again I had standing room tickets–this time at the back of the Promenade. I had asked a few of the ushers the night before where they would stand if they had standing room tickets, and they suggested a spot behind home plate, up against the side of one of the ramps, so that there would be something to lean against. I got to the ballpark several hours early, thinking I could get in to one of the bars, grab something to eat, and still be one of the first people on line to get in. I didn’t realize that all the bars in the area were charging a cover charge just to get in the door, whether you were staying to watch the game or not.

So I decided I would take a walk and kill some time until it was time to get in line. As I was passing the ballpark, I noticed that there was no line at the restaurant that is attached to Wrigley on the Addison side. I asked the woman at the door what the deal was. She told me that anyone with a ticket could get in until they reached capacity. Once you are in the restaurant, you are already scanned into the game, and as soon as they open the gates, you can walk right in. Score.

I insinuated myself into sitting at a table with a very sweet couple, who had spent a fortune to be at the game. I ordered a burger, a glass of wine, and settled in for some good conversation. It was perfect, except for someone bumping into me and spilling wine all over my pants and my shoes. The waitress was great and brought me a replacement, as well as what was needed to clean myself off.

ws game 5I moved myself into position to be among the first people through the door and into the park. As soon as they doors opened, I ran up the ramps to the position that had been recommended to me. I tried out a few spots and finally settled on an area just to the first base side, against the ramp and in a spot where the entire field was visible. And there I stood for the 2 and a half hours until the game started. I was joined on either side by Indians fans. On one side was a couple who were originally from Cleveland, but now lived in Chicago. On the other side was a family that had driven in from Cleveland for the game. Since the Indians were one win away from winning the series, they wanted to be there if it were to happen tonight. We had several hours to talk, and it was all very respectful with no tension.

With the SantosWhile I was waiting for the game to start, Jeff Santo and his wife Christie came by to visit me at my spot. We finally had a chance to catch up. We got the nice Indians fans to take our picture.

As soon as the game began, I realized I had made one mistake in choosing my spot. The crowd in front of us stood up with the first pitch, and the guy directly in front of me must have been 7 feet tall, or at least it seemed so. When he was standing, he covered the entire field. I went over and politely asked him to just be aware that I couldn’t see anything when he was standing, and his mother, a woman as wide as he was tall, snapped at me “Do you know how much we paid for these tickets?” Not a very nice response, nor did the logic impress me. But I backed off. I realized that I should have positioned myself at the top of one of the aisles. File that away for the future. As the game wore on, there was less standing, and after a while, I was able to find a better position.

The game began with Lester striking out the Indians in order, and the crowd went wild.  But a solo home run in the 2nd gave the Indians the lead and quieted everyone down. In the 4th inning, the Cubs offense finally came alive. Bryant hit his first home run of the series to tie the game, followed by 3 straight hits. By the end of the inning, the Cubs were up 3-1. When the Indians came back with a run in the 6th, it was definitely too close for comfort. Then Maddon brought in Chapman in the 7th. It was another of those moments where you know that by the end of the game, he’ll be hailed as a genius or be second-guessed to death.

Chapman was lights out, and he mowed down the Indians in a way that would have made Custer envious. With each out, the Indians fans on either side of me were staring straight ahead with hands in a prayer position. I could relate. When Chapman recorded his 8th out, the most in his entire career, there was a collective roar and a sigh of relief.

It was bedlam outside the park The Cubs had won a World Series game at Wrigley Field. They would live to play another day. Far fetched as it was at the time, I was convinced the Cubs were going to go all the way.

The series continues here.

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