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Sunday, April 18, 2004

My Day in Wrigleyville

Last Thursday after speaking at the Microsoft Security Summit on Wednesday I attended the Cubs/Pirates game at Wrigley Field. Here's a quick synopsis of the day.

I boarded the CTA red line at the Roosevelt station at 9:30AM fully decked out in my Cubs apparel. I took the train to the Addison stop beyond the right field wall and made my way down to the street by around 10:15AM. Since the ballpark doesn't open until 11:30AM I perused some of the shops in Wrigleyville picking up a couple choice items. I then headed over to the McDonalds across from the ballpark (always a tradition) for an early lunch. While eating there I sat next to two elderly ladies who work as ushers at the ballpark. They were commenting on the schedule and noticing how the Pirates don't come back to Wrigley Field for several months. In a display that old habits die hard, one of the ladies commented that the Reds always seem to beat us at home and the other wrly noted "But who doesn't?"

After lunch I took a walk around the ballpark, strolling down Waveland and Sheffield Avenues. I stopped and took a couple pictures noting the wind blowing straight out at 15 to 20 mph. It was Jackie Robinson day throughout MLB commemorating the day Jackie broke into the lineup of the Dodgers in 1947.

On Sheffield Ave I stopped and took a picture of one of the buildings that displays the sign reading "Eamus Catuli", the Latin translated "Let's Go Cubs!" along with the sign reading AC005996 which translated means AC = "Year of the Cubs (Catulii)" + 00 = number of years since last division title (2003) + 59 = number of years since last pennant (1945) + 96 = number of years since last World Series win (1908)

I then waited with the rest of the throng to be let in. While waiting one young fan (not too bright obviously) asked if I was one of the ballplayers. I told him they might need me today and that I was ready.

After the ballpark opened at 11:30AM I strolled through concourses and took a shot of the Fergie Jenkins poster hanging up inside. Fergie has been my favorite pitcher since I watched many of his starts when he returned to the Cubs in 1982-83.

After going out to see batting practice I was amazed that the ushers (the little old ladies) do not let fans without tickets walk down to the lower sections. Almost two hours before the game it seems absurd. I've never seen this done at another ballpark.

Carlos Zambrano got the start for the Cubs and my seat was right down by the bullpen in the 10th row - not too far from the infamous Bartman seat which should be painted red and left unsold until the Cubs go to the World Series.

Here's a shot the nice usher took of me next to my seat. By this time the temp was up to around 72 degrees and the wind was howling. I thought it might be a good day for Cubs hitters.

Once the game started I was absolutely amazed or more rightly appalled by the number of vendors making their way through our little 10 row section. I counted six different vendors in the first half inning alone and it rarely abated during the game. You practically had to beat them off like flies. It was truly the worst experience of the sort I've had at a major league game. Here's the view from my seat (the vendor in the foreground was typical). I would estimate I missed 40 or 50 pitches because of vendors.

Well, the wind did its thing and the Cubs were quickly out in front on the strength of a homerun by Ramirez and two by Barrett. Alou added a popup to left that kept blowing until it landed in the basket to make the scoring complete and the Cubs won 10-5.

I really felt for Francis Beltran who got into the game in the 9th only to have his first two pitches hit for long homeruns to left field. On such a day it was a credit to Zambrano that he was able to keep the ball down and give up only one run in 6 innings of work.

After the game I again boarded the train and headed back downtown to grab the shuttle to airport and arrive back in Kansas City by 11pm. All in all, a very enjoyable day at the old ballpark.

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