Minor Observations on a Major [?] Event
Was it worth all the trouble?
The Iowa Cubs had a 5:00 A.M. wakeup call after Saturday's game in Des Moines. The team's traveling party chartered to Midway and bussed to Wrigley for the ultimate matinee following a night game.
As for your intrepid correspondent, my trip began a week ago today when we piled the family into two cars instead of one so I could leave them a day early and triangulate my way home from our lake vacation in Minnesota via a stopover at yesterday's "Road to Wrigley" contest in Chicago.
Despite the extra thousand miles [and 50 gallons] plus of driving, despite the six-hour room rental off of I-90 at a Motel 6 [is that where the name comes from?], despite the aurora borealis thunderstorm show that had me on the edge of my seat as I drove the last hundred miles home around midnight last night, my answer is emphatically, "yes!"
I can't speak for the I-Cubs and their entourage, but given that they not only won the game, 5-4, but set a franchise attendance record of 16,280 [talk about an asterisk!], I suspect the consensus on the way back down to reality was that it had been a good long day.
I walked the hallowed grounds.
One of the subtle, subliminal perks that go into the mix of home-field advantage caught my eye. The bench in the Cub bullpen is cushioned; the one in the visitors' is unpadded.
Who brings the balls for a minor-league game in a major-league ballpark? The BP baskets were filled with official MLB models, one of which Brad Snyder hit to me in the right-centerfield bleachers during pre-game muscle-flexing.
Only Moe represented the regular crew of ballhawkers on Waveland Ave. during BP and he wasn't getting much action. He should have posted himself on Sheffield. Not only was the brisk breeze blowing out to right, most of what power the I-Cubs boast is from the left side, especially since Jason Dubois was shuffled off to Buffalo last week. Snyder and Micah Hoffpauir took turns firing at a big dumpster in front of the building next to the Eamus Catuli sign where a refurbishing is underway.
No retired jersey flags were hoisted atop the foul poles; no team pennants in order of the league standings fluttered from the scoreboard. The only games posted on the gigantic green abacus were Colorado/Chicago and Iowa/Las Vegas. Apparently only a skeleton crew of "numbers runners" was scheduled.
The Lowery organ was up and running. There should always be an organist when services are being held.
I had a brief audience with I-Cub skipper Bobby Dickerson in Lou Piniella's office. Did Lou leave him a note a la Bush/Obama? Nope, but Bobby was gonna leave one for Lou, just to say thanks for the use of whatever.
Finally got to ask Oneri Fleita about the memo mandating that all I-Cubs wear their pants old-school knickers style. He said the policy applies to the whole farm system, was decided upon by he and Dave Bialas - among others - and that he just likes them better that way. I told him I do too, but I chickened out of asking him about the origins of his name which is an odd one for such an ordinary looking guy. He was in a good mood and I didn't want to make him, uh, ornery.
What was Hoffpauir doing here? I didn't know he'd been sent down on Friday while I was swatting grizzly mosquitoes up north. There he was, graciously fielding questions from a blogger twice his age. In a bizarre twist, he was dressing in a #24 Iowa jersey while we talked. On the other side of the plastic left over from a champagne spray that never happened was his still-in-its-cubicle #6 Chicago blouse. It must have appeared suddenly dream-like to him. The already narrow home team clubhouse was made even more so by cordoning off the personal spaces and effects of the big leaguers, just like they do when taking fans on tours of the inner sanctum.
Scrunched in the middle of what was reduced to little more than a corridor was a cluster of chess and backgammon players clad in jockstraps and sanitary socks. I got an image of Fischer taking Spassky out at second base.
From the press box the "record" crowd looked modest, like a typical gathering at PNC or a Cub audience pre-Wrigleyville phenomenon. There was plenty of room for foul balls to carom and ricochet in most areas of the stands.
I watched the game from a seat in the first row, right between the chairs usually assigned to Wittenmeyer and Sullivan.
Iowa starter J.R. Mathes walked no one for the 10th time in his 16 starts this year but probably won't get a whiff while Zombie nurses his ailing back. Wait and see how many free passes The Chosen One hands out in his start later this week.
Las Vegas hit three homers in the game and all were tossed back in keeping with tradition. Other than that, there were was much evidence that you can take the game out of the minors but you can't take the minors out of the game.
A menagerie of costumed and inflated creatures called "Zooperstars" [e.g., Harry Canary] annoyed between innings. We have The Famous Chicken to thank for this troupe which threatens, like a copycat killer, to scare pure baseball fans away from ballparks.
The I-Cub mascot, "Cubby Bear" also cavorted about in a brazen display of blasphemy. I hoped I'd never see the day.
Wrigleyville bars advertised beer specials on their marquees for the "baby Cubs" [redundant, no?].
At game's end no song was sung in the stands. Instead, long queues formed down both foul lines for a chance to run the bases. Having paid my respects to the holy land before the gates opened, I beelined for the car, slipped right into traffic on Clark, hung a right at Irving Park Road to Lake Shore Drive and headed for home where I slid in safely about 11 hours ago.
On Wednesday Lilly throws at Principal Park against the Las Vegas 51's and Samardzija throws at Wrigley against the world champion Phillies.
I don't know where the Zooperstars will be...MW