Thanks for the Memories...
There are more than a couple hundred players enshrined at Cooperstown and they are paid homage by something like 350,000 annual visitors to baseball’s Hall of Fame. At Wrigley Field a mere three Cubs have been immortalized in statuary and only half a dozen’s numbers flutter atop the foul poles. This Mecca draws in excess of three million pilgrims per season. Maybe Ron Santo was on to something when he listed the corner of Clark & Addison in Chicago as the address of his personal HOF.
Wednesday night my two sons and I were at the fringe of the mob assembled in the street to witness the unveiling of Santo in bronze, caught in the act of making an off-balance throw to nip a runner in a close play at first. I am no critic of the sculpting arts but I think the rendering of #10 is exquisite. The blue casts to the socks, cap and numerals; the facial likeness, the stitching on the ball about to be thrown – all are vivid. Justice was done to the fans’ memories.
An hour before the ceremony the three of us took a few meandering, strolling laps around the square block of Wrigley. On Waveland we staged a brief reenactment of the ritual game of catch we used to play there while ballhawking during batting practice on trips to Chicago when they were little leaguers. Now Max is 20 and Ben is 17. On Clark we detoured into McDonalds where the clubhouse attendant used to fetch a pair of Big Macs for Sammy Sosa after BP on game days. On Addison we tossed a few coins in the pail of the wheel-chaired beggar who’s been as permanent a fixture on our past visits as the statuary will be on future ones. On Sheffield a ball arced over the bleachers, ricocheted off of some landscaping ironwork and bounced directly to me with a small band of ballhawks in pursuit; a fitting memento of the occasion that I received in the spirit of a child opening a gift.
From our vantage point the remarks of the assembled dignitaries were mostly muffled. I did make out Pat Hughes repeating a laugh line we’d heard more clearly on the car radio as we drove into town that afternoon. He and Santo’s HOF teammates from the fabled ’69 team had keynoted a sold-out luncheon downtown that was broadcast by WGN. More importantly we did manage sightlines to the statue. After it was revealed and roundly approved we went inside and took up seats in the right-center field bleachers. While the Cubs fashioned one of their occasional victories we enjoyed dollar hot dogs and reminisced. Even cheaper was the glowing sunset that rang down upon the day's stage.
We left after eight, me and a couple of the grandsons of the guy I used to listen on the radio with when Santo was routinely making plays like the one immortalized now on the street corner. As we passed by on our way to the redline depot I was able to touch the cleats of someone who autographed mitts and caps for us when he was still able. The cheers boiling over the rim of the stadium just then reported on Carlos Marmol’s progress towards a fanning of the side in the 9th but I imagined them for someone else, some other time.