Ivy, Schmivey

added 6/12/2002 by Darrell Pittman

Once again, I was privileged to accompany Susan on one of her business trips.  This time, she was to work in her Chicago office the Monday and Tuesday after a weekend Cubs-Astros series.  We left the Friday night before (missing the May 31 Friday afternoon game), and sprang for our own hotel room for the weekend at the Hotel Allegro in downtown Chicago.

Getting there

Our brush with the Information Police, Midway Airport, Chicago, IL, 5/31/02. Upon our arrival, intense interrogation convinced them we were harmless hicks from Texas.  Luckily for us, they never surmised our real mission.

Having arrived very late Friday night, we arose late Saturday morning, and enjoyed the strawberries-and-cream repast (replete with Mumm champagne) that was included in the hotel package, left in the room for us the night before. 

Around 1 p.m., we left for the ballpark.  As far as I'm concerned, the El is the best way to go to Wrigley from downtown, unless you want to pay $20 for cab-fare.  The El gets you there quicker (about 15-20 minutes), doesn't have to stop for street traffic, costs only $1.50 a person each way, and from everything we saw, is both clean and safe (at least during the day).  As there's very little parking close to Wrigley Field, the El was the ideal option for us.  From downtown, just take the Red Line and get off at Adderly.  We picked up the Red Line downtown at State Street.

It eludes me why light rail is so controversial in Houston.  It works beautifully in Chicago.

The Ballpark

Sign at home-plate entrance to Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field is like a beautiful, but aging lady.  It's not afraid to show its age, and has  manners and good breeding, having been built in 1914 and undergoing several renovations and additions since.  While it is not, in my view, the holy shrine of baseball that we fans are told it is, it is still quite nice.  

A walk around the ballpark reveals that it is lovingly maintained, but perhaps wears a bit too much makeup, or in this case, coats of paint.

From a comfort standpoint, there are adequate concessions and relatively clean restrooms not too far from every section.  In the upper decks, the climb is not too steep, but then again, there are no escalators to get there; one has to climb ramps.  As I said before, getting to the ballpark and back is a no-brainer if you're not determined to drive your own car.

 The main scoreboard, Center Field

From a fan standpoint, I disliked the support columns that were everywhere, obstructing the views.  This is one ballpark where field-level seats, out from under the grandstands, are almost a must-have.  I would also have appreciated scoreboards that conveyed more information about the players, their past performance, etc.  Wrigley Field, in general, eschews electronics, except for one small display under the main manual scoreboard in straightaway centerfield that shows only the current batter's number, name, and batting average.


The Games

Craig Biggio faces the Cubs' Mark Prior.
Saturday, June 1, 2002, 4th Inning.
Brad Ausmus is on 1st.  Biggio will single.

Saturday afternoon, the weather was great: sunny and warm, with the wind blowing out to left (toward Lake Michigan).

It was a glorious day for baseball; weather  like we would have in April in Houston.

Roy Oswalt faced off against Mark Prior. In the fourth inning, the Astros batted around, having provided all the offense necessary to coast to a 7-3 victory.  Hidalgo, Berkman, and Blum all homered.

The weather for Sunday's game was totally different; temperature in the high 40's, with the wind blowing in from the lake.  We were freezing.  I even broke down and bought a Cubs sweatshirt at the ballpark, to wear underneath my Astros jersey.

The Astros offense must have experienced a similar chilling effect, losing to the Cubs 4-2.   I have to admit, Susan and I left the ballpark during the seventh-inning stretch, with the Cubs leading 4-1.  We were both shivering, and had had enough of the cold.

The Fans

 Susan and Darrell at Wrigley Field
Saturday, June 1, 2002
(Picture taken by a friendly Cubs fan)

In my opinion, the Cubs have the best fans in baseball, perhaps even in all of sport.  They have to be, given the century-plus sufferings of the ballclub they've been given.

Still, win or lose, fair weather or foul, the Cub fans turn out in droves, even for weekday day games.  We Houston fans can draw many lessons from them; we tend to be fair-weather fans.

Though we were in our Astros jerseys and caps, the Cubs fans there could not have been nicer to us.  We struck up several friendly conversations with our neighbors during both games.

The guys manning the concession stands would joke with me; upon eyeing my Astros gear, they would jokingly tell me that the beer I was buying cost $40, and that they were only charging me double.


Darrell attempts to interview legendary Cubs announcer Harry Caray, not realizing that Harry has been dead for several years and was made into a statue.  Harry has since gotten a tan and gained serious weight, but is strangely silent. Darrell is unable to surmount fence.

Wrigley Field is a great venue to take in a ballgame.  Every serious fan should do it at least once.  While it's not quite what it's cracked up to be, it's still an enjoyable experience.

Susan and I hope to do it again when the Astros return to Chicago, either for the July or August series.

More pictures of our trip are online here.

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