Some life goals are noble, some are selfless and some seem silly. All are important to the person who sets them. As I accept the reality of my 55th birthday (and eligibility for the senior discount at Sizzler and IHOP) I am blessed in knowing most of my life goals have been met. I have a wonderful marriage, incredible children and a rewarding career. This week I was able to do something I have wanted to do since I was a child.
When I was a kid baseball was one of the few sources of joy in my life. I collected baseball cards, cherished each Dodger card and even memorized the stats on the back. I read every baseball book in the local library including biographies of Hall of Famers and histories of the game. One of my most embarrassing childhood memories was the day in 5th grade that I was so engrossed in the biography of Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller that I sat right through the pledge of allegiance.
After cartoons on summer Saturdays was the Major League Baseball game of the week on NBC. Tony Kubek did the play by play and Joe Garagiola was the color man. I learned about all of the teams and the players and knew all of the ballparks in all of the cities. Two ballparks stood out from all of the others, Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago. Fenway had the Green Monster in left field. Wrigley had the bricks and the ivy on the outfield walls. Wrigley also had the distinction of being the only baseball stadium without lights. Every game at Wrigley was a day game. Attending games at each stadium has been on my to do list for almost 50 years.
I made it to Fenway in 2015. Last spring Lisa and I took a trip to Cape Cod. While there we took a day trip into Boston and I was able to go to the ballpark. It was a wonderful experience. The only thing missing was my son, who shares my love of baseball but wasn't on that trip with us. Fenway left me with a strong desire to make a trip to Wrigley with my son. The challenge was finding a time we could go. He married 4 years ago and just started his legal career. A long vacation together wasn't feasible. If we were going to make a trip to Chicago it would have to be a weekend trip just for a ball game, which wasn't practical. I am a frugal person and did not think I could justify spending money on round trip airfare and hotel just to see a baseball game.
A few months ago I changed my mind. I decided that a weekend with my son going to one of America’s greatest ballparks was worth the cost. The potential of a lifetime father/son memory was something I could not resist. I called my son and made plans to go to Chicago for two days over the Labor Day weekend. Friday afternoon Nate and I boarded a plane to O'Hare. We woke Saturday morning and walked the mile from our hotel to Wrigley Field. We arrived early enough to walk around the stadium, joining the crowds viewing the statues of Cubs greats outside. Every name had meaning to me- Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Harry Caray. We lined up early to enter the stadium as soon as the gates opened.
Our seats were a few rows up in the second section on the first level, behind the screen looking down the third base line. We settled in and took a moment to survey our surroundings. There is less foul territory than at modern stadiums and lower walls so we were close to the playing field. We soaked in the sights, looking out across the field to the ivy covered walls, down the foul lines where the brick walls seemed just inches away from fair territory, above the centerfield wall to the large manual scoreboard, as green as the monster in Fenway, and beyond to the bleachers built on the roof-tops across Waveland Avenue. My son and I had made it, we were at Wrigley field. My son said, “It’s kind of silly, but I could tear up right now.” He was not alone.
Nine exciting innings later, after many close plays and a few heartbreaking mistakes, the Cubs lost by a run. Thousands of unhappy fans headed for the exits. We joined them on the journey but did not share their emotions. It had been a wonderful day.
We returned the next day to sit in the bleachers. We arrived at the stadium 3 hours before the game and took our place in line. The bleachers at Wrigley are general admission, no assigned seating. We wanted to get their early enough to to get good seats. We ended up in the second row in left-centerfield. Perfect seats with a perfect view of the action. The game started slow but featured a 9th inning comeback by the Cubs that sent the game into extra innings. We stayed long enough to see Aroldis Chapman the Cubs reliever hit 100 mph on the radar gun and then made our way to the exit for the walk back to the hotel and the Uber ride to the airport. As we walked we talked about our two day whirlwind of a trip. I decided it was a MasterCard weekend. The airfare, hotel and game tickets had cost well over a thousand dollars, but the opportunity for me to spend a weekend with my son at Wrigley was absolutely priceless. Lives are sometimes measured in moments and memories and this weekend was filled with wonderful ones.