Last night, the Chicago Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 4-3. What was most notable about the game, even more than the Cubs winning, is how brutally cold it was here in Chicago for a baseball game. It was probably around 37 degrees, which is nippy enough, but keep in mind that Wrigley Field is on Lake Michigan, so the wind was blowing off it, making conditions even worse. Almost half the ballplayers where wearing knit winter-masks. It was that cold.
(And it got worse. Tonight's game has been called off. The "official word" on ESPN was because of rain. But it's not raining here -- it might rain later, and it stormed earlier in the day, but not a drop now. What it is, however, is really, really cold, for a baseball game.)
What with these two teams playing, and the horrible conditions, I was reminded of what was probably the most wonderful experience I've ever had at a baseball game. Surprisingly, the Cubs weren't involved, but the Brewers were.
This was about 33 years ago, probably around 1979. I was visiting my brother John, and his first wife Karen when they lived in Milwaukee. I'd asked about going to a ballgame that night, but he said the Brewers weren’t in town. So, instead we all went to dinner. When we left, the streets were soaked, so it was clear that it had been raining during the meal.
Anyway, we got back to their apartment around 8:30, put on the radio and heard the Brewers playing out of town. Except the thing was, the announcer said, “Here at County Stadium.” Well, that meant that the Brewers were in town. We got all upset that we could have gone to the game and didn’t know it. At that point, it was much too late to go the game, which was probably half over at that point. Too bad, darn, very annoyed.
But then, however, we heard the announcer say, “That makes the score Detroit 1, Brewers nothing as we head into the bottom of the second inning.”
Excuse me? Bottom of only the second inning?? The game just...started? How in the world could that be? Oh! The rain, there must have been a long rain delay. And then, as we were digested that information, the announcer added, “In the first of two.”
The first of two??!! Two games? It was a double-header??? And they’re only in the second inning of the first game? At 8:30? My brother and I made the decision to go, while my sister-in-law chose to be sane and stayed at home.
John and I rushed to the car and drove over to the ballpark. It was about 9 PM by the time we got there, and as we walked through the parking lot to the ticket booth, a couple was leaving. It was much too late for them, they'd been there for hours and so they were going home. They asked if we wanted their tickets – well, sure, free tickets, where are the seats located? Right behind the first base dugout! For free. We went in, and it was maybe the fourth inning at that point. And we stayed through both games.
Now, here's the thing -- I think the first game ended well-past midnight. But they had to play the second game for scheduling reasons. And that game ended about 2:30 in the morning. When the second game began, there were probably only about 200 people in the 50,000-seat ballpark – but the thing is, these were clearly THE most dedicated baseball fans in the world and (since a) they’d been there for about six hours and b) were from Milwaukee) most of them had likely been drinking beer for a very long time, and were pretty drunk. On top of being great baseball fans. So, despite being a teensy number of people, and seeming empty in a huge cavern, it was perhaps as wildly enthusiastic a crowd as I’ve been in.
And then we got home. And slept. For a couple hours before it was time to get up...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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