For a long time, baseball wasn’t relevant in Kansas City. Sure we went to a lot of games. And we got somewhat excited at Paul Byrd’s run. Or Mike Sweeney making the All Star game. But experiencing Wrigley in 2001 was different. The Cubs finished third in the National League Central in 2001 and kept the fans interested for most of the year. On this day, with not the greatest weather, we were able to score bleacher seats for a group of us in town.
My close friend Eric Hoberg moved to Chicago right out of college and we made the trip a short tradition before we all started having kids etc. For a time, he lived on the famous Waveland Avenue. One year we watched the Cubs play the Reds from the first base side and were able to see a home run from Ken Griffey Jr. that left the park. But this time, it was different. We were in the famed bleachers.
And in the bleachers, they take their team seriously. I made one comment about Fred McGriff not hustling to first. “He’s got a bad hammy!” shouted what looked like a character from SNL’s Ditka sketch.
The Cubs in 2001 were led by Sammy Sosa, who went to hit 64 home runs that year. On this day, he could do no wrong. His sprint to our section in right field was a show in itself. A quick peace sign to the fans and he switched to game mode.
My friend Tim Birkel dropped a ball thrown to the stands from Sosa and he was quickly nicknamed “Christina” for the remainder of the day. A name that would follow him to to the crosswalk leaving the stadium.
I challenge you to find a better pre and post-game vibe surrounding a stadium. Hours before the game, hours after the game, fans were lined up to get into famous bars etc. We couldn’t get into the Cubby Bear because someone said Bruce Willis was singing on stage.
This game, a Cubs win, was their opportunity to live another day in the playoff race. Their opponent, the Astros were a stacked team that eventually finished 1st in the division. Eight of the Astros nine starters hit double digit home runs in 2001. The Astros ended up getting swept that year in the playoffs by the Braves.
I think I took roughly $70 into the stadium that day. Old Style’s were $5.75 each and I don’t think I left with any change. It’s not math I’m too proud of but I have to say, it was all part of the experience. I hope one day to be able to take my kids to Wrigley.