It sure would have been fun to be at Sunday’s walk-off Cubs victory over the Twins on a beautiful sunny Chicago day; however I was on a plane back to Arizona. Instead the Mesa Hohokams and my family witnessed a couple less than stellar performances by the Cubs in two losses to the small market pests from Minneapolis last Friday and Saturday.
My party joining the Hohokams on their annual trip to Chicago consisted of two Wrigley Field rookies, (my mom and brother Todd), along with my beautiful wife Theresa.
Mom, Todd, Theresa and me
I won’t go into each game and the reasons why the Cubs lost, you probably saw the games on TV or read about them, so instead I’ll offer up some observations from my two days at Wrigley Field and then tell a bit about the long weekend we spent in Chicago.
Friday was the Milton Bradley game…like many fans at the park who were paying attention to the game, the split second I saw Milton striking a pose after catching the fly ball I knew he thought their were three outs…talk about a one of a kind souvenir for whoever caught that tossed Bradley baseball. While Bradley’s mathematical misstep didn‘t cost the Cubs anything in terms of runs scored, the Milton moment felt like a microcosm of the Cubs play this season…unfocused.
Before the game we took the El Train up to Wrigley from our downtown hotel, this is where we first noticed a lot of Twins fans. Once off the train in Wrigleyville it was apparent that Twins fans had circled this series on the calendar as soon as they saw the schedule and made plans for the 6 hour plus drive from the Twin Cities. Who can blame them with limited opportunities to see their team play at one of baseball’s historic shrines. I have watched baseball games at the Metrodome, and it’s the anti-Wrigley with carpet instead of grass and plastic baggies in place of Ivy. It wasn‘t apparent to me just how many Twinkie fans where there until Saturday because of our Friday Wrigley seating accommodations.
View from the Batters Eye Suite during Friday’s BP
I have talked about the batters eye suite (the black glass windows below the scoreboard) in the past on this blog and that’s where the Hohokams have been stationed in the first game of the annual trip since the suite was built a few years back. Watching a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in the batters eye suite is kinda like eating a Chicago Dog made out of tofu – you don’t quite get the full experience. Sure, it’s a nice set-up having your own private bar, food buffet, TV screens, private rest rooms, and someone serving you, no doubt these are true luxuries at Wrigley but with comfort comes the loss of ambiance. Part of that is not having a full view of the outfield or being able to hear the crowd outside the box. It feels a bit disconnected from the fans and the game which is what makes Wrigley…well, Wrigley.
Unlike other suites at the friendly confines the batters eye has no outside the suite seating so you must exit the bunker and walk around, (which we did) to get a feel for the game, but without a seat outside the bunker you can’t really watch the game action. At any rate, I’m not ungrateful or complaining for a second, I was thrilled and lucky to be there. I’m just giving my impressions of this particular suite and game experience. Of course my brother insists that the ease of having rapid replenishment of malted barley and hops beverages makes up for any and all other shortcomings.
Cubs management including Chairman Crane Kenney, Executive Vice President of baseball Operations Mark McGuire and GM Jim Hendry made the obligatory stop out to the suite to chat with the Hohokam group during Friday’s game.
Robert Brinton, who is the “Big Ho” of the Hohokam and President of the Cactus League as well as Executive Director of the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau, threw a ceremonial pitch prior the game and talked with Len Kasper and Bob Brenly on WGN promoting spring training in AZ.
The Mesa Hohokams at Wrigley June 12, black windows of bunker upper left
I also chatted with Robert during the game and found out negotiations are still going on with the Cubs, City of Mesa, and the Hohokams regarding spring training activities and finances. Expect the powers that be for the City of Mesa and the Hohokams to find the funding for upgrades at Fitch Park and Hohokam Stadium…don’t plan on the Cubs leaving Mesa anytime soon. A big topic of the congenial dialog surrounds ways to increase revenue during the spring season…hard to believe, I know.
One of the ideas floated was that of increasing the price of game day parking at Hohokam…don’t get upset just yet, a feasibility study would most likely have to be done and it’s only an idea at this point.
Seeing Twins star Joe Mauer hit a HR on Friday wasn‘t all that surprising because he had 12 coming into the game, but number 13 at Wrigley on June 12 was different. This number 13 tied the career season HR high for the St. Paul Minnesota native. While Mauer has always had a natural swing he had lacked power for a player of his size. It looks like this is the year his power numbers catch up with the rest of his game, his slugging average is currently .743.
Thinking back to the 2001 draft, the Twins who had the number one pick were roundly criticized for passing on a can’t miss MLB ready pitcher because of the money it would take to sign the college hurling sensation – Mark Prior. They picked hometown high school catcher Mauer while the Cubs with the number two pick chose Mark Prior. Makes me wonder what would have happened if the Twins had picked Mark Prior instead…we’ll never know.
Many Twins fans in the bleachers sported these ferocious baby blue T-shirts
Friday night we attended the premiere of the Cubs documentary movie “We Believe” at the historic Chicago Theatre. I’ll post a separate review on the film in another blog this week.
Saturday’s game saw Rich Harden pitching after his stint on the DL taking the mound against a 23 year old Twins pitcher named Swarzak who was 1-2 with a 5.23 ERA.
The weather was not very good, cold with rain and drizzle all morning delaying the start of the game. Before the game we ended up ducking into a bar on Clark called The Stretch mainly because we saw open tables and wanted to get out of the rain. Ended up having a having a very tasty omelet for breakfast while being served by the equally tasty female wait staff who would put any Hooters bar to shame…I don’t want that last comment taken as sexist I’m just trying to paint an observant picture for the sake of blogging accuracy. The Stretch staff should also be commended for timely and cheerful service…as well as their smokin hotness…hey, I’m only human.
We had outstanding seats for this game, section 122 just to the first base side of home plate. It would have been perfect except for the weather and the Cubs hitting or lack of. The weather cleared during the game but the Cubs stayed cold at the plate losing 2-0…Harden pitched well but got a big fat ‘L’ for the effort.
Being outside in the stands on Saturday was when I could tell how many Twins fans were at Wrigley as they chanted ‘MVP’ when Mauer was at the plate. The Twins Jason Kubel who hit a long HR over the right field bleachers onto Sheffield got a “Let’s – go – Ku–bel“ chant when he was at the plate, “Let’s – go – Ku–bel“…you’ve got to be kidding me…I just shook my head. Some Cubs season ticket holders I talked to said they couldn‘t remember other teams ever having as many fans at Wrigley, certainly not as vocal. Guess now we know what it’s like for opponents when the Cubs play on the road and Cubbie fans permeate the stands.
Chicago’s finest on horseback in Grant Park
One of the things we wanted to do while in Chicago was listen to some Blues music and our timing for the trip couldn‘t have been better as the Chicago Blues Festival was going on in Grant Park. So after the game we headed down to the festival, the weather was still a bit cool but it had become sunny and made for a fantastic evening. Part of the fun of a festival like this, apart from the music is people watching and Grant Park did not disappoint. We decided to walk back from the Blues Festival to the hotel and that’s when the people watching got really interesting and I mean eye bulging, jaw dropping interesting.
Chicago Blues Festival at Grant Park
We heard this commotion down Michigan Avenue towards the river, police sirens (nothing unusual about that in Chicago) but as the noises got closer and louder I see the police clearing the way for a whole precession of bike riders…bicycles not Harleys. I’m thinking that”s pretty cool having a race or charity ride down the Miracle Mile so I step to the median to get a photo. That’s when I noticed something different about these bikers, they were naked…yes sir…nude, in the buff, many clad only in shoes and socks.
I’m giving you a few of my ‘stylized’ versions of the bikers to keep it PG-13
Talk about the proverbial double take, I think I have a touch of whiplash from it. Hundreds of women and men, with all parts of the human anatomy exposed to the cool night air just rolling by, honking bike horns and whooping it up to the stares and grins of amazed bystanders most of whom like me seemed to have no idea what was going on. To be honest they were not all completely naked, they had varying degrees of clothing some just wearing bottoms, some wearing bras and panties, some wearing nothing but a mask on their face but all seemed to be having a great time. Did I say Chicago was my kind of town?
Trust me ‘stylized’ versions are much better, sometimes reality isn’t pretty
Later after a google search I found out it was the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) – An international clothing-optional bike (or other person powered) event where participants ride en masse for the dual purpose of bringing attention to people powered transport and promoting positive body image. Their slogan is “Celebrating the end of oil and the beauty of people.” Sounds good, just remind me to never rent a bike in this town; you don’t know where it may have been.
Michigan Avenue surprise
Our time in Chicago was short, arriving on Thursday afternoon and leaving early Sunday morning but we packed a lot in while there…Reuniting with my spring training friends the Hohokams, eating Chicago style pizza at Giordano’s, walking down to Navy Pier, breakfast at Tempo Cafe, stopping at a 1970’s and 80’s bar called the Reagle Beagle where we testing a few of their specialty drinks like the Mr. Tea (similar to a Long Island just more expensive) and the Caddyshack Attack which according to the menu is Van Gogh Vanilla, Grey Goose L’Orange, White Creme De Cocoa, Triple Sec, Blue Curacao, with a Baby Ruth candy bar…Oh Mrs. Crane, you’re a little monkey woman.
We didn‘t end up going on the Architectural Cruise but visiting the Chicago Theatre was an architectural experience I won’t forget, what an amazing building…and what a fun and fantastic city Chicago is.
The Cubs lost both games we attended but I did get to see the final innings of the Sunday win on WGN–TV after getting back to AZ. The clubs animated celebration after the victory seemed an exhale of emotions, finally getting a clutch win after losing many close ones. Perhaps the players will start to relax now and just have some fun and hit like they’re capable. A winning series against the Sox and strong run before the All-Star game would give the Cubs more confidence and put them in good position for another Central title when A-Ram returns for the second half. At least that’s my hope…
Check back this week for my thoughts on the new Cubs documentary “We Believe”. I have a few more of my photos from the trip below.
Chillin to the blues
Millennium Park Gardens
Amphitheater at Millennium Park
Millennium Park Bean