Aisle 434, Row 5, Seat 2

By Chris Rewers on Friday, April 30, 2010

The phone rang Wednesday morning and I had an ominous feeling. This can't be good news, I thought. And it wasn't.

My buddy, Ray, was unable to accompany me to that afternoon's Cubs-Nationals game at Wrigley Field.

We had each been handed a single ticket while attending a funeral the previous Saturday. I'm not sure if the gentleman was a friend of the deceased or of my uncle, but he dined near my outgoing 89-year-old grandfather at the funeral luncheon and tolerated him - so God bless him.

"Are you still gonna go?" Ray asked after giving me the bad news.

"I owe it to our readers," I responded.

It's a tough job.

Oh, the glory of playing hooky in order to attend a Wrigley weekday game. I guess that makes me one of the "nickel-dime people" that Cubs manager Lee Elia called out on April 29, 1983.

If 85 percent of the world is working, I feel fortunate to be part of the 15 percent that comes out here.

I had not attended a game solo in more than a decade, since I had lived near the corner of Racine and Waveland during the summers of 1997 and '98. In those days, I was working midnights and a bleacher seat cost $12. I would get home from work at 6:30 a.m., take a nap, wake up at 1 p.m. and go to the game, get home sometime between 4 and 5, nap again, get up for work at 9 p.m., and do it all over again. My metabolism could never handle such a schedule today. Those were the days!

I had felt rushed in my previous two visits to Wrigley Field this season, so I very much enjoyed taking my time after getting off a Red Line train at Addison at 11:30 Wednesday morning. I had 110 minutes to kill until the first pitch.

I made a beeline to the see-through fence in the right-field corner on Sheffield. As I finished my morning coffee, I watched the Cubs finish batting practice. The wind was noticeably gusting in, so it was no surprise to see ball after ball land on the outfield grass and on the warning track. The ball hawks across the street on Sheffield were getting no action whatsoever.

Upon entering the ballpark in the right-field corner, I enjoyed lunch at the Sheffield Grill before making the long climb to my seat on the 400 level.

Whenever I climb the ramps to the upper deck, I always think of the time my grandparents took me to a game on June 14, 1985.

My grandfather, I suppose, thought he was doing a nice thing by taking his wife and grandson to a ballgame. But he probably regretted it by the time we sat down. It took my grandmother, who suffered from emphysema, about an hour to reach her seat. She had to stop often on her way up the ramps - and on every stop she let my poor grandfather know what she thought of his decision to buy upper-deck tickets. Poor Pops.

The view from the 400 level is my favorite vantage point at Wrigley Field.


From here, I could see the entire field (with the exception of the right-field corner and the visitor's bullpen) and I was able to more easily gauge fly balls than from the lower-deck seats. It's a way better view than from the 200 level, and plus it was not crowded. I had my entire row to myself until a group of late-comers showed up in the fifth inning.

I struck up a conversation with a gentleman across the aisle from me who was sporting an interleague cap that the White Sox gave out to fans attending the first Cubs-Sox regular season game on June 16, 1997. The Cubs rolled to an 8-3 victory that day. I wear my cap that commemorates that great day from time to time, but hadn't seen somebody else wearing one in many, many years.

"Were you at that game?" I asked.

"No," he answered. "My friend gave it to me."

Oh well.

Someone named Michael McDermott performed an acoustic version of the national anthem. My father-in-law, Denis, had he been with me, would have been upset with McDermott's rendition.

"Sing it like it's written!" he'd moan.

This is the second time in three days that I had attended a Cubs-Nationals game. Could you believe that Washington's two biggest (pre-Strasburg) attractions - Ivan Rodriguez and Ryan Zimmerman - did not start either of the pair I attended?

Bad news in the second inning. A group that included two male twentysomethings and a female cohort showed up to their seats (Section 434, Row 4, Seats 6-8) a row in front of mine. I viscerally hated them almost instantly. All three of them dropped the F-bomb every other word, paid no attention to the game, and then they all lit cigarettes.

A guy in Row 3 informed them, "Smoking is not allowed at Wrigley Field!"

"I don't give a ... " was the response of one of the morons.

A few minutes later, the same guy stood up while speaking on his cell phone.

"I'm standing up and waving ... Ya! Ha. Ha. I see you too. Awesome!!"

Bob Brenly says that cell phones should be checked at the door when attending a ballgame. At that moment, I couldn't have agreed more.

Then they started passing around a liquor bottle. An inning-and-a-half later, one of the guys stood up, attempted to climb over the seat in front of him, and went face first into the concrete.

"Whoa!!!" shouted our whole section.

Sadly, it was the most passionate fan reaction of the game. Happily, the morons departed. Security showed up an inning later, but the troublemakers were long gone.

The Cubs lost 3-2, but I enjoyed the company of my neighbors who remained the rest of the game. They included a group of seniors who seemed to be enjoying themselves although they complained from time to time about how steep the upper deck is (I guess they've never been seated in the heavens of U.S. Cellular Field.). And a 16-month-old boy, attending his first Cubs game and seated in my row with his father, gave me "five" and "knuckles."

The little guy, I'm sure, won't remember the moment. But he left an everlasting impression on me.

Being part of the 15 percent is indeed a privilege!

Posted Friday, April 30, 2010 by Chris Rewers

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