Saturday's game between the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals did not have the playoff implications that I had hoped for when I purchased tickets in January, but regardless of the standings, I still very much was looking forward to it. My 2-year-old son, Will, was attending his first game at Wrigley Field since he was an infant.
Will didn't show much interest in baseball last year, but he has come a long way in 2010. He'll sit on my lap from time to time while I watch Cubs games on TV. He has a glove and enjoys playing catch. He likes hitting even more and prefers that I pitch a Wiffle ball to him rather than taking cuts off a tee.
We boarded the front car of a Red Line train at Sox-35th and headed north. If we'd spent the day riding the line back and forth between Howard and 95th, Will would have been happy. He stood on a seat and peered out the front window, greeting passengers as they boarded as we passed through the Loop and the Near North Side.
When we got off at Addison, I carried our 3-foot, 50-pound bundle of joy all the way through Gate D in the right-field corner. My wife, Denise, instructed us to go to our seats while she hung back and went through the longer bag-check line.
Will held my hand as we climbed the stairs to the lower-deck concourse and I had to beg him several times to keep moving. We were climbing the stairs to the aisle in the terrace reserved section as Michael McDermott began his acoustic rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
I had removed my white-crowned Cubs holiday cap as we made our way up to Row 9 and then politely stood in front of the end seats of Row 10 until McDermott completed his performance. Because we had proceeded to climb the stairs during the song, we apparently violated an etiquette rule. A gentleman in the end seat of Row 9, turned around, glared at me, and muttered something about the national anthem.
Sorry, dude. I meant no disrespect, but I thought it was probably a good idea to move my son out of the aisle. It wasn't like I was yuking it up with somebody on my cell phone. This well-meaning guy should learn to exercise some common sense. It's something that is sorely lacking throughout society - from lawmakers, police officers, school administrators, media, and umpires and refereees.
After we settled into our seats, I pulled up the hood on Will's sweatshirt and zipped up his jacket. The weather, as is off the case at Wrigley Field, was drasctically different from the games I head attended on Tuesday and Thursday. The wind was gusting in from right, off the lake, under a coal gray sky. The weatherman said that the temperature would be in the 60s, but it felt much cooler.
When Denise joined us, she brought Will some Connie's pizza which he seemed to enjoy. He snuggled up on Denise's off and had drifted off to sleep by the third inning in spite of all of the action on the field. The Cubs rallied from an early three-run deficit to take a 4-3 lead through three.
In the top of the fifth, I went on a food run and ordered pastrami sandwiches from the Sheffield Grill in the right-field corner. The cramped restaurant was packed with Cubs and Cardinals fans who apparently preferred to watch the game in insulated comfort rather than subject themselves to the elements. There was a loud groan when a Sam Fuld line drive hit Cardinals pitcher Blake Hawksworth on the side of the face in the bottom of the fifth. And another collective groan when the replay was shown on the TV monitors.
Our sandwiches were tasty and filling. Thick, lean slices of pastrami were piled high on rye bread and topped with saurkraut, melted swiss cheese, and hot mustard. It was served alongside potato chips and a pickle spear and cost $8.50.
I returned to our seats with the game still in the bottom of the fifth. Denise and Will were gone and there was quite a mess left below our seats.
Dave, who sits in front of us and whom we buy our tickets from, told me that I had missed quite a bit of carnage. Will woke up from his nap and proceeded to throw up. That kind of sums up the Cubs' season, doesn't it? Dave was the first of many to tell me not to sweat it. Will was not the first person at Wrigley Field to vomit nor is he likely to be the last. Dave informed me that Denise and Will had gone to first aid.
There was enough room in a row for the Cardinals fans who were seated to our right and regular Robert and his wife to our left to move over a few seats, and I thank all of those seated around us for being so understanding and helpful.
While I waited for Denise and Will to return, I enjoyed my lunch, watched the game, sang along with actor James Denton who led the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch, and booed as the Wave, which originated in the right-field bleachers, made its way around the ballpark five or six times in the eighth inning.
A young woman seated in front of me heard me moaning about the Wave and said I was being an old foggie. The Wave is fun, she told me. This kind of thinking, I believe, is becoming prevalent at Wrigley Field. It bothers me a lot.
I told her, "We don't do the Wave at Wrigley Field."
"Well, we're doing it today," she responded.
In the bottom of the seventh, I received a text from Denise that they were going to remain in first aid and that I should wait for someone from customer service to bring me a plastic bag to place our soiled belongings in. The bag was delivered as Daniel Descalso led off the ninth inning for St. Louis.
As I packed our belongings, the sense of finality began to set in. This would be my last trip to Wrigley Field until April 1, 2011. This wasn't the crushing, empty feeling that I felt during my final game of the 2004 season, but my last game of the season always makes me sad.
I was hoping to get my picture taken with my son, with the backdrop of the center-field scoreboard, after the game. But, like the fortunes of my favorite team, my final ballpark experience of 2009 did not work out they way I anticipated it would. I understood that like so many other things regarding the Cubs such a moment would have to wait 'til next year.