Monday, September 23, 2013

July 19- Chicago Cubs

I have no idea who the guy on the right is.

It was the fall of 1993. My older brother Adam and I had just been sent to live with our father after a lengthy and costly custody battle left my mother with no choice but to have us live on the other side of town. We were one week into the school year when I had to go from my Mrs. Carver’s fifth grade classroom at Leo B. Hart Elementary School to Mrs. Miller’s classroom at Discovery Elementary School. It was an awkward time. I had to leave behind all of my friends and start over from scratch. As weird as the transition was I am thankful for this time period as it taught me how to be an extrovert. I could have easily kept to myself and shied away from meeting new people, but ultimately that would have affected me for the rest of my life. One of the first friends I made was a kid I met on the playground during recess named Mike McBride. He was in the same grade as me, but was in a different classroom. As it turned out he had an older brother named Paul who was my brother Adam’s age and the four of us routinely hung out at the McBride house after school. As fate would have it, the McBride’s lived only two blocks down the street from our house on Feather River Road in Bakersfield, California.

The importance of this friendship laid the foundation for this post. On the first day my brother and I got together with the McBrides we took to the garage where the pool table resided. Their garage was completely white, as in there were no posters on the walls and a white carpet had been placed on the floor as it housed both the pool table and their father’s dark green convertible Jaguar which we weren’t allowed to touch. Even to this day I can’t help but wonder why their father thought it was a good idea to place such an expensive car next to a pool table and expect nothing to happen. Luckily nothing did happen, but still. Since we were the “visiting team” my brother and I were on racking duties while Paul took to the stereo to put on some jams. This was the first time I heard 10 by Pearl Jam.

Even though “Once” is the first track on the album Paul skipped it and started off with “Even Flow.” Even at the age of 10 I knew I was listening to something special. I asked Paul what he was playing and he, Brian and my brother all looked at me like I was crazy. Adam told me it was Pearl Jam and then added “dumbass” on the end. Needless to say, after that I never bothered to ask who a band was when I heard it, I conducted my own research. But that’s all beside the point. The point is that had I not made new friends, gone to their house and played pool it may have been a bit longer before I heard the amazing vocals of Eddie Vedder, sick licks of Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, tight bass of Jeff Ament and bitchin’ beats of Dave Krusen.

My girlfriend Angie Kinderman has been a massive Pearl Jam fan since she was 12-years-old. In her life she has attended 15 Pearl Jam shows and seven Eddie Vedder solo performances. In my lifetime I had yet to attend a Pearl Jam show, a fact that Angie routinely joked about why we could never be together. But, like the loving girlfriend/future wife that she is she made sure to fix that a few days after New Year’s of 2013 (this year). As a member of the Pearl Jam Fan Club Angie has the ability to enter a lottery for a chance to buy tickets to their shows. The one show in particular that she wanted to go to was the one that the band was most looking forward to this year, the Wrigley Field show. As luck would have it, Angie hit paydirt.

On the morning of Friday, July 19, 2013 Angie boarded a plane, leaving from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida while I boarded one from Portland, Oregon, both of us headed to Midway Airport in Chicago, Illinois. The two of us hadn’t seen each other since I had left Florida back in early May, so our reunion in the airport was especially satisfying. I’ll spare you the details of the heated make-out session in the terminal, but we walked hand-in-hand through the terminals and down to the L-train, headed to our hotel in downtown Chicago. The show was that night so we didn’t have a lot of time to hang around. We showered quickly, put on a change of clothes and met up with Angie’s friends Matt and Melissa from Minnesota.

We all chuttled together down about 10 blocks to the closest L-train station which took us directly to Addison. From there we headed straight to Wrigley Field to pick up our tickets before enjoying a plethora of adult beverages in the many bars, speakeasies and public houses that Wrigleyville had to offer. 

Since the three of them weren’t rookies to the Pearl Jam concert game there were a slew of friends that had acquired over the years from other shows, all of whom I was introduced to, but don’t exactly remember any of their names due to the amount of Old Style and Pabst Blue Ribbon I had consumed. The only time it seems that I didn’t have a beer in my hand was when Angie and I went and grabbed a slice of pizza from down the street. One of the coolest parts of that sojourn was that I wan into a guy with a pretty awesome Pearl Jam shirt from one of their gigs in Montreal.

As I’ve come to find out in the time that I’ve known Angie, and even in time before that, the members of Pearl Jam are all huge sports fans. All of their posters, patches, sticks, shirts and other swag over the years has in some way been reflective of the sports teams in whichever city they play in. When you get a free chance I highly recommend looking through some of the photos that show this. Most of their old stuff is pretty badass much like the Montreal Expos-style shirt above. But after our brief pizza-based intermission, it was back to drinking.

Hours passed, and the sun seemed to get brighter and hotter. It had been a while since I partook in day drinking before a big event and I was definitely unconditioned. With about an hour to go before the show I threw in the towel. Angie, born and raised in Wisconsin, showed me a thing or two about powering through. About a half hour before the show was slated to start we headed over. This was also about the time when everyone else had done their fair share of boozing on the streets and decided to take indoors. Our seats were ground level, which meant that we had to go in through the front entrance, make our way to the left field bleachers and head out through the ivy over to the third base side bullpen. Now, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to walk across the field at two ballparks, the Oakland Coliseum and Tropicana Field, but this was something special. Never in my life could I have ever dreamed to be standing on the field at Wrigley, and I made sure to document it as much as I possibly could.


The roadies were still setting things up so Angie and I chatted with a few of the folks around us. Then finally, around 8:45 PM, the show kicked off. They kicked everything off with “Release,” the 11th track off of Ten and then followed it up with “Nothingman,” “Present Tense,” “Hold On” and “Low Light.” It was around this time that we all started to notice clouds starting to creep in from behind the scoreboard in centerfield, but no one thought much of it at the time. 

It was also at this time that a girl in front of us who was too short to see over the person in front of her decided to stand up on her chair. It didn’t bother me as much as it did Angie and everyone else behind us, but we let it slide through the song “Come Back.” As Pearl Jam laid into their next song, “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” it was becoming apparent that the girl in front of us wasn’t going to budge. 

So rather than me being the “rude male” Angie took the lead and asked the girl to sit down because other people behind us couldn’t see. The girl then retorted, “No speak English,” you know, a total bitch move. What nobody expected was for Angie to say, “¿Puedes por favor siéntese? Todo el mundo detrás de usted no puede ver el espectáculo. Estás siendo muy grosero,” which translates to “Can you please sit down? Everyone behind you cannot see the show. You're being very rude.” At this point the girl just stood there, stunned that she had just been bested at her own game. Her boyfriend tried to come to the aid of his woman but was immediately halted by a “Now you’re just being rude” from the woman to my left and a “Shut the f--- up and sit down!” from behind me. For “not speaking English” the girl got down pretty fast after that. But more important out of all of this is the unanswered question of this show, or any show for that matter, which is: “Why the hell would you buy floor seats if you know you’re not going to be able to see over the person in front of you?” As “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” came to a close as did the show. Officials had informed the band that everything would need to be put on hold as the thunderstorm that had been brewing was about to take siege over Wrigley. Vedder took to the microphone and let everyone know what was going on and said that they would get back to things in “hopefully 45 minutes at most.” With little options and no desire to get struck by lightning, Angie and I retreated to the concourse areas.

45 minutes would have totally been fine; however, it ended up being a near three hour delay. Granted, this was of no fault of Wrigley Field or Pearl Jam, but it still sucked to be cooped up in borderline boiler room conditions, waiting for the show to commence. After two hours of waiting Angie and I said screw it to the floor seats and made our way to covered seats on the third base side so we could not only get a better view of the stage, but to be able to breathe clean air and sit in a chair, and not on the ever-disgusting walkways.

At about 10:45 PM security reopened the floor, and everyone who had general admission tickets for that section took off into a dead sprint to get their spots back. Angie and I were ever so grateful to not be mixed up in that crowd, except when the music started back up about 25 minutes after that. It’s a mystery as to whether it was Eddie Vedder’s intention to play this particular song next or if the weather had anything to do with it, but it was perfect for everything that we had all just been through.

In the history of songs that have been written about baseball there are few that can hold up to the test of time. Some are very dated like Natalie Cole’s “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit that Ball” or “Catfish” by Bob Dylan, while others are eternal like John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” and Dr. John’s version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” In keeping with this tradition Eddie Vedder wrote and sang an anthem about Chicago Cubs fans and Wrigley Field for Hall of Famer Ernie Banks. Do yourself a favor and just watch this. It’s the song, the creation of the song and appearance by a special guest.

I never really hung on to my affection with Pearl Jam as I got older, but I have enjoyed several of their songs over the years, but I never felt as much of a kinship with any of their songs until the first time I heard “All the Way.” Everything about it is perfect. Being able to hear and sing along with that song in its home with my sweetie was all I needed that night. Everything else they played was an added bonus in my eyes.

Pearl Jam played 16 more songs before leaving the stage, only to come back out to play nine more as the clock was quickly approaching 2 o’clock in the morning. Not wanting to push their luck and never be allowed to play at Wrigley again, they complied and ended the show after their cover of Neil Young’s classic “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World.” As the crowds took to the stairs and concourses I noticed that they were allowing people to leave through the exits in right field. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to take more photos on the field, let alone be able to touch the ivy, I quickly grabbed Angie’s hand and guided her down the steps and to the entrance just to the right of the dugout. Since we had wristbands for the floor seats I figured it wouldn’t be an issue to get back onto the field. As it turned out, I was correct. The security guard could have been a jerk about everything especially with as late as it was, instead he smile and told us “have a good night” as he let us through.

There was a memorabilia stand set up right where home plate would be so Angie made her way through the crowd to see of there was anything worth buying. Most of the cool stuff had all ready been pilfered through, so nice dice. Angie and I took a leisurely stroll from third to first base side, snapping a few photos on out way to the exit. 

This was the only exposed clump of grass from the night, which I made sure not pull out or damage. 

We had to get a photo in the visiting dugout.

I had heard that if you do the stadium tour you’re not allowed to touch the ivy. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, we both made sure to take advantage.

As we left the stadium we noticed the large line of people waiting to get back onto the L-train to head wherever. Rather than just stand there like a couple of suckers we made a break to the McDonald’s across the street for a snack before waiting for our chance to make our way back to the hotel. Because after all, it’s not like we were getting The Matterhorn or Space Mountain at Disneyland. Weak. Angie, her friends Matt and Melissa and I did hit a Chicago White Sox game the day after the show, but I pretty much covered all the best parts a few days ago.

Overall I have to say it was an amazing trip. It was the third time I’ve had the luxury of catching a concert inside of a baseball stadium with the other two being Third Eye Blind in Nationals Park and Bruce Springsteen at Fenway Park, but I’ll get into that story in another post. One of the more enjoyable, personal moments from the trip was when I was able to hit the New Era Flagship Store before Angie and I headed to the airport to fly home. It was great because we were able to meet up with two of my friends who I met in Buffalo during the #CrewEra13 trip, Chris Cornolo (@ccornolo) and Alex Mendoza (@Type1SXC). Chris happened to be in town for a three-day music fest put on by Phish and Alex lived just outside of the city. It had been a little less than month since we had all seen each other, but we all had stories to tell and hats to pick up. Actually for me, it was the one time I had ever walked into a New Era store and not purchased anything. Crazy, I know.

Onto the hat. The Cubs first used this cap, or at least a variation of it, in 1934 for home games, but it disappeared after that until 1957 when the Cubs introduced this cap which I wrote about on April 26th. The only difference between the one on my head and the 1957 cap is the white piping going down the sides. In 1958 the Cubs ditched the piping and left this beautiful cap which has served as the Cubs’ game cap every year until 1994 when they introduced the red-billed road cap. So, from 1994-2008 this cap only served as the home cap until the red-billed cap was discontinued following the 2008 which put reinstated the all-blue cap back to its original game style platform. An interesting little side note is that the Pearl Jam show was the first place I had ever worn this cap, even though I’ve owned it for well over a year. I suppose I just needed the perfect time, place and person to be with.

6/5/85: For this mark I direct you to the video. Seriously, it’s only like 100 seconds long and you’ll easily recognize it. If you didn’t watch it, this is the date in witch Alan Ruck, Mia Sara and Matthew Broderick attended the Cubs game versus the Atlanta Braves in the scene from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Now, what I didn’t know until February 6, 2011 is that no one, at least of note, had written about or discovered the particular date in which the cast and crew attended the game. Well, that’s not necessarily true. In fact, I had actually figured it out back in 2002 with little to work with other than box scores and the Harry Caray sound bites from the film. I was 19-years-old at the time when I solved it and did a brief write up in my old Gateway computer; however, that computer has since bit the dust along with anything that I write from my high school and junior college days. So, as a result of not backing up my files, Larry Granillo from Baseball Prospectus was given the distinction as the guy who figured it out… nine years after I did. Here’s his article if you want to give it a gander. 

As a kid "Ferris Bueller's..." was sort of my Catcher in the Rye. I still quote it like crazy and the philosophies are still dear to my heart, hence why you always find me running around, going on adventures. I've never lived life with regret, but I know that would if I never took the amount of chances as I have done. If there is any lesson I can teach to anyone it's that you should never limit yourself. Never tell yourself it's a bad time, or you can't afford it, etc. You always have the time. You can always afford it if you save and commit yourself to whatever you desire. There's nothing more depressing than keeping yourself from your wants and desires. I was fortunate enough to learn this at a very young age from my mother who would never let me settle for mediocrity. I challenge you to live by this creed as well.

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