Nov 9, 2015

No runs, no hits, no worries in Wrigleyville

As I continue to catch up on all of my delinquent blog ideas from the summer, I’ve decided to look back at a particularly important day at Wrigley Field this year, as The April finally saw her first Chicago Cubs game at the Friendly Confines.  

Of course, we were blissfully unaware of what might happen when I purchased the tickets way back in February.  We were just hoping the team would be competitive, and the sun would shine on a warm Saturday afternoon.  The weather cooperated; the team didn’t.  But it was still a rare, great season to be a Cubs fan, and as it turned out, we picked a historically significant game for The April’s first at Wrigley Field.

Happy to be on the bus and not the El 
The day started off leisurely enough, as we took full advantage of the remote parking lot the team provides for free(!) to game day ticket holders.  It’s about a 2 ½ mile ride, and yes it is just a school bus, but it beats dealing with parking and dodging the foot traffic closer to the ballpark.  The April was just happy I didn’t make her take the El’s Red Line.

So, it was all smiles as we boarded a couple of hours before game time … plenty of time to wander around Wrigleyville before entering the ballpark.

It should be no surprise, then, that it didn’t take long for us to find a watering hole once the bus let us off right in front of the marquee.   

My traditional first stop on game day:  Murphy’s Bleachers.  It’s at the corner of Sheffield and Waveland, but you won’t need directions.  Just look for the massive crowd across the street from the bleacher gate.  

Patrons really should behave in case there really is a police precinct station on the other side of that wall.  
I’ve been going to Murphy’s a long time, and it still surprises me how expansive the place has become.  But constant expansion seems to be a part of its history; it was reportedly the first place on the block to offer rooftop seating for games.  

If you can't get tickets, at least you can stare at this replica on game day.
Ernie Banks jacket proudly on display at Murphy's Bleachers
Walking through Murphy’s on game day can feel like you’re in a crowded maze of drunks, ballpark food and sports memorabilia, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.  

Murphy's bartenders are busy but quick!
Fortunately, there seems to be a sizable bar in every room, so you’re never waiting too long for a beer.  
Enjoying the atmosphere at Murphy's Bleachers
If Murphy’s feels like a seemingly endless maze of partying, the Cubby Bear will probably make you think they turned a large warehouse into a sports bar.  Located diagonally across the street from Wrigley Field’s front entrance, it’s another bar you can’t miss … and the interior would feel cavernous if it wasn’t always busy (it’s also a popular music venue).  But you’re guaranteed to find a spot to stand even if all the seats are taken.  

My Harry Caray tribute -- a pre-game ice-cold Budweiser at the Cubby Bear  
We lucked into a spot near the main bar and even got to sit for a while to take in all the chaos and watch the bartender hold down the fort.  

New ball cap, ready to wear.
There are so many more bars worth visiting in Wrigleyville, but those two should be on any first-time visitor’s list.  The April also squeezed in some time to browse through the two sportswear stores across from the ballpark on Addison before moving on to our seats.

From our vantage point, we had a pretty good view of Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta …

… and no matter where you sit, you can’t help but notice the new video boards.  Being a Wrigley Field traditionalist, I wasn’t sure I’d like the new technology so boldly on display, but I actually got used to it very quickly, and it does add an enjoyable dimension to watching the game.   

A blurry view of Phillies players celebrating a no-hitter.  
Speaking of the game, well, Jake Arrieta had been having a pretty good year to this point, but there was no way he was going to win today.  That’s because Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels decided to throw the first no-hitter against the Cubs in 50 years, and the first no-hitter at Wrigley Field since 1972.  I would consider that “Cub luck” for The April, but in actuality it was very cool to see a no-hitter in person.  Everyone was rooting for it by time the bottom of the 9th inning started and the outcome of the game was not in question.  

Frankly, I think this game must have triggered something in Jake Arrieta because he’d start one of the most dominant post-All Star game runs any pitcher has ever seen, finishing the year with a league-leading 22 wins, not losing once in the last two months and giving up less than one earned run per game after the All-Star break.  And he decided to throw in a no-hitter of his own, too.  

We couldn't resist the Hamm's Beer at Wrigleyville North.
After the game, The April and I decided we weren’t ready for a school bus ride back to our car.  Instead, we walked back, making a few pit stops along the way to both drown our sorrows and celebrate the day as baseball fans, including Wrigleyville North at the corner of Sheffield/Sheridan and Byron.  As an added bonus, we waited out the traffic by taking our time getting back to our car.  

All in all, it was a very full and eventful first trip to Wrigley Field for The April.  It makes me wonder what could happen to top it next season.   

No comments:

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...