Saturday, February 22, 2014

100 Years of Baseball Heaven

She's my all-time favorite Cub.
Oh, I love Ernie Banks and Ron Santo. Even though I never saw them play, I was raised with an appreciation of them the way I was taught to respect past presidents and other dignitaries. Growing up, I followed my dad's lead and cheered loudest for Ryne Sandberg. As I became my own fan, I fell in love with pitching, and the likes of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. And even with his fall from grace, I can't help but think fondly of Sammy Sosa. In recent years, I've hung my hopes on the fresh faces, so it's been Darwin Barney and Anthony Rizzo.

They all have a place in my heart, but eventually... none of them stay. They get traded or retire, and in the end, they move on.
Not Wrigley.

Wrigley Field endures.

100 years ago, she was built as "Weeghman Park" in a league that would soon after fold, for a team that no longer exists. After Boston's Fenway Park, Wrigley is the oldest stadium in MLB, and easily the prettiest. Yes, okay- I concede my bias, but I ask you to survey her finery: the ivy and brick walls, the hand-turned scoreboard, the grand red marquee, and the gorgeous Chicago skyline. Now tell me who's prettier?
(You know you want to...)

As as a West Coast Cubs' fan, most of my visits to Wrigley have been courtesy of WGN and my living room tv. Harry Caray was my ambassador and taught me to watch the flags for the way the wind was blowing off Lake Michigan. It was Harry who narrated the peeks at the crowds that gathered on Waveland Avenue when Sammy Sosa starting hitting the first of all his impossible home runs. Harry's voice will always exist inside my head at a pounding volume, since my dad would turn the speakers up to maximum during every 7th inning stretch. When I reached my seat for my first game at Wrigley in 2007, I quickly located the press box and could almost see Harry swinging his microphone at us while belting out "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

I remember years before, walking in San Francisco, and seeing a panhandler with a Cubs' hat and a sign that said, "Will Write Songs for $$$." I gave him a dollar, and he smiled at my husband's hat and t-shirt. "You ever been to Wrigley?" he asked. When I said we had not, he gave a small gasp. "You have to go!! It's like... it's like... *baseball heaven.*" Then he strummed a few chords on his guitar and sang a few monotone lines I don't sharply remember about the ups and downs of being a Cubs' fan. "Baseball heaven," on the other hand, stuck.

It might seem like a team who hasn't won a championship in over a century couldn't possibly know what heaven is like, let alone act as celestial hosts to the rest of the baseball world. It's a fair assumption, since most people see heaven as the ultimate reward, home to the King of Kings, with mansions of gold, etc. Baseball heaven might then be in the Bronx, I guess.

It's not in the Bronx.
It's on Chicago's North Side.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3.
Our championship treasury empty, the evidence is clear: Jesus is a Cubs' fan, and Wrigley Field is baseball heaven.

Loving the Cubs demands a poor spirit, a humble heart, and a meek tolerance of trials. It's not easy. We have no player who's won us titles, and every heir apparent we pick has fallen short. It's a seemingly endless experiment in patience and disappointment. Our balm, our reward, is Wrigley... a place where baseball is joyous- not because of the win, but because it is baseball.


1 comment:

  1. I love this. And it seems that I owe you a trip to Wrigley. This summer will be your second time going to The Real Baseball Heaven (no asterisk required) with me. Once the Jeter retires we'll make a plan to see all the ball parks. But, Wrigley should prolly be first.

    My favorite part of this is the idea of Harry Carey as an ambassador. I think that is exactly what he was.

    Also. I like baseball, and memoirs, and you. So hey, finally, a blog that speaks to me!