I'll tell ya, I've planned some good vacations in my time. Bermuda in July. Turks and Caicos in August. Martha's Vineyard in September. But nothing, my friends, nothing, compares to the moment of epiphany I had some three months ago when I looked at the Mets' schedule, and thought "Hey...maybe we should go to Wrigley in July." We're talking 60 straight hours of beer, baseball, partying, sunshine (interrupted by one insane rain delay), beer, more baseball, more partying, more beer. Absurd.
We start our tale on Friday morning. Toasty Joe and Tommy M hit the right-field bleachers in time for batting practice. (We would soon be joined by Bookie D and the others, who were out scalping our extra ticket.) We're super-early, so we get seats in the fourth row. Here's our view
. Sitting there, watching players mill about on the field, sipping a beer, watching the stands fill up, sitting under the great olde-timey scoreboard, Toasty Joe is a happy man. Here is the proof
of that. But lo and behold, I would become happier. Willie Randolph saunters over (apparently he shags flies during batting practice -who knew), picks up a ball, and begins chatting with Wags and Oliver
. Me wearing a Mets jersey, I start to clamor for that damn ball - I even whip out the big guns ("Yes, Joe!! It's toasted!!"). But Willie isn't listening. So after 5 more minutes of chatting, Willie takes the ball out of his glove, and the clamoring starts anew. Suddenly he sees me - yes, me, the pathetic 32-year-old with the Mets jersey waving his arms wildly - points at me, and hurls it my way. Now gents, I've been going to games for many years, and this has never happened to me before. So perhaps I can blame nerves, butterflies, whatever you want to call it, but the ball glances off my left hand and smacks me in the chest. Hard. Thank god the bleachers were half empty, because I had no competition in the ensuing battle to pick the ball up off the ground. In the end, I got me a few boos from the bleacher bums, a very sore chest, but my very first ball
(which, for some reason, was from the 2005 All-Star Game. Go figure). And how appropriate that it was provided by Mr. Toasted himself. A very good start to the weekend.
Soon enough, the game started and we were joined by our other friends. As for the game, I can't really tell you much. Some players ran around, a few balls were hit, and some pitches were made. By the 5th inning, the score was looking good
for us. But then, anarchy. The skies, which had been looking gray all morning, began to open up. Only a few drops fell on us, but then all of a sudden we see this absolute wall of rain drifting towards us from left field. We, of course, did what any normal people would do. We stood and cheered, and vowed to tough it out. People, let me tell you: I thought I knew what rain was. I thought I knew what wet was. But standing in that deluge at Wrigley for a half hour was the rainiest rain and the wettest wet I've ever experienced. Dogs and cats, living together....mass hysteria! Every stitch of clothing was soaked through. (Miraculously, both my cell phone and camera survived). But then, the rain left as quickly as it arrived ... and, in our little group, there was much rejoicing
. So the game resumed among sunny and oppressively hot skies, the Cubs went down meekly, and we all got nice and loaded. I personally started several "Jose-Josejosejose-jose, Jose" chants for Valentin (Bookie objected as blasphemy to the real Jose). Here is a good shot
of Bookie D, Apu, GBerg, Tommy M, Toasty Joe (and some random douchebag in Ray-Bans) enjoying the weather. Final score, 6-3 Mets.
When the game ends, the true Wrigley experience begins. Unless you're at the poolside bar at the Playboy mansion, you will not have a better time at a bar than you do at Murphy's
, or the Cubby Bear after a game. Met fans, as well as assorted other characters
, were swarming everywhere. Women were buying rounds of drinks for us (unheard of in New York). There was great live music. Eventually Flitgirl showed up at the drunkenest part of the night, and got swept into the fray
. Just a fantastic time, capped off by this great shot of Apu, which I hope he puts in a frame.
Now let's jump ahead to Saturday morning, when somehow Flitgirl convinces me and my hangover to take a quick trip to the Art Institute before the game. Nice stuff. A famous painting
. But I was already thinking ahead to that day's game, when Tommy and I would be in much different seats from the day before. These were in the upper tier, behind home plate on the third base side. Here's our view
during batting practice.
Totally different experience in these seats. I wouldn't say they were "less fun" than the bleachers (OK, maybe a little), but now we were actually paying attention to the game, which was a taut pitcher's duel until the Mets jumped out in front with 2 runs in the 6th. But one misplayed triple by Endy opened the floodgates, and the game was effectively over right then and there. At least I was able to snap this cool action shot of Sugar Pants fouling one off.
Alas, the final score was Cubs 9, Mets 2. I should've known some bad karma was in store when Billy Buckner threw out the first pitch
and sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" to boot. Let me also note that it was so hot on Saturday that Rick Peterson took off his jacket. Fortunately I have photographic evidence
After the game, more of the same.
More beer. More music. More chatting up random people. More happiness, as you can see in this picture of Toasty, Bookie and Tom. And, finally, sheer exhaustion won out, and back to the hotel I went.
What a weekend. And what did we learn from all of this? Shea Stadium stinks. Yankee Stadium stinks. They all stink. If GEICO Field (opening in 2009) is even half as much fun as Wrigley, I'll be one happy fan. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go fondle my Willie ball.