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June: The Friendly Confines [Fukubukuro 2010]
Jan 7th, 2011 by Dan

Wrigley Field is baseball. No other ballpark I’ve ever been to has exuded quite so much of that je ne sais quoi that makes baseball so great. You know, I think I do know what makes Wrigley so great for baseball. It’s the fact that no matter what year it is, no matter how many garish Toyota signs are up in the outfield, or how the game of baseball has changed since its inception, the Cubs show up in a Wrigley laid out almost identically to its opening day in 1914, complete with a manual scoreboard and ivy walls, and play ball in a park that has become one with Chicago. Wrigley Field is a constant. No matter what you do to it, watching a ball game feels like you’re back in the 1950s. Wrigley is comforting in that way. It immediately makes you feel like you’ve been watching baseball there forever, even during your first visit.

My good friend Duffy lives out in Chicago. She’s getting her PhD. in psychology at Northwestern, which is absolutely amazing, but I miss hanging out with her terribly. A few of my friends and I decided to remedy that whole “we miss Duffy” problem by heading out to the Windy City to take in some good, old-fashioned baseball at the oldest National League ballpark in America. Our tickets were for a day game, my favorite time to watch baseball, and came in at a respectable $40 for pretty darn good seats in the upper decks. Everything but the opponent was looking good, but at least I’d potentially get to see Hideki Matsui take an at bat in the Friendly Confines (NOTE: Matsui did not play).

Our trip on the ‘El’ was uneventful, but it was filled with the same enthusiasm for baseball that I’d seen on rare occasion in Washington, but often on the trains that crisscross New York City when attending Yankees or Mets games. The closer we got, the more packed each car became with that beautiful Cubs blue that the team wears (Quick aside, there is no sports team color that I find hotter than Cubs blue (Gator blue comes in a close second). Maybe I’ve dated too many blue-eyed girls (Cubs blue does things to their eyes that ought to be illegal), but it’s got this perfect aspect to it that makes a girl damn near irresistible to me on a hot summer day. What this says about my psychological health and why I’m not inherently attracted to Marlins teal or Cornell red, I’m not quite sure.). Excitement built as we approached the Anderson stop and I could see the stadium looming over the surrounding buildings.

Did Yankee Stadium ever actually sit within New York City the way that Wrigley Field is nestled within Chicago? Why don’t more ballparks do this? Townhouses line three of Wrigley Field’s four sides, some with bleachers on their roofs for fans to watch the game. The separation between the ballpark and those houses: one regular-sized city street. Citi Field is right in the middle of Flushing, but the giant parking lot is on one side and I don’t think the other has much in the way of actual New York City. These are missed opportunities to make your ballpark, no, your team a part of the community. Instead Yankee Stadium has done all it could to alienate New York City. Ticket prices are astronomical, parks have been destroyed to construct parking garages, and everything about the team screams “We are too good for you.

The Phillies are a blue team. It annoys the people who think baseball should be an elite institution, but Philadelphians know no other way to do things. Their team is managed by a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy, the fans are allowed to bring food into the ballpark, and members of the team that don’t seem like they belong in Philly quickly find themselves on the shit list of fans. The Cubs aren’t this way; they’re a little more like the Red Sox, with their pink hats and facetime-seeking fans, but Wrigley…Wrigley handles everything the way a ballpark should. Wrigley belongs to the people. You can sit behind the plate for $100 or less (assuming you could find a ticket the almost always sold out games).

Despite not winning for over 100 years, the Cubs are a premium product without being as stuck up as the Yankees. That’s the overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t escape while I was in Wrigley. This team, one of the biggest, most storied franchises in the world, both loves and is loved by the fans. I’ve yet to attend a game at Fenway, the other remaining “classic” stadium, but I find it hard to believe that any ballpark could be more perfect or more baseball than Wrigley Field.

The Famous Sign - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Chicago Cubs 19 June 2010

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