All the way to Chicago for a Baseball Game?
Steve got incredible tickets for Sunday night baseball. I had never been to a night game at Wrigley, as they happen so infrequently. But these tickets were in the second row on the third base side. Right behind where the backstop fence becomes unprotected. Only the best seats I have ever had for a regular season game. But that thrill led to another when up walked Ernie Banks and filled the seats right behind us. Banks is the best player in Chicago Cubs history, and he’s the best baseball player who never played in the post season. He was led in by the cute PR girl that all teams seem to have and a stocky quasi bodyguard type.
We all shook his hand and said our hellos, and we left him to tear into his bag of Cracker Jack. Shortly after he was given a draft beer and was experiencing the game just like we were. During the national anthem, he sang and had the rest of us around him singing. When Mr. Cub didn’t think Steve’s wife was singing loud enough, he tapped her. Kristin would look around and Banks would tell to her sing it. This was repeated about four times before the song was over. The DJ then struck up Sinatra singing Chicago My Kind of Town. Ernie sang along and we tried to keep up. I am probably a little better at New York, New York.
Ernie then asked what being at Wrigley Field meant to me. I told him that being at Wrigley Field was like being at Church, hallowed ground. He looked at me in a way that made me first think I was blaspheming real church, but he then smiled and said he agreed. He liked how I said it and asked if I was a writer. He then said that he wanted to write about this experience and asked if he could use what I said about it being like a church. Suddenly, I realized the conversation wasn’t just the chitchat the celebrities engage in, but actual conversation.
So I probed him a little. He said that the experience of being at the ballpark is so big that he only needs to go once a year to be filled up with it. Since he had attended the entire series, he probably wouldn’t be going again this year.
He feared that the Tribune Company was only concerned with profits. He hoped baseball would continue to be played at Wrigley, because the team belongs to the people. Normally that kind of comment would start me down the road to explaining the reasons why profits actually help to make baseball better, and why the people collectively cannot own anything of value for long. But instead of saying anything, I realized that Banks had 512 more home runs than I do. It's easy to argue these facts with PhDs, but never with an amicable power hitting shortstop.
Instead, I told him that Dad met him in the 1950s when the players and fans entered from the same tunnel. He was in street clothes, but dad recognized him and got an autograph. He asked me for my address and said he would look me up as he sometimes travels to Orlando. Surrealism at the ballpark.
So just when I think that Ernie is going to be giving me running commentary during the whole game, the real owners of the seats show up. I’ve seen many a fan scooted out of seats, but never a Hall of Famer. It turns out that young cute PR girl is more beauty than brains. Ernie’s tickets were actually for the next section over. We can only wonder what Ernie was sharing over there with his new friends, which included future Hall of Famer, Ryne Sandberg.
Some other fans sitting nearby berated the poor guy who owned the seats. But I wasn’t angry. It was like we stole those 15 minutes. So when the Yankees lost 8-7 on a horrible pick off move with two outs in the 9th, I wasn’t upset. The day had just been too much fun. Ernie was the least disappointing icon I have ever met.