Quick disclaimer right at the top – My phone is old. If you think the quality of some/all of these pictures sucks, you are right.
Game One of this trip was at always-wonderful Wrigley Field. Fuck what those Flying Rats in St. Louis tell you, Wrigley is the Real Baseball Heaven. A couple guys in our little group had never been there before and they got to see a dandy, with Kyle Hendricks generating a steady stream of groundouts and the offense exploding for a 5-run 6th inning.
We even got to see Ryan Dempster doing his impression of Will Ferrell doing his impression of Harry Caray for the 7th inning stretch. Far too often those guest singers are train wrecks, but we got lucky here with a fan-favorite former player having some fun.
The only real downside of our seats is that we had a pretty cockeyed view of the biggest new video board in left, but that W flag above the scoreboard looks good from any angle.
After the game we feasted on Lou Malnati’s until we could barely move, but not before making a quick little stop at a Jewel-Osco to pick up the new breakfast of champions…
I still haven’t decided if I want to leave the box factory-sealed, or if I want to slice the bottom flaps open with a razor, take the Rizzo’s out to eat them, and then superglue the bottom flaps back together.
The Main Course
This was the big day, the event the whole mini-road trip was built around. And it happened at the Corn Crib, home of the Cornbelters.
See, I wasn’t making either of those names up. This Frontier League ballpark was the site of the Cubs/Cards Legends game.
Quick Sidebar — For those of you that don’t know, the Frontier League is an independent league in the Midwest region and a damn fine way to watch a ball game on the cheap. Due to rules regarding the age and professional experience of all players, the teams are primarily made up of undrafted college players. Player salaries range from about $800 to $1600 a month. Only two umpires are used. If you catch a foul ball, you can take it to the gift shop and exchange it for a coupon for a free haircut (or obviously just keep it). Nobody is getting rich here, it’s just guys playing ball because they love to play ball.
As for this particular night, former players from both the Cubs and Cardinals all got together to play a little 7-inning exhibition game, which was preceded by an autograph session. If you took a look at that pic of my ticket stub, you might have noticed a couple signatures on it. One is from Gold-Glover Bobby Dernier, and one is from All-Star Bill Buckner. Other players in attendance were Turk Wendell, Rick Ankiel, John Tudor, and Mike Timlin. I didn’t get any of their autographs, because I didn’t really give a shit. In fact, it seems a bit disingenuous to call them “Legends”.
That said, there definitely were capital-L Legends in attendance, and you can bet your baseball-loving ass that I got their autographs.
In case you can’t read the balls or recognize the players, that’s Fergie Jenkins and Lee Smith (in the wrong colors). One current HOF and another who will get in through the veteran’s committee someday. I assumed I would spend the entire time waiting in line for those two and wouldn’t have time for anyone else. Lucky for us, we got there early enough that we were all pretty much done getting all the autographs we wanted in the first 45 minutes. Then we just sat back and watched everyone else waiting for their turns.
That’s Smith sitting at the table on the left. The guy in the Arrieta jersey in the bottom right is waiting in Smith’s line. Ankiel, Tudor, and Timlin were sitting down past Smith along the left field line on the Cardinals side of the field. That’s Turk Wendell at the table behind home plate.
Fergie is at the top-most table. Roughly 90% of that sea of people are waiting in his line. Buckner is at the closest table. Dernier is at the next table, the one that’s slanted a bit. You can see the guy with the Arrieta jersey in Smith’s line again here. The folks standing in the seats are still in line just to get on the field. Lesson of the Day – Get there early.
And if you didn’t already know how cool Lee Smith is, this should give you some idea. When I handed him that ball, he said “Where do you want me to sign this? Cause if you are going to see Fergie next, I’ll save the sweet spot for him.” I told him that ball was his and his alone. Besides, of course I’d already seen Fergie. He should have been the first stop for everyone, regardless of your personal rooting interest.
As for the actual game, Wendell and Timlin each went the distance in a 4-1 Cardinals win. Jenkins and Tudor each played first, with Ankiel in the OF for the Cardinals and Dernier/Buckner in the OF for the Cubs. Smith was the 1st/3rd base coach (I never saw him move anywhere quickly, I suspect his back is completely fucked). The rest of team for each side was filled with local “personalities”. One guy was an orthopedic surgeon, another was a radio deejay, another owned a car dealership, and so on and so on. Each side played with 4 outfielders, and the Cubs’ leftfielder had the biggest impact on the game by far. It’s not fair to say he couldn’t catch the many balls that were hit his direction, there’s really no way to know that. But it’s entirely fair to say he couldn’t even fucking see the many balls that were hit his direction. Hell, the shortstop even lost a three-hop grounder in the sun. But since this was just a fun little diversion, there were no errors in this game, even though there were many many many errors in this game. A few other quick game notes, Dernier robbed Ankiel on two separate occasions, both on scalded shots to center. Jenkins ran the count to 3-5 in his first at bat before grounding out, partly because Fergie refused to leave the batter’s box, and partly because the umpire didn’t really want to ring him up.
There was one bit of news from this game that I’m surprised didn’t land on the pages of ESPN or MLBTR. In the middle of the 4th inning, Lee Smith was traded from the Cardinals to the Cubs in a blockbuster deal.
That woman was by his side all day. Never did figure out if she’s his wife, daughter, nurse, publicist, or something else.
He looks so very much better in blue. On deck – Fergie Jenkins, who would shatter his bat into about 6-7 pieces on the first pitch of that AB.
After the game, we put some burgers and brats in our bellies, because this was an eat-like-an-asshole weekend.
We wrapped up this trip with the Marlins-Cardinals game at Busch. There was a random jersey giveaway, one of five players from the 2006 team, but the jersey was in a sealed black bag so we didn’t know who we were getting. I likened the experience to picking up a pile of dog shit with a plastic bag on your hand; you didn’t really touch the turds, but you still don’t feel clean. Ended up being a Rolen jersey, which I gave to my nephew. Maybe in a decade he’ll grow into it.
As they announced the lineups, we started hoping for a 20+ inning game, so we could luck into seeing Ichiro get his 3,000th hit. Sadly, that was not to be, but we did watch as this lady down the left field line flipped her Ichi-Meter from 2,991 to 2,994 during the course of the game.
One guy suggested she was kinda crazy for travelling around like that, so I simply reminded him of our weekend and he toned it down. Then we started thinking about who would be the next guy to crack 3,000 hits, and how many years away that’s going to be. It’s not exactly a common occurrence. Pujols came to mind easily, with Miggy fairly close behind him…but when we got home and looked it up, we realized we’d completely forgot about Beltre, and he’ll likely get there next season. I’m going to need to update my mental files on that man, he’s been better than I’ve been giving him credit for.
And of course, the Cardinals lost, and that’s always nice.