A Very Late Night at Wrigley Field: Part IAlmost every high school senior decides to embark upon one final adventure before they walk across the stage and accept their diploma and venture off to college. I was no different back in May 1991. In retrospect, it wasn't truly anything out of the ordinary. A group of my friends decided to buy tickets for a night game at Wrigley Field between the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs. Since lights were installed at Wrigley Field during the 1988 season, night games were still something of a novelty at that point. There was still a buzz around the team from their playoff appearance in 1989. They lost to the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS. Plenty of baseball experts picked the Cubs to win the National League Eastern Division that season. They forked over plenty of cash for veteran players. Spirits were high.
My friend Tony (the guy from this blog) decided to drive us there since he owned the largest car. I can't remember what he drove back then, perhaps an Oldsmobile. All I recall was that it was blue. Everyone referred to that car as "The Cornmobile." It's a long story, but he managed to drive that car off a country road and directly into a corn field. Believe me, that's a story for another blog someday. His mother decided his car wasn't in good enough shape to drive to the Cubs game, especially with the game played at night. Tony agreed to drive his mother's car, a blocky, 1983 gray Buick.
It was Tuesday, May 28, 1991. At last the day arrived. Everybody met up and I believe our group required two cars. We easily had 10 to 12 guys make the drive. I was living in Dwight, Illinois at the time, so the drive was slightly more than one hour. Honestly, closer to two with Cubs game traffic near the park. We wedged our car into the parking lot behind the Brown's Chicken (which is now the Taco Bell). If you've ever driven to Wrigley Field, you are well aware that parking cheaply and effectively is next to impossible. We grabbed our tickets, headed over to the game and found our seats in the left center field bleachers. Our goal was to get as close to the front row as possible and watch the Cubs and Mets take batting practice. Mission accomplished. We found seats in the front row.
Batting practice started and I almost caught an Andre Dawson BP home run. I knew the ball was well over my head and traveling too fast to catch it directly. I opted to let the ball hit the bleachers then grab it. Not a wise decision. With very few fans in their seats at that time, the ball rocketed off the concrete and fired straight at me. The ball drilled my right shoulder and flew back on the field. No such luck before the game, but Van Halen's Jump was on the verge of playing and the Cubs would take the field.
Not too long after the national anthem ended and the first pitch was thrown, we noticed that a couple of our friends were missing. We figured we'd let an inning or two pass before we organized a search team and started looking for them. One of the guys returned to his seat and mentioned that the other, Neal, was hauled away by ballpark security. He attempted to buy a beer as a minor. We didn't see that guy until around the eighth inning, then he shared his tale of the Wrigley Field holding cell.
Finally, the game came to an unfavorable close. The Mets defeated the Cubs 9-8. Since Wrigley Field is a tiny and ancient park, it can take a while to finally leave the premises. Knowing we wouldn't be home until well past midnight, we decided to get to Tony's car as soon as we could to begin the slow drive out of the parking lot and home. We'd skip the team shop this time. After a relatively short drive, we approached the corner of Bell and Addison. The car stalled. Somehow we managed to coast into the lone parking spot on Addison. One of the guys in the car with us, Bryan, was a gearhead, a car nut. I wasn't worried, Bryan would fix the problem and we'd be on our way. Right?
To be continued....