Re­union en­hances Wrigley Field ex­pe­ri­ence

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - WALLY HALL

CHICAGO — Many friends, such as Trey Schaap and Justin Acri, are die-hard fans of the Chicago Cubs, who won last year’s World Se­ries af­ter a drought that would make the Mo­jave Desert look like a rain for­est.

Through count­less sea­sons of dis­ap­point­ment, Wrigley Field has be­come an iconic sta­dium. The home of the Cubs was orig­i­nally named Weegh­man Park — af­ter Charles Weegh­man, who built the sta­dium — then Cubs Sta­dium. Once the Wrigley fam­ily — think chew­ing gum and the Chicago Tribune — gained con­trol, the sta­dium be­came Wrigley Field in 1927.

The score­board is still hand op­er­ated, and the en­trance re­mains vir­tu­ally un­changed, but there is noth­ing old about the guts af­ter a $575 mil­lion up­date af­ter the Rick­etts fam­ily — think bil­lion­aires — bought the Cubs.

The seats are molded plas­tic and have cup hold­ers. The con­ces­sion stands are new. The out­field still has the ivy-cov­ered wall that was started in 1937 when Bill Veeck, son of the club pres­i­dent, planted the vines, but now there are jum­botrons and other mod­ern ad­di­tions.

Mon­ica Tim­pani and yours truly had great seats down the third-base line and even with home plate, but that was be­cause Mark Potash — who worked at the Arkansas Demo­crat in the late 1980s and whose fam­ily has been sea­son-ticket hold­ers al­most for­ever — gave us the tick­ets and joined us for the game.

Potash, who now is part of the team that cov­ers the Chicago Bears for the Chicago Sun-Times, asked about the high school coaches he cov­ered when he was a rookie at the Arkansas Demo­crat. He wore a T-shirt that said Arkansas Demo­crat Sports.

He asked about Tommy Fowler, Tommy Reed, Al Flani­gan, Charles Ri­p­ley and about two dozen oth­ers. It was a great re­union and also like a pri­vate tour of Wrigley Field from a life­time fan. One note about Potash: When he worked here, he had worked so many days in a row cov­er­ing high school bas­ket­ball that it was in­sisted he take a four-day week­end. Re­luc­tantly he agreed, then got in his car and drove to St. Louis to watch a high school bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment.

Most peo­ple had urged us to get to Wrigley early, which we did, min­gling with the jovial mob. We shopped a lit­tle and soaked up the at­mos­phere, es­pe­cially around The Cubby Bear bar, which is across the street from the en­trance to Wrigley. Ven­dors were yelling that their peanuts were cheaper than the ones in­side the park, and there were a lot of 12-ounce curls go­ing on.

It was a dif­fer­ent crowd than at Fen­way Park in Bos­ton — al­though both seem to at­tract young sin­gle folks — in that the crowd was a bit more blue col­lar, which made your trusty scribe feel more at home.

We ar­rived in Chicago via Am­trak from Bos­ton to Buffalo, where we saw Ni­a­gara Falls. We were four hours late be­cause the tracks had flooded (story one), a tree had fallen on the tracks (story two) and Am­trak al­ways gives way to freight trains (fi­nal story and the most be­liev­able). We saw the falls and went to the orig­i­nal An­chor Bar, home of the orig­i­nal chicken wings.

Our train was two hours late leav­ing for Chicago, and we were four hours late ar­riv­ing. See above for rea­sons.

Lunch was at the orig­i­nal Billy Goat Tav­ern, which has its own his­tory with the Cubs. The tav­ern was made fa­mous by a skit on Satur­day Night Live. The cheese­burg­ers are very good.

The rea­son for the trip was to see Wrigley Field, and it was worth it. De­spite be­ing ren­o­vated it has charm, charisma and a feel­ing of base­ball his­tory.

Lastly, all of our planes were on time, no one got beat up and the Cubs lost, but have started win­ning since.

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