Friday Five: Favorite Games

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Five: Favorite Games

. Friday, April 8, 2011

Here's our new idea for a Friday feature - five of something, anything, every Friday. We Internet folk are OCD-like in our love of lists. All of the neat order, none of the painful hand scrubbing and inconvenient stove-checking. A new topic will run every Friday - barring hangovers, malaise, and our computers contracting Digital Chlamydia.

Today's topic? Those favorite moments of triumph we attended in person. As you can see from our sidebar, Steve and I go to a hell of a lot of games. And that sidebar just barely scratches the surface. It's just when we started keeping track - we've both lived in the city since graduating college, so it's not a stretch to say there's a few dozen not pictured. In that time, we've seen some highs (Derrek Lee hitting a grand slam on the day they retired #31, the 2008 division clincher) and some lows (11-2 down in the second inning against the Giants last year). Here's a look at my five favorite days at Wrigley.

#5 - September 27, 2006: Cubs 3 - Brewers 2

An insignificant late-season game held when Dusty was limping his way out of town. But also my first night game. My brand-new girlfriend came to the game along with me, my roommate, and Steve. We made a drinking game out of the Deal or No Deal DVD game and got absolutely wrecked on Goldschlager. Henry Blanco was the hero, Matt Murton was batting cleanup, and the Cubs won to pull to 17 games back with a handful to play. Truly these were golden times. I still have the fridge magnet of the FanPhoto.

#4 - June 19, 2009: Cubs 8 - Indians 7 (10 inn.)

Ever get a really, really bad feeling about the game getting called? That was the entire morning of this game for me. Friends had come into town, and we'd been forced to hunker down at Salt & Pepper and down repeated pitchers while the rain just poured down. At this point, the concern was just getting them into the stadium to experience some of Wrigley before they called the game. I didn't think we'd even get in the stadium - it was still early, and the rain was awful. To my great surprise, the rain let up and they actually ended up playing baseball. Perhaps the muggiest game of baseball I've ever been to.

This was the first game of the Wood/DeRo return tour after so much animosity had been generated at their departure. Tickets were hard to come by, and both our departed players got standing ovations. After all those good feelings, the Indians proceeded to beat the holy shit out of us. Luis Valbuena hit a 3-run homer in the second, followed by Victor Martinez doubling the tally in the third. DeRo jammed home the knife with an RBI in the 4th, and suddenly this much-anticipated interleague game (and those are rare) was an unapologetic ass-kicking.

At this point, we voiced our commitment to the new goal of the day - getting drunk. And drunk we got, rousing briefly for a Reed Johnson solo shot in the 5th, and a D.Lee solo homer in the 6th. The 7th was a dud, and no one seemed all that hopeful. Especially those non-fairweather fans who cleverly disguised themselves as empty seats vacated by assholes.

Bottom of the 8th - bases loaded, two outs. Andres Blanco (remember him?) lines a shot along the right right line, driving in two runs. Then Koyie Hill reaches on an error and the runner on third scores. Then Soriano singles in Blanco before Theriot goes all asshole and ruins the rally. Suddenly, it's 7-6. Something big is happening. Everyone can feel it through their protective coat of Old Style.

After Marmol filthifies the side in the 9th, Derrek Lee steps in to face Kerry Wood with one out and none on. D.Lee mutters something along the lines of "Thanks for the memories, now fuck off" and destroys a ball into the left field bleachers. Everyone who was Cubs fan enough to stay goes ape-shit. Indians fans in the place begin to Carradine their belts into makeshift nooses. It's going to extras, but everyone know the Cubs are going to win, which they do when Theriot redeems himself with a single in the bottom of the 10th.

So it came to be that when I didn't think there'd be a game, there ends up being one of my all-time favorites. And there was much rejoicing and eating of Mexican food. And my friend doth lost his wallet, but it eventually came back unto him. Truly it was a day of miracles.

#3 - August 19, 2006: Cubs 5 - Cardinals 4 (10 inn.)

I'd just moved back to Chicago from my first post-college gig in Hawaii, where I used to get up at insane hours of the morning to watch the Cubs fart away a promising season. When I got back, I started dating this girl I talked to on the phone every day whilst on the island (who I eventually married). As I was still looking for employment and living in Uptown, she got a job in the horrible, horrible burg of Northbrook. It being her first adult paycheck, she was predictably gobsmacked at having that amount of money all at once. She asked if I thought a pair of Cubs/Cards tickets was a good idea. Yes, yes indeed it was.

It was, in many ways, your typical Cubs/Cards template. Cards go up early, obnoxious, bitchy St Louis fans end up sitting next to us, and thick tension in the late innings. And, just as one might predict, Albert Pujols is put into a clutch situation - down 4-3 with the bases chock-full of assholes in red. He gets a pitch he likes from Michael Wuertz and hits a booming fly ball to deep CF. I was already shaking my head before I noticed that Murton was still tracking the ball. And by some holy-shit miracle, it falls into his glove and the Cubs are out of an inning. Pujols was not the grand-slam hero of the day.

No, that hero was Phil Nevin, who lined the winning run off of Isringhausen in the bottom of the 10th. The only day in my life where I'd have taken Nevin over Pujols.

#2 - June 21, 2008: Cubs 11 - White Sox 7

Cubs/Sox tilts are by their nature, shitty. I don't know how the white trashiest elements of each fan base manage to get tickets to the series every damn time, but they make up at least 45 percent of the crowd. This series arguably gets more personal between the fans than when the Cardinals come into town. And how those South Side dickbags (take the goddam sticker off your hat!) love to chirp when their team is ahead 4-1 and yours has Jason Marquis on the mound. But this was no ordinary 4th inning, and their fanbase forgot that Jose Contreras is a tire fire of awfulness.

Jim Edmonds started out the inning with a homer, which sort of pissed me off, because I was in the slowest-ever line to get nachos and beer. I should have been in my seat, slowly warming up to the former hated rival. But I did get back in time to see Mike Fontenot (in full Malibu mode) hit a follow-up. 4-3. Solid. Just as I was thinking "maybe we can get ahead in the next couple of innings," Jason Marquis started a parade of 4 base hits that ended emphatically with A-Ram's 3-run homer that chased Contreras from the game and left him shivering in the shower in the fetal position like a Lifetime movie heroine.

And you know what happened? I finally got to see my Jim Edmonds homer. Nice of him to do it twice in an inning. An excellent way to spend a Saturday.

#1 September 20, 2008: Cubs 5 - Cardinals 4

These are the second-to-last-row 500 section tickets that I still point out to people. The Padres will be inexplicably kicking the shit out of us on a lazy July afternoon, and I'll suddenly lazily wave a sausage-finger over toward the upper deck and mumble "s'where I saw us win the DIVISION in oh-eight." Depending on how good a friend my companion is, they'll feign interest.

Like Hunter Thompson said in his soliloquy about the hippie generation in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, you can almost see the high water mark where the wave broke. A perfect day for baseball, a magic number of 1, and a pair of tickets that I'd just happened to buy in February, before any of the madness of that season had played itself out. As the cards all fell in my favor during the run-up to the game, I couldn't even bring myself to look at what tickets were going for on StubHub and Craigslist. I didn't want to subject myself to temptation, because there aren't a lot of times you get to see the Cubs play a win-and-clinch game against their most hated division foe. It ended up being a smart decision.

An amazing game, with the Cards cutting a 5-0 lead to 5-4 during a bad Lilly inning. Tension you could cut with a knife for the entire 9. And perhaps best of all, Kerry Wood closing out the division on a lazy Aaron Miles fly ball before the insanity started. That year may have ended on a ridiculously disappointing note, but I'll never forget how amazing it felt to be at Wrigley Field on that triumphal day. It's the "happy place" I go to whenever Jeff Samardzija trots out to the mound.


Conrad said...

The lost wallet coming backs truly was a "Small miracle Lana"