Living just under three hours from Chicago insures that I make semi-regular trips to the Windy City. Often those trips have contained visits to Wrigley Field. I already wrote a lengthy post back in April about what the experience of the Friendly Confines is like, so I’m not going to rehash all of that here just because I went again. What I am going to do is tell you a few reasons why this most-recent trip to Wrigley was, by far, the best trip to date.
For starters, the Cubs actually won. This was the first game I have been to that saw the Northsiders reign supreme. How they won made it even better. We were fortunate enough to see a little bit of everything — Travis Wood homering, the Cubs scoring some runs, the Mets coming back, Anthony Rizzo hitting a clutch home run in the 7th inning, some insurance from Junior Lake in the 8th inning, and, naturally, the Cubs eventually winning in the 9th. This game was fun, exciting, and was shared with 28,000 other people –the most energetic crowd I’ve been a part of on the North side. Plainly put, it was perfect.
Then this happened:
For those of you unfamiliar with the specifics of Chicago Cubs baseball, that is Pat Hughes –the long-time radio announcer for the Cubs. I understand that to many people, this probably isn’t that big of a deal. For myself, it’s a huge deal. As an impressionable ten-year old in the summer of 1998, I started following the Cubs for the first time. I had little clue about the game of baseball beyond the basics, but had been a Cubs fan by default growing up. 1998 was the first time they had been good in my lifetime –I didn’t have much interest in 1989 at the age of 2. Technically speaking, I was, initially, a bandwagoner. However, being ten years old, and being 100% unfamiliar with that term or what it meant, I attempt to dodge that accusation. Since baseball wasn’t big in our house –Michael Jordan’s Bulls and NBA basketball reigned– 1998 was the first time Cubs baseball had come to me, as opposed to me having to seek it out. At ten, you don’t “seek out” a lot of your interests, they usually fall in your lap and you take them or leave them. I took baseball.
But we didn’t have cable. The Cubs were routinely on WGN and out of my reach. This led me to begin listening to the games on the radio. This meant spending almost every summer afternoon with Pat Hughes and Ron Santo. Hughes’ quality as a broadcaster has been widely recognized, so I let you look up those specifics, but aside from that quality, he, being a former umpire, has a deep love of all of the intricacies of the game –intricacies that he routinely passes on to his listeners. Starting at ten years old, I can tell you that I have learned almost everything I know about baseball from Pat Hughes –and, among others things, developed my lifelong obsession with famous sports radio/TV calls. Though I am probably one of the few people who would rather meet the radio broadcaster than anyone else in the Cubs’ organization, this was legitimately one of those few scenarios of life of getting to meet a personal hero. It was a brief meeting, but one that was no less gracious –it was after the game and I’m sure the man wanted to go home. He still took the time to turn around when I (non-threateningly) called his name, to hear my gushing piece about his impact on my life, to thank me for that gushing piece, to take a picture, and was even kind enough to introduce me to his new partner, former Cub, Ron Coomer –who was equally gracious. We thought about waiting for Len Kasper, too, but didn’t want to overstay our welcome by loitering around the emptying upper deck.
You don’t get many chances to meet those people that have had such a profound impact on your life. It wasn’t that it was overly difficult to meet Pat Hughes specifically, but you rarely get an opportunity to share what those people have meant to your life with those people, themselves. It was a special moment and a special privilege to have the opportunity I was given with Pat Hughes last night. The fact that it happened at Wrigley Field after a Cubs win with three of my closest friends makes it euphoric.