What to do while waiting for tha Clincher - another plug for "Wrigleyworld"
Based on Kyle's review from a few weeks ago, I DID manage to get ahold of my own copy of "Wrigleyworld - A Season in Baseball's Best Neighborhood", written during the 2005 season by Kevin Kaduk, current lord of Big League Stew on Yahoo! Sports, which is in my daily rotation. I obviously enjoy Duk's work on a daily basis, but my main misgiving was not that it would end up to be some pastoral tribute to the existential nature of Cubness. No, my problem was that the basic premise was already done in 1987 by one Lonnie Wheeler in "Bleachers - A Summer in Wrigley Field", which up until yesterday was my favorite book about the Cubs.
And, as it turns out, there are many similarities between the two. Sure, the Wheeler book focused on the bleachers (before they became the Bud Light Bleachers) themselves, whereas Duk worked the whole neighborhood. But to outsiders and not particularly careful readers (like myself), who plow through 280 page tomes in 4 hours, many of the next levels of premises were quite similar - established sports writers quitting their out-of-town jobs to "live the dream", then bartering, attending games, drinking, watching loss after loss, drinking, networking, freeloading, drinking, and importantly, trying to avoid Ronnie Woo Woo.
If you are not familiar with "Bleachers", then in and of itself "Wrigleyworld" is outstanding as it pays homage to the Ballhawks, lets us in on the dirty little secret that there ARE more bars besides the Big Six in which to slake one's thirst, and skewers Chad and Trixie and roasts them over a high flame, sizzling with the drippings. As I said, I picked it up, and four hours later, I put it down, cover to cover and damn happy for it.
What I think is the best development of the two journals, written 18 years apart, is the contrasts as Wrigleyville has developed. In 1987 (the year that Andre Dawson carried the Cubs on his wide shouders after handing Dallas Green a blank check), the whole Wrigleyville as Destination was still fairly new, having just been created by the holy trinity of Harry Caray, Ryne Sandberg, and John McDonough. Sure, Wrigley Field itself was always a destination, particularly by the bus tours of Cubs fans from Joliet, Keokuk and Waukegan. But as late as the early eighties, you got in, dropped close to the door, you got out and drove through the barrio that used to be Broadway, Irving Park and Halsted. Boys Town was a very dirty little secret, attracted to the area by the low rents and, I suppose, the relative privacy Gay residents enjoyed there. Bashers weren't gonna show up THERE to mess around. They might get shot, stabbed, or both.
By 1987, the stuffy little bars surrounding Wrigley were undergoing transition, as their regulars were still trying to hold on against the invading hordes of Yuppies (and yes, this is a proper use of the term considering the time). The old-time denizens of the bleachers, the Gamblers and remnants of the Bleacher Bums, confided in Wheeler, lamenting the loss of their turf to night nurses and the CBOT traders who came to hit on them. Also, lights had not made their appearence yet, so Cubs baseball was strictly a daytime proposition, although the Tribune was applying blistering heat to the neighborhood, and opposition groups such as Citizens United by Baseball in the Sunshine (CUBS) were exhausting all their options to avoid the inevitable.
Of course, by the time Duk quit his KC Star gig and moved back "home", the Gamblers and Bums had disappeared, the fifth or sixth generations of Chad and Trixie were entrenched (shelf life between the time Chad/Trixie graduate their Big Ten University, settle in Wrigleyville, life the live before deciding to move back to the Suburbs to raise their demon spawn - four years), and property values, already on a steep incline in 1987, had risen to some of the most expensive real estate in the entire country. I found it interesting that both men only briefly mention the 'artistic' communities within East Lake View (the true name of the neighborhood) who would love nothing more than to see Wrigley Field either bulldozed or redeveloped into a series of galleries and shoppes. I also found it interesting that Duk didn't even mention "Bleachers". I thought he would have been aware, and gave it a little shout.
You'd have to read both - "Bleachers", then "Wrigleyworld", which is a wonderful activity while waiting to see if we win today, the Brewers lose tonight, and (if necessary) we win tomorrow. It would actually be best if Prince and the boys could pull it together for one night, so we can try to clinch in real time and not while the team watched TVs in its clubhouse while we all waited in the streets and pubs. Anyway, back to the books - for us old timers, both books give us a great ride to the drastic changes the neighborhood has undergone. For you damn whippersnappers, you need to read both, especially "Bleachers", because the gatdamn circus on Clark and Sheffield hasn't always been there. Wrigleyville - the House that Ryno, Sut, Maddux, Hawk, Woody, Sosa, Harry, McDonough, you and I built!