Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Wrigleyworld

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It is time to embrace the night

One of the things I am most proud of is that I seek balance in my life.  The pride comes from the notion that, being from a small rural place where there isn't much diversity of thought, there wasn't much talk about seeking balance.  There isn't a single thing wrong with this world that wouldn't be solved if all involved parties would just agree to seek the balance point where things are right for everyone.  I don't always achieve it - no surprise to anyone here - but I do strive for it as much as possible.


Balance also pertains to the activities in and surrounding the area in Chicago bordered by Clark St., Addison St., Waveland Ave. and Sheffield Ave.  I have heard how Wrigley Field can be construed as a detriment to competitive baseball.  I call BS!!  We MUST be fortunate to have a ballpark in the middle of a congested urban area - because nearly every other team in the league has taken the initative to build themselves new, retro, smaller ballparks nestled in the middle of urban areas.  Since we already have one, must be the right thing to have, you know? 


In fact, every last one of these organizations points to OUR Friendly Confines as part of an ideal which they wish to emulate.  But all is not well here at the Original. There has been an over 20 year fight for "balance" in what was first the Lake View neighborhood, and is now most commonly known as Wrigleyville.  The residents, primarily a well-off lot, complain bitterly to the mayor and their alderman that the Big Bad Cubs and the Tribune has blighted their fair neighborhood. 


First, it was the notion of night games in general.  Then, it was the number of night games, the start times, the traffic, parking, and human footprint of having fans run their streets.  That was followed by complaints concerning sightlines for residents (and their "guests") sitting on rooftops across the street.  Lately the complaint from the neighborhood points to nighttime music concerts being held in Wrigley this summer - and once again, the notion of the number of night games is being dragged back into the forefront.  If there are multiple nighttime concerts, sayeth the neighborhood, then the Cubs should have to "give back" some of their night games.


This has become a local tug-of-war, with parties on both sides trying to wage their battle in the court of public opinion.  The City of Chicago, as powerful as they think they are, have pretty much bent over to these neighborhood busybodies, for various reasons.  Da Mare (the Mayor in Chicago-speak) and his administration pretty much has had contempt for The Tribune (the more conservative and thus critical of the two papers) as well as the Cubs (Da Mare is South Side Irish).  They also don't have much stomach for what they consider "effete North Side issues", so they have pretty much washed their hands of the whole Wrigleyville Mess up until now.  The tail is wagging the dog in Wrigleyville, and has done so the last 21 years.


What brought THIS up today, still a few weeks away from opening day?  In today's Bright One, Dan McNeil, a local sportstalk guy, somewhat inarticulately tries to make the point I have been trying to make, with a similar lack of execution, for a couple of years now on here.  Maybe this doesn't seem like it has anything to do with YOU, kind Goat reader, sitting at your computer in South Africa or Taiwan or Toronto or St. Charles, MO or some other foreign place.  But I think it does, and here's why:


We don't play enough night games.  If you are a Cub fan because you Luv Day Baseball, then stop reading.  If you are a resident of the neighborhood who was and is attracted to the remarkable economy of the district - hopping clubs, bustling restaurants, kitschy shoppes and important galleries - and you've conveniently forgotten who deserves the credit for said economy, then stop reading.  I am not going to say a single thing you are going to agree with.


For prior to 1984, the Lakeview area was a slum, plain and simple.  After that, as if like magic, it blossomed into one of the most vibrant urban neighborhoods in the world.  Was it because, all of a sudden, people started liking art?  Or suddenly liked going out to clubs?  Or suddenly liked buying secondhand clothes or suddenly liked living in three-flats?


No.  Lakeview became Wrigleyville because Jim Frey and Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe and all of them started winning ballgames, then fans braved the neighborhood, and flocked in droves.  They started packing the establishments that had sat there for years, largely neglected by all but a small core of regulars, and new establishments went up to accomodate the overflow.  From there, entrepreneurs noticed the foot traffic that was happening, and opened all sorts of storefronts to take advantage.  The Proto-Yuppies decided to start living there, and the whole thing has snowballed.


In the meantime, against all odds, against all logic, the Cubs still haven't won a World Series.  And, thanks to the afore-mentioned misguided parties as well as an apathetic city, the number of night games has been strictly policed since 1988.  What you also may have noticed is countless former Cubs blaming their lack of success to "the lack of night games".  The hot summer sun tires them out, the unusual schedule throws them out of their routine, etc. 


Well, do I believe Dusty Baker and Moises Alou and Randy Hundley, et. al? 


Not unconditionally, I don't.  I have been cited on here several times that ballplayers, by and large, are not Rhodes Scholars, and it is quite conceiveable that one or more of these mental midgets would glom upon the day games as a convenient excuse.  So no, I am not accepting it as the sole reason why we haven't won a pennant since my parents were in diapers.


But I am going to try to appeal to all of you, yes, even Colin and the rest of the laptop mafia.  I was a systems analyst for over 15 years.  When you're trying to debug an application, not just a computer application, but any procedure that isn't working, you search for causes, external forces.  If there is an extraneous factor that MIGHT have any affect on the application, you remove it, and you test to see if it improves performance.


I am not going to pin all the blame on the day games.  But I am not willing to pin all the blame on "mismanagement", either.  Seems like the Dallas Green era was not "mismanagement".  The current era, either, would not qualify as mismanagement, either.  Larry Himes, Ed Lynch, and Andy McSweatervest, sure, that was bad money thrown at bad.  But let's look at all the one-year-wonders that have won the World Series since the Yankee run of 1996-2000. 


Honestly, do you believe the D-backs, the Angels, the Marlins, the White Sox, the Cardinals, the Red Sox, or the Phillies have a substantially better organizational direction than we do?  Perhaps the Red Sox, who were somewhat on the leading edge of Statistical Analysis, but they are the only repeater of the group.  The rest of these teams were one-hit wonders, beneficiaries of some career years and some blind luck.  We could have (and should have, at least in 2003) been these guys! 


We come up short, we always come up short, and if I were in charge, I would do everything I could to eliminate every possible disadvantage, real or perceived, to try to gain that extra 1% that might make the difference.  So as I look at my team and my organization, I would identify anything that is perceived as an anomaly, and that includes the strange way we schedule home games.  I would get serious about waging war with the neighborhood and thus, the city, to get my schedule more in line with the rest of the league.  If the sensitive types in the neighborhood can't deal, then frickin' LEAVE!!  Nobody on Earth benefits from the notion of "Tolerance" than those people do - so why don't they try practicing some of it themselves for a change?


Once more, so I am not misunderstood, I am not saying that day games entirely are to blame for the Drought, but why chance it?  No more negative outliers!  I personally find Friday afternoon games to be steak sauce, but otherwise, all possible weekday and Saturday games would be played at night at home going forward.  The Cubs organization should eliminate this particular factor, see if it helps, and if not, then use the resources they were using to Fight the Neighborhood to explore other possible causes.  As for tradition?  Winning is the best tradition there is!! 


I will now climb off my soapbox, and return you to your regularly scheduled Cubs worship.  Thank you.

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!

GROTA’s Printed Word Club: Wrigleyworld

On occasion, I like to dabble in books and other literary pieces…especially when I have been without cable or Interwebs the last few days because I’ve just moved into my new apartment.

But that’s neither here nor there. No hard feelings Comcast…for now.

Anyway, a few years ago my dad gave me a book to read before I headed back to campus to start my junior year of college called Wrigleyworld and I decided to give it a reread to pass the time.

My first thoughts were that Wrigleyworld was going to be yet another book waxing poetic justice about the majesty of Wrigley Field and its powerful influence on the neighborhood and city.

FALSE.

Written by Kevin Kaduk – a former sports journalist/columnist and now editor for Big League Stew – covering the less-than-fantastic 2004 Chicago Cubs season from start to finish, “Wrigleyworld” is about the fans.

After growing up a Cubs fan in the Chicagoland area, Kaduk gives up his sports writing beat in Kansas City to move into a crappy apartment near Wrigley in order to live the dream of attending as many Cubs home game as humanly possible (with the occasional road trip for good measure).

While most writers would have focused on the players or the mystique of the Cubs, Kaduk looks around at all the stories sitting in the stands with him. He watches games from the bleachers, bars, rooftops and streets, and in doing so, tells the story of the Cubs better than anyone with press credentials ever could.

If you like the style of writing we have here at GROTA, then I’m sure you’ll like Kaduk. Here’s a little taste:

At six this morning, I entered Hi-Tops, located across from the right field entrance on Sheffield. On the stage stood a goateed Chicago shock jock and his posse. In front, a crowd of twenty-somethings, most of them wearing hard-ass black, paid close attention. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, so I craned my neck to see what I was missing.

Two men were pouring lighter fluid on their testicles.

For some reason (and Lord knows why), I wasn’t fazed. Seconds later, a flame lit, causing each man to dance around for what were presumably a few uncomfortable seconds. The crowd squirmed, the roared. A few fans with video cameras pushed closer to the stage.

The gross-out contest continued for two more steps, the details of which I am hesitant to reveal here. (However, I will tell you it involved the following: strippers, peanut butter, and vomit.) When one of the men left the stage, a swarm of questions went through my mind.

Were Opening Day tickets at stake? Would you like some aloe for, uh, your…uh, err…you know…your [points toward crotch]? What in the name of Durocher is wrong with you?

Instead, I went with a simple: “Why would you do something like that?”

“I just love life, man,” said the obviously drunk contestant, before immediately heading to the bathroom.

And, truly, what expresses a love for life more than a flaming nut sack?

-Kevin Kaduk

There are few books that have made me laugh out loud like Wrigelyworld, but I have embarrassed myself several times in public places while reading it.

From one Cubs fan to another, it’s a solid book that doesn’t take long to read and it reminds us why we love not just this team, but why we love being a fan in the first place

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