Blue flag day at Wrigley

Tuesday, August 9, 2005–Cubs 3, Reds 8

This day started with us meeting a friend for the Architectural Foundation’s boat tour of the Chicago River. If you’re ever in Chicago and only have time to do one thing… That’s it. (Don’t hold your breath about getting Cubs tickets at the last minute.) The whole tour was fascinating, but what I really remember was when the pilot was telling us about how Chicagoans changed the course of the river (which was where they had been dumping all their sewage) to flow to the Mississippi rather than Lake Michigan. “And so,” the driver was telling us, “contrary to popular belief, the first Taste of Chicago was not in 1980, it was in 1900… in Saint Louis.” That got a lot of groans. “And Saint Louis has gotten their revenge, they host a baseball team that plays in the National League.” That got louder groans from all the Cub fans on the boat. “I know, that’s cold, right?”

It was August in Chicago, so it was actually quite hot. I knew we had to get a day game at Wrigley or else things just wouldn’t be right. To get Cubs tickets without a markup, you have to be online first thing in the morning some day in February, wait online for nearly an hour and find that the game you really wanted to see (against the Cardinals, of course) has already sold out. Once we’d scheduled our vacation around which Cubs game we could get tickets to, I ordered my one White Sox ticket three weeks before we left.

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I must point out that while the Sox were on their way to a 99 win season and World Series title, the Cubs were coming off game 6 of a losing streak and were already in “wait till next year” mode.  I mention this in case it makes any difference for the following statement: I really enjoyed the White Sox game more. Don’t get me wrong, the whole Wrigleyville experience is amazing–the hole-in-the-wall souvenir stands, the street performers who dance to drumming on plastic pails and the ambiance of the club scene there. (I’m not much of a clubber, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the ambiance, right?) The stadium is beautiful and the character of the place, and the rooftop stands across the street are exactly as advertised. The fans, on the other hand… well, maybe I shouldn’t talk–after all, it was a long losing streak.

The Reds beat the Cubbies 8-3 to make it a seven game skid (the streak would end at eight two nights later when the Cardinals arrived in town, but nobody knew this at the time). Mark Prior and Aaron Harang had almost identical lines: 7 innings, 8 hits, 3 earned runs and no walks. The only difference was the strikeouts: Prior held the edge 11-3. So, it goes without saying that the Cubs bullpen dropped the ball on this one. What’s most notable about this game is that Nomar Garciaparra (in a down year) hit his first homer of the season for the Cubbies. 

Cubs fans put out a fantastic parody newspaper, The Heckler, in which they lambast players from the teams that the Cubs will be playing, as well as Cubs players who are seen as underperforming. The Heckler as well as the hecklers were being especially unkind to Cory Patterson, who had just (that very day) been recalled from Triple-A Iowa. It was deemed that Patterson was the sort who would swing at a pickoff attempt, and that’s why he was sent down (and also why he apparently deserved to be booed as soon as he was announced and subjected to a large number of catcalls and personal epithets). In this game, he had a bunt single, two flyouts and he was struck out once… looking.

Just the nature of the scorecard is that good pitching shows up as nice, clean rows, while big offensive outbursts lead to messy scribbling and traffic jams on the page. My own personal convention is to chart the starting pitcher’s performance in black, and then alternate between red and blue for each reliever. Perhaps because we took the train to Chicago, the best way to describe this scorecard would be a nice set of tracks going straight down the page for 7 innings with only a few turns, and then a derailment in the eighth, with red and blue boxcars strewn about every way you look.

Here is that derailment, if you wanna see for yourself.

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