Ballhawks And Ballparks
I adore baseball. From Cooperstown to the World Series (see Are You Ready For Some Baseball from March 2021), I constantly find new ways to love the American pastime. When I splurged and took myself to the Baseball Hall of Fame (see Three Of Four Halls Of Fame from January 2021) for the 2010 Baseball Film Festival – and knocking out states number 48 and 49 on the way to Project Fifty (see Forty-Nine from August 2012) and enjoying a private viewing of 61* with Billy Crystal – I also adored a feature-length documentary by Mike Diedrich about the Ballhawks behind Wrigley Field.
As my mind works, one thought led to another, and I realized I needed to make a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field to see the left-field wall behind that ivy and see where those balls fly. So on April 1, after a mild Florida winter, Son Number Two and I journeyed to the City of the Big Shoulders for a week of almost-winter sightseeing, and a day at the ninety-seven-year-old ballpark. And not just any day, opening day. Robert Redford threw out the first pitch to the music from The Natural (see Springtime in Chicago from April 2013) and of course the Cubs lost. We left during the seventh-inning drizzle, and stopped at the original UNOs to catch the tail end of the loss. Opening Day in a classic ballpark couldn’t have felt more iconic.
Elation. Sadness. Mayhem. Champagne. Sleepless Fury.
Of course, the final game of the season at Fenway also feels pretty iconic, and I know, because I’m here. The 2011 season ranks as a scorcher with highs and lows and wins and losses and all the joys that I devour about the boys of summer. I am in Bean Town for less than twenty-four hours, but I adore the experience of being in this ninety-nine-year-old stadium – the only stadium older than Wrigley Field – as the Red Sox bid farewell to their fans and their playoff hopes. I get my “first-time visitor” photo, I meander around the entire stadium, I get a brewsky outside the ballpark, and I kiss the Green Monster. Even the departure on the subway livens the experience.
The 2011 Major League Baseball season might be bookended by my subway excursions and classic stadium adventures, but the true memory of the season, the one I savor from my living room couch, ends on Wednesday, September 28, or technically, into the wee hours of Thursday, September 29. Baseball aficionados will remember this night as the Angels and Astros, Braves and Brewers, the Cardinals, the Indians, the Orioles, the Phillies and the Pirates, the Rangers, Rays, and Red Sox, and the Tigers and, yes, the Yankees all conspire with the biggest names in the sport to make a night of unrivaled history. A decade later, I still remember the Best. Night. Ever.
POST SCRIPT: Relive the confluence of the wild events culminating in what Joe Posnanski described in the final hours of the 2011 Major League Baseball season as, “Never been a night like it,” with these two remarkable descriptions of the best night of baseball in my lifetime:
Rays, Sox and a night you won’t forget (David Schoenfield, ESPN)
Regular season’s wild end (mlb.com)