Friday, August 08, 2008

Getting Nostalgic

$5.00 each on Ticketmaster if you called from Iowa City.Last Monday, I went to Wrigley Field and got soaked in a rainstorm highlighted by tons of lightning.

Twenty years ago today, also on Monday, I did the same thing.

August 8, 1988 was the date of the first night game in the history of Wrigley Field. Back then, I was a junior at the University of Iowa when the tickets went on sale for the game. Because the game was on a Monday night and the series for the weekend was not sold out, the Cubs sold the majority of day-of-game tickets to people calling in from out of town. It seems the Cubs were hoping non-local people who got tickets for Monday would come into Chicago for the whole weekend and, while there, perhaps buy tickets for Saturday and Sunday's game.

After a grand total of 3 minutes of dialing from the Theta Xi house phone, I snagged four bleacher seats for the game. I invited three of my closest friends, Rick and Jill (who were dating) and Wendy.

We sat at the top of the lower center field bleachers. Rick and I were photographers. We took color pics until it got dark, then switched to high speed black and whites.

The lightning started to be visible over the third base grandstand around the third inning. In the fourth, I'd just gotten back to the seats with some hot dogs and beers when what appeared to be a ton of confetti starting falling in front of the third baseline lights. The rain came so hard, so fast, it was raining on the west side of the stadium but not the bleachers yet.

We scrambled to put our cameras away and wolf down our food before the rain turned it into oatmeal. The rain then dumped.

After that, we were surrounded by people screaming about how this game better not be rained out and how they'd paid $100 or more for a ticket. We didn't care. "God says NO LIGHTS!" people were yelling.

Rick and I continued to take pictures from underneath the scoreboard. People kept leaping out of the stands and running on the tarp. And getting arrested. One guy was cutoff by security from getting to the tarp. He kept leaping back and forth over the tarp roller to the "Ole!" like cheers from the crowd. Finally realizing he wasn't going to get on the tarp, he headed back for the first base stands and leaped into the stands.

And slipped.

He smashed head first into the wall. "Ole" morphed into an excited "OOOOO!"

As we got ready to leave, Rick said to me, "Where's your hat?" He was talking about the white "Opening Night" hats everyone got when we entered the game. Turns out when we were taking pictures under the scoreboard, I'd left it up there. I ran up and found it just lying there. Very, very lucky to find it. I still have it in my closet.

Being soaked and not interested in bar hopping in the rain (I was 8 days short of my 21st and Jill had a broken leg and was wearing an immobilizer), we ended up in Skokie at a Gino's pizza and then called it a night.

Rick, Stephanie, Chuck, Wendy and JillWhat follows are some of the pictures I took that night. What really gets me is the picture of the four of us (and full time Bleacher Bum Stephanie Leathers of I still see Rick and Jill from time to time. They are married with a bunch of kids.

Wendy stayed one of my closest friends. We drank a lot together and became each others sounding board for people we dated. In May of 1996, a group if us celebrated her 30th birthday at America's Bar. We partied hard, but there was a heaviness around all of us. The next day, she got the results of her biopsy back.

Not long after that, The Fiance and I asked Wendy to be one of our bridesmaids. She was ecstatic. "I'll be there and NO WIGS!" she screamed in the phone. "I'm gonna have MY OWN HAIR!" In March 1997, she walked down the aisle wearing her own hair.

Wendy Larks died on July 31, 2001. I think about her every so often, especially when I see the picture we have of her and my sisters and The Wife from our Wedding Day. Seeing the pictures below reminds me how much I miss her.

Baseball is a diversion. It's entertainment. What's important is what it reminds us of. Terence Mann was right. Baseball has marked the time. And time is populated with ghosts.

I can't believe 20 years have gone by. I can't believe 7 years have gone by.

Click on images for full size images.

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