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Wrigley Field: Alex Ferguson on trip to Chicago Cubs' home ground

Alex Ferguson Posted 12th September 2013 view comments

Chicago's relationship with its Cubs is something special.

The city has given the Cubs, one of the city's baseball teams, nothing but love for over a hundred years. The Cubs have given back nothing but heartbreak for over a hundred years.

They last won a World Series in 1908. We'll put this into perspective - since the Cubs won, America has been involved in two World Wars, Vietnam, two Gulf Wars and a Cold War, and been through 18 Presidents in the process. It's discovered and buried Jackson, Janis, Jim and Jimi.

Hedge of reason: Alex likes the ivy at Wrigley Field

Hedge of reason: Alex likes the ivy at Wrigley Field

Sure, Chicago has a relationship with Michael Jordan, who won the city six championships - even if you can't really see Michael Jordan regalia anywhere in the city where you would expect to find most of the stuff.

Sure, the City had a relationship with Walter Payton and the Bears, but the Bears haven't won a title since 'Sweetness'. Sure the City remembers Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bo Jackson, and the White Sox who won a title in 2005, but it's not the Cubbies. The Cubbies have this City's heart and soul.

Summers

"We're like brothers in arms in the streets and the stands // There's magic in the ivy and the old scoreboard"- Eddie Vedder, 'Go All The Way'.

I'd already taken a photo of Harry's statue, looked at the names that were part of my summer like Mark Grace and Andre Dawson, and remembered childhood.

Alex Ferguson
Quotes of the week

It's funny, because I'm not a Cubs fan. I'm a fan of the team diametrically opposite to the Cubs - the New York Yankees. The Cubs are used to losing, the Yankees are used to winning. But if there's a team that I have a soft spot for, it's the Cubs.

You see, my soft spot for the Cubs started way before I went to a game at Yankee stadium. My soft spot started during my summers in North Carolina with my family, when the weather outside was too hot, and there was the opportunity to sneak in a couple of hours of day-time baseball.

The team on cable TV during the day was almost guaranteed to be the Cubs. I remember gawping at Wrigley Field and its ivy, singing along with the seventh inning stretch song, and listening to the dulcet-if-a-little-drunken tones of the team's famous commentator Harry Caray, and wished that sometime in my life, I could be there, celebrating baseball in the sun.

I don't remember if the Cubs won or lost during those days - it was the game that I loved.

"Oh. My. God. I'm here. I'm here!" - Me, September 4th, 2012

Standing outside Wrigley Field in the sun, I was suddenly the happiest man in the world. I'd been looking forward to the trip to Chicago for about six months, but I'd been looking forward to going into Wrigley all my life.

Home

I'd already taken a photo of Harry's statue, looked at the names that were part of my summer like Mark Grace and Andre Dawson, and remembered childhood.

And then I walk in.

Because of the fact that the Cubs were playing the Florida Marlins, who - like the Cubs this season, were playing rubbish baseball - the park was at best 25 per cent full... at best. But I didn't care.

I'm in the bleachers, above the ivy...the place where I'd always dreamed of being. The bleachers themselves weren't anything special - just rows of benches, but it was the Wrigley bleachers, and it felt like home.

Behind us stood buildings where entrepreneurial beings had stacked seats on top of the buildings, so viewers could watch games for free while drinking their weight in beer. But I was happier being inside than outside. And I always am, as it goes.

Inside the bleachers is more fun than outside, because home runs land inside the park (mostly). If they don't, you fight it out on the street with a buddy to try and get a souvenir.

Above us towers the giant scoreboard, which is still hand-operated. It's great, it's beautiful, and we wish for a moment that Lord's and The Oval hadn't abandoned their old ones for the new model. Sometimes, tradition's better in a world that's so technological it hurts.

Chatter

Anyway, the game speeds along and both inept sides switch seats. I'm the happiest man in the world. We move from bleachers to near home plate, via a quick smoke break and chat to a fan who's been going since the 1960s. Ron Santo's his favourite player ever.

You see, my friend Andy - a Chicago resident who actually suffers with his Cleveland Indians in his spare time - scored four seats (two in the bleachers, two on the other side of the park) for a grand total of $30, thanks to the volume of people who didn't want to go and see a poor Cubs team on a Wednesday afternoon.

The beer, popcorn and sweet hawks continue their chatter at the people in the more expensive seats, trying their best to sell overpriced drinks and beverages to the thirsty and hungry masses.

I sit there, take in a grand slam (unfortunately it's a Cubbies pitcher who gives it up), and share the differences with a lovely 25-year old couple between scoring a baseball game and scoring a cricket match.

Both sides were equally intrigued. The game stops for a moment, because a bat's flown out of a Marlins player's hand and hit a little kid in the crowd. Suddenly, baseball - the game that brought America back to a sense of normality after 9/11 - isn't important. The kid is. The Marlins player looks shocked. We're all shocked. Thankfully, we find out that the kid's OK, but it's a hairy moment.

"We'll root, root, root for the Cubbies, if they don't win it's a shame" - 'The Seventh Inning Stretch"

The Seventh Inning Stretch in baseball is the baseball equivalent of a brief tea, when the crowd at the game sings along to 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame', a song that celebrates the game and the fact that you're in the stadium.

Smiling

Sons hug daughters, fathers embrace wives, and life's ills are forgotten. At Wrigley Field it's become more than a tradition - it's become a rite of passage. The Cubs decided to get celebrities to sing the tune.

Some have been exceptional, and some have absolutely ruined it. This time, we get Cubs Hall-of-Famer Andre Dawson (it's a big deal to the small crowd), and he does an adequate job. I'm smiling to myself. I'm happy to be there.

"Hey Chicago, What do you say? The Cubs are going to win today" - Steve Goodman "Go Cubs Go"

After the stretch, we pop back to the bleachers. The survivors of the long hot day are a little drunker, and a little more tired-looking. Some of the crowd has swapped spots. Some are sheltering behind the bleachers to take advantage of the mister which is cooling down some of the crowd.

We get the wind right, and we're at the top of the bleachers with mist moving up. It makes the heat and humidity a little more bearable. It's funny, because after our stretch, the Cubs actually wake up. They score four runs in their part of the seventh inning, add another in the eighth, and hold on to win 9-7.

The bleachers are happy. The exhausted-looking Cubs faithful (you know, the ones who've suffered with the team for most of their lives, spending a ton of time and money in the friendly confines in the process) are happy.

They've had an appalling season, but this win gives them a little relief. There's a bit of high-fiving, but no-one's too enthusiastic. After all, it's been a season to forget.

But for me, it's been a moment of the season that I can treasure. Go Cubs go, indeed.

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