Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Bud Man

“A ballplayer spends a good piece of his life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”
Jim Bouton

George Will is a political writer, Fox News commentator and native Chicagoan. He has written on baseball several times, but this book is unique. It is about how Wrigley Field, the Wrigley family and fate (which he disputes) have conspired to keep the Cubs from having a winning tradition.

Wrigley is a bucket list venue. To "sit in the stands in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon" and watch a game, set against the ivy-covered outfield fence... It is to remember a special summer.

My kids were young. Beth had just turned two, and Katy was mere months old. I worked day watch, but had mid-weeks off - TWT, as I recall. Child care wasn't any cheaper (comparatively) than it is now, so watching the kids paid huge budgetary dividends.

We walked, we played, and we watched the Cubs on WGN. It was 1984, and the team from the corner of Clark and Addison was playing uncharacteristically great baseball. Beth watched in between other adventures, her sister Katy quietly soaking it up as she went from being stationary, to crawling as the season unfolded. Whatever Beth was doing stopped for the seventh inning stretch, the late Harry Carey singing (if you could call it that) "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" along with the thousands in Chicago, a million or so across the country. Beth and me. The games were sponsored, in part, by Budweiser. Beth would heartily proclaim, prompted by Carey's pitch, that she was a "Cub fan,and a Bud man."

The eddies and currents of life can be delightful. Beth's relationship with baseball has been casual over the years. Although she often intentionally feigns ignorance (a home run at Camden Yards in Baltimore elicited the question "How many points is that?" to her outraged sister) she is, in fact, still a fan. She and her husband have joined the crowd, sung "The Song" and rooted for the home team whenever she gets the chance.

And little Katy? A grown women with children of her own. She and I have shared a number of baseball games, keeping score and rooting on the Rockies, a sort of latter day west-of-the-Mississippi version of the often hapless Cubs. Her husband played college baseball, and worked for Anheuser Busch. I was with them when they took son Graham, and then daughter Greta to their first baseball games - Detroit for little G-man, and then Baltimore.

Will's book is written gently, almost reverently. He is a fan of the game, a lover of its nuances and subtleties. He has attained a stature sufficient to watch in the company of presidents, be they of the club on the field, or of the United States. He concluded his book in this manner:

"I began this rumination on Wrigley Field with the words of a poet. I will conclude with words from another one: 'Life is a long preparation for something that never happens.' Forlorn Cub fans waiting for a World Series may agree with William Butler Yeats, but what he wrote is not quite right.Life IS what happens, whatever it is. Anticipation of what happens next is part of the fun. And life, which has its ups and downs, is leavened by the pleasure of passing time now and then in nice places, like the little one on the North Side."

Which is for him, of course, Wrigley Field. For me, it is wherever wife, children and grandchildren venture, to sit together again and glory in anticipation of where the day, and our lives, will lead us.

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