As the Astros prepare for their last contest at Wrigley Field of the 2011 season, I wax nostalgic about my first ever visit to “the friendly confines.”
It was a long time ago, a simpler time. May of 1996, the Astros were in the midst of an 82-80 season and a second place finish. How did I get there? That’s where the story gets interesting. The previous autumn I had gone on a Caribbean cruise courtesy of my good friend Terry, who was working on the ship at the time. It was my second such trip and the first one was a blast. I was still single at the time. Terry and I had a great time partying with a couple of young ladies who were enjoying being on vacation. But this time around I wound up on what must have been the honeymoon cruise. There were no single women to be found. One late night as the trip was nearing an end, I stumbled upon an interesting couple drinking in the bar. The usual small-talk ensued. Where are you from, etc. It turns out Marty and Mrs. Marty (I can’t remember her name) were from Chicago. Marty was a White Sox fan. I told him I had always wanted to see a game at Wrigley Field. Marty was pretty hammered and graciously invited me to come to Chicago and attend a couple of games with him. He said he had a guest room at the house and we would have a great time. Mrs. Marty seemed to have no objections and wrote down their phone number for me since her husband was a little too inebriated to safely operate a pen.
After returning stateside I called Marty and we began planning the trip. My Wrigley Field dream was about to become a reality. We targeted the Astros three game series in mid May. I flew into Midway and Marty picked me up. I had never been to Chicago and found the people of the town, like Marty and Mrs. Marty, to be very nice. Marty had a basement that featured a big TV, a bar, and plenty of Chicago sports memorabilia. It was a genuine old school man-cave.
We drove up to the north side and I remember being amazed at the fact that the ballpark was located in the middle of a neighborhood. I had been to several stadiums in the past and all of them were surrounded by massive parking lots. This place was cool! There were drinking establishments literally across the street. Once inside the park the first thing that struck me was how the seats (we were sitting on the first base side) were so close to the field. The ivy on the outfield wall was all brown on day one, but I saw a couple of patches of green on day three. The Astros got off to an inauspicious start in the first game of the series. Cubs starter Steve Trachsel gave up a hit to the first batter of the game before shutting Houston down completely. Trachsel would throw a one-hitter in an easy win for the Cubs. Houston came back to win the next two games of the series, making the Bratwurst and Old Style beer that much tastier. The trip to Wrigley lived up to expectations and I recommend it to all baseball fans.
I flew back home to San Diego after the series and I never say Marty again. I can’t remember his wife’s name or his last name for that matter. All I know is that he worked for the water company there in Chicago. But I still have the memories and this photo that Marty bought with my name misspelled. Marty, if you’re out there and somehow miraculously read this post, let me thank you again. You are the man!