I could total up every sporting event I have ever been to and it still wouldn’t amount to how many professional baseball games I have attended. But no matter how many of those contests I sat through, I never came close to catching a foul ball — until last weekend.
Thanks to my uncle Roger, I fell into some nice tickets for the finale of the crosstown rivalry featuring the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs. So, I invited over my two brothers and my friend Ryan, and we ventured to the big city last Sunday to catch an afternoon game at Wrigley Field. My brothers and I have only been to Wrigley once, and two things stick out in my memory about that trip.
First, it is the only place that I have witnessed a robbery in person. Before the Cubs battled the Pirates, my family had just walked up to Wrigley, after an exhausting walk from a neighboring city because my dad refused to pay for parking. When we were in line to go through the gates, a man grabbed a woman’s purse right off her shoulders and sprinted down the street.
Obviously we’re not talking about a first-rate criminal, considering the streets are littered with bystanders and police from all angles. Being an interested 8-year-old, along with my dad and my brothers, we decided to go for a better peak of the action, which led to a near heart attack for my mom. By the end of the ordeal, she had her purse wrapped so tight around her body that the jaws of life would have difficulty ripping it away, and my brothers and I didn’t have much luck escaping her vice grip around our arms on our way into the stadium.
Lastly, that trip marked the first time we got kicked out of our seats. Since we were only grade schoolers for the most part, I’m putting a little blame on my parents for this one, because while they sat back in our original seats, they prodded us to move forward to occupy three seats that hadn’t been filled for almost half the game; and they were so close to the field that I could almost touch the ball players.
We moved down, (as the youngest, I was always nervous about getting in trouble, so I couldn’t even enjoy myself. My brothers, on the other hand, didn’t have many problems breaking the rules) but after about an inning of the theft, the original ticketholders came and told us to leave. Why they missed more than half the game and decided to watch the last three innings is beyond me, but they did, and I haven’t gathered the courage to take another person’s seat to this day.
Because of the capacity crowd Sunday, there was no chance the opportunity would present itself for new seats, so once we grabbed our chairs and a $7 drink, we sat back and watched the Sox look dismal. The only excitement came from my brother, Jeff, who joined in the jeering of Adam Dunn (during the first five at-bats of seeing Dunn in person this year, he batted a whopping .000 with five strikeouts).
If it wasn’t for the great atmosphere presented by Wrigley Field and the rivalry, the trip would have been a dud — until the eighth inning. The Sox showed some life, scoring one run on a wild pitch during Paul Konerko’s at-bat, bringing the Sox crowd to life. Our group, along with almost everyone else in the stadium, was on their feet, anticipating a comeback and possibly a sweep. Then, with the count 2-1 on Konerko, something happened that has never been seen at a professional baseball game.
Konerko sent the 2-1 fastball into the stands behind home plate, heading straight for our seats. The ball kept climbing and drifting to us, until it started its downward trend right into the outstretched hands of someone unknown. The ball ricocheted off those hands and caromed off the wall, setting off a frenzy behind us and leaving us to question who possessed the stone hands.
At first, my brother Matt, who stood to my left yelled at me, saying that I hindered his ability to catch the ball (this coming from a man who had as stellar of a baseball career as me; and I was nicknamed Chuck Knoblach because of my unique ability to overthrow the first baseman from second). I thought the ball ricocheted off Matt’s hands, but he denied the accusation, leaving me to believe the fans in front of us spoiled my one and only shot at a foul ball. And not just any foul ball, but a ball hit by Konerko, who was told that day he didn’t make the All-Star team, despite being near the top of almost every hitting category.
When we walked out of Wrigley that day, it didn’t feel all that different from the first trip. Although we didn’t steal any seats, our group was robbed, just like that poor woman almost 20 years ago.
Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald.