WC attended law school in Chicago, Illinois in the waning days of Boss Daley. In fact, the first thing WC saw on arrival at the law school campus was a cop taking a bribe on a parking violation. WC arrived on August 25, 1972. The morning of August 26, 1972 was given over to “orientation,” where they utterly failed to tell us the important stuff. (Don’t walk west of State Street after dark. Beware of dunes of dead fish washing up on the lakeshore. Pedestrians never have the right of way. Cops are never your friend.)
But in the afternoon, a few of us headed north on the State Street ‘L’ (which is actually underground and not elevated at Chicago Avenue) to attend a Cubs baseball game. WC’s first Cubs game, ever. First ‘L’ train ride, ever. After settling in the bleachers ($2.00 tickets for the front tier of seats), WC watched the Cubs play the San Francisco Giants in the warm afternoon sunlight, with Fergie Jenkins on the mound for the Cubs and, eventually, Randy Moffitt (Billy Jean King’s brother) pitching for the Giants. At that point in WC’s life, he was sort of a Giants fan, the Giants then being the MLB team closest to Fairbanks. WC was the only Giants fan in the bleachers that afternoon.
WC also had his first Falstaff beer that afternoon. It was awful. Hog piss and soap suds. WC had attended undergraduate school in the Pacific Northwest, where the cheap beer was much better. But WC was a country mouse, so he kept his opinions to himself. The beer went largely undrunk. WC’s new roommate, John Freechak, was less restrained. John was from St. Louis, was an anti-fan of the Cubs, and freely shared with the rest of the crowd in the bleachers his strong, loud, largely obscene opinions on the quality of the beer, the quality of the Cubs and the quality of Cubs fans. He succeeded in annoying all of the true Cubs fans around him.
It was a very good game, with the lead changing hands several times. The wind was blowing out, which meant that a routine fly ball would get a wind assist out of the park and onto Waveland Avenue. There were at least 30 hits. And at least 8 home runs; Billy Williams and Ron Santo each had two. After 9 innings of play, the score was tied, 9-9. So in failing early evening light, we went into extras.
The Giants were retired without scoring in the top of the 10th inning, on a nifty double play line drive to the pitcher and a quick toss to first base. In the bottom of the 10th, Jose Cardenal singled. Billy Williams moved Cardenal to third base on a single. Rick Monday then struck out with runners on first and third. Ron Santo came up to bat, and the Giants chose to walk him. So the bases were loaded when Joe Pepitone came to the plate. Moffitt’s first pitch maybe – maybe – brushed Pepitone’s uniform. The umpire called it as a hit batsman, and Pepitone, without lifting the bat off his shoulder, “drove” in the winning run and the game ended with a Cubs win, 10-9.
Freechak was furious, and loudly protested what he saw as an unjust ending. It was too much for the Cubs loyalists around us, who dumped at least three half-full plastic glasses of Falstaff beer over Freechak’s head, soaking him and splashing WC pretty badly. That was annoying enough that WC threw his largely untouched beer on the folks he thought had soaked Freech and splashed WC.
One thing led to another, and before very long Freech, another new law student and WC wound up in the holding pen under the left field stands, cooling our heels, and stinking of bad beer, under the baleful eye of three security guys. Readers will note the guys who threw the first beer didn’t get detained. Eventually, the stadium manager turned up, chewed us out for a while, and banned us from Cubs games for three weeks. Ordinarily that wouldn’t count as punishment. You know, it’s the the Cubs. But the Cubs mounted a 12-4 record over that period, and then finished the season on the road. So we rode home on the ‘L’ in the dark, stinking of beer and looking like something the cat had dragged in.
WC learned later from Prof. Paul Slater that if he had offered $20 to the stadium manager to “pay the laundry bill,” the ban probably would have been lifted. But WC was still a country mouse at that point, and didn’t yet understand how Chicago worked.
But somehow WC started following the Cubs from that point forward, and sank into his 39 year addiction to a hopeless, hapless ball team.
Did you know it’s only 71 days to Opening Day?