My Trip to Chicago and Wrigley Field in Words, Links, and Photos
I traveled to Chicago on Wednesday for business and attended the Angels-Cubs games on Friday and Saturday at Wrigley Field. It was my first trip to the Windy City in five years. I returned home on Sunday and watched the final round of the U.S. Open before celebrating Father's Day dinner with my family.
Here were the highlights of my trip:
Dinner with clients at Morton's near O'Hare Airport. I order my steak "medium" but it was served "medium-well to well." Oh well.
Checked in to the Hilton Chicago overlooking Lake Michigan after the Rosemont taxi cab driver got lost and ran up a $56 fare (which turned out to be less than $40 on the return trip to the airport Sunday morning).
Long lunch with Jim Callis of Baseball America. Jim met me at the hotel and we walked to Jimmy Green's on State Street. We had a great time talking about the draft, minor league prospects, the College World Series, and more. We hope to hook up at the Futures Game in Anaheim next month.
Eric Smith, my former Pony League Baseball teammate (I'm standing next to the coach on the far left and "E" is No. 9 in the front row — ex-Padres pitcher Floyd Chiffer is wearing No. 13), fellow co-captain of our high school basketball team, and friend for over 40 years, arrived in town in the afternoon. We walked through Grant Park and along Michigan and Lake Shore Avenues. Here is a photo of us in front of the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain. We had dinner at the Eleven City Diner on Wabash at 11th Street. I had a Boston Cooler in Chicago. The menu proclaimed that the Vernors ginger ale and vanilla ice cream soda was "not from Boston" and instead calling it "a Midwest City favorite."
We watched the Lakers beat the Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. It was the franchise's 16th championship and sweet revenge for 2008. Los Angeles is now one short of Boston's record 17 titles. Phil Jackson has won 11 rings as a coach (six with Chicago and five with L.A.) plus two as a player (Knicks). Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher have a three-peat (2000-2002) and a repeat (2009-2010) under their belts.
Woke up, flipped on the TV, and saw the U.S.
beat tie Slovenia in the World Cup. Maurice Edu's game-winning goal off a free kick by Landon Donovan was disallowed by referee Koman Coulibaly in the 85th minute (of a 90-minute game) for no apparent reason even though a Slovenian defender had his arms wrapped around midfielder Michael Bradley. The son of U.S. coach Bob Bradley had tied the game three minutes earlier when he poked Jozy Altidore's header into the roof of the net. The Americans meet Algeria on Wednesday in a decisive match that will determine whether the U.S. is knocked out in the first round or eligible to advance to the round of 16.
Eric and I took the 'L' to Wrigley Field. Arriving between 11 and 11:30 a.m. for a 1:20 p.m. game, we walked to the Pick Me Up Cafe and had breakfast at the North Clark Street eatery. We met longtime pal Steven Korte and his daughter Jenna at the entrance to the field. Steven was my catcher on a fast-pitch softball youth team, an all-league basketball player at a competing high school, and a fellow employee in the Lakewood Parks and Recreation Department during our teenage years. Steven and I have remained good friends over the years even though he moved to the Chicago area 15 years ago.
The Angels beat the Cubs, 7-6, in a game that wasn't really as close as the final score suggests. After George Wendt sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," the clouds and umbrellas opened up, and the majority of Chicago fans had left, the Cubs rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth on a pair of home runs by Tyler Colvin and Derrek Lee, but it was too little, too late. Although the temperatures hovered in the high-80s early on, a thunderstorm struck immediately after the game and the grounds crew rolled out the tarp before the Angels could get off the field. Steven drove us to his home afterwards and his wife Patti outdid herself in preparing a delicious dinner for all of us. Never underestimate the value of friendships that persist for decades despite geographical obstacles.
Not satisfied with witnessing only one victory on our trip, Eric and I returned to Wrigley Field to catch game two of the weekend series between the Angels and Cubs. We purchased field box seats in the shade on a sunny day between home plate and the first base side of the pitcher's mound. It was a great game for Angels fans and a disheartening one for the Cubs band and the home crowd.
Howie Kendrick jump started the Halos' offense with a lead-off home run and Jered Weaver combined with Scot Shields to shut out the Cubs, 12-0. Weaver, who leads the American League in strikeouts (107), K/9 (10.17), and K/BB ratio (4.65), is making a strong case for earning the starting nod for the All-Star game in Anaheim next month. That said, there is always room for improvement. Jered tops the league in pitches per plate appearance (P/PA), which has contributed to the fact that he has only worked into the eighth inning twice this season, and has allowed the seventh-highest number of stolen bases (14 SB and only 3 CS) in the junior circuit.
Weaver has confounded skeptics by dominating LHB to the tune of .210/.249/.280 (with 2 HR, 10 BB, and 51 SO in 197 PA) this season. His opponent OPS vs. LHB ranks fourth in the majors among RHP. His big turn and length, outstanding command, and curve ball/slider combo "makes his fastball play up a bit" according to Mike Scioscia. Weaver's improved two-seamer now gives him five quality pitches and his ability to induce popups year-in and year-out adds to his effectiveness.
It was a weekend of Smiths. Eric's son Brad and my former partner Bryan Smith, no relation, sat with us at various times for a few innings. Bryan, who is a native of Chicago, and I started Baseball Analysts in early 2005. He now covers college baseball and prospects for Fangraphs. Like Jim Callis, Bryan and Dave Cameron will also be traveling to Southern California for the Futures Game, as well as the Cubs-Dodgers series that weekend. Bryan, Dave, Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts/ESPN Los Angeles, and I are planning on hooking up at a game and perhaps dinner one evening.
Woke up early to catch an 8:45 a.m. CT flight home. Eric and I arrived at the airport earlier enough to upgrade our middle seats to exit rows with extra leg room. I ran into Jim Owens, another old friend and business associate who was in Chicago for a wedding and made it to the game on Saturday, prior to boarding the plane. It's truly a small world. On the four-hour flight from ORD to SNA, I devoured the 2010 Baseball America Prospect Handbook courtesy of Mr. Callis, rather than endure the movie Leap Year.
My wife and son picked me up at John Wayne Airport in Orange County. After stopping for a chicken teriyaki rice bowl at The Loft Hawaiian Restaurant in Cypress, I collapsed on the couch and watched the final round of the U.S. Open. My daughter and her husband joined us for Father's Day dinner on the patio on a beautiful evening in Long Beach. After being away for four days, it was nice to be home again.
Life is good.