With five days of our ‘Enjoy It While You Can’ baseball trip in the books, Steve and I were now down to our last; one final day to experience Chicago, see a ballgame at Wrigley, grab a bite at a Loop-area eatery, play a game of Statis Pro at the Days Inn, and enjoy the last season of baseball before the impending strike reared its ugly head, and basically ruined everything about the sport we’d loved since childhood.
We slept in a bit, then headed out of the Days Inn and walked a ways to the Red Line station on Chicago Avenue, near the corner of Chicago and State, where we’d catch a northbound train to Addison Street, and this afternoon’s game between the Cubs and Dodgers at Wrigley Field. While we waited on the underground platform, we listened to the haunting strains of a nearby street performer’s violin, a mesmerizing and unforgettable tune that echoed sharply through the empty El tunnel, and one that took me years to discover was an actual song, which I chanced upon while watching the Ken Burns documentary series on the Civil War. Also, I’d remembered to pick up a newspaper this time, so we’d have baseball statistics at-hand to research throughout today’s game when necessary. Continue reading
The ‘Enjoy It While You Can’ baseball tour began its third and final stage when Steve and I departed Milwaukee during the early hours of July 30th and traveled south on the I-94, headed for Chicago and the first of two afternoon games we’d see at Wrigley Field over the next two days, featuring the hometown Cubs and the visiting Dodgers of Los Angeles. It would be Steve’s first-ever visit to the North Side ballpark known to many as ‘The Friendly Confines’, and for me it would be the second, after I’d seen a Cubs game there with my brother and our friend during the summer of 1990, when we’d traveled by train to Chicago on a baseball tour of our own.
Before leaving Wisconsin, Steve and I stopped off at a Perkins restaurant near Kenosha and had breakfast, the first true morning meal we’d experienced during the entire trip. From there it was nothing but the southbound interstate, until we once again turned off onto Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago and pulled into our trusty Days Inn, where this time we were given a room on the opposite side of the hotel, now with a nice view of Milton Olive Park, Navy Pier, and the wide expanse of Lake Michigan. Again, we quickly unpacked and grabbed our baseball caps, but this time, instead of driving to the ballpark, we walked several blocks to the intersection of Grand Avenue and State Street, where we caught the Red Line train at the Grand elevated station, and where I nearly left Steve behind when I suddenly jumped aboard a car without giving him a heads-up; soon realizing where I’d just disappeared to, he leapt aboard as well, moments before the doors slammed closed behind him! Which, of course, would’ve made for an interesting cat-and-mouse chase by rail if we’d been separated. Continue reading
It was time for a change of venue for the ‘Enjoy It While You Can’ baseball tour, so Steve and I checked out of the Days Inn in downtown Chicago on the morning of July 28th and headed north on the I-94 for Wisconsin, where we’d spend two days in Milwaukee catching a pair of Brewers games against the Red Sox at old Milwaukee County Stadium, the second of three ballparks we’d be visiting on this trip. While making preparations for this tour months earlier, we’d discovered that the Brewers would be vacating County Stadium after this season, and moving into a stadium that would soon be built right next to the current one; we had no way of knowing at the time, but the team would actually spend another seven seasons at County Stadium before finally transferring to brand-new Miller Park in 2001.
Before our arrival at our hotel in Wauwatosa, however, we had a pair of side trips to make to begin our day. The first was to Union Grove, a small town located about thirty miles south of Milwaukee, where a friend of Steve’s named Marnie once lived, and where he took some photos of her childhood home—once again sparking the ire of another edgy Midwesterner, the ‘mean guy who lives in Marnie’s house now’ as Steve called him—and the school she’d attended way back when, J.I. Case High School, which was about as desolate a learning facility as Northwestern had been. From there we drove east towards Lake Michigan and our second stop, the waterfront city of Racine, home to Kewpee Hamburgers, a tiny diner from the 1920s wedged underneath a modern parking garage, which Marnie had enthusiastically recommended to us, and where Steve and I both had a double cheeseburger and fries for lunch…and afterwards wondered what the big deal was all about. Either way, the mere existence of the place supplied us with enough comedic interplay to last the remainder of the trip. Continue reading
For Day 2 of our ‘Enjoy It While You Can’ tour, Steve and I decided to spend the day exploring different locations north of Chicago, where we also had two specific destinations logged on our must-see agenda: the campus of Northwestern University, located in Evanston, and the McDonald’s Museum in nearby Des Plaines. For whatever strange reason, we chose to skip the White Sox-Indians game taking place that night at Comiskey Park, which now seems odd considering we’d made this trip primarily to attend baseball games; the most expensive ticket at Comiskey was a Club Level seat at $18, while the cheapest was an $8 seat in either the upper deck or the center field bleachers (yes, those were major league prices!), so I can’t imagine expense was the roadblock keeping us from going. However, considering my miserly ways of the time, I wouldn’t be surprised if that had been the reason after all.
So, with an entire day at our disposal, we got an early start out of the Days Inn and traveled north on Lake Shore Drive to Sheridan Road, which took us right into the pleasant little town of Evanston and the grounds of Northwestern University, home of the Wildcats and, as we found out, not so much the home of students, or anyone else for that matter: being the middle of summer, there wasn’t a lot of activity taking place on a college campus on a Tuesday morning. The day, however, was a nice one, so we explored the campus anyway, cracked jokes at the expense of squirrels and student handbills, and found some photo-worthy cement benches courtesy of the Class of 1986. I don’t know what it is about colleges and universities—Cal Poly SLO, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and Marquette later in this trip, to name a few—but Steve and I seem to enjoy visiting them when we travel on these baseball-themed vacations. Continue reading
Twenty years ago this month, during the summer of 1993, my friend Steve P and I took a trip to Chicago and Milwaukee to experience major league baseball one last time before players followed through on their threat to strike the following season; we dubbed the trip the ‘Enjoy It While You Can’ tour, and though it remains the most enter-taining and enjoyable of our many baseball trips together, it was sad for us to consider that, in a way, this particular trip was our ‘last hurrah’ as far as our interest in the sport was concerned; the strike was looming, it had been announced the Brewers would soon be leaving County Stadium, and in our shared opinion, the sport was changing for the worse, and our loyalty towards it was dangerously waning. And for me, by the following season, that loyalty would disappear for good.
For our week-long visit, we’d obtained tickets to two games at Wrigley Field, one at the new Comiskey Park, and two at County Stadium, while making plans to see as much of both cities during our stay as possible. Along with the five real games we’d be attending, I’d also be playing a handful of games from my SP78 Replay baseball season: three from the AL and two from the NL, with Steve participating in three of those contests. Since our trip seemed to be broken down into game-day segments, I thought I’d do the same with this edition of On the Road with SP78, and separate the article into five chapters: this initial entry will feature our first day in Chicago, with highlights from our visit to Comiskey and the opening game of Statis Pro played. Continue reading