A’S VISIT TWO BASEBALL MECCAS THIS WEEK

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If you bring up the merits
of interleague baseball, you’re likely to be bombarded by many divergent
views.  There are those who love the unique
matchups and rare appearances, yet there are those who believe the AL vs. NL concept–DH or
no DH–has run its course and may not be worth compromising the integrity of a
schedule.  I’m not here today to fuel the
debate either way.  I’m here today to
revel in one of the A’s best road trips of the season, or any season.  

 

Starting with tonight’s game
in “the friendly confines” of Wrigley Field, Oakland visits two of baseball’s
greatest bastions in Chicago and St. Louis–cities where baseball is king.  In my past years in the game, I have had the
pleasure of working many games in each city. 
For A’s fans attending their first games at Wrigley, you’re in for a
real treat.  Yes, there is the brick and
the ivy and the organ music, but there’s a lot more.  It starts outside the park.  The pre-game vibe spills out onto the streets
surrounding Wrigley.   Stops at the famed
Cubby Bear Lounge on Addison
Street or Bernie’s Tavern on Clark
are mandatory. 

 

In fact, when I was working
for another major league team, an unnamed broadcaster and I actually left the
premises during a fourth-inning rain delay and sampled a fine local ale at
Bernie’s while engaging with die-hard Cubs

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fans in a heated conversation about
whether Mark Grace was a future Hall of Famer. And, of course, there are
Chicago-style hot dog places everywhere you look.  The name escapes me, but my favorite was
located on a strand of property right next to Wrigley.  Beyond the onions, peppers and pickles, what
I remember most was this bright relish that was a cross between nuclear and
neon green.  My buddy knew the joint’s
owner and he would buy a five gallon jug of the stuff every time he visited to
take back home to the Bay Area. 

 

Of course, one of the
privileges of being a PR man is your experience carries over to the press box,
and the view of Wrigley from on top is spectacular.  You see the ivy walls, the high-rise
buildings and Lake Michigan beyond, and in my
case, it also gave me a chance to say hello to an old friend, the long-time
radio voice of the Cubbies, Pat Hughes.  We
both laugh when recalling our early days, when I was Stanford’s Sports Information
Director and he was a skinny, wet-behind-the-ears young broadcaster doing college
baseball and volleyball on San Jose-based Gill Cable TV, a forerunner of Fox
Sports and Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. 

 

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Besides working with the
ever excitable Ron Santo in the booth, Hughes has earned his own place in the
hearts of Cubs’ fans with his professional yet somewhat folksy style of
announcing.  I’ve had so many memories of
Wrigley Field over the years:

 

  • Meeting Bill Murray in the press
    box as he was warming up for his “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” extravaganza in
    the seventh inning, that wonderful Cubs’ tribute to the late, great Harry Caray
  • Watching Chicago fans on Mitch Williams Poster Day
    shower the field with a poster of his likeness after he blew a ninth-inning
    save
  • The love affair Cubs fans
    once had for Sammy Sosa as he repeatedly launched home runs onto Waveland Avenue. 

 

In fact, speaking of Sosa,
I’ll share a little anecdote that ESPN’s Chris Berman once shared with me.  As Sammy was posting cartoonish offensive
numbers in 1998, there were some who thought Sosa would not only exceed Roger
Maris’ home run mark of 61 but also had a legitimate shot at reaching Hack
Wilson’s RBI mark of 191.  Wilson, a fireplug (5-6,
195) of a man, was with the Cubs when all games at Wrigley were played during
the day.  While it was baseball in its
purest form, those day games posed a problem for many a Cub player.  The notorious nightlife of Chicago cheated some major leaguers of not
only hours of sleep but perhaps years off their careers.   Although
some night baseball had been introduced at Wrigley by 1998, Berman assured Sosa
that Wilson’s
record was safe:  “Sammy, you will never
accomplish what Hack did.”    “No, no, Boomer, I really think I can do it,”
Sosa pleaded.  Berman, shaking his head
for effect, responded, “No you can’t Sammy. 
Hack didn’t just drive in 191 runs in a season.  His record is driving in 191 runs with a
hangover!”

 

Later this week, I’ll share
with you some thoughts and memories about the A’s next stop, the Gateway City
of St. Louis.

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