The late show with the Chicago Cubs

September 18, 2012|By Matt Lindner @mattlindner | For RedEye

After nearly 100 years, Wrigley Field doesn't have a whole lot of milestones left, save for a pesky World Series championship, that is.

However, if you were responsible and went to bed at a halfway decent hour Monday night instead of heading out to Wrigley Field, you missed out on a chance to witness history being made at the Friendly Confines, albeit a rather obscure piece of history.

First pitch for Monday night's Cubs-Pirates game finally came just after 10:40 p.m. after  a nearly four-hour rain delay, marking the latest start in the history of the ballpark. Cubs starting pitcher Travis Wood's first pitch to Sterling Marte came in front of an estimated 1,500 fans, some of whom had ridden out the rain delay.

Others, like my friend Ashvin and I, had literally rolled out of bed minutes before and strolled down to the ballpark in our pajamas out of sheer curiosity.

The 20-minute walk from my apartment to the ballpark proved well worth the effort--and the subsequent lack of sleep. Wrigley Field maintained a surreal "Field of Dreams"-type feel right around the 10:40 first pitch as beer vendors milled about the ballpark hawking $7.50 brews to a small but appreciative clientele.

While the 3-0 final score will likely be forgotten in short order by the vast majority who showed up, what won't be forgotten was just how surreal the whole thing was. Despite the late start, there were still a handful of school-aged children milling about, some sleeping on their parents, many oblivious to what was going on around them.

In addition to setting a record for latest start in Wrigley Field history, Monday night also likely marked the longest amount of time beer sales were allowed. While the team generally cuts sales off in the seventh inning, on Monday night it was in the fourth inning. To be fair, the fourth inning took place around 11:30, meaning fans had a full six-and-a-half hours to get their drink on, so it's not like the Cubs were being unreasonable by shutting things down when they did.

Monday night became Tuesday morning. A brisk wind blew in off the lake and some in the sparse crowd whipped out their camera phones to capture the exact moment the Wrigley Field clock struck midnight. Cubs social media guru Kevin Saghy approached me in Section 123 with a cup of coffee in his hand and a weary smile creasing his lips. He'd been at work since 9:30 Monday morning, he said, and likely wouldn't be getting home until around 2 or 3 on Tuesday morning.

While the crowd was small, the ushers remained diligent as ever. Fans who showed up could sit more or less wherever they pleased except for the lower boxes, which remained reserved for those who had tickets there. Not surprisingly, most of the high rollers had long since left the premises, leaving the bourgeoisie to watch jealously from seats we might never be able to afford otherwise. Fans behind home plate made a celebrity out of one usher, a fellow named Rick working Section 123. What started off as a quick "Rick! Rick! Rick!" chant at the beginning of the game ended with the newfound hero signing beer cups and body parts.

With about 300 or so left in the stands and more than a few eyelids straining to stay open, the curtain mercifully fell on the evening. While the late start was a rarity, the end result was not. Luis Valbuena struck out swinging at 1:28 a.m. with a runner in scoring position. Immediately afterward, a RedEye reader named Tommy Reynolds who had recognized me from my column turned to me and said, "boy, do we have a story to tell. " Boy was he right.

In an otherwise forgettable Cubs season, it was nice to be a part of something completely and totally unforgettable.

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.

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