Three Chicago Teams and Their Fans Gather For Remarkable Tribute to Excellence
by Evan Pritchard for Amazine1.mlblogs.com
Dateline : Chicago, Illinois June 13th, 2010
The White Sox and Cubs are famous in this town for their long-standing grudge, and I suspect it was part of the inspiration for interleague play. Mets and Yankees, very nice prospect, Dodgers versus Angels, less dramatic but worth seeing; But to allow the White Sox and Cubs to tear it up in a regular season game, that was too much to resist; interleague play was born. Yesterday’s game was touted as “the game of the year,” in Chitown baseball, because it was the last meeting at Wrigley Field between the two archrivals, and it landed on a Sunday. Three weeks ago Amazine was plucky enough to purchase two of the last tickets available for this likely-to-be historic game (enough tickets for our entire staff). How bad could it be? I made the mistake of showing the tickets to a friend who was an ex-Chicagoan now living in North Carolina, and nearly had them stolen. Thank God the police returned the tickets unharmed.
Then last Wednesday the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in six games, and the positive love energy that Chicago has been working on in secret (okay, so Oprah and Obama have been letting the news slip out to 300 million close friends) started to snowball.
Friday, the darlings of the American midwest, the Blackhawks hockey team, carried the Stanley Cup aloft from the top of one of the six or so double decker busses that carried the Blackhawk’s players down Michigan Avenue through a corridor of 2 million screaming fans, virtually all of whom were wearing Blackhawks uniforms and at least some of whom where carrying cheap lightweight plastic “Stanley Cups” triumphantly aloft, hoping to be mistaken as actual players perhaps.Then seeing how well that went, ESPN thought they’d change the day game at Wrigley to a night game, broadcast it nationwide, and have the entire Blackhawks team show up in the team bus and parade around a sold out Wrigley field with selfsame Stanley Cup and then watch the game from the relative safety of the press box. Their time in the box was not to be a penance, but in fact quite a reward, as their two baseball counterparts put on quite a show.
On On Saturday, most of Chicago’s esteemed universities and institutes of higher learning had their graduations, and at least a few arranged to celebrate by going to the Sunday game at Wrigley in their cap and gown. Graduates from U of C (including one member of Amazine’s team) Northwestern, and DePaul and others were among them, a fourth Chicago “uniform,” adding color to the other three present in abundance.
Amazine’s David Pritchard was there on Wednesday to watch the sixth game of the finals in a Chicago bar, and then the entire Amazine team was there to greet the Hawks’ bus outside Wrigley in a rain-scattered afternoon of pregame celebration. We were also there to witness what struck this writer to be a shamanic warrior’s ritual on a scale that was unprecedented. The Blackhawks’ team entered the field at Wrigley from the right field corner and proceeded to carry the “holy grail” of hockey counterclockwise around the outfield warning track. When they got to the famed short brick walls along the left field and third base side, they allowed each of the lucky fans standing along the wall to touch the Stanley Cup for good luck. Then they reached home plate and allowed Lou Pinella and Ozzie Guillien to hold the weighty cup aloft, and then allowed each of the White Sox and Cubs players to touch the cup for good luck and future victory. Then the Blackhawks stood on the first base line and sang the National Anthem while that huge silver monument to excellence stood on Wrigley’s Home Plate, the same cup won by the Montreal Canadiens five times in a row and the same plate from which Babe Ruth made his mythical “Called Shot”: in 1933.Then the three teams gathered together for a group photo around the cup, with the Hawks red in a Vee around the cup, with the White Sox road black on the right and the Cubs home blue on the left, 110 of Chicago’s active professional athletes on the field at one time was a sight to see, and one that would not have happened but for interleague play.Meanwhile the 40,456 fans in the stands were going crazy, in a frenzied celebration of Chicago’s diverse socio-economic identity, wearing either Cubs, White Sox, Black Hawks, or University colors, or combinations of all four, in surprising equality, and getting along together, not only in the stands and in the walkways, but in local restaurants and on the trains, and what might have been an intertribal conflict became an ecumencal communion by Chicago standards.
Then Gavin Floyd and Ted Lilly, inspired by the touch of the Holy Grail of Hockey, proceeded to pursue the first double no hitter in baseball history since Hippo Vaughn and Fred Toney went at it on May 2nd, 1917. MLB’s Scott Merkin described the ensuing innings as “amazing to watch unfold.” Lou Pinella , a forty-plus year veteran of the game, said, “I’ve never seen two no hitters like that going on into the 7th!”
In the top of the seventh, with Lilly on the mound, the Blackhawks again raised the Stanley cup and the flashbulbs started to pop from every direction. The Blackhawks sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame, a musically talented group in fact, and then left the game even as the double no-no was still intact. We watched in amazement as the Blackhawks walked through the stands unmolested from the broadcast booth to the walkways and out to their bus.
As soon as the hockey Gods had left, the Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano broke up Floyd’s quest for immortality in the bottom of the seventh with a two out double, following a throw out at second. He was driven in as the only run of the game on a single by Tracy.
The White Sox were not to break up Lilly’s no hitter until Juan Pierre’s pinch hit single in the top of the ninth, on Lilly’s 108th and last pitch of the game. He was given a standing ovation by both Cubs and White Sox fans, and then Marmol the closer proceeded to walk and then balk the runners to second and third, forcing him to give an intentional walk to the hot hitting Rios (the grand slam hero of recent outings) following a strikeout. The dangerous Konerko came to the plate still with the bases loaded and one out, the tying run at third. A walk would erase Lilly as the winner, yet again, in a most frustrating season for the starter with a 3.28 ERA but only one previous win.
Konerko hit into on a sparkling force play, perfectly executed, in which speed demon Juan Pierre was gunned down at home plate, and then Quentin shot a high popup into the falling rain which shortstop Castro struggled with then finally caught, just averting a three player collision that would have cleared the bases and made a loser out of Marmol.
The final score was 1-0 Cubs, a score that was highly appropriate for a tribute to the way hockey and baseball are played in this town, with the accent on defense.