In this year of bad news on most sports fronts, the best news for Cubs fans came at the opening of the 2007 baseball season.
However, I am afraid that it came too late for the everyday Cubs fan such as myself!
The Tribune Company announced they were getting out of ba$eball.
I had been advocating this ever since 1991, when the Tribune Company raised the price of "Bleacher" tickets from four to six bucks.
The TribCo. bought the Cubs for $20 Million in 1981—lock, stock and ivy-covered walls—and their slogan was "Building a New Tradition."
At first, even I was a believer. What they forgot to tell the fans, however, was that the new traditions would come at the expense of many old traditions—like day games and day-of--game ticket sales.
The everyday fans and affordable seats were replaced by yuppies, (and one yuppie is too many at any ballpark) and skyboxes, night games, six-dollar beers, ticket scalpers, and advertisements on the scoreboard and outfield walls.
2007 marked the 60th anniversary of my first Cubs opening day. Harry Caray used to say: "You can't beat fun at the old ballpark." But now that's true only if you can afford a ticket!
For the opener, I made up a few signs and walked around the ballpark, saying "Hello" to the old timers and those fans who can still buy tickets without filing for bankruptcy. I was interviewed by several TV crews, and an Associated Press photographer snapped my image in front of the historic Wrigley Field crest sign out in front of the ballpark,
at Clark and Addison Street.
The local NBC station had me on, and their reporter, Amy Jacobson, asked me if I was going inside—so I explained to her why I was not. After the interview, she handed me her own ticket to the grandstands, and told me "to enjoy the game."
When the game ended, I took a photo from behind home plate, of the Cubs' logo sign. It was stenciled with "Home Opener 2007", painted on the grass. In the background, flying from the outfield scoreboard was the "L" flag, indicating a loss.
As it turned out, that was the only game I attended during the regular season this year. The Cubs set a new attendance record in 2007—without me and the other everyday fans!
I was able to see the last playoff game from the upper deck along the first base line, due to the kindness of a stranger who also gave me a ticket. After the Cubbies lost, it was "wait until next year," all over again!
The Cubs now have a new owner, and signed Kosuke Fukudome, one of the best outfielders in Japanese baseball, for four years at $48 million bucks. But to add insult to injury, before the Tribune changed hands, they raised the price of a box-seat ticket to $85 and a bleacher to $45. The price is the same for both kids and adults.
I'm sure 2008 will be just like previous years, and that trying to purchase a ticket at face value on the day of the game will still be harder than finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq!
I am old enough to remember when players never sold their autographs, and the gleam in their eyes when they did sign one—as well as the lucky kid who treasured it! During the great depression, a little guy could still afford to go to a game, and even take his family!
But now, when you hear the words "PLAY BALL!", it is usually preceded by the words heard most often at the ballpark today: "Charge it!"