Sunday, June 14, 2020

Ours Go to 11: Volume 37, Notable Games Attended -- Regular Season

Had things proceeded as scheduled, last night--June 13, 2020--I would have watched my beloved Chicago Cubs play a regular-season, Major League Baseball game against their Arch rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Rather than at Wrigley Field or Busch Stadium, this game would've taken place at London Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, England.

Hopefully it will be rescheduled for 2021, or as safe, and I will be able to plan a different European jaunt and attend.

But theoretically, it would be a once in a lifetime event, to see the Cubs play in Europe.

So for now, I will draw upon my memory banks--and perhaps even more so, ticket stubs--to list some of the most notable, memorable and/or cherished games I've attended across various sports.

It seems a bit unfair to loop together regular season and playoff/exhibition games, so here I'll focus only on the former, and will follow up with a subsequent post covering the latter.

But this is quite inexact. I've been fortunate to attend many games over the years, some at the gracious invite of friends, relatives, bosses, etc. How I attended, or with whom, isn't a criteria I'm much considering, but I remain extremely grateful to those who treated me, joined me, traveled with me, etc. 

I recall very few outcomes or specific happenings within games, and while I've been to games at 40 different major league baseball stadiums, vary rarely do the venues factor into the choices below. I was also a vendor at several Chicago games between 1985-89, which I'll include in some cases, but sparingly.

Perhaps inadvertently, I'm leaving out several Cubs vs. White Sox games I attended, and mostly won't include games I went to in order to see all-time greats--Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Sanders, LeBron James, Allen Iverson, etc.--or to observe pre-game ceremonies or get promotional items.

And as I feel apt, I'll lump a few games together. 

The Most Memorable Regular Season Games I Was At

1. April 18, 2007: Chicago White Sox vs. Texas Rangers - Mark Buehrle No-Hitter
It was a freezing evening game at U.S. Cellular Field that I attended with three friends. I would've happily left at any point the Rangers got a hit, but they never did. Sox won 6-0.

See video within article
2. August 8 / 9, 1988: Chicago Cubs vs. Philadelphia Phillies / New York Mets - Lights at Wrigley
The first night game at Wrigley Field never officially happened, as after 91-year-old Harry Grossman flipped the switch on 8/8/88--I was there as a vendor--Mother Nature stalled the game in the middle of the 4th inning. Fortunately I was back the next night for the first official night game at Wrigley, against the Mets. Cubs won 6-4.

3. September 6, 1998: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds - Old Busch Stadium, St. Louis
Incidentally, Long Gone Summer, which chronicles Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's home run chase of 1998 premieres tonight on ESPN. I attended this late-season game in St. Louis as McGwire sat at 60 HR (Sosa was at 58). However I may feel now about both stars presumably juicing, the atmosphere was electric then. McGwire did not homer (nor did Sammy on the day), so nothing noteworthy happened in this game, it was just cool to be there. Over the next two nights, against the Cubs at Busch (I wasn't there) McGwire hit HR 61 and 62, tying and breaking Roger Maris' longstanding record. He finished the year with 70 HR; Sosa 66.

4. January 2 & 24, 2003: Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards - United Center
I saw Michael Jordan play in person about 10 times across his career, mostly with the Bulls. Some of these games are noted below. But after he unretired to play a final two seasons with the Wizards, I had a ticket for a 2002 game at the UC in which he didn't play and also unwittingly bought a fake ticket for his final game at Madison Square Garden in New York in March 2003. But I did attend his first and last visits to the Jordan -- err, United -- Center in the 2002-03 season. He had a combined 21 points, but so what. I cheered loudly.

5. June 17 / 18, 2000: New York Yankees vs. Chicago White Sox, Old Yankee Stadium; Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, Fenway Park
On a brief East Coast jaunt highlighted by seeing Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden, the next afternoon I would see the White Sox clobber the Yankees 17-4 on my second ever visit to the original Yankee Stadium. I would then take a train to Boston, where my sister Allison lived, and the next night we went to a game at Fenway, my first at the venerable home of the Boston Red Sox ballpark. The Yankees won 22-1. I don't know if any other team has had a 34-run loss to win swing in 2 days.

6. September 8, 1985: Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds, Wrigley Field - Pete Ties Ty in a Tie
Before he would disgrace himself for getting caught betting on baseball, Pete Rose became the Hit King by surpassing Ty Cobb's 4,191. On a Sunday in Chicago, late in my first season as a vendor, "Charlie Hustle" tied Ty--he'd surpass him Wednesday in Cincinnati--in a game that would officially end in a 5-5 tie. Per #2 above, Wrigley didn't yet have lights.

7. March 1, 2014: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Pittsburgh Penquins, Soldier Field
I went to a handful of Hawks games during their dynasty era, including a Stanley Cup Final game. But this outdoor "Stadium Series" game at Soldier Field was really cool, especially as it was freezing. And it was also my first chance to see the Penquins' superstar Sidney Crosby live in person. The Blackhawks won 5-1 in front of nearly 63,000 fans.

8. June 7, 2003: Chicago Cubs vs. New York Yankees - Wrigley Field
Roger Clemens aiming for career win #300 vs. Kerry Wood. The series marked the first Yankees visit to Wrigley since 1932. Cubs won 5-2 but game marred by a scary injury to the Cubs' Hee-Seop Choi. 

9. March 9, 1985: Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz - Chicago Stadium
First time I saw Michael Jordan in person. He scored 28 but the Jazz won 111-105, led by Darrell Griffith's 40 points. Orlando Woolridge had 35 for the Bulls.

10. May 2, 2000: Chicago Cubs vs. Houston Astros - Wrigley Field
Kerry Wood's return to action after more than a year on the Disabled List. He went 6 innings for the win in a 11-1 Cubs victory, and also hit a 2-run homer.

11. November 26, 2011: Chelsea vs. Wolves, Stamford Bridge stadium, London
My friend Paolo was in London on business, staying in a corporate flat, so I visited him. Though I had seen some great international soccer stars play in Chicago, I'd never been to a game--of any kind--in another country. Paolo is a huge fan, of soccer and Chelsea, so we went to Stamford Bridge and got tickets from a "tout" (i.e. scalper). It was a fun experience; Chelsea won 3-0. I can't trace who scored goals, but notables on Chelsea's roster included Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Daniel Sturridge, Fernando Torres and Ashley Cole.

A few others

- September 5, 1983: White Sox v A's - First-place Sox won 11-1 enroute to playoffs. Went with my childhood (and still) pal Jordan; Floyd Bannister started.
- August 6, 1984: Cubs vs. Mets - First-place Cubs beat second-place Mets (with Dwight Gooden starting) 9-3; taken by summertime boss, sat 1st row behind Cubs dugout
- April 8, 1999: Blackhawks vs. Rangers - Wayne Gretzky's last visit to Chicago. The crowd and the Hawks gave him a great salute.
- April 14 (or 15), 1981: White Sox vs. Brewers - I remember my took me and a friend to a game right at the start of the Sox first season with Carlton Fisk (alongside Greg Luzinski). April 14 was opening day, but the 15th would've been a much easier ticket. I don't have the stub or much recollection, but do recall my dad being pickpocketed on the L.  
- February 15, 2000: Bulls vs. Lakers - Phil Jackson's first visit to the UC as Lakers coach on a title-bound team with Shaq and Kobe. Lakers won 88-76
- November 26, 1991: Bulls vs. Clippers, LA Sports Arena - Living in L.A. from 1990-92, I convinced a colleague to accompany me to see Michael, who scored 23 in a 116-79 Bulls win.
- December 9, 1995: Bulls vs. Bucks, Bradley Center, Milwaukee - My friend Mark and I went up to Milwaukee early in the Bulls' 72-win, 4th ring season. Adorned in black uniforms, the Bulls won 118-106; Michael had 45.
- Various dates, 1990-92, 1996: Cubs vs. Dodgers, Dodger Stadium - I don't recall any game in particular, but it was always fun to see the Cubs in L.A., when I lived there and on a return visit.
- March 30, 2014: Fluminense vs. Vasco de Gama, Maracana, Rio de Janeiro - The famed Maracana had been reconfigured down from a 200,000 capacity to 80,000 and wasn't even 1/4 full for this game, but it was still fun to attend.
- September 11 / 12, 2005: San Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Padres, SBC Park - As noted above, I've been to many baseball stadiums, and my favorite beyond Wrigley is the Giants' home on the Bay. And while I hated Barry Bonds, even in real time, the game on 9/12 marked his first of 2005 after 4 straight MVP seasons. So it was kinda cool.

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