Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Frigid Wrigley Field -- Filthy Chicago Weather

It was 35 degrees with a bellowing northeasterly wind at game time for the Cubs home opener yesterday. MLB attendance reports suggested that all 40,077 seats were sold out, but in reality it seemed only about half that number were masochistic enough to actually sit thru the entire ordeal.

Certain days become hallmarks in ones mind against which to measure certain developments and for me the weather on opening day has always been one of those. It makes me appreciate how entirely filthy Chicago's weather usually is.

I had the good fortune to escape Chicago for a bit more than a decade. Living in one of the balmy states of the Old Confederacy, I would still monitor the Cubs via the WGN superstation and recall one wonderful opening day in 1992 when I was basking in the Virginia warmth, wearing my shorts and a knit polo shirt. Yesterday, on opening day in Chicago, I was wearing my down parka, scarf, gloves and 180 earmuffs.

One of my childhood friends aspired to become a sportswriter in the footsteps of his uncle, a storied sports columnist for the Chicago Daily News. So he was more fanatic than most of us in following the Cubs and was crazy enough to take the El down to Wrigley on a wintry opening day in the late 60s.

It actually snowed that day and only about 85 people actually showed up for the game -- this being the era when the skinflint, P.K. Wrigley fielded real dogs year after year.

Apparently, P.K. , who Royko used to say "threw nickels around as if they were sewer covers," was in an unusually magnanimous mood that day, because he had the Andy Frain ushers hand out vouchers for free tickets to the next game to the 85 or so stalwarts.

P.K. Wrigley was so cheap that for a couple of seasons, he would actually send the ushers to collect foul balls caught by fans, so that the Cubs could reuse them. The fan would then get a certificate attesting to the fact that he had caught or otherwise captured a foul ball at Wrigley field.

Mike Murphy on the sportstation WSCR once quipped to a caller that P. K. Wrigley was so cheap that he filled the resin bags on the mound with kitty litter to save money -- to which the caller retorted, "USED kitty litter."

Anyway Chicago weather really stinks and one of the only celebrities I ever heard speak truthfully about it was John Cleese, of Monty Python fame, who spent a year or two here with the Second City troupe in the '60s.

While plugging a movie during a recent WGN radio interview, he was asked what he thought of Chicago.

He said, "I suppose it's a nice enough place, but your weather is just so awfully filthy."

I always liked John Cleese.

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