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Oliver: Milestone for park reignites love for Wrigley

Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 11:04 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 12:14 p.m. CDT

Opening Day for Major League Baseball usually receives little more than a shrug in my world.

When are the Blackhawks or Bulls playing?

For me, the baseball diamond lost its luster years ago. I guess you could call me a lapsed Cubs fan.

However, this year is different.

I realize the Cubs’ organization remains in rebuilding mode. And that it might take longer for Theo Epstein’s vision to be realized.

So what’s so special about this year? Wrigley Field turns 100.

As I was working on a story about the milestone, I felt that old familiar tug at my heart.

Wrigley Field and I go way back. Just as Wrigley does with so many Cubs fans past and present.

Each of us has at least a story or two to tell about the Friendly Confines.

For me, I can’t imagine home games without ivy in the outfield. Or a scoreboard that has to be manually updated. Or a seventh-inning stretch with a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

My first game at Wrigley was in the early 1980s. My sister and her husband took my younger brother and me to a game against Steve Garvey and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Of course, I was there to see my beloved second baseman Ryne Sandberg. And catcher Jody Davis. And first baseman Bill Buckner.

Never mind that my view was obstructed by a pole. Or that the wind was blowing out and the Cubs lost. Wrigley Field was magical for a young Cubs fan.

In later years, Wrigley became a touchstone. And in at least one instance, a landmark too large to ignore.

During my first few weeks at Northwestern University in Evanston, a group of us freshmen borrowed a car for a quick trip to McDonald’s.

Only problem was that we got lost, and these were the days before GPS.

Imagine our surprise when we found ourselves in front of the ballpark and its “Wrigley Field: Home of the Chicago Cubs” sign in all its glory. Toto, we’re not in Evanston anymore.

Then there was the summer I worked at a law firm in Chicago and shared an apartment on Fremont Street.

For those unfamiliar with Wrigleyville, that’s a couple of blocks away from the ballpark.

It also was the summer of 1989. Ah, yes, the year that the Cubs won the National League Eastern Division championship.

Too bad I was too broke at the time to actually go to any games inside the park.

But I did watch every game on good old WGN-TV. And with the apartment windows open, I heard the crowd noise coming from the park for my own bit of “surround sound.”

It broke my heart when Sandberg and the Cubs lost to the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series.

I’ve been to a few games since, but the flame of my Cubs fandom has flickered, I have to admit.

However, my love for Wrigley remains.

Maybe in this milestone year, it’s time to re-establish our relationship.

I don’t want to wait until next year.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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