Sunday, September 21, 2014


When I went to the American Society of News Editors conference last week in Chicago, I did not expect to fall in love.

But it happened. 

Not during the ASNE events, which included great discussions and interviews on the state of news, poor coverage, conflicts of interest and women editors. Not as I went to meets and greets as I have for more than 10 years and reported for two great stories related to editor equality and the recent Ferguson, Mo., protests.  

And not even while I was nibbling appetizers and watching Second City perform at a Chicago Tribune reception at the famed Tribune Tower.

It was at Wrigley Field, where I feel in love with...Wrigley Field.

Once I stepped inside the hallowed ground, the famed ballpark had me. I got it. And I was smitten.

My Wrigley Selfie
Although I have been a baseball fan for more than 40 years, I never visited the friendly confines at 1060 West Addison St. But when the opportunity arose last Tuesday night to see the Cubs against the Cincinnati Reds, I took it. 

I did not travel with the ASNE group outing that included fellow conference attendees because it was sold out. Instead, I bought my own ticket, some 15 rows from the Cubs' dugout, and jumped on the "El" train Red Line north.

The first thing that struck me even before I got to the ballpark was the price, a mere $40, well below what I would have paid to see my beloved Yankees in similar seats. 

Then when I entered the historic landmark, the old-time baseball feel took over. No commercialized overkill here. The food stands offered the usual hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jacks, while the open air feel of the ballpark was amazing.

A huge jumbotron screen was nowhere to be found as traditional organist flair filled my ears. The grass was deep green and the seats were just beat up enough to be nostalgic, but still comfortable. An outfield of the famed bleacher bums, with the rooftop seats beyond offered even more unique charm.

Fans were friendly and the Cubs gave me a fun thrill as pitcher Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter into the eighth inning before winning 7-0 on a one-hitter.

But I didn't even care who won. Truth be told, the Yankees are my team, always have been and always will be. I also root for the San Francisco Giants in the National League due to my seven years living in the Bay Area.

And if either of those teams were playing the Cubs on this day I would gladly root against the hometown boys.

It's more the friendliness and relaxation of this old style ballpark that stole my heart.

That's why it was some what disturbing to read about how the new owners, the Ricketts family, may be taking much of that charm away. Today's New York Times offered a great in-depth piece by Barry Bearak about the Cubs and their ownership, and the dispute over plans to upgrade and perhaps change the Wrigley experience. 

The story, which gives a great history lesson in the team's recent doings, also notes that a big screen scoreboard and other upgrades are planned and threaten to change the charm of the park.

But it also points out that the team, which has had its third straight losing season, needs revenue and more offerings to help players and attract fans.

But I hope whatever is done does not kill the real attraction of the place: its nostalgia, charm and fun no matter who is playing.

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