Thursday, June 28, 2012

Revisiting My 1997 Road Trip: Chicago (Part I)

I mentioned last week that to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of my 1997 cross-country road trip, I wanted to share stories from the journal I kept during the trip. After a lengthy search, I found the journal! As a surprise to probably no one that reads this blog, my journal entries appear to be much longer than needed (you know, like most of my blog posts). Therefore, instead of sharing entire journal entries, I’m going to use some excerpts and provide a few comments from today. I’m also not including specific names except when I do!

6/17/97 (Journal entry date)

After an exciting time packing and loading the car, my brother and I left Pittsburgh in route to Chicago. We drove through miles of Ohio and Indiana farmland and arrived at Northwestern after 9 hours.

Besides that and some dinner at the St. Louis Bread Company, I was so tired that I was asleep by 11.

Sean's Note: 15 years later, I regularly fall asleep before 11 even on weekends. I also fall asleep on the couch watching TV at least 2-3 times per week.


Following the party, a group of seven crammed into a car and headed down to the Northwestern Senior Week site. However, when we drove by the place, it was packed and there was a long line outside. Therefore, we went down to Wrigleyville. After finding two bars almost completely empty (what did we expect with the Cubs not playing at home and it being a Monday night). (Sean’s note: This is not a sentence!) Finally, we went to a bar and Laurie was able my brother in.

I have no idea who Laurie is. It has to be a friend of a friend.

She told the drunk bouncer Billy that my brother was the designated driver. Drunk Billy started praising my brother for being such a great guy to take responsibility of the group. My brother was encouraged to have free pop and coffee and anything else non-alcoholic. Billy told my brother that it was very admirable to be the DD, but if he drank anything, he would literally kick him out the door. My brother complied. My highlight of the evening was seeing the outside of Wrigley Field and getting a cup from the bar (although the cup says The Cubby Bear, which is another bar down the street).

My brother was 19 during the trip. As someone who rarely goes to bars anymore, I mention this since Billy the Bouncer let him into the bar despite being underage. Would this happen at most bars? Does the fact that he served as the designated driver make a difference?

6/20/97 (Writing about Tuesday, June 17)

My brother, my friend and I got lunch at a really good Chicago pizza place. Their deep dish pizza is incredible and very filing. Somehow my brother and I were able to finish our portions.

I added this just to prove that I ate Chicago pizza during the trip.

The only unfortunate part of the conversation with [a different friend] was that we left for the Cubs-White Sox game later than we wanted. We left Northwestern at around 5:15 and didn’t park the car until almost 8. The traffic was ridiculous and circling Comiskey Park was also dreadful. Finally, we paid $15 (about the same as the tickets) to park in a big driveway a few blocks from the stadium.

1997 was the first year of interleague baseball, and this was the second game of the Cubs-White Sox series. This was obviously a huge deal in Chicago. Regardless of the importance of the game, I hate being late to a sporting event, especially at a stadium I never visited previously. I really enjoy checking out stadiums and arenas and seeing what makes them unique from other ballparks. Finally, since we had limited funds for the road trip, spending $15 for parking didn’t make me happy. This was by far the most I had ever paid to park, and I still pay less than $15 when I attend Pirates games in Pittsburgh.

When we finally got to our upper-level 2rd base seats, it was the top of the 4th inning. The Sox were already up 2-0 and the fans were really into the game. The great thing about this game was that Cubs and Sox fans were in the same section, cheering for their teams, but most importantly, having a great time. A huge peanut fight broke out in front of us (I guess this was a food fight?) and two guys were battling with inflatable Cubs and Sox bats. A few sections over, a Cubs fan with red and blue body paint and a Go Cubs sign was parading up and down the aisle mooning and the Sox fans and having a great time. He was quickly ejected. The Sox ended up winning 5-3 but all the fans (at least that we were with) really enjoyed the game.

Even 15 years later, I’m amazed by how well the fans behaved. There were probably equal numbers of Cubs and Sox fans and there is (and was) a rivalry between the two franchises and fan bases. I think the uniqueness of the teams facing each other made it a game people wanted to see. Of course, at that point, both teams also went 80+ years without a World Series title.

Just for fun, I found the box score from the game. I have no recollection of Doug Drabek pitching for the White Sox that day or one of my favorite Pirates, Dave Clark, serving as the Designated Hitter for the Cubs.

More from Chicago and St. Louis during my next update of the 1997 Road Trip.

No comments: