The Chicago Cubs are always a hot ticket when they come to every city, and Denver is certainly no exception. I was fortunate enough to land a club level seat courtesy of my employer for last night's game, the first in a three gamer with the Northsiders, and I was looking forward to experiencing the passion that these matchups invariably carry with them.
I ended up being miserable. And it wasn't just the 5-3 loss that did it, either.
To tell you all about it, here we go with an Up In the Rockies exclusive Game Diary for August 3rd. Grab a snack, pull up a comfy chair, and settle in for a long haul - I've got some ranting to do.
-Club Level seating at Coors Field is ridiculously lavish. I was greeted as I walked in by the soothing sounds of a lite jazz group, featuring a cellist, pianist, and a guitarist. Before the game, I ordered (from my seat!) a foot-long bratwurst - can't find one of those bad boys anywhere else. They brought it to me, so that I could enjoy the Cubbies taking BP without having to get up and fetch my own food. This was all so new and wonderful to me.
-Walking into the stadium I come to a stunning realization. We Rockies fans might be outnumbered tonight. Now, two years ago when my and my buddy (a diehard Cubs fan) came and saw Chicago play here, there was a good contingent of Cubs fans, as there always has been. Tonight, however, Cubbie blue is outnumbering Rockies purple by at least 2-1. The ratio in Club Level is about 3-1. Am I crazy, or would this never have happened when the Rox were drawing 3.5 million a year and practically printing their own money?
-Say this for Cubbie Nation: They love each and every one of their guys. A quick scan of the stands reveals a Baskin-Robbins-like variety of Cubs jerseys - from stars like Sosa, Wood, Prior, and Maddux, to solid players like Ramirez, Patterson, Lee and the recently traded Alex Gonzalez, to retired stars like Sandberg and Santo. Those are probably all available for purchase in the Chicago area. As far as Rockies jerseys go... all they ever sell is Helton (which I have), Walker, Wilson, and Castilla.
-A family (dad, mom, two little boys) are wearing Rockies shirts and Cubs hats. Do you really get to have it both ways? Is this legal? Should this be legal? I've never liked sports bigamy.
-Before the game, a few Rockies players are shown on the Jumbotron reading rules and regulations of the park. Clint Hurdle begins by saying, "We want fans to have a safe and comfortable experience at the ballpark." To which some loudmouth on the first level replies, as loudly as possible, "THEN DON'T LET CHACON PITCH!"
-More Hurdle: "Our staff will proactively intervene if any of these regulations are violated." Does this mean if I were to, say, exhibit excessive public displays of affection, I'd have to answer to Jamie Quirk and Sandy Alomar? Or was he talking about stadium staff? I hope he wasn't - it's much funnier imagining Goose Gossage telling a scantily clad female fan to adhere to the dress code.
-Rulon Gardner throws out the first pitch. If he were a baseball player in the early 1900's, he'd have been Rulon "Four Toe" Gardner. To his credit, he stands the full 60'6" away from home, and to his further credit, he throws a strike.
-The cheers during lineup announcements confirm my worst fears: tonight, Coors Field is Wrigley West.
-Corey Patterson grounds out to lead off against Jeff Fassero. The at bat takes 5 pitches, which is about how long it takes for the extremely obnoxious fat Cubs fan two rows behind me to get on my nerves. In addition to making up nicknames for every player on the Cubs, he talks to each player as if he were a Little League coach. AFTER EVERY PITCH. "C'mon, CP! Good eye, buddy! Get one you like!"
-The guy next to me is with a woman, and he spends the whole night explaining the entire game to her. This would be a whole lot less tolerable if the guy didn't know what he was talking about, but the guy's pretty sharp. Still, between him and the FOCF (Fat Obnoxious Cubs Fan), this could be a long night.
-And now it is time for all Cubs fans to affect bad Boston accents.
-Garciaparra's back to number 5 tonight, having switched with Michael Barrett. He grounds out.
-After Moises Alou doubles to left, Fassero fans Sammy Sosa swinging to the excitement of all 4,359 Rockies fans in attendance.
-Aaron Miles slaps a leadoff single off Kerry Wood. After Royce Clayton is caught looking, Todd Helton lofts a lazy fly ball to right field that just happens to barely clear the fence in the corner. 2-0, Rox.
-FOCF is less than pleased: "Helton needs to get hit on top of his freakin' head!" Um, why?
-Vinny's up next, and according to FOCF, "he's struggled all year." I'm starting to wonder if FOCF has been following the major leagues this year. I wish I could struggle all year and drive in 87 runs. Vinny walks, despite FOCF's cries of "Swing the bat!"
-Larrrrrry WALK.....er triples to center, scoring Vinny. 3-0. Wood's on the ropes. The Cubs fans are reeling. This is fun!
-After Preston Wilson fans, FOCF inexplicably boos Burnitz. Burnie grounds to second to end the inning.
-Error-miss... er, Aramis Ramirez singles to open the frame, followed by a Derrek Lee homer that leaves in a hurry to left field. This puts FOCF in a tizzy - because he says, "C'mon, big fly here, buddy!" before every at bats, he thinks that means he's 'called' Lee's homer, and he accepts high-fives from Cub fans all around him. Nauseating.
-Mark Grudzielanek doubles, and two flies to right by Barrett and Wood bring him in to tie the game. Patterson singles and steals second. Then, to the delight of Cubbie Nation, No-MAH bloops one into center to score Patterson. Two batters later, after a Alou single, Sosa drives in No-MAH with a base hit. 5-3 Cubs.
-The Cubs fans have life. Boy, do they have life. They don't even seem to care that the Cards are winning tonight as well.
-Ramirez, batting for the second time in the inning, walks to load the bases. But Fassero knuckles down, and fans Lee looking to end the inning and, thankfully, sitting Travis Driskill down in the bullpen. (Only thing worse than a lefty BP tosser is a righty BP tosser.)
-Charles Johnson singles to center to open the inning.
-A pivotal point in the game occurs here. With the leadoff man on, Jeff Fassero tries to push a bunt over the drawn in infield to advance Johnson. However, he botches it, and Grudzielanek makes a sliding catch to retire Fassero and send CJ back to first.
-The next hitter, Aaron Miles, grounds into a 3-6-1 DP to end the frame. If the bunt is properly executed, Lee has to make a tough play over to first just to retire Miles, and the Rox would have had a chance to cut the lead in half with Clayton up. Alas...
-Fassero recovers nicely, getting the 7-8-9 hitters in order.
-FOCF, during Michael Barrett's at bat: "Let's go, Marty!" Highlight of the night by far.
-With two outs, Castilla singles and Larry draws a free pass from the thus-far erratic Wood. Preston Wilson comes to the plate with a chance to trim the lead in half. "DON'T... WANT... DRAMA! NOOOOOO!" Well, Wilson didn't... come... through, grounding to second.
-I am stunned. The guy they picked to do the Coca Cola Groundscrew Challenge completed the task in the necessary 25 seconds. I don't believe it. Never in my wildest dreams could I have seen that happening. That event is so difficult it's hard to believe anyone wins.
-(By the way, does anyone know a good font that expresses sarcasm?)
-Fassero stays hot, retiring the side in order on just 5 pitches. Man, take out the second inning and Jeff's dominating.
-The sun, which had been directly in our eyes in our section, finally goes down behind the mountains, to the relief of many who, unlike me, didn't bring a hat or sunglasses. Gotta plan ahead, Cubbie fans.
-7-8-9 for the Rox... 1-2-3 for Kerry Wood - but it takes him 9 pitches to do it. Fassero has him there.
-The Frontier Airlines Fly Ball Frenzy is legitimately surprising tonight, as they pick somebody with actual athletic coordination to try and catch two fly balls (prize is a trip anywhere in the US). Usually, they pick somebody with no clue, which always makes for hilarious results - except the one time when the guy blew out his knee. I swear to God that actually happened.
-Helton makes a great defensive play on the leadoff man Sosa, ranging far to his right to snag a hard two-hopper and firing to Fassero covering to nip Sosa by a step.
-Fassero gets the next two guys in order too. That's 10 in a row since the walk to Ramirez in that dreadful second.
-Cubs fans who have never been to the park before must be confused. This game has begun to impersonate a pitcher's duel.
-Miles coaxes a leadoff walk, and Clayton bunts him over, but Helton and Vinny have bad at bats, weakly popping out to end the mini threat.
-FOCF has been quiet the last two innings, but this half he opens his mouth to rhapsodize on No-MAH's future in Chicago. "He won't be back. He'll be a Yankee next year, playing second base." I hadn't given this thought before, but the mere idea sent a shudder down my spine. Expecially since that's not too far-fetched - No-MAH's not great defensively, having lost some range in recent years, and King George would love to have the game's three best shortstops in his infield. Just shut up already, FOCF, you're starting to frighten me.
-Fassero extends his streak to 12 in a row until Wood, of all people, singles with two out. Helton isn't retarded, so he doesn't hold Wood on first. FOCF is retarded, so he yells, "STEAL SECOND, WOODY!" He never gets the chance - he's forced out at second on a Patterson grounder to end the inning.
-These are the kinds of stats you don't see on the UPN or FSN telecasts: "THE BLUE PIG IN THE HARLEY MOTORCYCLE JUMBOTRON RACE IS 7-1 IN 2004 WHEN DAN LUCERO ATTENDS THE GAME."
-Walker grounds out to No-MAH, who ranges a bit to make the stab. FOCF: "That's why we got him right there!" Um, you got him for defensive purposes? Because if you did, you're gonna be kinda dissappointed...
-Wood gets the side again in order. He hasn't given up a hit since the 3rd.
-No-MAH, leading off (and still inspiring periodic shouts of his name in the same bad Boston accents), rips an absolute LASER right at Aaron Miles, who hauls it in somehow.
-Fassero retires the side, ending his night. He threw just89 pitches, fanning four and walking only one. Ignore the second inning and his numbers look like this:
6 IP, 58 pitches, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
-Those are awesome - Maddux-esque. He didn't get the hand he deserved from the fans when he left the mound, which is a shame, since he really did pitch well save one MAJOR hiccup.
-FOCF actually yells "LET'S GO, PEEPEE HANDS!" when Alou comes to bat. You... have... GOT... to be kidding.
-On the Jumbotron, where Charles Johnson's picture appears as the leadoff hitter of the seventh, something shows up suddenly in the lower left hand corner, then disappears before anyone can figure out what it is. When it appears again, it's unmistakeably a cartoon squirrel. Yes, the Rally Squirrel is on the Jumbotron. Someone yelps, "It's the Rally Squirrel!" thereby confusing everybody who hasn't watched a Rockies game in the last month and a half. So, basically, everybody in our section. As the only obvious Rockies fan in the section, someone asks, "Did I hear that right?" So, whether they want to hear it or not, I tell the Cubs fans the storied history of the Rally Squirrel. "It's our good-luck charm," I explain. One Cub fan reaches out to pat me on the shoulder, like you might pat a little kid who's telling you about his imaginary friend, and says, "That's nice, pal."
-While I'm telling the story, CJ and pinch-hitter Todd Greene both whiff. The Squirrel is 0-2.
-Miles pops out to end the inning.
-Tim Harikkala enters the game, a good sign that this game will still be 5-3 when we get to the ninth. His name draws a buzz from the Cubs fans, one of whom asks me, "So is this Hercules guy any good?" Another one says, "Wow, he's got a high leg kick. Maybe they should call him 'High-Kick-ala.'"
-Highkickala retires the side in order.
-Wood is only at 89 pitches when he starts the eighth. He gets Clayton on a tremendous play by No-MAH at short, ranging as far as he's capable to his right and throwing off balance for the out. He then catches Helton looking with a big curveball, which deflates the Rockies contingent.
-After Vinny signles, The Squirrel pokes his head out again for Walker, along with a scoreboard exhortation to "GO NUTS!". Walker grounds out to third. The Squirrel is 0-for-3.
-Hercules gets the side again, fanning pinch-hitter Tom Goodwin and Patterson for the final two outs.
-This is much preferable to whatever Shawn Chacon would have done - he was warming in the pen the last half-inning.
-LaTroy Hawkins enters the game. FOCF bemoans this development: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" I understand the pain - guy's been killing my fantasy team.
-Tonight, however, he's just fine. He gets Wilson to ground to short, drawing a huge roar. Burnitz flies to right, Sosa making a tough sliding catch. Then, when CJ grounds out to short to end the game, Wrigley West erupts with a louder cheer than any I've heard for the Rox all season. Kinda depressing.
-After their first inning, the Rockies had 3 hits. After their second inning, the Cubs had one hit. Amazing.
-The game clocked in at 2:15 - that might be the shortest Rockies game I've ever been to.
-Fans chant 'Let's go Cub-bies!' on their way out. Of the 42,900 that attended tonight's game, my final estimate is that 30,000 bled Cubbie blue. Walking out of Coors, with all the noise and hubbub, it almost felt like 1995 again. Almost.
Thanks for making it this far. Jamey Wright against Carlos Zambrano tonight. Go Rox!