Up Against the Wall

Up Against the Wall

By Frankie O

In life, we are always seeking ways to get more out of what we have. Being multi-purpose is at the core of how many of the products we use are presented to us. New Shimmer being a floor wax and a desert topping comes to mind.

In sports this concept led to the abomination known as multi-use stadiums that dotted the landscape during the 1970s. As a kid growing up in Philadelphia, Veterans Stadium was all shiny and new. Who knew it would become a house of horrors that would torment me into my adulthood. And in reflection, as all the new football and baseball stadiums have been built around the country, one can now realize how truly awful the experience, regardless of the tragedy being played out on the field, of being at a cookie-cutters was.

Still, you can understand that the owner of a stadium needs to think outside-the-box of ways to keep it full, since as we know, that is the only way they get a return on their investment.

Here in Chicago, and specifically Wrigley Field, this thinking has led to some interesting events.

In its history, Wrigley has hosted a wide variety of events besides baseball. These have included among them: The Norge Ski Jump Competition, (Why does the word Norge conjure up another connotation? Not to mention be my second classic SNL reference in 300 words. Boo-Ya!! I cant stop!) rodeos, the Harlem Globetrotters, a Jake LaMotta boxing match and Bears football.

Recent years have seen such extravaganzas as the Winter Classic and college one-way football.

Seeing something different at Wrigley Field is cool because YOURE SEEING IT AT WRIGLEY FIELD!

Since 2005 this has included big-time concert acts.

I saw my first one there last year when Sir Paul McCartney took the center field stage. My first reaction was, Oh my god, its hotter than Hades! How can it be 95 degrees outside at nine oclock at night? My second was, Im sitting at Wrigley Field watching a freaking Beatle! For a lad from Philly this was pretty heady stuff. I mean, really, when I listened to my first Beatles song over forty years ago, how could I have imagined that this was in my future? Wow!

I took my next visit to the Frankie O Aging Rocker Time Vault last Friday when Roger Waters brought his latest production of his Pink Floyd classic The Wall to The Confines. Once again I was blown away by being able to see a performance of music that was a large part of my formative years, 33 years after its debut. That it was at Wrigley only made the experience over-the-top. That Waters was able to use modern technology to cutting-edge levels to present his opus visually and sound-wise made it one of the best rock shows I have ever witnessed.

Of course, in keeping with my twisted nature, or the fact that the several beverages I consumed enhanced my inner Frankie O, I couldnt help but notice the irony of Waters performance. The Wall tells the story of his feelings of abandonment and personal isolation as he dealt with the struggles of his life. For some reason, this tale of torment reminded me of the Cubs fans who are the usual inhabitants of Wrigley and their parallel fronts.

The entire set list oozed Cub:

In the Flesh? The feeling of the Cub faithful about when they are FINALLY going to be able to see for themselves the myth that is Anthony Rizzo.

The Thin Ice- This describes ownerships position in its dealings with local government officials (read: Da Mayor) in negotiations for public financing of Wrigley renovations.

Another Brick in the Wall, Parts I, II and III Is there anything more iconic in any stadium than the bricks and ivy of Wrigley?
Happiest Days of Our Lives- Im not sure if this is about a very distant, future event , not yet conceivable to the ticket buying faithful, or an homage to the back-to-back championships over a century ago.

Mother- Do I really need to explain this one? Mother do you think the Cubs will bust.

Goodbye Blue Sky- Or an expletive to this effect, uttered by many right fielders wondering where the fly ball hit their way during a day game disappeared to.

Young Lust- Im going to show some unusual restraint here and let you insert your own joke.
One of My Turns- Even for this album, this song is kind of a dark aberration, kind of like taking Chad Kreuters hat, dumping beer on Shane Victorino or getting pummeled on the mound by Randy Meyers.

Dont Leave Me Now- The plea to season ticket holders to keep the faith, and keep forking over the third highest ticket price in the majors, all while watching a team get nuked and be rebuilt from the ground up.

Goodbye Cruel World- Sadly we know this has been among the last thoughts of some Cubs fans that have left us without seeing their beloved team reach their own ultimate destination.

Hey You- A common reprimand heard in the stands from certain ushers that, since the said Kreuter incident, have seemed to lose their sense of humor.

Is There Anybody Out There?- Despite announced attendance numbers, something you can yell in the stadium during the last 2, and inevitably this years, August and September as Chicagoans turn their attention elsewhere, kind of like being at the Cell anytime this year.

Nobody Home- Why, I dont know, this reminds me of the ill-fated Todd Hundley era behind the plate.

Vera- Honestly? Ive got nothing.

Bring the Boys Back Home- For an organization that is now obsessed with the Money Ball way of doing things, this song represents my favorite old-school stat: BARISP. Beguile me with your Retrosheet Win Probability Added, and when my head stops spinning, Ill tell you that if you have a decent BARISP, you are going to score a TON of runs.

Comfortably Numb- Should be the theme song of the bleachers, especially back in the day.

The Show Must Go On- Im reminded of Mike Quade arguing with the umpiring crew for calling a rain delay while it was coming down sideways. Good times.

Run Like Hell- The baseball purist inside of me gets pure joy every time I see Tony Campana on the base paths.
Waiting For the Worms- What Im thinking as I look at the outfield this week after the removal of the stage. Looks like its time for another visit from the Sodfather.

Stop- Obvious enough. Its what fans want from the usual, Cubs Way of doing business. A century plus of not winning (Strange even typing that phrase) is more than enough. Its the main reason that team Theo has been given so much latitude with the fans. Although they might not be going to the ballpark as much, they are paying attention and filled with anticipation, just like my kids the night before Santa comes. Lets hope this regime is as generous with their gifts to the masses as the big fella in the red suit. (Not to be confused with the big fella with the generous pour wearing the red bow tie!)

The Trial- Just as obvious, this is what will happen in about 3 years if the Master Plan is not obvious for all to see.

Outside the Wall- The place where Waters and all Cubs fans are set free. The weight of the past can be is an incredible burden if we let it. The thought of better time will always get us through. At some point, Wait until next year has to come true.

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

John Hendricks sent a text message to his son at 11:24 a.m. on Saturday: “Good luck tonight!! Remember, great mechanics and preparation will prevail. Just let it go!!” It ended with three emoji: a smiley face with sunglasses, the thumbs-up sign and a flexed biceps.

The Cubs have bonded fathers and sons for generations, and Hendricks immediately understood what it meant for his boy when the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers minutes before the deadline on July 31, 2012, telling Kyle: “You win in this city, you will be a legend. There is no doubt about it. This is the greatest sports town in the United States.”

This is the intoxicating lure of the Cubs. It didn’t matter that Kyle had been an eighth-round pick out of Dartmouth College, and hadn’t yet finished his first full season in professional baseball, and would be joining an organization enduring a 101-loss season, the third of five straight fifth-place finishes.

Kyle’s low-key personality will never get him confused with an ’85 Bear, but he delivered a legendary performance in Game 6, outpitching Clayton Kershaw at the end of this National League Championship Series and leading the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

Five outs away from the pennant, a raucous crowd of 42,386 at Wrigley Field actually booed star manager Joe Maddon when he walked out to the mound to take the ball from Kyle and bring in closer Aroldis Chapman. Kyle, the silent assassin, did briefly raise his hand to acknowledge the standing ovation before descending the dugout steps. 

After a 5-0 win, Kyle stood in roughly the same spot with Nike goggles on his head and finally looked a little rattled, his body shivering and teeth chattering in the cold, his Cubs gear soaked from the champagne-and-beer celebration.

“It’s always been an uphill climb for me, honestly,” Kyle said. “But that really has nothing to do with getting guys out. My focus from Day 1 – even when I was young, high school, college, all the way up until now – all it’s been is trying to make good pitches. 

“And as we moved up, you just saw that good pitches get good hitters out.” 

At a time when the game is obsessed with velocity and showing off for the radar gun, Kyle knows how to pitch, putting the ball where he wants when he wants, avoiding the hot zones that lead to trouble, mixing his changeups, fastballs and curveball in an unpredictable way that takes advantage of the team’s intricate scouting system and keeps hitters completely off-balance.

“Kyle didn’t even give them any air or any hope,” general manager Jed Hoyer said.

Amid the celebration, scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod spotted Kyle’s dad and yelled at John: “You f------ called it!” John – who once worked in the Angels ticket office and as a golf pro in Southern California – had moved to Chicago two years ago to work for his good friend’s limo company and watch his son pitch at Wrigley Field. John had told McLeod that Kyle would one day help the Cubs win a championship.

“That was one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen,” McLeod said. “Ever.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities] 

The media framed Kyle as The Other Pitcher, even though he won the ERA title this season, with all the pregame buzz surrounding Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP. Except Kershaw gave up five runs and got knocked out after five innings, while Kyle only gave up two singles to the 23 batters he faced, finishing with six strikeouts against zero walks and looking like he had even more left in the tank at 88 pitches.

“It was incredible,” Ben Zobrist said. “That was the easiest postseason game we’ve had yet and it was the clincher to go to the World Series. 

“He’s just so good, so mature for his age. He just has a knack to put the ball where he needs to. He’s smart and he’s clutch. He deserves to win the Cy Young this year.”

Where Kershaw’s presence loomed over the entire playoffs, Kyle has always been underestimated, coming into this season as a fourth or fifth starter with something to prove, and even he didn’t see all this coming. But big-game pitchers can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t have to throw 97 mph. 

“He wants the ball,” John said. “Every big game – I don’t care if it was Little League or wherever – he wants the ball. Plain and simple, (he’ll) get the job done.”

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