By Dave Chamberlain
It is a game. Nothing more.
But over the course of its 150-year evolution, baseball has grown into America’s great—summer—pastime. Though other sports during other seasons may have used the 1994-95 strike to vault over baseball in terms of viewership and advertising dollars, (specifically, basketball and football), baseball is as much a part of the typical American family’s summer as trips to the beach and amusement parks. Like hockey in Canada, it’s a cultural distinction.
And also like hockey in Canada, baseball’s talent-development system reaches much further than basketball and football’s high school-college-pro succession. Baseball’s minor leagues, more than 300 teams playing in every city from Rochester, NY to Spokane, Washington, provide young baseball players—right out of high school or college—a chance to play at whatever level they’re deemed ready. Every American-born player, whether highly touted youngster like J.D. Drew or journeyman middle reliever like Eric Plunk, starts in America’s minor league baseball system. Read the rest of this entry »
By Keir Graff
There are two reasons why Chicago is a true sports fan’s Shangri-la right now. The first, as anyone from the inner city to outer Mongolia could tell you, is the Bulls. At this writing, the Bulls have finished the regular season 69-13 (third-best in NBA history) and swept the first round of the playoffs. And they’ve achieved this during an injury-plagued season in which only Jordan, Pippen and Kerr have managed to stay off the injured list. While up-and-coming teams hope these collective impairments are evidence of vulnerability, to the rest of us this year’s struggle is yet more evidence that the Bulls are the greatest basketball team of all time. Even depleted by injuries and slowed by age, they still find a way to win.
But what of reason number two? What other team helps make Chicago a sports-fan paradise? Who dares run with the Bulls? Read the rest of this entry »
Before you can say “cold front” it’ll be September and you’ll be wishing you hadn’t spent all summer watching reruns on TV. There’s a whole world around Chicago, and for three months, it’s not as icy, bitter and unforgiving as a jilted lover. The sun glistens of the concrete, steel and glass menagerie we call home. But since it’s such a pain to find out what’s going on, and to plan things, NewCity did the work. From hot air balloons to Binti the ape who save lives, we tell you where to go to make you want to sing like Brian Adams about the Summer of ’97. Read the rest of this entry »
For the truly hard-core Cubs fan, a day in the bleachers is just this side of heaven—shirt off, beer belly full of overpriced swill and a gaggle of similar- minded hoodlum buddies to party with. But there is a whole ‘nother class of Cub fans that spend their days and nights among the stars, their bellies full of food cooked to their specifications, their whistles wet with unlimited ice-cold brew and their bladders not full-to-bursting thanks to easy toilet access. Who are these heavenly bodies and from what perch do they take in the action? Well, just call them the rooftop rooters. The lucky few who (for a nice chunk of change) have these amenities taken care of, in addition to their birds-eye view of all the action from across the street atop one of the many rooftops that cater to Cub fans. Although many of the rooftops are booked solid for this season (mainly because of the overflow from the six weeks of canceled parties due to last year’s strike) there are some dates available in September and, as any Cubs fan knows, there’s always next year. Read the rest of this entry »
By Marc Spiegler
Ballparks, like nightclubs, hinge on ambiance. For all its chrome and steel, the new Comiskey Park lacks Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” cool; it seems more like a mall gone wrong. As gleaming curio stands and laughable LED graphics start to invade Wrigley Field, even its strong history has started to erode. Without the stadiums to set the proper mood, choosing your game-day compatriots becomes all the more pivotal. Go with the people who yell “Charge” on cue and you might soon wonder why you’d scream about a game whose very owners deep-sixed the World Series. Go with the uninitiated (or, worse yet, foreigners), and you’ll find yourself attempting to explain the mystique of a game where men with banker’s physiques pull down millions for failing 70 percent of the time.
Looking to tap into the game’s history, to recapture its romance, I tracked down Richard Topp. A short, buoyant man, Topp represents a peculiarly American breed: the baseball nut. Half historian, half obsessive, these types track the game like Philip Marlowe on a steamy case. No detail escapes notice. No fact goes uncatalogued. In the late sixties, these aficionados banded together to form SABR, the Society of American Baseball Researchers. Topp joined SABR after finding errors in the first Baseball Encyclopedia; from 1989 to 1990, after quitting the hotel business to focus on sports research, he served as SABR’s president. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ginger Beaumont
In January of 1977, Alan Hartwick, a longtime Cubs fan, declared himself the world’s first free-agent fan. Hartwick had seen enough; after years of continued disappointment with the Cubs, he sent letters declaring his free agency to every team in the major leagues. He figured since he didn’t have a contract with the Cubs, he was under no obligation to remain a Cubs fan. He got a few offers, and a lot of publicity. But what Hartwick missed out on when he turned his back on the team was the true spirit of Cubs’ Baseball. Read the rest of this entry »