July, 07 2012
We’re heading to Wrigley Field and I’m not sure how I feel
about it. It’s been four years since I
was last here. It was 1998 and my Father
was slowly dying from prostate cancer.
He was a lifelong baseball fan but had never been to Wrigley Field. Although he would have loved to go, like most
men from his generation, his money went to his family and into savings. Spending money on a trip for himself was
never a consideration and would have been considered a selfish act. As I got older and started to realize the
sacrifices he made for us, I considered it my responsibility to provide him
with some of the things he wouldn’t do for himself.
As with many of the fathers and sons of our generation,
baseball was a shared passion. Even when
it seemed there was nothing else that we could talk about, baseball provided an
open door to hours and hours of conversation.
We had visited Cooperstown together many years before. It was the first time at the Hall of Fame for
both of us and I recall it as if it was yesterday. It was an early November day and it seemed as
if we had the entire village to ourselves.
I can still hear him as he shared his memories of players and events
from his youth.
My wife and I later took my Dad to Boston to see a game at
Fenway Park and he also accompanied me to an Over-30 League All Star game at
the old Yankee Stadium. He was a big fan
of the Yankees and, in particular, Mickey Mantle. My Dad wore #7 when he was younger and I
followed suit. Today, my son proudly carries on the tradition. Although, at the time, I felt unworthy to be
playing on those hallowed grounds, I was thrilled that he was there to see me roam
the same outfield as “The Mick”. I know
that he was proud of me. He took a great photo of me batting that now hangs in
my son’s bedroom.
Although I had been able to provide him with these
experiences, a visit to Wrigley was still at the top of the list. I’m not sure why but I didn’t feel any
urgency to make it happen. I guess I
thought there would be plenty of time to do it.
As I watched the cancer and medications rob my Dad of his strength and
quality of life, I realized that I had waited too long and had missed the
opportunity. The feelings of regret and
guilt ate at me. In my mind, I’m sure
this trip was just a symbol of all the things I wished I had done with
Then, the doctors took my father off of his seemingly
endless list of medications and what resulted was a new found energy. I immediately went to work to take advantage
of this opportunity. Miraculously, I
found two tickets on the first base line.
I quickly grabbed them, arranged for plane tickets and we were on our
As we entered the “friendly confines” and made our way to
our seats, we were stunned by the beauty of the park – the green grass, the ivy
against the red brick wall, the billowy white clouds in a perfect blue sky, that
towering, ancient scoreboard in center field.
We sat in the second row, just beyond first base and drank it all
in. The thought that kept running through
my mind was, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” It reminded me of James Earl Jones’ soliloquy
in the movie Field of Dreams – “…it will
be as if they’ve dipped themselves in magic waters... this game, this field,
reminds us of all that once was good, and could be again.” When my Dad returned from a trip to the rest
room I remember him saying, “It’s amazing how a trough-style urinal can bring
back so many memories.” We both
As the Cubs and Pirates went about their business, I was
acutely aware of the innings slipping by.
I knew that this would be the last time we would do something like this
together and I didn’t want it to end. I
was desperate for extra innings although, considering his condition months
earlier, this whole experience was essentially an “extra inning” for the both
of us. The final out was recorded and as
the white flag with the blue “W”, signaling a Cubs win, was raised high above
the field, we made our way out of the park.
I remember wanting to hug my Dad at that moment but didn’t. Why didn’t I?
Not soon after, the cancer ran its course and my Dad left us. I miss him dearly and think about him
everyday. But I feel just a little bit
better when I think about how, right up until his last days, he would talk
about how great it was that he felt better for just enough time to share our
incredible Wrigley Field experience.
Next stop on the tour: Field of Dreams. I’ll be the one staring into the corn longing
for one more extra inning. Hey Dad… Wanna have a catch