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SportsMonday: Return To Wrigley

I returned to Wrigley Field on Sunday night for the first time this season. I had been to a game or three at the ballpark in each of the last few years after a 10-year stretch when I had a piece of a season-ticket package and attended 15-20 games annually.

And of course I have an origin (of my Cubs fandom) story: some of my best memories of growing up with my brother in the '70s and the first few years of the '80s are of taking the 22 Clark Street bus up to Addison and walking around to the bleachers. By the time the Cubs made the playoffs in '84, I was off at college.

The tanking years drove me away and I've never regained my drive to attend games in person and give my money to the billionaire, conservative owners. When I get out to the ballpark these days it is because a friend invited me (thanks Tom!). Also, Sunday just so happened to be my birthday, and my sixth-grade daughter Jenna is a Cubs fan and enjoys going to games.

We sat in box seats about 18 rows up from the Cubs dugout (close enough that a kid with a glove in the row in front of us and over to our left caught one of the balls that a Cubs player tosses into the stands at the end of just about every top half of innings).

So we had a great view of a great game, even if we did see only a little more than half of it. At 18 innings, it was way, way too long for a school night. The Yankees finally scored in the top half of the final frame and held on to win 5-4 and sweep the series. The Cubs enter this week at 16-15 and a half-game out of first in their weak division.

The best thing to watch from that spot is the speed of the pitches and to marvel at hitters ever hitting any of them. And last night it was triply so.

In the first nine innings, the Cubs faced three different pitchers (Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman) who hit 100 on the radar gun. That cannot have happened very frequently, if ever, in the annals of baseball. No wonder the teams ended up striking out a combined 48 times - a new major league record. That and the fact that they did play 18 freaking innings.

It looked like Jon Lester would be the tough-luck loser as the bottom of the ninth began. He pitched great for seven innings but the Cubs had only scored one run (on Javy Baez's towering home run - that was awesome) in the first eight frames. And Justin Grimm, the team's worst reliever this year, came on in the eighth and immediately gave up a ringing line drive hit back up the middle and a line-drive home run down the right field line.

But the Cubs found a way to rally against Chapman and tied it up when Anthony Rizzo took a hit-by-pitch for the team with the bases loaded and two outs. It was seriously exciting stuff. But it was getting late.

We thought for sure the Cubs would finish it off either right after Rizzo got on or in the 10th, but it wasn't meant to be. We were already out later than planned and we bowed out and headed home.

On the way out, we used the new exit on the west side of the park facing the new green space in the former triangle space. It was long since closed up for the night and we went through there and headed north on Clark.

During the game we had marveled at how it appeared as though everyone was in their seat on the main level of the park but the concourse was still absolutely packed with people when we went back there for concessions. The beer choices still leave plenty to be desired but it was no big deal.

All in all it was certainly worth the sizable price of admission. It was great fun to see the World Champs battling the resurgent Yankees and their amazing, mostly young lineup that appears to be even deeper than the Cubs'. Third baseman Chase Headley and his stellar .366 on-base percentage hit seventh.

But I won't be in any hurry to return.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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