Your Natterer Returns To Wrigley Field - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Sports

Your Natterer Returns To Wrigley Field

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2019 2:31 pm

From last Thursday thru Sunday, Your Natterer, The Better Half Sharon, our son Mike Axelson and his wife Jackie Beoris Axelson, took a trip to Chicago to see the sights and take in two baseball games between the Cubs and Cardinals. I hadn’t been in Chicago for somewhere in the range of 20 years, thus missing the improvements made by the Cubs’ Owners, the Ricketts Family, to both Wrigley Field and the surrounding environs of Wrigleyville. New statues on the grounds include those of Hall of Fame players Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams, along with Hall of Fame Announcer Harry Caray.

The trip was built around seeing yet another round of the storied Cubs-Cardinal rivalry, which started on April 12, 1892. The all-time series between the teams has the Cubs slightly ahead with a record of 1240-1174 and 19 ties. In fairness it should be noted St. Louis has 19 National League pennants to the Cubs 17, and 11 World Championships to the Cubs three. As a life-long Cub fan, who has lived in both Chicago and St. Louis, there is a very real rivalry between the two franchises, which I think ranks among the best in sports.

So armed with all that information, a road trip seemed to be in order. Our base of operations in Chicago was the Hyatt Place Chicago/Downtown-The Loop, located at 28 North Franklin Street in the heart of Chicago. The location is close to the Chicago River and to help you place the location, is within walking distance of the Chicago Merchandise Mart. Opened in 1930, the Merchandise Mart contains 4 million square feet of space and quite literally covers a square block.

We’ll save the baseball discussion for a little later (Spoiler Alert the Cubs swept the Cardinals in the three-game set) and provide some other quick highlights of the trip.

Our first stop after checking into the hotel was a walk to The South Branch Tavern and Grille, located at 100 South Wacker Drive. None of us had eaten, so that had to be addressed in short order. The menu was a cut above typical bar food, with the venue located near the Chicago River, nestled among several high rise buildings. It was a good stop and my Tuna Burger was actually quite good.

Then we walked to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent a couple of hours there among their world-class art collection. The main draw for me was their collection of Claude Monet paintings they have on display. In addition to the original building, there is a new wing for modern art, and we toured it all. It was well-worth the admission fee.

Thursday evening we had a late dinner at the Chicago Cut Steakhouse, located at 300 North Lasalle. On a Thursday evening with an 8:30 p.m. reservation, the restaurant was full and boisterous. I was the unofficial and self-declared winner of the best order award, with a bone in Rib-Eye Steak which was magnificent. Our group likes to share bites so everyone can sample, and there wasn’t a bad morsel of food on the table all night. The appetizer order of bacon-wrapped scallops was sublime. Chicago Cut is pricey, but a great culinary treat.

Friday, with an 1:20 p.m. game to attend, we left the hotel at 11 am and at my suggestion to have a true Chicago experience, we took the El to Wrigley Field. Note to readers, taking the El to a sold-out Cardinal game isn’t a great idea and somewhat surprisingly, not very cost effective either. Leaving the game, the ride to our next stop on the El was brutal, as we had to go about 10 stops in an absolutely full train. And it was roughly 90 degrees in the train car. Note to self, bad idea.

Cubs merchandise, which would include every possible item you can print a logo or the visage of a player on, is plentiful and varied in and around Wrigley Field. We hit all the shops, with a vengeance. I bought a Javier Baez jersey, which I wore to the game. Baez showed his appreciation by hitting an RBI triple. The Cubs won 3-1 in a well-played and well-paced game. At the game, I bought an Official Scorecard, which has long been a Cub tradition for their fans. It remains one of the best minor souvenirs you can affordably purchase. The four-page scorecard just contains the basics, a grid to keep score, the up-to-date lineups of all the National League teams, and all the Major League umpires by number. The scorecard printed on heavy stock paper, which comes with a full-sized Cubs pencil is $2.

Afterwards we went to the self-proclaimed “First Pizzeria in the World” Pizzeria Uno, at 29 East Ohio Avenue, which is known for their Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza. I contend Chicago-style pizza is good for the soul. That plus a couple of Old Style beers (It’s a Chicago thing) bucked my spirits up considerably after our El experience, which was way too up close and much too personal.

Next, we wandered to Chicago 360, which is an observatory on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building, located at 875 North Michigan Avenue. Last year, the name of the building was changed by a new ownership group to 875 North Michigan Avenue, which frankly doesn’t reflect a lot of creativity. A panoramic view of the entire city of Chicago is a sight to behold. The elevators in the Hancock Building make the 94 story trip in 38 seconds, covering two floors per second, and are said to be the fastest in the world. When construction was completed on the John Hancock Building in 1968, it was the second tallest building in the world.

Saturday morning brought one of the best non-sports experiences we had in Chicago, which was the Chicago Architecture River Cruise, which departs from the Navy Pier. We opted for a 10 a.m. tour, which lasts roughly 75 minutes. There are three branches of the Chicago River in the city and we hit parts of all three and the buildings were numerous, towering, varied considerably in style, and all came with their own story. The size and scope of the architecture throughout the city is awesome. The tour included a close pass by the Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, which at one time was the tallest building in the world at 1,729 feet in height from the ground to the tip of the tallest antenna on the roof.

Uber was our primary means of transportation around town, when we weren’t walking. So after the river cruise and a quick car ride, we arrived at Wrigleyville in time for lunch at Dutch and Doc’s, which is located directly across the street from Wrigley Field. Since the game didn’t start until 6:15 p.m., the area hadn’t become inundated with fans yet. The food at Dutch and Doc’s was surprisingly good and featured a Tavern Burger, served on a brioche bun with bacon and caramelized onions. The food at Dutch and Doc’s was far above expectations.

The reason for the early trip to Wrigley Field was to take a 1 p.m. tour of the ballpark, which after Boston’s Fenway Park is the oldest baseball stadium in the Major Leagues. The tour cost $25 per person, was fun and included a brief stop on the playing field, in the area behind home plate. For a dedicated Cub fan it was a fun tour, during which we learned that the Ricketts Family owns 11 of the 16 rooftop viewing areas which surround the outfield walls of Wrigley. They also built and own the new Hotel Zachary, named after Zachary Taylor Davis, the original architect of Wrigley Field, located across the street from Wrigley Field. As one cab driver we had lamented, the old neighborhood feel of Wrigleyville is becoming increasingly corporate.

After the tour and another brief burst of shopping, we stopped by Murphy’s Bleachers, the famous bar next to Wrigley Field. Eventually Sharon and Jackie took off to attend the Chicago Blues Festival, which was playing in Millennium Park. A free event, held on multiple stages, the festival has a long and storied history in the city. They later ate dinner at The Kitchen, located on the Chicago River at 316 North Clark Street and said the meal and the views were both first-rate.

Mike and I successfully held up one of the walls at Murphy’s for a while before heading across the street to stand in line at the General Admission gate. Our tickets for the Friday game were in the 12th row from the field, just behind first base. Our planning concept was to see the second game Saturday from a different vantage point, the outfield bleachers. Pricing for General Admission tickets varies depending on the opponent and the day of the week, but basically weighs in at $100 per ticket. For a weekend game with the Cardinals, it’s well north of that price. Our early arrival and patient line-waiting paid off with third row aisle seating in the left-center field stands. Since Wrigley is such a small stadium, the view of the game from the outfield is still very good. As for the game itself, the Cardinals scored four runs in the top of the first, and the Cubs went on to score the next nine straight runs for the 9-4 win. Getting out of Wrigley at night after a sold-out night game is a challenge, due to the fact that for four blocks in all directions, there is either no or restricted car access to the stadium. But seeing two Cub wins, followed by a celebratory nightcap at the hotel with all four travelers was worthwhile.

Sunday, we eased into the day with breakfast at the Hilton Palmer House Hotel’s Lockwood Restaurant. The Palmer House, located at 17 East Monroe Street in the Loop, was the grand Downtown Hotel in Chicago for decades and it has held up quite well. The third version of the Palmer House was completed in 1925 and is said to be the longest continuously operating hotel in North America. It seems a few hundred people had the same “Breakfast at the Palmer House” concept we did. Due to the volume of diners, the service was a little off. But the beautiful setting of the hotel and a very serviceable Bloody Mary made the wait enjoyable.

The trip concluded with a visit to another highly-rated steakhouse Prime & Provisions, located at 222 North LaSalle Boulevard. With a price point similar to Chicago Cut, comparing the two restaurants was an interesting experience. Prime & Provisions has a first course appetizer entitled, ‘House-Flared, Thick-Cut Bacon, Black Pepper, Michigan Maple Syrup, Dark Chocolate’ for $16 that is not to be missed. Prime & Provisions had several major pluses, but on balance if you only have time for one, Chicago Cut would be my recommendation.

Fortunately the traffic emanating from O’Hare International Airport was heading in the opposite direction, but Sunday afternoon traffic to the airport needs to be accounted for in your planning. If you travel even occasionally, go to the trouble of acquiring TSA Pre-Check Status. Bypassing a portion of the security lines at O’Hare alone make that worthwhile. Due to the fact that United Airlines provides DirecTV service on their flights, we were able to follow the progress of the third game of the series between the Cubs and Cardinals. The Cubs won 5-1, thus capping off our memorable Chicago weekend.

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