It was a beautiful day for a baseball game on Friday, May 17. As Harry Caray would have said, “Just look at this azure sky!”
My husband and I were excited for our day off from work to see the Cubbies play at my beloved Wrigley Field (I would say “our” beloved, but my husband is a Brewers fan – enough said.). But better yet, this wasn’t any old Cubs game. It was a promotional day!
Any faithful Cubs fan has fond memories of the promotional gifts he or she has received at Cubs games of years gone by. Case in point: I still have my Cubs supersized sunglasses, Cubs thermal mug, Cubs floppy hat, and (best of all) my Cubs toiletry kit, which I still use to this day.
Promotional items used to be given to every person attending a Cubs game, but changes in the economy and the way marketing works inevitably changed the rules so that only the first several thousand fans to enter the park receive the promotional item. Still, this created an incentive to get to Wrigley Field nice and early to make sure you didn’t miss out on that day’s promotion.
The promotion for Friday, May 17 was one of the best I had heard of – a pitcher and mug set, complete with Cubs and Budweiser logos. My mouth watered at the thought of acquiring one of these pitcher and mug sets and filling it up with some frosty Old Style (Hey, cut me some slack – it’s a Cubs game!). I told my husband that we’d better get to the park extra early because this promotional item was only being awarded to the first 10,000 people to enter the park. Competition would be steep, and I would have been willing to trade in my toiletry kit for this pitcher and mug set (Well, probably not, but you sense my fervor.).
We hopped on the 10:10 Metra train from Libertyville in order to make the 11:05 bus from the Grayland station to Clark and Addison. Interestingly, we heard several people on the bus talking excitedly about getting to the park at a decent time, before the pitcher and mug sets were all gone. My husband and I smiled at each other.
We arrived around 11:40 AM, an hour and forty minutes before the 1:20 PM game time. After our tickets were scanned, we entered the concourse, our hands spread open before us as if we were waiting for a fly ball. But nothing was placed in our hands.
Instead, we saw stacks and stacks of unopened boxes lined up by the turnstiles. Confused, we approached the greeter who scanned our tickets.
“Where are the pitcher and mug sets?” I inquired.
“Oh, we’re not giving those out until after the game,” he replied.
Silence. Then: “Huh?!”
The greeter looked a little sheepish. “It’s the management,” he said. “They decided the promotion was too bulky to carry around during the game, so they told us to hand them out afterwards.”
“So the first 10,000 people to leave the park are being rewarded?” my husband so aptly concluded.
“Sorry,” the greeter said.
We looked at our watches. If we had known this, we surely wouldn’t have come into the park so early. There are much cheaper places to eat and drink in the neighborhood.
“I don’t suppose we can leave and come back now that we’re inside?” my husband asked.
“Sorry,” the greeter said again, and I began to wonder how many times he would be saying that today.
So guess what we did? Exactly what the management wanted us to do: We bought lunch. And beer. And walked up and down the concourse for an hour and a half until it was time to find our seats for the opening pitch. And because we’re both really tall and have metabolism rates that rival hummingbirds, you can probably guess what happened next.
That’s right – we bought lunch and beer, again. How convenient for the management to trick us into coming early for our promotional item, only to withhold it from us like a carrot stick so that we spent twice as much money before the game ever started. Is this the Ricketts’ plan to raise that $300 million to renovate the park? Very crafty.
But that’s not the only thing that was crafty about this promotional debacle. As my husband and I watched a tie game progress to the sixth inning, we began to wonder: How soon should we leave to make sure we get our pitcher and mug sets? This was a tough call for me, considering that our family deems it sacrilegious to leave a Cubs game before it’s officially over. But we made a special effort to get our promotion, damn it, and we weren’t leaving without it.
We decided to head down to the concourse again in the middle of the sixth. And guess what we saw? Scores and scores of people streaming out the exits, eagerly collecting their pitcher and mug sets along the way. At this rate, the boxes would be depleted before the seventh inning stretch. Hoping my die-hard-Cubs-fan-father would understand my indiscretion, we decided to leave right then and there and claim our prizes while they were still available.
We strolled over to Broadway Street, pitcher and mug sets in hand, and decided to treat ourselves to some frosty mugs of Blatz at Joe’s on Broadway while watching the rest of the game on television. And of course, the Cubs ended up losing that once-tied game 3-2. It was only then that we realized how crafty the Cubs management really was. Not only did they trick us into spending early; they also bribed us into leaving early so we didn’t have to see the Cubs blow another game in person. Very crafty, indeed.
I love the Cubs. I’ll never stop going to Cubs games. But this was a wake-up call for me. The Wrigley Field I once knew is gone, so I will treasure the memories of the way it used to be – the way a ballpark should be.
That is all I can do – and then I’ll fill up that pitcher and mug set with something extra strong.