One midsummer afternoon my dad asked me if I would like to go to a Cub game. I don't think I answered coherently. All of seven years old, I had been watching both the Cubs and the White Sox on Channel 9 every day. Back then, in 1958, WGN used to broadcast whichever team was in town.
The night before the game I was so excited I almost didn't fall asleep. But I must have because I awoke at dawn and began singing, "Today is the day that is full of surprises! Nobody knows what's going to happen!" which was a Mickey Mouse Club theme song for, I think, Thursdays which were the TV show's "anything goes" days.
We lived in Riverdale at 141st Street, beyond the South Side, so the drive was a long one in the days before the Dan Ryan Expressway existed. We took the "Outer Drive," as it was known back then. I had never even been downtown, so to pass all those tall buildings along Michigan Avenue added to the magic of the day.
We parked, bought our tickets, and entered the ballpark, which I thought, of course, looked huge from the outside. The concourse bustled with big men in suits, wearing hats, lining up for hot dogs and beer. Our seats were in the second tier of boxes right behind the Cub dugout. Back then the term "box seats" meant just that as groups of, I think, eight seats were sectioned off with yellow pipe.
Of course, I went through the same experience as just about every other Cub fan on first entering the seating bowl at Wrigley Field. I was left breathless by the beauty of it -- by the intense green of the scoreboard, the vines, and the grass. Even the sky looked bluer over the ballpark.
Before the game started the actors who played Cochise and Tom Jeffords on Broken Arrow, one of my favorite television shows, strolled into the stands in full costume and sat in a box across the aisle. My dad rushed over and asked for Michael Ansara's autograph. He signed my scorecard "Cochise." I had that scorecard on my bedroom wall for years. I don't know what happened to it. Wish I had it today.
Then, tragedy struck! An Andy Frain usher approached our box with two men in suits and hats. "Let me see your tickets," the usher asked my dad. Examining them he said, "Right seats, wrong game." The box office had sold my dad tickets for the next day.
This was horrific for a young kid. My worst fear was coming true. Something was going to prevent me from watching a real live Cub game. They were going to escort us from the park. I would never be back. It was the end of the world.
I was too young to understand that tickets could actually be exchanged.
We trudged down to Customer Service. On the way I scraped my head on a hot dog vendor's metal box, so we detoured to First Aid.
Now, the Cubs could have given my dad comparable seats in another section, but down the line (and away from my TV heroes!). But they didn't.
The men in the office saw that they had a distraught little kid (with a bandage on the side of his head), and his upset father, on their hands. Instead of shrugging and saying "Sorry. Nothing we can do," they must have gone to the vault and pulled out Mr. Wrigley's personal tickets. They led us to the best seats I have ever sat in to this day. Second row, right behind the Cubs' on-deck circle. I saw Ernie Banks and my favorite player Tony Taylor standing right in front of me. I heard the snap of the catcher's mitt and the crack of the bat as if I were in the game myself.
Maybe this is more of an example of good customer service at work than a story of kindness. Maybe they gave us those seats because they saw a lawsuit looming! But I have never thought so. The Cubs helped out a kid whose big day was about to be spoiled, and a father whose plans for his son to have the best day of his short life had been compromised. They were nice to us, and it seemed genuine to me.
It's one of my favorite Cub memories. And the Cubs themselves helped out by beating the Willie Mays San Francisco Giants, newly moved from New York.
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