Saturday, October 17, 2015

As Mets play Cubs, a Wrigley memory: 'Help, there's a dead Cubs fan in my lap'

The National League Championship Series starts at Citi Field, then heads to Chicago and Wrigley Field.

Now, Wrigley is a fun place and we always seem to have adventures there, between Wiffle Ball with alleged former major-leaguers and snapping photos that end up in ESPN documentaries.

Then there was the day I was sure a Cubs fan died in my lap.

Here’s a trip to the archives for one of the first stories told on this blog a decade ago.

My assignment was to check out a charter school in Chicago that was run by a company setting up a similar school in Flint. 

It was just a coincidence that the Cubs were in town on the day we were scheduled to be there. It also was just a coincidence that I wrapped up the last interview in time to make it to Wrigley before the first pitch.

These things happen. What also happened that day was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen at a ballpark.

Since I was buying just one ticket, the Cubs were able to sell me a seat about five rows right behind home plate — among the best seats I’ve ever scored. Chris Berman of ESPN was in the next section.

It was a beautiful May afternoon, and Jon Leiber was throwing for the Cubs against the Braves and future Met and Hall-of-Famer Tom Glavine. Glavine was not at his best that day, giving up five runs including a blast from Sammy before being chased in the fifth. I take that Tommy was disappointed but not devastated.

But the real story took place in the seat in front of mine.

Early in the game, a guy wandered to his seat with a beer in each hand. He looked a lot like the Jim Belushi character in "...About Last Night," wearing a red satin Bulls jacket and sweat pants.

He didn’t spend much time in his seat, disappearing for an inning at a time to buy more beer and smoke in the concourse — which was fine with me. I was enjoying the unobstructed view of Chipper Jones taking a collar with two strikeouts.

Later in the game, the guy came back and slumped down in his seat to take a nap. I remember thinking, "What a waste of one of the best seats in Wrigley."

As this guy slept, he apparently tried to get more comfortable, stretching out instead of slumping. His arms went out over the seats on either side of him. Keep in mind, Wrigley is an old ballpark with small seats and narrow rows. His head now stretched back so far into my personal space that I had a hard time keeping score in my program.

This went on for an inning or so, with people sitting around me making jokes.

Suddenly the guy’s arms started shaking and bubbly spittle was forming on his lips. I knew this wasn’t good.

Then we heard something spilling and saw a puddle forming under his seat. Did he knock over his beer? No. He was wetting himself.

Now, one of the things I remember best from Mr. Ousteckey’s eighth-grade science class is that the first thing you do after dying is wet your pants — the body just releases everything.

I remember thinking, "This guy is dead. There is a dead Cub fan practically in my lap."

The guy in the seat next to me started freaking out, waving frantically for an usher. One came over and radioed for the paramedic on duty. A lot of people in the section were trying to move away. I was scared, but apparently had the presence of mind to continue keeping score, as my program would indicate.

The paramedic was pretty calm. He leaned over the guy, poked him a little and said. "Hey, chief. I work for the Cubs. Let’s go for a walk."

The guy -- apparently not dead -- woke up, groggily stood up and started walking with the paramedic. Then he stopped, turned around and went back for the half a cup of beer in the cup holder. He walked off, oblivious to what had transpired. Someone came by with a cup of water to pour under his seat and dilute the puddle.

Apparently these paramedics have some experience with drunken Cub fans.