4/23/09 at Wrigley Field
Two days ago I met a legendary ballhawk named Moe Mullins. Yesterday I met another named Rich Buhrke. Moe, as I mentioned in my previous entry, has snagged 5,274 balls including 238 game home runs. Rich has snagged 3,404 balls including 178 game homers. Both of these guys have caught five grand slams, and as you can imagine, they dominated Wrigley Field for many years. Here we are (Moe on the left, Rich on the right) on Sheffield Avenue about an hour before the ballpark opened:
Way back in the day, Rich was known as “Mr. Outside” because he caught everything that reached the street, and Moe was known as “Mr. Inside” because he cleaned up in the bleachers. Even though these guys are both around 60 years old, and even though Rich has been slowed by a bad back, they still give the younger ballhawks a serious run for their money.
My new friend Scott (who leaves comments on this blog as “ssweene1”) held a spot for me at the right field gate and pointed out the old fashioned crank that is still used to open it. In the following photo, you can see four employees just inside the gate. The guy on the left is holding/turning the crank with both hands:
The “MasterCard” logo taints the old world charm, but still…pretty nifty.
Although this was a day game following a night game, the field WAS set up for batting practice. Unfortunately, when I ran inside, the only action was an old usher bending over and wiping off the seats:
(“Action” is probably not the best word in this case.)
Bronson Arroyo finished his bullpen session and then talked to pitching coach Dick Pole. See the ball in the photo below?
Dick tossed it to me a few minutes later.
I didn’t have a bleacher ticket, so I was trapped in foul territory for BP. Although I didn’t catch any batted balls, I can still say pretty confidently that I discovered the best spot. Here it is:
The biggest advantage in this spot is that there’s room to run through the cross-aisle. It’s not too far from home plate. Both righties and lefties can hit balls there. And it’s right near where the visiting team’s pitchers play catch. In the photo above, the guy sitting down with the backwards white cap and striped black jacket is Scott. You’ll see what he actually looks like in a bit…
My second ball of the day was tossed up by someone on the Reds that I couldn’t identify.
My third ball was an accidental overthrow that flew into the seats, hit another fan in the nuts, and dropped right down at my feet. I would’ve given it to the guy if several Reds players hadn’t immediately offered him a signed ball. The guy, it turned out, was fine (though a bit shaken) and in case you’re wondering who was responsible for the overthrow, that would be Nick Masset. And wouldn’t you know it, the player who failed to catch the high throw was none other than the 5-foot-6 Daniel Ray Herrera (who looks like a 14-year-old ballboy but IS in fact on the 25-man roster).
My fourth ball was thrown to me near the dugout by Brandon Phillips. I saw him walking off the field with a ball in his hand so I raced through the aisle and then, since I wasn’t allowed to go down to the seats behind the dugout, I got him to throw it to me while I was still standing in the aisle. As far as thrown balls go, that one felt good.
My fifth ball was tossed by Micah Owings near the right field corner. He was running poles. There were two balls lying on the grass, just beyond the warning track in foul territory. When he finished, he walked over and flung one in my direction.
My sixth and final ball of the day was thrown by Darnell McDonald at the dugout toward the end of BP.
Adam (aka “cubs0110”) and Scott had each snagged one ball during BP. Here we are:
I managed to sneak down to the Reds’ dugout 20 minutes before the game. This was my awesome view for the first pitch…
…but I was kicked out two innings later when the people whose seats I was enjoying had the nerve to show up.
I sat about 15 rows behind first base for the next four innings and then wandered upstairs. Here’s the view of Waveland Avenue from the top left field corner of the upper deck:
This is what the seats and roof look like up there:
Here’s my panorama attempt from the right field corner of the upper deck:
Back on the field level concourse, I took the obligatory photo of the foul ball sign…
…and then walked down the tunnel that leads to the inner cross aisle:
I only averaged five balls per game at Wrigley on this trip (I snagged 13 balls here in two games in ’98) but still had a great time. Look how awesome this ballpark is…in the photo below, you can see people sitting/standing on some giant dark green concrete step-things, just inside the back fence of the center field bleachers:
Can you imagine a) something so useless and funky even existing in a new ballpark and b) stadium employees actually allowing fans to chill out there? Only at Wrigley Field. If you’re a serious baseball fan (and hate the fact that everything in the world is becoming newer and more regulated), you simply must visit this ballpark.
Final score: Reds 7, Zack 6, Cubs 1
• 6 balls at this game
• 73 balls in 10 games this season = 7.3 balls per game.
• 579 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 149 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 3,893 total balls
• 89 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)
• $17.12 pledged per ball
• $102.72 raised at this game
• $1,249.76 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball