Major League Baseball At The Bar

Kyle-Anne Shiver & Lee Cary
It isn't necessary to have been a Cubs fan, born and raised in Chicagoland, to mourn what performance enhancement drugs have done to major league baseball, but it helps. 

Once upon a time, there wasn't a better place to understand the big leagues than in the small pub in Chicago's Union Station where commuters gather to grab a beer, two when there's time, before boarding trains home.

All eyes focus on the TV screen when the second game of a double-header is underway during rush hour.  Even the bartender listens to Jack Brickhouse when all the cups are good.  The only eye contact comes when a drink is ordered; that's just Midwestern politeness.

There's room for about ten people to have front row seats leaning at the bar.  No stools, because no one stays that long.  When a commuter throws back the last swallow and heads for the track, the spot at the bar fills quickly.  Every time that happens, the same conversation repeats.  The new arrival asks, no one in particular, "What's the score."  There are only two answers.  "No score," and then the inning is told before being asked.  If there've been runs, in an example how oral tradition works, someone gives a concise review of just how it happened-who hit what, in what inning. 

If the Cubs are getting pounded, the scoring review ends with someone saying, "They're breaking our hearts again."  But there's no animosity or self-pity.  And all this happens without breaking eye contact with the game.   It's one long play, with fungible actors and actresses.  Its rhythm is in sync with the steady, reliable change of seasons.  Summer is the Cubs.   (Except for the White Sox fans, all five of them.)

When the Braves came down on the bus from the city up north, it's like playing the kids from around the corner.  They brew Pabst beer in Milwaukee, and Warren Spahn is their pitcher.  Spahn left major league baseball in his first year, 1942, at age 21, to join the U.S. Army.  He won a battlefield commission in Europe.  He is a genuine war hero, with the medals to prove it.  Sure you hope Ernie Banks hits one out on him, but you respect Spahn.   They're both winners.

Those lucky enough to be at the gajme are in heaven, and it's definitely not in Iowa. Wrigley Field is a place where, on a hot day, in the shade, a double-header offers ample time for the most mysterious of all meats, the ballpark frank, and a soft nap.  The vender shouting "coooold beer" and the occasional (sometimes very occasional for the Cubbies) crack of the bat nudges one awake.  High moments in life were once sold there for the price of a general admission ticket.

Bud Selig, the Commissioner of MLB, says he'll act in light of the Mitchell Report.  In his recent statement he said:

"Baseball is America's pastime because of the trust placed in this sport by its fans. And I'm proud to say Baseball has never been more popular. Our attendance continues to break records, year after year, and our fans continue to love the game. But our fans deserve a game that is played on a level playing field - where all who compete do so fairly. 

Next summer, commuting Cubs fans will still be leaning against the Union Station bar waiting for the 5:32 train.  They die harder than Bruce Willis.

If Bud happens to step into an open spot at the bar, he may not get served.

And if he asks, "What's the score?" he could hear, "You're losing, Bud. Big time."
It isn't necessary to have been a Cubs fan, born and raised in Chicagoland, to mourn what performance enhancement drugs have done to major league baseball, but it helps. 

Once upon a time, there wasn't a better place to understand the big leagues than in the small pub in Chicago's Union Station where commuters gather to grab a beer, two when there's time, before boarding trains home.

All eyes focus on the TV screen when the second game of a double-header is underway during rush hour.  Even the bartender listens to Jack Brickhouse when all the cups are good.  The only eye contact comes when a drink is ordered; that's just Midwestern politeness.

There's room for about ten people to have front row seats leaning at the bar.  No stools, because no one stays that long.  When a commuter throws back the last swallow and heads for the track, the spot at the bar fills quickly.  Every time that happens, the same conversation repeats.  The new arrival asks, no one in particular, "What's the score."  There are only two answers.  "No score," and then the inning is told before being asked.  If there've been runs, in an example how oral tradition works, someone gives a concise review of just how it happened-who hit what, in what inning. 

If the Cubs are getting pounded, the scoring review ends with someone saying, "They're breaking our hearts again."  But there's no animosity or self-pity.  And all this happens without breaking eye contact with the game.   It's one long play, with fungible actors and actresses.  Its rhythm is in sync with the steady, reliable change of seasons.  Summer is the Cubs.   (Except for the White Sox fans, all five of them.)

When the Braves came down on the bus from the city up north, it's like playing the kids from around the corner.  They brew Pabst beer in Milwaukee, and Warren Spahn is their pitcher.  Spahn left major league baseball in his first year, 1942, at age 21, to join the U.S. Army.  He won a battlefield commission in Europe.  He is a genuine war hero, with the medals to prove it.  Sure you hope Ernie Banks hits one out on him, but you respect Spahn.   They're both winners.

Those lucky enough to be at the gajme are in heaven, and it's definitely not in Iowa. Wrigley Field is a place where, on a hot day, in the shade, a double-header offers ample time for the most mysterious of all meats, the ballpark frank, and a soft nap.  The vender shouting "coooold beer" and the occasional (sometimes very occasional for the Cubbies) crack of the bat nudges one awake.  High moments in life were once sold there for the price of a general admission ticket.

Bud Selig, the Commissioner of MLB, says he'll act in light of the Mitchell Report.  In his recent statement he said:

"Baseball is America's pastime because of the trust placed in this sport by its fans. And I'm proud to say Baseball has never been more popular. Our attendance continues to break records, year after year, and our fans continue to love the game. But our fans deserve a game that is played on a level playing field - where all who compete do so fairly. 

Next summer, commuting Cubs fans will still be leaning against the Union Station bar waiting for the 5:32 train.  They die harder than Bruce Willis.

If Bud happens to step into an open spot at the bar, he may not get served.

And if he asks, "What's the score?" he could hear, "You're losing, Bud. Big time."