Carlos Zambrano's No Hitter

DSC_00262008-09-14Quick Update: GoatRiders of the Apocalypse linked to all and posted some of my photos.  Thanks guys!

I got a call on Sunday afternoon from Gary, a church attender and big Cubs fan.  He wanted to know if I wanted to make the trek to Milwaukee's Miller Park for the Monday afternoon Cubs game vs the hurricane Ike displaced Houston Astros.  They had just been scheduled on Saturday.  I had already considered it after reading a Cubs fan blog on the two game series.  After a bit of thinking I called Gary back and asked, why not Sunday night (that night)?  The main reason I thought about Sunday night was that I could take my two youngest who are Cubs/baseball fanatics.  They have seen a White Sox game live but not the Cubs. Gary agreed and we left 45 minutes later for the game.

DSC_00312008-09-14 We remarked before even leaving my driveway that we were so fortunate to be attending a game where Zambrano was slated to pitch.  We made the 90 minute trip to Miller Park and Cubs fans were seemingly in every car on the highway.  The parking guy commented as I shelled out $10, "Welcome to Wrigley North." 

We entered Miller Park, which had the roof on because of approaching rain, to see the Cubs during batting practice.  We found our seats, but went up next to the field to see them practice up close.  After a bit we ate (me: Italian sausage, hot pretzel and a Pepsi, boys: cheese pizza and a Pepsi) and sat down for the game in the upper deck almost right behind home plate.  It was actually a great view of the field.

Alfonso Soriano opened the game with a homer, leading us to the first of many fist pumps and screams for the evening.  Two innings in I noticed that Zambrano hadn't given up a hit, but that happens a lot early in a game.  In the third inning the Cubs threw down four more runs to take a 5-0 lead.  Zambrano came out and pitched a no-hit third and 4th inning.  I turned to Gary and my boys and mentioned the no-hitter in the works.  Gary and I both commented about how cool it would be if that would happen, neither of us really believing it would happen.  Too much game to play.  We decided not to take it too seriously until after the 6th inning.

DSC_00152008-09-14 After six innings we all looked at each other wide eyed, realizing that Zambrano was doing more than just having a good night.  This night could make history.  There was a cautious but noticeable buzz in the crowd as you would overhear people talking about a "no-hitter" again and again as they chatted about the game. 

The last three innings were intense.  Every strike led to loud cheers, high fives, and raised arms in triumph among most of the 23,441 fans (since nearly all were Cubs fans).  As the 6th inning ended I began Twittering the no-hitter.  After the 7th inning we started counting down how many outs were left.  I found myself almost crouching with every pitch, hands on my knees, eager but afraid to see the no-hitter broken.  The stadium was electrified.

DSC_00642008-09-14 Around the end of the 8th inning or so my phone rang.  It was my Dad.  He said, "Do you get the Cubs on your TV?"  He didn't and was listening to the radio.  I said, "Dad...I'm at the game!"  He already knew that after calling my house and was pulling my leg.  He said something like, "Bring it home!"  "I'll try Dad." 

As you can imagine, the 9th inning was very loud.  Several times the crowd started chanting "Big-Z!" or "Cubb-ies!"  My kids were shouting and screaming, Gary and I were giggling like kids at the entrance to Disney World.  We couldn't believe it was happening, but it was.  I grabbed my camera, which I had put away after the early innings, and started getting some last shots of Zambrano and the Cubs on the field to remember the night so that if he finished the job we could remember.  I also wanted to be ready so that if it did happen I could capture the celebration.

DSC_00422008-09-14_1 As we got to the last out, and the batter swung at the last pitch, the crowd went bonkers.  I was snapping photos and Gary hugged me so tight I had to stop taking them for a second.  Then I took many other photos of the on field celebration as well as high-fived everyone around me.  It was surreal.  No one left the park as we all cheered and watched the players slapping Zambrano on the head wildly.  Finally the Cubs began to leave the field and we all cheered very loud.  As Zambrano took several on-field interviews we stayed and cheered until he walked off.  Waving to the crowd he went down to the club house and we finally packed up and left.

We hit the john, and everyone walk talking to each other at the urinals.  Some drunkish looking guy looked at me and said, "Did that just happen?  Tell me that just happened!"  We started the long walk out of the stadium and everyone is talking, yelling, cheering, singing, high-fiving, waving signs, talking about winning the World Series, and more.  It was, again, surreal. 

DSC_00162008-09-14_1 We got outside and started toward the parking lot and a couple of guys were talking to my boys.  They talked about how they will remember this for their whole lives.  I called Molly and my Dad and told them about the experience of being there.  We hopped in the car and couldn't really move to get out of the packed parking lot.  A guy came up to our open window and started in on how historic this game was.  "Google it!  It's been 36 years man!"  He looked back at my kids in the van and started cheering and they cheered back.  Then he went in front of the car that was blocking my way into the line out of the parking lot and told them we needed to go first because "They are Cubs fans."  Well, that car was full of Cubs fans too, but I was happy to inch forward a bit.

We drove out, turned on the radio and listened to post-game.  The 2 hour trip home (added time for lots of bumper-to-bumper back toward Chicago) was full of conversation and laughing and realizing that we had seen something really, really special.  Gary and I talked to the boys about how important and historic this game was.  I'm so glad I was there, and I'm espeically thrilled my two boys were there.  Add to that the fact that Gary initiated the evening by calling me and paid our way into the game.  Should God give me a long life, this will be one of the stories I will never tire of telling.  Now...let's get to the World Series!

You can check out my game photos over at FlickrFeigenbaum has 218 photos!  Here are all of mine in a chronologically ordered Flickr slideshow...