The Retro Cubs Cap

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I must preface this article by saying while it is an enjoyable read on its own, it would make much more sense after reading Part 1 of my summer road trip (which can be found here).

Day Two! After a long day in Cleveland, we (Sean, Harry and Myself) headed off to our next destination for our second game of the trip: The New York Mets vs the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Sean, being from New York, has the unfortunate distinction of being a Mets fan, so he was beyond excited to see the Mets play. As a Phillies fan, I really can’t understand why.

We had a long day ahead of us as we woke up, going from Cleveland to Chicago and seeing the game all in one day. As we are all college students, none of us were overly thrilled about waking up early, but by 8 AM we planned to get on our way. Theoretically, it was supposed to the lightest travel day we would have, with only about 5 hours of travel time between the two cities. After a complimentary breakfast of waffles at the La Quinta Inn, we headed off towards the Windy City!

During the car rides, we had a very strict and hierarchical three seat system: one person would drive, one person would navigate/DJ, and the third person would sleep and distribute snacks from the back seat. While I wouldn’t call myself a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, I was by far the most capable of driving in the morning, so I had the first shift and got us most of the way through Ohio, just on the fringe of Indiana, before I handed off the wheel and took my seat in the back where I was finally able to catch up on some sleep.

I woke up about an hour later and had no idea where we were, but I noticed that we just passed a sign for Holy Cross College. For those unfamiliar, Holy Cross College is where the main character from the football movie “Rudy” attends so he’s able to get into Notre Dame, his dream school, to play football for the Fighting Irish. At the time, I was barely awake and wasn’t too interested in exactly what was going on, and when I asked them was that in fact the school that Rudy went to, they humored me and said they weren’t sure. The more I came to my senses, I noticed more and more signs that said South Bend, Indiana, and I eventually realized we were in fact making an unscheduled stop to the legendary campus of Notre Dame University. We were about to stand on sacred ground.

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The Cathedral At Notre Dame

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The first thing I could say was “wow”; no picture I could have taken would properly do it justice. I have been on many different college campuses, but nothing could even come close to the absolute majesty of Notre Dame. Every building (and we went in a lot of buildings), was pristine, colored in their traditional blue and gold. You could absolutely feel the history in every aspect of the campus. There were water fountains the size of Olympic pools (which were different than the numerous reflection pools scattered around campus), statues to countless Catholic Saints standing proudly on campus, as well as numerous monuments to alumni who have done amazing things not only for the school, but as governors, Nobel Prize recipients, and multiple Hall of Fame memebrs or otherwise notable athletes*.

The one thing we weren’t able to see was inside Notre Dame Stadium, home of the Fighting Irish football team. One of the most storied and beloved football programs in history, few programs command the respect that they do. With legends such as Joe Montana and Joe Theismann having graduated from the program, seven Heisman trophy winners (a NCAA Record), and 12 Pro Football Hall of Fame Members, the history and tradition of Notre Dame is virtually unmatched.

So there we were, at legendary Notre Dame. It was a surreal experience. The bookstore alone was bigger than President’s Hall at Seton Hall University, where both Sean and I currently attend. Three stories, and the bottom floor was just apparel, with a hat wall that would rival LIDS (I picked up the beauty pictured below while we were there). After walking about for what must have been two and a half hours just aimlessly exploring every nook and cranny we could, we realized we only explored about an eighth of the campus. Thankfully, there were numerous full services restaurants right on campus. While the name of the place we ate at escapes me, I vividly remember our waitress pointing out my Philly accent as when I asked for a “wooder” instead of “water”, which she told me they do not serve here.

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After what ended up being a four hour sabbatical, and easily the best spur of the moment decision of the road trip, we finally got back on the road, headed to our hotel in Chicago. As we got closer and closer to the city, the traffic got worse and worse. All three of us live in New Jersey, and have driven around New York, so we all are no strangers to absolutely horrendous traffic, but this was something else entirely. Gridlocked for nothing less than hours, we ended up having to go straight to the stadium rather than go to the hotel first like we planned.

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Planted squarely in the middle of a residential neighborhood, parking at Wrigley is understandably a struggle, and as three college students, paying $45 understandably for parking at the stadium seemed a little ridiculous. Many residents of the surrounding neighborhood have a second business renting out their personal garages as parking for many of the games, so when we saw someone holding up a sign for $20 parking only four blocks from the stadium, we jumped on that opportunity.

Wrigley field is arguably baseball’s version’s of Mecca: its the place where every baseball fan has to go at least once in their lifetime. Its unique among the National League teams, with Red Sox’s slightly older Fenway Park serving as the American League counter-park (get it?). Small local restaurants and bars populate the surrounding area, with some very notable bars having bleachers on their rooftops that allow patrons to see into Wrigley Field; this is something truly unique among all stadiums. Pictures can’t even properly do the stadium justice. A small stadium in the terribly inconvenient location, with a historically terrible team, manages to sell out virtually every game, with a fan-base that is among the best in the game. Every single great baseball player has stepped up to the plate at Wrigley, with a century baseball history to its name.

It just so happens that the 2014 season was the 100th anniversary of historic Wrigley Field, home of the historically bad Chicago Cubs, who haven’t won a championship since the Ottoman Empire still existed****, and we got to go around surrounding area about before the game. Due to the severely limited space inside the stadium, the main team store is outside the stadium, where I picked up these two Cubs caps featuring the retro baby Cubs logo, as well as the 100th Anniversary Cap the players were wearing during home games during the season.

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The game itself was amazing, with the Cubs jumping out to an early 4-0 lead, before the Mets stormed back to tie it up, before some late game heroics from Cubs’ first basemen and All-Star Anthony Rizzo put them back the lead, and gave them the win. After any Cubs home victory, they play “Go Cubs Go” by Chicago native Steve Goodman (which can be found here), which quickly became stuck in our heads for weeks on end.

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Wrigley Field, as seen from our seats


Harry, Sean and Myself Celebrating After A Cubs Win

Harry, Sean and Myself Celebrating After A Cubs Win

I got to see the Mets lose (a moral victory), the Cubs get a series sweep (an actual victory), the eventual NL Rookie of the Year winner Jacob deGrom and a very rare night game at Wrigley Field** all in one day, but for Sean that wasn’t enough. The entire game Sean would not stop saying how great and special Wrigley Field was… because there was a Taco Bell directly across from it. We were at a 100 year old baseball stadium, and he was excited about a Taco Bell. Now I understand if you may think that I am exaggerating this point, but I assure you I am not; he basically sprinted out of the stadium after the Mets loss and headed straight to his beloved Taco bell where he (along with Harry) stuffed their faces full of a “Nacho Bell Grande”. I honestly don’t know how they could stomach it.

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This day was exceptional for many reasons, but one of the main was that I broke a new personal record, purchasing three New Era Caps in one day between Wrigley Field and Notre Dame.*** After an exceptionally long day, which included a 40 minute adventure to remember in whose garage we parked, we finally headed back to the hotel. The next day, we headed back to Wrigley for a day game, with a whole new set of adventures to follow.

* Including then Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who played both football and baseball at Notre Dame before being drafted in the 5th round of the draft by the Cubs. Later during the season, he was traded to the Oakland A’s.
** Since its in a residential neighborhood, the number of night games they play at home is severely restricted.
*** As it turns out, they would be the only three caps I purchased during this road trip, proving doubters wrong, as the over/under for caps I would buy was set at 4.5.
**** Sadly, this is an actual fact. The Ottoman Empire fell in 1923, and the Cubs last won the World Series in 1908.

The Gray Blue Jays Cap

Gray Blue Jays Cap

For some reason, I seem to have a soft spot for any Blue Jays apparel. Second to only my beloved Philadelphia Phillies, I have more Blue Jays caps than anything else. However, this is my first cap of the blue and silver logo used from 2004-2011. Specifically, this gray cap was worn exclusively from 2004 to 2005, before being replaced with a more traditional black cap with a silver “T” (pictured below). Some great Blue Jays players had the honor of wearing this elusive cap, including All-Stars Ted Lilly, Carlos Delgado and Shea Hillenbrand, as well as two-time Gold Glove Vernon Wells.* But to me, this cap was worn by arguably the greatest pitcher in Blue Jays’ history: Roy “Doc” Halladay.

Roy Halladay

I can’t imagine there will ever be a point in my life when the Blue Jays are not synonymous with Roy Halladay. In his 11 year career with the team, he was a six-time All-Star, a Cy Young winner, and an AL Wins Champion. He also has numerous team records, highlighted by the most wins in a season with 22 during 2003. I remember visiting Toronto as a kid (which you can read more about here), and in a city where baseball takes a backseat to hockey, Roy Halladay still managed to be a hero. Whenever he was pitching, attendance at the Rodger Center soared. His jersey was among the top selling for most of his tenure, which is impressive for a smaller market team such as Toronto. But for all of his accomplishments with the team there were two things that alluded him: a no hitter and postseason play.

Roy Halladay

In 2010, Halladay was traded to my beloved Philadelphia Phillies for Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor, and agreed to a 3 year contract extension with a fourth year vesting option. With the addition of Roy Halladay, the Phillies were supposed to have the last piece of their puzzle to win the World Series for the second time in three years. Even though Cliff Lee was fantastic for for the Phillies in 2009 (winning both of his starts in the World Series), Halladay was seen as an upgrade due to his “potential future Hall of Famer” status, and Lee was traded to the Mariners the same day.

In my lifetime, I cannot remember a pitcher as dominant as Halladay was in 2010. Granted, being a Phillies fan I am at least a little biased, but the stats do not lie. I don’t remember then-Phillies pitcher Kevin Millwood’s no hitter back in 2003, so when Halladay threw a perfect game against the Florida Marlins it was a miracle. He was everything we as a fanbase expected him to be and more. He even gave us the endless shirts with “Doc-tober” emblazoned upon them.

By this time, Halladay had the Cy Young locked up with 21 wins, but Doc still had something special left to show us. On October 6, 2010, in his very first postseason appearance, Halladay pitched the second postseason no hitter of all time against the Cincinnati Reds. It was truly icing on the cake to one of the best seasons by any pitcher of all time.** Despite finishing the postseason with 2 wins and 2.45 ERA, Halladay and the Phillies sadly fell short of their World Series aspirations. His 2011 season was almost equally impressive with an even lower ERA of 2.35, and finished second in the Cy Young voting behind Clayton Kershaw.

But injuries cut Halladay’s career short, and he has since retired a Blue Jay. Tragically, he never got his World Series that he truly deserved. There is much more to say about his last two injury plagued seasons with the Phillies, and the debate of whether he is a Hall of Famer is something that deserves its own article(and will get it), but for now I just want to remember Doc as the greatest pitcher throughout my childhood and for one of my favorite quotes in baseball when referring to his first ever playoff appearance.

I came here to bury Caesar, not praise him

I want to give a special thank you to my friend Benjamin Christensen, who out of the pure kindness of his heart sent me this cap, knowing I had been looking for it for quite some time. It seemed the basically the entirety of the Internet was sold out; I couldn’t even find one on eBay willing to pay just about any price. When I asked Ben if he knew anywhere I could find one, and much to my surprise he told me exactly where I could find it, knowing for a fact he had one in my size sitting in his mother’s closet all the way back in Portland. To me, Ben is a king on the internet, specializing in all things baseball, beards and New Era Cap related, and his opinion is second to none on the subjects, even participating in the MLB Fan Cave as a representative of the Oakland A’s. He has all my thanks, for without him this article would not be possible. I highly recommend both following him on twitter (@Shakabrodie) as well as reading his blog (www.hatsandtats.blogspot.com). This cap meant a lot to me buddy, and I cannot thank you enough.

*These individual player awards only account for the two seasons this cap was worn.
**In my humble opinion.