Waveland Avenue

by William J. Hughes, August 24, 2016

Of course I couldn't wait. Waveland Avenue. Of course it's the street outside the left-field wall of Wrigley Field, Chicago.

I'd been doing some Frank Lloyd Wright, some Hemingway, in Chicago and some Buddy Holly out in Iowa.

Back in Chicago to go home to California. Of course, a game in May in Wrigley.

Cubs and I couldn't tell you, maybe Cincinnati? But back to Waveland Avenue. Back to the start of the day.

Getting back into town from Wright's Taliesin, Wisconsin, early, 10am. Get the whole Wrigley dose.

Parking, no problem. Right across the street from the Faberge Egg of it. Breakfast, no problem. A chicish ham and egger that advertises EAT on its marquee, just down the block from the Hobbit House of it. First beer and dog of the day. No problem, the Globe Theatre of it surrounded by a neighborhood of carnival barker, front porches, ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages.

There is a line of blue clad vendors, waiting for a gate to open to let them inside. A players' parking lot. a red brick firehouse, bay doors open, red trucks on display. Those famous seats atop those famous, and now fancy, rowhouses on Waveland Avenue. Play ball!

A few guys in Cubs gear doing just that on Waveland Avenue, tossing a ball, serious.

Steve 'Psycho' Lyons from Baseball Tonight, Today or This Week, in Cubs gear, with a glove, seriously, is out there on Waveland to do a piece on shaggin' balls on the boulevard.

Two young dads from Alabama. Their two young sons sitting in the limbs of a low tree, gloves, grins, from ear to ear.

Steve Lyons is interviewing them. There are a couple of guys on lawn chairs, cups of coffee, gloves. Regulars? They have that worn, near nasty, dirty, tired look of guys too long in the local tavern.

Steve Lyons now has one of the guys in Cubs gear at the curve on Waveland Avenue.

"Three thousand balls?"

Did I just hear this redheaded Irishman in Cubs gear tell Steve Lyons that some guy from Waveland Avenue has caught three thousand — 3000 balls out here?

Something, the word weird, seeps into my head. I did hear right. three-thousand, 3000, because this redheaded guy owns up to two-thousand, 2000 shagged balls.

Something more seeps into my head. Something creepy. Something I never thought would creep along Waveland Avenue

I take a much closer look as batting practice begins inside the KIVA of Chicago. You can hear the wooden bats on rawhide balls.

And here come the first balls over the left-field wall onto Waveland Avenue. They bounce off the street, high as golf balls.

Somebody you'd never want to slide up next to has slid up next to me, all evil nerd weird, in White Sox gear, right into telling me of the legend of the 3000-ball guy, who's apparently absent today. Something about the 3000-ball legend catching Sammy Sosa's 60th home run ball in his chase with Mark McGuire for the home run record. Or his 61st or 62nd or 63rd.

I'm not quite getting it. I don't particularly want to get it. Can you moon walk away sideways? I do my best to do so.

A batting practice home run ball sails over the left-field seats and onto Waveland Avenue. There's enough of the dedicated shaggers on the street now to cause a fuss over any ball over the wall. It's not the mosh pit, but I wouldn't send the sons of Alabama out into it.

I look at all of it even closer. One, two, three guys are standing with their backs against a red brick apartment building and a green shingles apartment building beside it, gloves ready; not a smile or a how-ya-doin' on any of their faces. This is heavy, serious business.

I'm saddened by it. I expected Happy Felton's Knot Hole gang from my old, old Ebbet's Field days. What I get is Poe. Can you moonwalk backwards away from it? I do my best.

But blooming green ivy on the outfield wall, reducing Wrigley's dimensions to a little leaguer's field of dreams, a view of the stormy great lake from my upper deck seats down the first-base side, hand operated scoreboard, cold brew, a dog, peanuts, and I'm fine with it. "Take me out to…"

Postscript: A year later, one baseball season later, I'm at a Cubs-Giants game at PacBell with a few friends. The Cubs just by chance when we could get some tickets at the new yard.

Giants whip Cubs, of course. After the game, my friends and I are just strolling along the Marina walk beside the ballpark when who do I see but one of the Poe guys from Waveland Avenue. It's the redheaded Irishman, the 2000-shagged ball guy, in Cubs gear, throwing a ball with the same girl from Waveland Avenue, both of them just as serious as Chicago. Oh, my.

I don't, and my friends certainly don't, believe it. I've got to talk to him.

He's a Cubs "Deadhead." And here we are in San Francisco of all places. A "Deadhead" in the literal translation.

He and the girl are off to Denver for the Cubs next week. He doesn't know, remember, or care that I was out on Waveland Avenue with him a season past.

How do you manage to get around? isn't asked. Oh well.

To postscript it up, on Waveland Avenue. I expected tie-dye. I got painted face guys.

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