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How The Other Half Lives

MILWAUKEE -- Howard and Jon bought, from a seller on eBay, two prime "dugout seats" for today's game, which included a "preferred" parking pass and four passes to the .300 Club, the Miller Park stadium club above the LF bleacher seats.

I already had a ticket for the game, but since they had the extra club passes, we all drove up together, and went into the club for a buffet lunch, which you reach by riding an elevator, which had a bored-looking young man sitting there so he could push the floor button.

I'm all in favor of giving jobs, but seriously -- is this one necessary?

It's weird to be in there. First, the ballpark was mostly empty when we got there, so we watched an empty field (the Cubs, as is their practice, don't take BP on day games after night games) for a while, and then the Brewers showed up for their own hitting. What's even weirder is that the windows are totally sealed shut, so all you hear is Muzak. You can't hear any crowd noise whatsoever.

The food's pretty good. It's a typical lunch spread, salads, deli stuff and some carved meats.

Naturally, we checked out the tomatoes. All they offered were cherry tomatoes, so that made the tomato ritual (which worked so well three Thursdays ago at the very same location) a bit more difficult. I ceremonially cut open one of the cherry tomatoes, bit off a piece and dropped it -- right on the second inning.

You're welcome for Derrek Lee's three-run homer which tied the score at that time and set the stage for one of the best Cub offensive showings in weeks, and though they blew a 5-4 lead, the Cubs came back and beat the Brewers 9-6, evening the season series at 7 each, and after losing the first three games in Milwaukee this year in a sweep, the Cubs won five of the last seven.

In walking to our seats, we ran into Brian and a few of his friends who had gotten some other tickets that Howard had run across, and also saw Jim & Mary Ellen from the LF bleachers.

I sat in my seat in section 109 for two innings, calling Howard after Lee's homer to remind him of the power of the tomato, and it was then that he told me that a single seat next to them in section 106 had been empty, so I went to sit with them for the rest of the game, right behind the Brewers dugout, where we had a closeup look at the finish line for the sausage race, among other things (the Italian sausage won today).

That's another strange thing for me -- I'm so used to the angle from the RF bleachers that when I sit elsewhere it's sometimes hard to pick up pitches, and that was the case today, made worse, oddly enough, by the bright sunny day. With the roof open (despite the coolish 64-degree gametime temperature), shadows start to cross the plate by about the fourth inning. Then -- the sun dips to the west and shines through the windows behind the 1B line seats, leaving us in bright sunshine in our seats, the entire infield in shadow, and the entire outfield in total sun, which is a very strange way to watch a game. They built Miller Park on the same diagonal that County Stadium was -- with home plate in the northwest corner. Most ballparks have home plate in the southwest corner (the Cell and Yankee Stadium, notable exceptions), which makes for much easier dealings with the sun.

Anyway, I've obviously digressed. Greg Maddux hurt himself with his own defense today, which is not like him at all, though he can be forgiven his first-batter error on Scott Podsednik's comebacker, because it hit him in the leg first. The next two batters hit playable balls, but the only result was a run scored, rather than the 1-2-3 inning Maddux should have had, and then Geoff Jenkins put the Brew Crew ahead 3-1 with a three-run homer of his own. But, after that, Maddux settled right down and threw six really efficient innings, winding up allowing four earned runs and throwing ninety-six pitches.

I found it interesting that in the eighth, an obvious slot for Kyle Farnsworth (and yes, I know there were left-handed hitters due up), Dusty went to Mike Remlinger, who would have gotten out of the inning unscathed if not for a Mark Grudzielanek error (isn't he supposed to be the better defensive 2B?).

Back in 1984, when the Cubs cruised to the NL East title, they won game after game in which they'd give up the lead early -- you just knew they'd come right back. Today's game had that feel to it, especially with Chris Capuano unable to throw strikes. A couple of Brewers fans next to me were commenting on this, which has been a Cub pitching staff bugaboo at times -- too many walks. Capuano wound up walking four in his 4.1 innings (98 pitches to get 13 outs), and three of them scored via the three-run homers by Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Sammy Sosa added a solo job of his own, and looked better today at the plate, also singling and drawing a walk. Maybe the #5 spot is growing on him.

As has been typical of all ten Cub/Brewer games at Miller Park this year, the crowd was probably two-thirds Cub fans, totalling 421,729 fans for an average of 42,173. That's probably about twice what those games would have drawn if the Brewers had played, say, the Expos, so Howard and I figured this: if the Brewers draw about 2 million this year, and it looks like they will, that's more than 20% of their total attendance in about 12% of their home dates, about 200,000 extra fans, for (wild-guessing here) about $5 million in additional revenue.

That's about 20% of Milwaukee's 2004 player payroll, right there, Cub fans. Congratulations. You're paying most of Geoff Jenkins' salary.

After the game, we found out what "preferred" parking means. It means you get preference to park up close when you come in -- and that means you're farther away from getting OUT when you leave. It took us about thirty minutes just to get out of the lot, and then seeing a lot of I-94 traffic, we took a scenic detour through some Milwaukee neighborhoods before joining up with the expressway again south of downtown. After that it didn't take too long to get back to Chicago, thanks to some shortcuts which I am NOT going to reveal here -- after all, they wouldn't be secret shortcuts then!

With the win, the Cubs pull to within a half-game of the idle Giants for the wild-card lead, and for whatever it's worth, 13.5 games south of the Cardinals, leading into the weekend series at Houston, where they have won four of the first six games played this season. And if you just haven't had enough of the Brewers... we'll see them again on Monday... unless...

the city of Chicago comes through on yet another threat to shut Wrigley Field down. Another inspection has been ordered, and I'm sure this will happen tomorrow.

I have absolutely no doubts that the Cubs will do whatever it takes to open the ballpark for business on Monday.