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Book Review: "Wrigleyworld"

Man, did Wrigleyworld make me feel old.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing, either.

Kevin Kaduk is a twentysomething from the Chicago suburbs, who after college took a job as a sportswriter for the Kansas City Star.

And after a few years of writing about high school sports that he didn't really care about, he felt the pull of Chicago and the Cubs. Somehow, he managed to talk a publishing house into allowing him to write a book about just going to Cubs games every day for an entire season... so he quit his job and moved back to Chicago, crashing like a lame-duck college kid with some friends in the Wrigleyville area, and set out to attend every Cub game in 2005.

It didn't quite work out that way. He didn't have a season ticket -- didn't have ANY tickets, for that matter, so he got quite good at getting below-face value tickets on the street. Some days, he couldn't, and so spent time soaking up the neighborhood atmosphere, from the bars to the ballhawks.

There's a quite funny sequence in which he meets a girl who invites him and a friend to a private party at one of the rooftop buildings; they are supposed to pose as employees of a certain company, but when those people actually show up, they have to talk really fast to try to stay there -- I won't spoil the outcome, read the book!

He sat almost everywhere in the ballpark, and the book does a good job of showing the differences between the various areas. I can't believe I didn't run into him during the season, because during the games he was in the bleachers, he gravitated toward the third row in the section one over from us toward the foul line. I don't know everyone there, of course, but if someone starts showing up fairly often I'll usually at least recognize him.

Kaduk caught a couple of home run balls, shagged balls with the ballhawks on the street, and sampled quite a bit of the drinking culture that, unfortunately, has seeped into our neighborhoods and the ballparks as well. Kaduk writes, and I think this is the key to understanding why this has happened in recent years:

Your typical imbibers here are in their twenties, upwardly mobile, relatively attractive, and overwhelmingly white. They hail from affluent suburbs like Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Barrington, Illinois, and Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Born on third base, there's little reason for the stupid amount of alcohol each privileged kid (including me) consumes over the course of the year. Yet that's exactly what happens in Wrigleyville, which provides a college lifestyle for as long as anyone wants to live it. It can be boring and repetitive, but it is something to do. And who cares if you did the Wrigley drinking thing the week before? Lost in a cloud of booze, it can be hard to keep track.

Sums it up perfectly, I think.

He even went to the Jimmy Buffett concert -- something I skipped, because I'm not that big of a Buffett fan and I didn't want to spend $90 just for the novelty value -- and wrote about that experience, and even tacked on an experience that was quite like the one I had at the World Series, game two at the Cell, which he attended with his dad.

And that, in fact, wrapped up this fun read quite well, as the book began with his description of how his dad first got him into baseball at the old Comiskey Park -- since his family had been originally from the South Side and south suburbs. But then, he got into the Cubs the way so many of us did -- by watching day games after school on WGN.

"Wrigleyworld" is a quick and enjoyable read, and I know Kevin's a BCB reader, and we are, in fact, all part of this same group of human beings -- Cub fans. Hard to explain, fun to experience. Well worth picking up. (Oh, and if you decide you want to? Click the link on the left sidebar!)