The gay-friendly confines of Wrigley Field took on a rainbow tinge July 12 as 2,000 GLBT fans watched the Chicago Cubs beat the Atlanta Braves in the third annual Out at the Ballgame, sponsored by the Chicago Free Press.
“2,000 people here at the ballpark!” exclaimed Bill Greaves, Mayor Richard M. Daley’s liaison to the GLBT community and director of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations’ Advisory Council on LGBT Issues. “It’s great to see us be able to come out together and have a good time in our hometown.”
The nationally televised game showcased what makes Wrigley Field famous-sunny afternoon skies, ivy-covered walls and Sammy Sosa launching a blast into the bleachers to trigger a big inning for the Cubbies.
It also showcased the welcome extended by the Cubs to the GLBT community. Chicago-based lesbian performer Jen Porter kicked off the afternoon with a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that thrilled the capacity crowd of 39,980.
Larry Nichols, of nearby North Halsted Street’s Circuit nightclub, followed by tossing a strike down the middle of home plate for the game’s first pitch.
“I thought I was going to be very nervous but when I got out there I wasn’t,” Nichols said. “The catcher came up and said I was the only one who got it across the plate.”
It was the first trip to a big league ballpark for many GLBTs. Remarks such as, “Isn’t that cute? They put the players’ names up there on the board,” were overheard, along with some suggestions the Cubs may not have considered, including, “They should put a bar right here, maybe with a deck.”
But while some OATB attendees may not have come with a full knowledge of America’s pastime they quickly got into the game when Sosa crushed a pitch from Braves’ hurler Horacio Ramirez to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning.
The homer, Sosa’s seventh in his last nine games, put the home team ahead 2-1 and sparked the Cubs’ biggest inning in more than a month. Cubs leftfielder Moises Alou followed Sosa’s blast with a single and moved to second when first baseman Eric Karros walked.
That set the stage for shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who brought the crowd to its feet with a stinging double, scoring Alou. Centerfielder Jose Hernandez kept up the Cubs’ onslaught, doubling in Karros and Gonzalez. After ground outs by catcher Damian Miller and pitcher Matt Clement, Cubs second baseman Mark Grudzielanek chased Ramirez from the game with another run-scoring double. The Cubs got one more run in the inning when third baseman Ramon Martinez ripped a triple off Braves reliever Kevin Gryboski.
That staked the Cubs to a 7-1 lead. The Braves, who came into the game with a league-leading 60-31 record, scored two more runs in the eighth but the Cubs held on, winning 7-3 as Clement improved his record to 7-7 for the season.
“It’s a beautiful day,” CFP publisher David Costanzo said as the Cubs coasted to victory. “Everybody’s having fun. What more could you want?”
The OATB day surprised some fans who came for Wrigley’s sunny afternoon charms and discovered it also sported a familiar family presence.
“It was by accident we just stumbled upon this today,” said lesbian partners Ann and Katy, on a weekend visit to Chicago from Kalamazoo, Mich. The couple said they decided to take in a game, then noticed all the rainbow flags and GLBT folks down in the grandstand along the right field line.
“It’s wonderful they do this here,” Ann said.
Even White Sox fans in the OATB contingent had a good time in the North Side ballpark.
“This is the first Cubs game I’ve ever been to in my entire life, but we’re here for a good cause,” said Bridget O’Shea, proudly wearing a Paul Konerko White Sox jersey and enjoying the game with her partner.
O’Shea and other Sox fans get a chance to show their GLBT pride Sept. 6 on the South Side when CFP sponsors the second annual OATB at U.S. Cellular Field, with the White Sox taking on the Cleveland Indians.
“I will definitely be there,” O’Shea said. “I can support my team.”