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Once upon a time there was a time when Opening Day at Wrigley Field was special. For twenty years or so “the group” would assemble to attend.

The last World Series at Wrigley was in 1945 and suffice it to say, none of us had ever been to one but hoped we would one day see the Series on the North Side of Chicago.

Each year, we would gather together for the first home game of the year, quite assured that THIS would be the year. The Opener, when hope springs eternal and your team is still in the race.

Early on, when we were in our twenties, we sat in the Bleachers for this game. Right Field Bleacher. And we never chanted “Left Field Sucks” and we NEVER ever participated in “The Wave” and when somebody tried to start it, we squashed it.

We owned the Right Field Bleachers back in those days. There are stories too myriad to mention to confirm this assertion, so you will have to trust me.

After the playoffs of ’84, we moved the show to the Upper Deck Box Seats. Section 416.

But the Opening Day tradition remained the same. Anywhere from 6 to 16 of us attended. In the early days, to explain our absence from work, amazingly many of us had “caught the fever” and had to see Dr. Fields (Wrigley Fields) for a dose of medication. Cubs fever, catch it.

Most years the tradition was consistent. We would gather at my abode of the time to share fellowship, Howard Hash (a secret scrambled egg mixture recipe), and perhaps throw back a Blood Mary or three.

From there, we went to the game, cheered on the Cubs, had people adjacent to us rolling in the aisles with laughter, and maybe made a few friendly wagers during the course of the game. First hit, first run, attendance pools, those sorts of things.

After the game, we all bought hats and prided ourselves with our negotiating skills when we bought discounted bulk from the vendors for multiple hat purchases.

Donning our new head wear, we’d head to a local park somewhere and play a game of whiffle ball with unique rules that we called “Derby.” (That’s yet another story, but Derby has been played by us from coast to coast and even on someone’s Wedding Day.)

The tradition has been void for several years now.

Lives change, people change, people move. Some people pass on. I think our contingent of attendees now live in places like Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Arizona and even Canada. A few remain in Chicagoland.

But I am certain, one thing remains constant.

When that opening pitch is thrown on Friday, wherever we all are, we will remember the fun, camaraderie and hope that we had on Opening Days gone by and wish just for a moment, that maybe THIS is the year.

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