There’s nothing quite like the tradition of Opening Day at Wrigley Field–a crisp spring breeze blowing off of Lake Michigan; the brown ivy getting ready to bloom into a luscious green; a sea of Cubby blue in the stands; Under Armour signage on the outfield wall; Devin Hester singing the seventh inning stretch; another Cubs defeat.
Prior to the game, the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team thrilled the capacity crowd, landing at Wrigley in a special Opening Day ceremony. The excitement quickly faded when starter Ted Lilly fell behind 3-0 early, giving up single runs in the first, fourth and fifth. The Cubs battled back in the sixth to cut the lead to one on a run-scoring single by Aramis Ramirez and a double by Michael Barrett.
The real excitement, however, took place in the seventh when Bears All-Pro return specialist Devin Hester, who got the nod as guest seventh inning stretch conductor over traditional Cub legends like Ron Santo and Ernie Banks, gave a performance worthy of Coach Ditka and Ozzy Osbourne. After completely butchering the stretch, Hester, who returned six kicks for touchdowns as a rookie, got a shot at redemption when Cubs skipper Lou Piniella decided to pull out all the stops.
“Soriano’s been whiffing left and right, Barrett is hitting under .200, and we’re getting handled by 80-year old Woody Williams,” said Piniella. “Something had to be done immediately. That’s when I told Larry [Cubs pitching coach Rothschild] to call up to the booth to get that Hester kid down here.”
Hester did not disappoint, returning a deep fly ball into left field corner all the way back for a TD to tie the game, easily eluding Astros outfielder Carlos Lee, before weaving his way through infielders Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman, and finally breaking the tackle of home plate umpire James Hoye for the score, spiking the ball at the umpire’s feet.
“This was definitely Devin’s day,” said a triumphant Hester, who also parachuted into the stadium with the Golden Knights, sold hot dogs and popcorn at the concession stand, and vended several cases of Old Style in the upper deck. “I’ve always told Lovie that I can do it all–offense, defense, special teams, beer vending. I think I proved my worth today.”
Cubs reliever Bob Howry, a White Sox castoff, proved futile for the second straight outing, serving up a tie-breaking two-run homer to weak-hitting Adam Everett in the eighth, which led to the 5-3 Astros victory. The Cubs dropped to 3-4 on the season.
Number of the game: 41,388
Opening Day attendance at Wrigley on Monday. Also the number of people in the stands calling their friends on their cell phones to say “Look for me on TV. I’m waving to the camera.”