Chicago fact-finding tour, 2017: Cubs vs. Rays at Wrigley Field and the Red Lion Pub on Wednesday, July 5.


(backdated … previously, we drank near the Haymarket)

It was my first visit to Wrigley Field for a game since the late 1980s, and Diana’s first time ever.

The interleague matchup between the Cubs and Rays was slated for a 1:20 p.m. start, and as every real fan knows, there’s nothing quite like day drinking in concert with day baseball. They go together like day drinking and day museum visits, or something like that.

From our downtown hotel, we had started the day by walking to Michigan Avenue via the Chicago Riverwalk (20 minutes), eventually boarding the Red Line at Grand, and emerging at Addison perhaps 20 minutes later.

Thinking back to the U2 show at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in June, and how practically everyone in attendance drove in cars to get there, the joy of being able to ride to a ballgame on a subway train and walk a few hundred feet to enter the stadium … to be able to drink and not worry about driving …

It’s simply priceless.

The Sports Corner Bar & Grill was as good a choice as any for baseball brunch, and we somehow managed to appear just as the doors opened, nabbing a sidewalk table in the shade and enjoying a healthy, restorative meal of loaded nachos and Chicago-style dogs.

This was our view of the Billy Williams and Ron Santo statues.

For my three beers before noon, I decided to try the same “import,” three times) Urban Chestnut Schnickelfritz Bavarian Weissbier from St. Louis, in a big mouth tallboy can, one of the finest Hefeweizens I’ve ever had from an American brewery, and quite possibly the very best.

Diana did the modeling.

Our seats were at the very back of the grandstand on the first base side, completely sheltered from the sun on a day when a healthy breeze was blowing in from Lake Michigan. Too bad about the Budweiser sign; such are the indignities of life.

Of course, the late Harry Caray constantly pounded the ol’ Budweiser, and rumors persist that during his many years in St. Louis, he sampled certain other pleasures pertaining to the Busch empire. We’ll never know for sure, but Caray is immortalized with a press box image.

As for the game itself, the Cubs continued their 2017 struggles through the first five innings, meekly stranding a handful runners against an obscure Tampa starter named Snell. The Rays scratched out three runs by getting runners on base at the top of the order, stealing the occasional base and advancing others on grounders, with a couple of well-timed hits and a sacrifice fly to bring them home.

The lead had all the appearance of being safe, but Snell was relieved in the 6th by the reliever Ramirez, who came to the mound toting a huge gas can and blowtorch.

He promptly surrendered a three-run, pinch-hit homer from Jay, and the Cubs added four more runs in the last three innings against an imploding Tampa bullpen. The home crowd left happy.

Behind our seats on Addison, a large new mixed-use building is being constructed. We noticed that during the national anthem, activity stopped and the construction workers faced Wrigley with hard hats in hand.

Well played.

Later in the game, Diana noticed a strange phenomenon of hovering port-a-lets.

Perhaps Harvest Homecoming should consider these.

After the game, we strolled down Sheffield to Bittersweet Pastry on West Belmont, absorbed energy from sugar and caffeine, then hopped back on the subway for a quick ride to the Fullerton stop, and the Red Lion Pub on Lincoln Avenue.

An excellent short tap list at the Red Lion includes Bombardier, Fuller’s London Pride, Fuller’s ESB and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Our evening meal consisted of Scotch eggs, chicken curry and bangers and mash, served in a gorgeous Anglo setting of wood, brick, books and booze. I’l borrow a website photo to make my case.

We chatted with the owner/bartender Colin, who apparently is somewhat the local legend, remarking that his pub is the last “adult” bar in the vicinity. A regular customer looked and acted like Joe Biden, and a couple from Australia were seated next to us at the bar.

I wish we could have made it back to the Red Lion for a longer session. Next time for sure. Wednesday evening closed with a walk along the Chicago Riverwalk, back to the hotel from Michigan Avenue.

Next: Some official paperwork, Greektown and Monk’s Pub.