(Photo via Chicago Tribune)
The only way a game could have been more exciting than the one played at Wrigley tonight would have been if the end result meant a damn thing to either team.
The atmosphere in the park was electric from the start, not because of any enthusiasm about the trumped up and corporately sponsored rivalry between the Cubs and Sox, but by some visitors from the West Side who know something about succeeding on the biggest stage. The Blackhawks and the Stanley Cup did a lap around the park as Chelsea Dagger blared over the loudspeakers and the crowd loved every moment of it. I'll admit that I wished the Hawks would never leave the field so I wouldn't have to watch the actual game.
They set the Cup on the mound and the Cubs player who probably appreciated the magnitude of the moment more than any of them, Canadian-born Ryan Dempster, received the ceremonial first pitch. They then lined up on the first base line and Jim Cornelison began his rendition of the National Anthem which is about the only version that I'll admit rivals Wayne Messmer's. The crowd cheered all the way through the song as is the tradition at Blackhawks games., As the sound grew at Wrigley and the chills hit me, I realized that I probably would not hear the Wrigley crowd as loud or excited before a game for a very long time and I got a little sad.
When the game did get started, it progressed pretty quickly. Around the fifth inning a good number of people started noticing that both pitchers had not allowed a hit. But even as a double no-hitter was still intact with two outs in the top of the seventh, the most attention was being paid to the pressbox where the Blackhawks were getting ready to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame as the Stanley Cup stood proudly in front of them. I swear if Lilly had given up a hit at that moment, not many people would have noticed.
The Cubs miraculously managed to squeak a run across in the bottom of the seventh despite Derrek Lee being erased by the second TOOTBLAN of the game and Chad Tracy coming to the plate as a hitter with a runner in scoring position.
Ted Lilly worked a 1-2-3 eighth and all I really remember is that the guy next to me kept asking if Lilly still had his no-hitter after every batter. You think I am making it up for comic effect, but the guy asked me after five batters in a row, starting in the seventh inning. To make matters worse, he kept calling people and telling them that Ted Lilly had a no-hitter in progress. I wanted to kill him.
Of course, Juan Pierre, who's main purpose in life is to make Cubs fans miserable whether he is wearing a Cubs uniform or an opponents', hit a no doubt single up the middle as the first batter in the ninth inning to ruin the no-hit bid.
Carlos Marmol then came in, walked a guy, balked the runners to second and third and still somehow managed to not allow the tying run to score. Cubs win 1-0.
Great atmosphere. Great game.
It's just a shame it didn't matter in the least.