Ten Years. Seven Cities. One Dream.
September 26, 2015, was no ordinary day. Overnight the Chicago Cubs had officially clinched a playoff berth putting them on a possible trajectory to make it to the World Series in my lifetime – much earlier than expected. I was standing on Wrigley Field, just behind home plate, imagining what it would be like for one of the most storied stadiums in the major leagues to host the Fall Classic for the first time since 1945 when it hit me: this would be the 10th year in a row that I have attended a World Series game and it could be in my home stadium – a dream come true! Talk about a fluke of fate. But then, I remembered it all started as a fluke.
The fall of 2006 was a rough one at The White House. My colleagues and I were working obscene hours to keep up with the pace of projects piling up on our desks. The president of the United States, it turned out, traveled a lot and part of my job was to research the venues he visited and hands we knew he would shake in public view. And the third week of October that year was a particularly brutal one in which I clocked in 96 hours at my desk researching away. (That diligent note-keeping of mine ultimately proved useful when then-Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino interviewed me for a job in the Press Office the week after and asked if I could handle long days. “Let me tell you about last week,” I replied. I got the job.)
So when the idea of taking a short break to attend the World Series in Detroit was casually pitched it was knocked out of the park like a towering Kyle Schwarber home run. I went to Game 2 and Game 7 of the 2001 World Series in Arizona, sitting in the very top row of what was then called Bank One Ballpark, when the Diamondbacks pulled off a stunning bottom of the 9th defeat of the New York Yankees (along with the fans around us we called our row “Championship Row,” because, why not?) Heading back to the World Series, knowing how much fun it could be, seemed like the perfect reprieve from our temporary chaos.
Now, it’s important to understand that when working at The White House, one’s definition of relaxing is 180-degrees different than most people. For us, relaxing was an early morning flight to Detroit on Sunday, October 22, 2006, and a quick jaunt across the border to gamble in Windsor, Canada, before taking in Game 2 between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals. My colleague, Daniel, and I savored all the sights of Comerica Park, chatted it up with the SportsCenter crew and signed up for new credit cards for no other reason than to get the free blanket they offered so we could keep warm in the outfield bleachers (the game time temperature was 44 degrees.)
And that’s how it all unexpectedly began.
For a total of 10 years now, I have visited one World Series game each year without interruption. I’ve made stops in Detroit, Denver, Philadelphia, Dallas, St. Louis and San Francisco on this odyssey of mine, and plan to attend Game 4 in New York this year, and have loved all the twists and turns that have come my way.
Of course, when people first learn of my tradition either in conversation or by noticing the World Series attire I wear at the games and in my daily life from time-to-time, the question is always, “Why?” Why do I do it? Why do I drop everything to fly to one World Series game every year even though my Cubbies aren’t on the field? The answer is easy: why not?
But the real answer, to me, is there is no better way to watch America’s Pastime. As a Cubs fan who has come to empathize with the long-suffering plight of Job, going to the World Series is just fun. I never root for any team in particular, save the home team if the fans around me require an extra hand to high five after critical plays. Instead, I root for a successful World Series (which, as the 1994 strike proved, is no foregone conclusion). I have actually cheered, “Wooooo, World Series” from my seat. Call me crazy.
Without the pressure of being a fan of a participating team, my chest doesn’t tighten when the bases are loaded and two men are out. I could really care less about the outcome of a fly ball near the wall or a close play at the plate. Without that added stress, I have found ample time to stare out at the perfectly manicured Arch in the outfield of Busch Stadium, chomp down on a Philly Cheesesteak at Citizens Bank and live in the moment as Ray Charles did a sound check on the field before a game (this unexpected moment came courtesy of a pre-game meal at the TGIF inside Bank One Ballpark).
While those are the moments that have kept me going back each and every year for the past decade, getting to and from each game itself has turned into an enjoyable art form as well.
Around Labor Day I open up a new Word Document on my computer and title it “World Series 20XX.” Fancy, I know. That document contains all the information necessary to successfully complete each mission. First and foremost on my list of tasks is to determine which teams are most likely to play host to my obsession. Before 2003, that task would have been much more difficult. But with the addition of a quasi-meaningful All-Star game to the lore of baseball, the league with home field advantage is known by the middle of July leaving only four or five cities as real possibilities.
That’s the easy part. The most time consuming aspect is signing up for ticket lotteries. Thankfully not every team employs this means of ticket distribution, but for those that do, I spend a lot of time signing up friends and family for the opportunity to receive that “Congratulations” email and link to purchase tickets. I like to say that with this method you win some and lose most.
What I prefer, though, is to buy tickets the old fashioned way: a Gladiator-style survival of the fittest where everyone hits refresh on their screen or sits in the dreaded “Virtual Waiting Room” hoping that the next time the 44 second countdown clock draws down the door to World Series salvation will swing wide open.
Sometimes I have help with this part of the process. In 2001, with little else to do but study (BOR-ing), my roommate and I prepared to secure tickets to either Game 6 or Game 7. We got lucky with Game 2, there wasn’t much to it. But those high pressure end-of-series games were a whole different story. We set up both his computer and mine as well as the two computers of our suitemates in the room next door which we could access through a shared bathroom. After running back and forth for at least an hour to frantically hit refresh we finally got through on one computer and promptly purchased tickets for Game 7. I only missed one class that day.
Interns come in handy, too. I probably shouldn’t admit this in such a public setting, but I am indebted to the interns who took a little break from their work to help me get World Series tickets through the years. Hearing the words, “I’m in!” screamed from across the room is music to my ears on par with Elton John crooning any of his top hits (a concert I’ve seen, ironically enough, at Wrigley Field).
Securing tickets, after all, is the most important part. If I can’t be inside the stadium, there’s no point in going. On occasion I have toyed with the idea of showing up to a city without the certainty of admission, but the risk is too high to take the chance. The integrity of the streak is most important, a streak that almost came close to an inglorious end in 2010.
I was working on the U.S. Senate campaign of Dan Coats, a former congressman, senator and ambassador to Germany aiming to return to his old job. Everything was going swimmingly and he was well on his way to victory when World Series time rolled around that fall. But the campaign manager wasn’t too keen about the communications director being away for any period of time the weekend before the election. I was desperate and made a few long-shot bets with him in the hopes of getting permission. He finally gave in under the condition that I attended to my duties alongside Coats at an event the morning of the game, didn’t tell anyone on staff about the trip and received permission from Coats as well. I wasn’t sure what to expect in response, but not long after I emailed Coats he replied, “Take me with you.”
I ultimately made the trip solo but did stay within the constraints required of my deal with the campaign manager. I made the clandestine trip to Dallas and back in 23 hours with no one the wiser about my exploits until I spilled the beans three days later on Election Night. Let’s just say the reactions were a mix of envy and annoyance.
My trip to San Francisco last year was yet another ambitious undertaking. Rather than spend the night in the Bay, I decided to fly west with nothing more than my ticket, my wallet and my iPad. Upon arriving in the city, I headed downtown to connect with a friend from high school who gave me what I affectionately called the “Full House Tour” of her newly adopted hometown. Having never been to San Francisco, all I wanted to see were the images seared in my head alongside the words, “Whatever happened to predictability, the milkman, the paperboy, even TV.”
Once I got the requisite smartphone photos and posted it all on Facebook (#priorities), my next step was heading to AT&T Park for the big game before going straight back to the airport for a red eye to Indiana. But as I sat there, I thought to dial-up up Facebook and see if any of my friends happened to be in the stadium. Throughout my life, I’ve learned that you never know, so it was worth a shot. And lo and behold, a friend was there. A former White House colleague of mine who now hangs his hat in the Middle East was in the same stadium, on the same night, watching the same game, he just had better seats.
It’s moments like those that make World Series trips fun and memorable. It’s moments like that that keep me going back for more year after year. Unless the Cubs make it in the next few years, maybe Visa will make a commercial about my streak one day. “The-Hasn’t-Missed-a-World-Series-in-50-Years-Dude.” But I would prefer that the Cubs make it.
Pete Seat is a life-long Cubs fan and season ticket holder.