Last time out, I wrote about missing the 1995 All-Star Game in order to go to a Pearl Jam concert. Putting pleasure above business just wasn’t the norm during my Baseball Chuck days.
I ended the post on a cliffhanger, which allows me to quote myself:
“At the end of the evening, George had the audacity to apologize that Eddie hadn’t come over to say Hi. He said Eddie would be giving me a call. I was on such a high from the show that I actually believed him.
“I’ll tell you all about that the next time I write. Suffice it to say, there’s material for another story.”
It’s about time I did a two-part sequel, right? Indeed, there was material for another story.
* * * * *
Yeah, right. Eddie Vedder was going to call me.
The following Monday, the Cubs played a long, three-plus hour night game. It was a particularly tough loss because it was a tie game heading into the 9th inning; five runs later, we were staring at a 7-2 defeat.
After doing my normal postgame duties – which meant hanging around the clubhouse overseeing media activities for approximately 45 minutes – I returned to my desk in the media relations department. This would have been around 11 p.m. I had checked my messages before I headed to the clubhouse, so I was a bit surprised when my voicemail light was on.
At first, I ignored the message light and started working on the next day’s game notes. Then curiosity got the best of me – and I dialed my voicemail.
The following paraphrased message was waiting for me:
“Hey Chuck, this is Eddie. Thanks for coming out last week. I know it was a tough loss tonight, but if you get a chance, I’m staying at the ‘Xxxxxx’ Hotel. Call xxx-xxx-xxxx. Ask the operator for ‘Xxxx Xxxxxx’ – and she’ll transfer the call to me. I’ll be in town for the next week. I’d love to meet you.”
I don’t know what the right word was … Surreal? Unreal? Stunned?
Whatever the case, I played back the message multiple times. It was hard to believe. It sounded like him, but it wasn’t really registering.
I finally got up, walked into my boss’ office and said, “I think Eddie Vedder left me a voicemail.” My boss, Sharon Pannozzo, then stated the obvious. “Are you going to call him back?”
I dialed the hotel and gave the alias name. The operator asked for my name – then immediately transferred me through. After one ring, I was on the phone with Eddie Vedder. Just like that, I was a groupie!
We talked for easily half an hour. I tried to act cool, but I’m sure I was stuttering and drooling all over the place. He talked about growing up in Evanston and taking the Howard “L” to Wrigley Field. He talked about Jose Cardenal being his hero when he was a kid. He talked about having to dress up – hat, wig, and sunglasses – and watch games in the bleachers to avoid getting noticed.
I struck up the nerve to ask if he wanted to watch a game from the press box with me – where I could supervise so that people would leave him alone. He said yes, and we picked a game date on the next homestand.
I would not refer to myself as being “star struck.” Heck, sometimes, I don’t even show a pulse. In the pre-7th Inning Stretch days, I had met plenty of celebrities – and fawning was not one of my characteristics. But this was different. This was the lead vocalist of one of the biggest rock bands in the United States. Eddie Vedder was coming to Wrigley Field to see his beloved Cubs – and he was going to be sitting next to me.
I wouldn’t believe the story myself, but plenty of media were there that afternoon to witness the blessed event. Eddie Vedder, spending a ballgame sitting between Chuck Wasserstrom and Les Grobstein – and trading Jose Cardenal stories. Eddie’s stories were of Cardenal being his boyhood hero. Mine were about seeing Jose multiple times at Gulliver’s Pizzeria on Howard Street in my old neighborhood. Lord knows what Les’ stories were about. It was a day where I introduced Eddie to Harry Caray and Andy MacPhail. It was a day where Eddie the Cubs fans got the chance to go into the Cubs clubhouse and meet the players.
Somehow, I managed to juggle hero worship and work.
I had a lot of awesome experiences during my 25 years with the Cubs. Most were baseball related. Some of it was family related. But this was oddly dreamlike.
Over the rest of my time with the Cubs, I saw Eddie Vedder and the guy who made it all happen – George Webb – from time-to-time in both musical and ballpark settings. I was able to introduce Eddie to a bunch of Cubs – including loyal reader Steve Trachsel – and I saw numerous concerts.
But nothing ever compared to that initial voicemail. It was the phone call that I never expected to receive.