Yesterday, a small band of brothers braved the elements and survived an epic battle against all odds.
This is our story.
Four years ago, a tradition began among the St. Louis members of my fantasy baseball league: We went to a Cardinals game together. Some remember that day as a delightful excursion to the ballpark filled with hot dogs, baseball, and beer.
Those people would be wrong. The weather was freezing cold and rainy that fateful day. I spent most of the game constructing long, elaborate diatribes about why we should leave early, but they fell upon deaf ears. Eventually I betrayed my baseball brothers and spent the final few innings in the warm, welcoming gift shop.
I swore to never repeat a day like that. But fate had a different plan for us.
Yesterday afternoon, the weather was bright and sunny, the temperature a soothing 69 degrees. I left the balcony door open for most of the day, much to my cats’ delight. It was the perfect day for baseball, Brewers vs. Cardinals.
But by early evening, the temperature had dropped. No problem, I thought. I’ll just layer up. Thermal socks, jeans, two shirts and a jacket. I got this.
Fast forward to two hours later when we claimed our bleacher seats in the outfield: I most certainly do not got this.
The day was April 29, by all accounts a late spring day. But the temperature was 55 degrees, and meteorologists would later calculate that the wind chill drove the temperature down to about 38 degrees.
We didn’t stand a chance.
I sat in the stands with my five friends, and I knew in my heart that these would be the last five faces I would ever see. No man could survive 3 hours in these elements. This was to be our last hurrah.
But I’m a survivor, and I wasn’t going down without a fight. My first line of defense: food. Using survival skills I’ve attained over the years, I managed to forage through the concession stand offerings for a soft pretzel and a hot dog. I could feel the circulation returning to my mouth and stomach as the sweet, sweet calories coursed through my veins.
The effects were short-lived, though, and I soon found myself shivering uncontrollably. I cradled my frostbitten hands in my jacket and attempted to distract myself with “conversation” and “watching the game.” Nothing worked.
Finally, hours passed and it was time to go. I stood up to leave and boasted to my friends that we were unstoppable.
“Jamey, sit down,” they said. “It’s still the fourth inning.”
I looked at the scoreboard, and they were right. I could do nothing but open my frozen jaw, rear back my snowcapped mane, and howl my anguish to the winds until my friends told me to sit down.
Around the sixth inning, one of my friends bought a cup of hot cocoa from a nearby concession stand. Rather than risk the climb up the stairs through swirling winds swirled, I hatched a plan to obtain my friend’s cocoa. I constructed a crude spear out of discarded peanut shells and beer bottles, and I challenged my friend to a fight to the death. On days like this, only the strong survive.
Facing imminent doom and I loomed over him, my friend handed me the hot cocoa. “Sure Jamey, you can have a sip.”
Invigorated by the warmth that swam through my body, I braved the swirling winds and bought a hot cocoa for myself and immediately gulped it down, scalding my lips but saving my life.
One inning after another, I tried various tactics to increase my chances of survival:
7th inning: Led by Big Brother’s booming voice over the PA, I mimicked the movements of the mindless masses as we stretched our frozen limbs and chanted in unison.
8th inning: I drafted a 15-page discourse on the benefits of leaving early and circulated it among my friends, all to no avail.
9th inning: I attempted to sneak into the locker room to warm up in one of the Cardinal’s hot tubs, only to realize that was a terrible idea and I didn’t want to get arrested for trespassing.
You would think this is where the journey ends. Baseball games have 9 innings, then they’re over. But of course, on the coldest day of the year, this game had to go to extra innings.
As the 10th inning passed without a score, I made a choice that will haunt me to the grave: I decided to root for the Brewers to end the game.
And that, my friends, is the only reason I’m alive today to tell this story: The Brewers won 5-4 in the 11th inning.