As Chicago was amidst one of its worst heat waves to date; with temperatures hitting the triple digits several days in a row, the last thing I wanted to do was go to a baseball game. I’m by no means a sports fan and the last time I went to any such event was probably about 20 years ago. I’m not sure of the circumstances, but you can bet it involved me being dragged there. This however, was no ordinary game. Taking place far from Chicago’s “US Cellular” & “Wrigley Fields,” in the town of Joliet, Illinois, is a lesser known stadium called “Silver Cross Field.” On this Friday night, it would boast a “Fright Night” horror theme while featuring, as its guest of honor, National Horror Host, Svengoolie! In a situation such as this, I was much more eager to indulge in “America’s favorite pastime.”
Joliet is famous for its prison (the older version of which was featured in THE BLUES BROTHERS which we passed en route), hence the name of their Minor League team, “The Joliet Slammers.” Further embracing their penal heritage, the stadium was adorned with posters featuring their jailbird mascot along with taglines urging their fans to “get convicted.”
Instead of tackling this Svengoolie appearance solo, I enlisted the aid of my good friend, Nikki (a.k.a. St. Nick) to join me. Followers of this site will note that good ole St. Nick is the person who suggested I do this blog in the first place back in 2010. This prompted me to enlist my like-minded, best friend David Albaugh (whom I discussed doing a traditional website with before) and unwittingly transforming us both into The Terror Daves. Don’t let Nikki’s fateful suggestion fool you; she is by NO means a horror fan and, on this night, was content to simply enjoy a night out while snapping pictures for me. After all, what possible use could a dignified English professor such as Nikki (who reads Shakespeare for pleasure, I kid you not) have with a horror host?
As we waited for Sven’s arrival we began counting the number of fans wearing various versions of his official Svengoolie T-shirts before being interrupted by someone calling out Nikki’s name. We were soon greeted by a woman named Michelle who, aside from being a life long Svengoolie fan since his “Son of” days, is also a fellow teacher of Nikki’s! When Michelle learned that Sven would be appearing so close to her home, she grabbed her non-fan husband and insisted that they go meet him. Further messing with Nikki’s sensibilities was the appearance of another familiar face, and also a teacher, named Candace who prides herself a fan of the host as well. The presence of these two ladies meant Nikki had no choice but to concede that Svengoolie fandom was not only intelligent, it was downright elementary!
No doubt having learned from his recent engagement at the sweltering “Little Boots Rodeo,” Svengoolie showed up wearing a decisively cooler ensemble. Clad in his current Svengoolie T-Shirt (which you can order by clicking HERE), he and his assistant, Jim Roche, were prepared to combat the heat. He no sooner arrived when I jumped in his line faster than if I’d been trying to steal home plate! At last I’d be able to put all that rubber chicken catching practice to the test! Now I could do what any other die-hard Sven fan would; protect his host by intercepting his customary, poultry projectile! Later, I would bust a gut laughing at these shots as I noted Svengoolie’s hilarious facial expressions; which ranged from mock terror..to relief..and eventual gratitude. When you see Sven as often as I do, coming up with photo gimmicks becomes a sort of game in itself and its nice to see that Sven is always up for the challenge despite not being forewarned of my goofy ambitions!
As we left Sven’s table, I almost dropped the chicken out of my mitt when I noticed the HUGE line of fans that had developed behind me. In fact, though the game had commenced, most of the seats were empty as spectators had no problem with missing a few innings in favor of meeting their choice for MVP!
Further down was Nikki’s pal, Michelle, who waited patiently while her decisively less enthused hubby stood close to Sven’s table, drinking beers. According to Michelle, this was his way of making sure the line was moving fast enough. Prior to their leaving, Michelle had taunted him by wearing a form fitting outfit designed to grab the host’s attention (while simultaneously irking him). When it was almost her turn, I gave Jim her name so that he could help give her a more personalized Svengoolie greeting. “She’s the one wearing the brown shirt,” I told Jim. “Wait, which one?” he inquired. Suddenly Michelle’s husband jumped between us and sarcastically yelled, “The one with the BOOBS!!!” While Michelle shot daggers at her spouse faster than the rubber chicken I’d just caught, Jim didn’t skip a beat. “Well I’m not sure what you mean because usually when people talk about boobs, they’re referring to me and Sven.”
Later, Sven had to temporarily leave his line of fans and go out into the field where he supervised a contest highlighted by kids throwing rubber chickens through a hulla-hoop. As he made his way to the 1st base line, fans cheered as loudly as if “The Slammers” had knocked one out of the park.
After he returned to his table and finished signing autographs for his patient followers, Sven took to the main box where he led everyone in a chorus of “Take me out to the ballgame!” I wondered after all these years of seeing him parody the late Chicago Cub’s announcer, Harry Carey, if Sven wasn’t tempted to bust into that imitation tonight. In any event, I was happy to note that this was the first time I’d ever heard him sing “Live.”
This photo courtesy of Matthew Medlen Photography
When the game ended (“Slammers” would end up ousting their foes 9-2), we were all treated to some 4th of July-style fireworks! In keeping with the night’s theme, this spectacle was put on with Halloween music playing in the background. Hearing the song “Monster Mash” amid the explosions would mark this the best firework’s display EVER so far as this horror fan is concerned.
Despite the horrible heat (which remained balmy even when we were leaving at 10:30 pm), we’d all managed to have a great time! As for my lofty companion, I doubt that dear St. Nick will be tuning in to Sven anytime soon. Regardless, I felt she deserved to at least have a special memento to remind her of the memorable night she met Svengoolie…
And who needs a Golden Apple Award when you can adorn your school desk with a Svengoolie signed, golden chicken instead?