Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cubs Win!

I've learned to take these things one at a time and savor them for what they are.

Yesterday the Cubs clinched the National League Central Division with a 5-4 win over arch-rival St. Louis. And they did so in ironic fashion, as former Cardinal Jim Edmonds, a mid-season pickup, caught a fly ball to center for the final out.

The win also provided a historic footnote in that it was the first time the Cubs had won back-to-back division titles (or league titles) in a century. And as everyone should know by now, it's been a century since the team's last world title.

But let's not go there yet.

I've been a Cubs fan since I was 10. That has provided good life lessons in how to deal with disappointment. The great Cubs teams of the late '60s and early '70s always found a way to come up just short. The teams of the mid to late '70s were amusing if not competitive. One of my favorite players of that era was Carmen Fanzone, a second baseman who was much more proficient playing his trumpet during the National Anthem than he was at doing anything else the rest of the game.

But then, in 1984, they put together a team of kids and former Dodgers and Phillies that won a division title for the first time since WWII. The Remarkable Marcy and I traveled from Columbus, Ohio to Pittsburgh on September 24 of that year to see the clinching game. They jumped up on San Diego two games to none in the best of three, then proceeded to drop three straight to the Padres.

In 1989, the team again won the division. I was in Wrigley Field to see them beat the Giants and former Cub "Big Daddy" Rick Reuschel. But it was their only win in the five-game series.

In 1998, Sammy Sosa hit a million home runs and the Cubbies were the National League wild card team. They ended up getting swept by Atlanta.

2003 was the year my son, Courtland, learned the true meaning of being a Cubs fan. Behind a pitching staff led by Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, the Cubs won the division. They were up three games to one against the Florida Marlins and had Prior and Wood coming up in games at Wrigley Field. In game five, with Prior pitching strong, the Cubs were within five outs of getting into the World Series. Then it happened. First, there was the Bartman Play, in which a foul ball drifted into the left-field stands, just out of reach of Moises Alou. A fan, Steve Bartman, reached out to grab the ball. I don't know if Alou could have made the catch. In any case, the real turning point came two batters later when shortstop Alex Gonzales muffed a routine grounder. That was the moment at which I turned to Courtland and said, "Now you know what it is to be a Cubs fan. I'm sorry." The Marlins ended up going ahead and winning that game, beat Wood the next night and ultimately took the series. Could it have been the curse of the goat?

Last year the team staged an unlikely climb from mid-season doldrums and won the division. They then proceeded to get swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But here they are, back again. Seeming to be a little more confident and aware that the season is not yet done. Will they win? Don't know. This is the point in the season where I take each victory for what it is, each series win for what it is.

When I was a kid I used to pray, "God, don't let me die until the Cubs win the World Series." I've always felt assured of a long life up to this point, but now, who knows?

1 comment:

Jason said...

It is great to see the Cubs do it. This is probably one of their best teams ever. Also can't wait to see them face off against the Dodgers in the playoffs. Two of the most historic teams facing off in the play offs.. Can't get any better then that.