I wanted to do a long and heartfelt piece about what the Cubs finally getting to, and winning, the World Series meant to me. But I just don’t have it in me right now.
So instead I’m just going to ramble a bit.
I became a Cubs fan as a young kid. The first season I remember vividly is 1969. Ron Santo clicking his heels as they left the field, jogging down the left field line to the clubhouse gate in the corner. Billy Williams taking practice swings at his own spit. Ernie Banks and his cocked elbow. The smooth double play combo of Kessinger and Beckert. And of course the Rebel, Randy Hundley behind the plate. I remember the winning, but for whatever reason, I don’t recall the downturn that became known in the future as the “September Swoon.” Maybe because we were back in school, and the games were all day games at Wrigley in 1969.
I’ve suffered through a lot of really bad teams. Oh, they always had a player or two that gave fans hope, but in hindsight…they were bad. Then the Tribune bought them, brought Dallas Green aboard, and he built a GOOD team: he brought in young players like Leon Durham, Ryne Sandberg, and Greg Maddux, and vets like Rick Sutcliffe, Dennis Eckersley, and others. 1984 brought us to the brink…needing one win to go to the series. Alas, it was not to be. They lost the final games of that league championship series to the Padres and were back down. Injuries took their toll on the team, and we next went to the playoffs in 1989, with Don Zimmer at the helm and Maddux and Sandberg the pillars of a good team. But we came up against a buzzsaw in Will Clark and the Giants, and I believe we were swept out of the playoffs.
In the late 90’s we got there again on Sammy Sosa’s back. But we had nothing in the playoffs, and we didn’t get anywhere. Finally, 2003 popped up, and we had a great team built around the dynamic young arms of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. We took out the Braves to go to the LCS, and were 5 outs away from the World Series when Moises Alou threw a hissy-fit over what he perceived as fan interference, because a fan may have touched a foul ball. Ten people were reaching for it, but the unlucky fan who touched it became a pariah and had to deal with death threats from moronic fans who blamed him instead of the pitcher who served up some meatballs and the shortstop who blew a routine ground out. I threw up my hands. Could I subject my kids to this kind of torture?
I watched after that, but not with nearly the intensity that I did before that. I watched those teams from 2007/2008 go to the playoffs, carried partly on the back of Alfonso Soriano, but stop hitting and go nowhere. Then the ownership change. A FAN (!!!) was buying the team! Tom Ricketts took over, putting Theo Epstein, who had worked a miracle in Boston, in charge of baseball operations. Theo brought in his guys and went to work making the Cubs the worst team in baseball. They tore it down.
Then they built it back up from the ground floor. Astute drafting and trades brought new good young players like Anthony Rizzo (trade), Kris Bryant (draft), Javier Baez (drafted by previous regime), Kyle Schwarber (draft), Addison Russell (trade), Jake Arrietta (trade), Kyle Hendricks (trade), and Dexter Fowler (trade). Then came the free agents: Jon Lester, Jason Hayward, Jason Hammel, John Lackey, Dexter Fowler (their own free agent), and Ben Zobrist, the MVP of the World Series.
In 2015, they were surprisingly good. Great, at times! Lost to the Mets, whose pitching mowed them down, in the LCS. 2016, they set records. They were determined to get to the end. They kept winning. And finally, they did it!
Cleveland played really well. But in the end, the Cubs were the better team, and after 108 years, they have brought the World Championship back to the north side of Chicago. No goats, no black cats, just great play and teamwork and a focus that was enviable.
I didn’t get to watch as much as I wanted to. But I feel like I was a part of this, as much as the people who watched every single inning. Because they’ve been a part of me since I was a little kid pretending to be Ron Santo, and finally, they haven’t broken my heart! They no longer play the blues in Chicago when baseball season rolls around. Wrigley is no longer an “ivy covered burial ground.” And no one will ever call them the “doormat of the National League” again!
We’ll always have Paris? No, Cubs fans, we’ll always have 2016!
PS Not bad for off-the-cuff, huh?