Cue Etta James....
After a 108 year drought, Cub fans were rewarded in the wee hours of Thursday, November 3, 2016 with the ultimate gift: The Chicago Cubs won the World Series, 8 - 7 in ten innings in Cleveland.
I continued to honor my promise to my cousin Robert, and I didn't tune in until the bottom of the 8th (I'd been monitoring the score~), and the Indians promptly dashed my hopes. I'm a wimp. I cried and made Big Kitty turn off the television. We went up to bed. Being too wound up to go to sleep, I read a few chapters of Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell, before I punched up my pillow and practiced deep breathing.
A little before one, I woke up with a very queasy stomach. It was attributed to nerves and I tried to go back to sleep. And then, at 12:51 a.m., the phone rang.
At our age, the phone doesn't ring at that hour for anything good. Think Rose Castorini: "Who's dead?"
But a cheery male voice on the other end was saying, "Congratulations!" Big Kitty, being a bit groggy, said, "What? Did they win?" It was our best man, Fred LaPlante, calling from near Seattle!
I was rolling out and heading for the potty at that point, and before he hung up, had found my glasses and slippers, grabbed my bathrobe and was on my way to the basement fridge. The way is blocked by stuff from my studio (still under renovation), so with a contortionist's move, I extracted a small bottle of Korbel champagne and dashed up to pour the bubbly!
BK turned on the television and we discovered that the hour and a half he'd added to the TiVo wasn't sufficient. The game had gone into extra innings - my niece Lori called that one! - and there was a rain delay.
Thanks to the replays, I saw Kris Bryant snag a liner between second and third and rifle it to Anthony Rizzo at first. The heart of the team did a victory pump and, as he ran to the puppy pile on the mound, tucked the ball into his back pocket.
We watched everything until 2:30, when common sense overrode elation and we went back to bed.
First off, to those of you who were scared and depressed and generally thinking the worst, but who stuck it out and watched, I want to say You Rock. I couldn't do it. Not this time. There have been a lot of games at Wrigley, where I stuck it out until the fat lady sang only to be rewarded with the blue L flag. But this season, in spite of them having the best record in baseball, I just couldn't do it. I was sure Robert was right and that I was a jinx.
Second, to the Cubs, who embody the very definition of the word team, I say, "Thank you." Yes, the owners did this right from the day the ink dried on the deal. Yes, Theo came to the Windy City and applied his skills to developing a contending team. To them I am very, very grateful. But it was you kids who went out there every day and made it happen. You didn't get peevish or petty when your wily manager tweaked the line-up. You weren't all about being the star (takin' notes, Sammy?), but you were one for all and all for one.
As this post-season hoopla is winding down, I want to give a special shout out to the WGN announcer (don't know his name) who acknowledged that the interview with Dutchie Carey was nice and all, but that it was Jack Brickhouse who built WGN and called all those thousands of games until he retired. He was clear, Jack was the man. Bless your heart, my friend, and thank you from the bottom of my old Diehard heart.
Today I watched the entirety of the WGN broadcast of the parade and rally in Grant Park. Today in 2008 was when President Obama held his rally there!
What was remarkable about this event was that my Bleacher Bum pal, Linda, was also watching and we messaged each other throughout. Here are a few things that got our attention.
We're both former Chicagoans. She grew up in nearby Skokie and went to games with her dad from an early age. She's a yellow helmet bleacher bum (read up on that on Wiki). I lived there for 8 years, but had a relationship with the city thanks to not living that terribly far away. (A couple of hours on the Rock Island Rocket...) So, as the line of trolleys and doubledecker buses wound their way from Wrigley out to the Outer Drive and onto Michigan Avenue, there were sights we both know well. Lincoln Park on the right, the lake to the left. (The lake is always east, people!) Passing down Michigan, they went by Neiman-Marcus, the Water Tower and Pumping Station, and a building where art galleries reside on the second floor. They passed the Tribune Tower and the Wrigley Building and then they crossed the Chicago River. The boats down below were tooting horns and the din of the crowds of people and the horns was deafening! The Cubs were amazed....
There were people at all the places where the police were allowing them to gather and watch, but there were also people lined up along Lake Shore Drive! When they got to Michigan Avenue, the crowds were more than sidewalk deep, and they extended back onto the side streets by at least a block! We're talking millions of people!
The entire parade route looked like that. Somewhere in there would be my niece and her family, since school was out today. (Poor teachers had a work day, but I'm betting no one was too worried if the 'worked from home.')
All day long, people wondered, "Did anyone go to work today?" Um, what do you think?
The rally was great. I nabbed shots of the venerable Billy Williams and the great Ryne Sandberg, both of whom were duly honored by the Cubs.
Here is what is important to know about the 2016 Chicago Cubs organization: they figured it out. They pushed the envelope on making changes to Wrigley. There was a lot of push-back on certain things they wanted. But ultimately, while they got what they wanted (ownership of the buildings across the street, thus the rooftop tickets, among other things -), they also learned that they had to respect certain traditions. They learned that you don't talk smack about any dearly departed Cub, you honor those who are still alive (even if they happen to be working for another team), and that some traditions can be expanded (Fly the W!).
I was skeptical of the new owners (they are Republicans, after all - although Laura Ricketts sports a Hillary cap). Then our beloved Ernie Banks passed on to that great ballpark in the sky and the family got into a bind over his funeral. I said, in disgust, "The Cubs should pay for it. He's been nothing but free advertising and good will for them for decades." And, what do you know, but they actually jumped in and wrote the check!
I do not mind admitting to shock and downright respect for the Ricketts family after THAT!
The rest of the story, however, is that in Joe Maddon, they got a creative manager who cast aside anything having to do with curses or plagues or the "lovable loser" thing. He has a knack for bringing together twenty-somethings and melding them into the concept of "team." So, in that sense, tradition was crushed under their spikes and they brought the Cubs into the new century. Abandoning the "key player" mentality and the accompanying egos, they stuck together. When he tweaked the line-up, there weren't snits and snarky remarks to the press. Nope. They accepted that any change he made was in order to respond to how this or that pitcher did things. The result was 103 wins over a very long season, and the best record in baseball.
And so, during that rain delay, while the Cubs' closer was in the dugout, in tears, because the Indians had tied the game, the rest of the team drew together, consoled him, and under the leadership of an outfielder, they cast aside the history of the previous 9 innings and went into the tenth with resolve and the determination to play like they always play, and to have a good time doing it. Win or lose, they weren't going to buckle.
It paid off. That tough mentality, that deep sense of never giving up, and that insouciance of youth overcame the tie, went ahead a run, and knocked the Indians out of contention. Early in the morning of November the 3rd, the Chicago Cubs became World Champions.
I am elated and have been good for absolutely nothing for the past couple of days. I've been glued to posts on Facebook, news articles, everything there is on the internet and went to school yesterday with the sole purpose of explaining to my kids why we don't give up. It may not be a World Series title riding on an issue, but giving up is not an option.
Last night dinner was Chicago Dogs and champagne. Tonight, I need pizza (in memory of Ron Santo, of course), so we're going out. Tomorrow is a new day and while the Cubs are working out how they will manage contract negotiations (Jake Arrieta is a free agent and he's going to want more money than they are going to want to pay.), I'll be playing catch up with my own to do list.
But from here on out, I can safely assume one thing: no one is going to give me grief about my license tags (DA CUBS) or my undying devotion to the men of Wrigley. That is definitely something to which Jack Brickhouse would exclaim, "Hey hey! That one is outa here!" And since the curse has been broken, I'm abandoning my own jinx mentality.
As the Big Kitty has wisely stated, "There is no more next year."