This weekend, a friend of mine was very happy. Her Cleveland Indians clinched the American League Central Division. It's been since 2001 that the Indians have gone on past the end of regular season play.
My team is still contesting their berth in the playoffs. The lovable Chicago Cubs are sitting with a magic number of 4 right now. They were on fire over the weekend, sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates at home and belting a crap-load of home runs.
Not long ago, I mentioned to my friend that it would be nice to see the Cubs and Indians in the World Series. It will really test our friendship...hehehe. Lucky for us, we are a couple of thousands of miles apart, so tossing things at each other will not be possible.
Funny thing about the Cubs, they have fans across the country. Fair weather fans for the most part. Me? I'm a die-hard Cubs fan, having been a fan since either the late 50s or early 60s...can't exactly remember when the Cubs bug hit me.
I was rooting for the Cubs when they were perennial cellar dwellers. I rooted for the Cubs when everyone around me (south side of Chicago) were die-hard White Sox fans. I have been a Cubs fan for so long, I remember when the Chicago Cardinals football team played in Wrigley Field before they move to St. Louis.
I can recall the '69 season. A couple of times during that year, I skipped school and took the CTA to Wrigley, got me a $1 bleacher ticket and joined the Right Field Bleacher Bums. I wasn't a regular bleacher bum, but I did have my share of moments there. When in September of that year, the New York Mets came to town to face the first place Cubs, I was at the second game. Little did I know at the time that the series with the Mets would be a turning point that would send the Cubs spiraling out of first, and vaulting the Mets to the top spot. But it happened and at the end of the season, I was still a Cubs fan.
It was 15 years before the Cubs were to see light at the playoffs at the end of the regular season. I was in Alaska then. On Wednesday afternoons, I would wait at the golf course clubhouse on base for 1 pm to chime, at which time I would head out to a bus full of people wanting a tour of Elmendorf AFB. While I waited, I would watch the Cubs play if the game was still on. Sometimes, when I got on the bus, I would ask if any were Cubs fans and then relay the score at the time I departed.
Then came a game in Pittsburgh which, if the Cubs won, they would go on to the playoffs. I sat in my boss' office, while he and I watched the game. Near the end of the game, several co-workers came in and asked if I could give them a ride to the barracks. I knew the game would be on in the dayroom there, so I left with them. When I got to the dayroom, it was the bottom of the ninth, the Pirates had one out and the Cubs were ahead. I sat down in one of the chairs, and watched. Then with two out and a 2-2 count on the batter, I watched as he swung and missed the next pitch. The Cubs were in the playoffs!
They went on to win the first two games in Wrigley Field against the San Diego Padres and needed one more win to go to the World Series. They ended up losing three straight in San Diego and the Padres went to the series. They lost in five games to the Detroit Tigers.
Then came 1989. Then Cubs were again in the playoffs. They didn't make the world series that year. It was the Oakland Athletics and the San Fransisco Giants in the earthquake extended Bay Area World Series. Then again in 1998, the Cubs were in the playoffs. But they were defeated by the Atlanta Braves in the first round.
However, 2003 was the year...the year the Cubs were to go to the World Series. But, they didn't. They were playing the Florida Marlins for the National League title and the right to go to the World Series. They were playing at home and the catch which wasn't made, was made. Every Cubs fan remembers that play. A pop-up to the foul side of left field, the fielder going over to make the grab and end the inning and then...a fan reaches up, catches the ball and instead of an out, it was nothing more than a foul ball. The Marlins went on to take the title and beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.
The worst part of that foul ball was the fan who caught the ball wasn't a Marlins fan...he was a Cubs fan...and he will never live that catch down...not as long as he's in Chicago at least.
It's four years later and the Cubs are looking like a contender for the crown. They have a long road to travel still, but they can do it. The team has a good leader who has led a number of teams to the victory.
But win or lose, you can bet on one thing...this die-hard Cubs fan will be looking forward to next season...and will still be cussing out Fox Saturday baseball or ESPN when they don't show a Cubs game here when everyone else is seeing it.