It’s been a rough week around the farm. Not because of harvest, although anyone who is in agriculture this time of year can certainly understand that sleep tends to be a lost commodity, but because it has been a crazy week of trying to find enough time between work and another of my passions. I’ve never been much of a fan of turning the clocks back an hour because that means I go to work and come home in the dark, but this year that extra hour of sleep couldn’t have come at a better time.
Baseball in its purest form is a magnificent game. It requires skill at every position and although it is a team sport, it takes every player doing their part and using their head and their body to put together a win. It’s about running the bases, hustling, knowing when to swing into a soft Texas-leaguer and when to drive a ball into the opposite field. It’s the only game where the defense controls the ball and many times not swinging at a pitch is the best way to use up an opposing player. The grass, the smells, the sound of the ball as it enters a catchers mit or the crack that happens when you know a home run has just been hit are all part of the game and what makes it special.
I’ve been a Cubs fan since high school when I read a book on Ron Santo. During the summer on the tractor or sitting in the barn I would listen to Harry call the games on KRNT and there was something fascinating about hearing the crowd. Probably the most exciting part was the 7th Inning Stretch because it was easy and fun to sing along to. Baseball was a sport we played often at the farm as kids and later on attending Iowa Cubs games I learned how to properly score a game and fell in love with every part of it. Being a Cubs fan is really a lot like being and Iowa State fan and yes they broke my heart every single year, but I always believed that the next year would be their year and looked forward to opening day and tracking the box scores in the paper each day. And who couldn’t love a team that flew a “W” flag even if they didn’t know that it really stands for “Weez”?
I grew up with Sandburg and Sosa and hearing Ernie Banks yell “Let’s play two!” The Ivy and history in Wrigley Field spoke to so many of us young and old, and we watched as those who had believed for so long passed away praying and hoping someday the Cubs would win the pennant and make it to the big dance. So this year when it actually happened there was a part of me behind the jubilation that worried that the Cubs would again break my heart. I feared that once again we would be taunted by those red bird fans that we just couldn’t reach the promised land. It was equally hard when they were playing against my second favorite team that I followed because of Bob Feller.
Down three games to two it was nerve wracking to watch. Finally all tied up with one game left to go in the series after a long week of funerals and strange hours at work I did the best I could to watch the game, making sure to set my DVR in case I fell asleep during the game. They boys didn’t disappoint me finding an early lead and I yelled at Joe Madden when he started replacing pitchers, a move that I felt was done way too early. Suddenly the Indians came back and as I started to drift off the score was tied 6-6 and my doubting side began to wonder who would be the first to come up with a run or two to win the game.
When my phone rang just after midnight I was so far asleep that I didn’t even know that the Cubs had come back in the 10th scoring two runs and holding Cleveland to one run in the bottom half to win it all. 108 years had disappeared in that moment and the collected sigh of all Cubs fans was replaced with elation that could be heard from miles around Wrigleyville. It probably was best that I had fallen asleep before the game was over. Had I been awake I probably would have gone up to Jerry Stiles’ house and thrown a roll or two of toilet paper in the trees to help him celebrate the win, something both of us would have regretted later.
Baseball is a wonderful game and every single year of heartbreak vanished in that final moment as the last out was made. I’m glad I was here for it, and if they never ever win another one, it will be just fine for in a moment Cubs fans everywhere knew just what it felt like to be a champion. See you next week…remember, we’re all in this together.