The Chicago Cubs

Now that the World Series is under way, I will write about my favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs. They are not playing in this year’s World Series, but only two years ago they won the World Series, ending the longest championship drought of any professional sport.

Around Christmas of 2016 I told my father that I hoped the Cubs would take after the (basketball) Chicago Bulls of the 90s who won six championships in the span of eight years. I hoped that they would not take after the (football) Chicago Bears of the 80s who assembled a talented team but only won one Super Bowl. I regret to say that, over the last two seasons, the Cubs have resembled the Bears more than the Bulls.

This year the Cubs won ninety-five games. That tied them for most wins in the National League, which is a good thing. They were tied with the Milwaukee Brewers, who—like the Cubs—play in the Central Division of the National League. Because they were tied, the teams had to play each other in one game to determine who would represent the Central Division in the playoffs. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies, both in the West Division, also finished the season with the same number of wins and also played one game to name the division champion. This is the first time that two extra games have been added to the schedule at the last minute to determine the championship of two divisions.

Because the Cubs won more than half the games they played against the Brewers this year, the tie-breaking game was played in Chicago. The Cubs lost that game 3-1. The Rockies also lost on the same day. This led to the Cubs and Rockies playing a game to determine the Wild Card team. Because the Cubs had the better record, that game also was in Chicago. The Cubs lost again, this time 2-1.

It is possible to win a baseball game 1-0. In fact, it happens quite often. Usually, though, when a team scores only one run, they lose the game. When Chicago’s offense fails in the two most important games of the year, fans like me worry. Granted, they were one of the best teams all year long. Granted, they have been in the playoffs the last four years, making it to the pennant-deciding games three of those years. And granted, they have recently won a championship in memorable style. But champions cannot rest on their laurels.* Their fans expect them to succeed every year.

The Cubs have assembled a team with awesome talent. This season they had to contend with injuries and other distractions. They still did very well. But only one team can be a champion. Cubs fans waited 108 years to see the Cubs win a World Series. (They won the World Series in 1907 and again in 1908.) They do not want to wait another century for another championship.

A meme was posted on Facebook by a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. It depicted a “participation trophy” for the 2018 Cubs in the postseason. That was clever. It was also painful to see.

The bright spot is that the Cubs were beaten by the Colorado Rockies. There are ten teams in the National League East and West divisions, and now eight of them have blocked the Cubs from advancing in the playoffs. Aside from the Dodgers, who took the pennant from the Cubs in 2017, no National League team has stopped the Cubs in the playoffs more than once. Every time the Cubs faced a team in the playoffs more than once, the Cubs won the second time. (On the other hand, every East or West Division team that met the Cubs in the playoffs for the first time beat the Cubs—until 2017, when the Washington Nationals broke the pattern by losing to the Cubs.) So, according to that pattern, only Philadelphia stands in the way of a Cubs Championship in 2019.

Cubs fans have suffered from the slogan “Wait til next year” for most of our lives. The great players wearing Cubs uniforms today owe it to their fans to do more than participate. They are paid to be champions, and champions they will be.

 

*The expression “rest on your laurels” comes from the ancient Greek Olympic games. In the ancient world, winners were not given gold medals. They were given laurel crowns—C-shaped ornaments worn on the head, woven from branches taken from a laurel tree. Julius Caesar wore a laurel crown. So does the cartoon Little Caesar of the pizza chain. Laurel crowns dry up quickly. They become brittle and fall apart. Therefore, athletes need to go out and win new crowns. They cannot rest on their laurels. J.

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6 thoughts on “The Chicago Cubs

  1. I was in a motel right next to Busch Stadium one night back when Mark Mcquire was on his big streak. The crowd was nuts and you could barely hear and we were several blocks away. Of course, my true love was The Pittsburg Pirates with Willie Stargel and the Pittsburg Steelers and Terry Bradshaw and crew back about that time. When both teams won their championships in the same year(depending on how you define a year LOL)

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  2. Back in the mid to late 60’s I’d go with some friends on occasion to Wrigley to catch a Cubs game at least a couple times each summer. I was not much into pro sports of any kind.. but I did go the the games because of the thrill of the crowd.. but i was more wrapped up in the TV technology. I meander about the WGN cameramen from time to time.. and scream and return a wave at Brickhouse as he would come and go from the press box. In those days all you had to do was wait at one of the unmarked green doors leading to the parking lot that we all knew players would sometimes leave to get to the cars after a game. You’d think people.. other kids.. would have known to stay at these doors just in case. Usually it was just me and a couple buddies.. and a few other people just hanging around. Many times I got Billy Williams autograph.. Ernie Banks… Randy Hundley… on my program (hell, even Brickhouse more than once). I’ed go home and sooner or later they would end up in the trash. Yes.. yes.. I know. I continue to kick myself for not saving those. But back then it was so easy to get an autograph we never thought it important. Sigh. And all my baseball cards!!! Gone. 😦

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    • Those are the first Cubs I remember: Banks, Williams, Hundley, Ron Santo, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert, Fergie Jenkins. I remember the fold of ’69 as clear as day. And of course Jack Brickhouse on TV and Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau on the radio. J.

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