Nov. 7, 2016, © Leeham Co.: This is a history-making year.
Yes, there is Brexit.
Sure, there is the first woman candidate of a major political party running for the presidency of the US.
Yep, there is the biggest Doofus ever nominated by a major political party also running for the presidency of the US.
But let’s get to something really important.
The Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series 108 years after the last time they did.
I’m willing to concede that to most of the world, this may not only seem unimportant, many people may not even know what the Chicago Cubs are.
Are there really bears in Chicago? Yes, but they’re the football team, and no, that’s not soccer. The soccer (“football” outside of America) team is the Chicago Fire (which is also the name of the event that burned for two days in 1
9871, destroying much of the city).
But to those of us who are Chicago-area natives, nothing else in the world mattered last Thursday night as the Cubs squared off against the Cleveland Indians for Game 7 of the baseball World Series.
So, my aviation-geek readership is going to have to indulge me. Today’s column is about the team that became known as the Loveable Losers.
Unless you were born and raised in the Chicago area, as I was, you can’t possibly understand what the Cubs even getting to the World Series means, let alone winning it.
We’ve gone through life times of disappointments. The Cubs last went to the World Series in 1945 before this year. They lost then. They last time they won the Series was in 1908.
That was five years after the Wright Brothers flew their first airplane. That was the year Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin announced plans to build a 100-passenger airship. It was also the year of the first recorded death in an airplane accident. (Okay, I couldn’t completely ignore the aviation geeks.)
During my life time, the Cubs became famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for raising hopes by starting the season strong then doing a swan dive come August. The excuses became jokes.
By August, Chicago was too hot for day games. (Lights for night names weren’t installed at Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ Chicago home, until 1988.) Sprained fingers were blamed. So were styes in the eyes. There was the Curse of the Billy Goat.
The late, great Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko regularly made fun of the Cubs and their foibles. Like so many of us, Royko, whose dry and sarcastic wit produced a writing style that has never been replicated, was an avid Cub fan. But he wasn’t above venting his frustrations in his prize-winning columns. Over and over and over and over. He once wrote that the poor Billy Goat got a bad rap. He said the curse really belonged to the old goat who owned the team, P. K. Wrigley.
Although Royko blamed Wrigley (yes, of chewing gum fame) for short-changing the Cubs for good players, the team had its talent: Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Bill Buckner and others. The only trouble was, they weren’t all on the team at the same time.
And even then, some of the talent was so erratic that you couldn’t count on them.
One such player was a giant, 6-foot-six Dave Kingman. When he was “on,” his was a bat to fear. He once drove a home run out of the park, literally, for 550 feet. The ball landed among nearby apartments.
But Kingman’s bat was inconsistent with a Capital I. As of last year, he ranked No. 4 in all major league baseball in strikeouts. His lifetime battering average was just .236.
His fielding left something to be desired, too. He played left field for the Cubs. His playing once drew an on-air outburst from Cubs sportscaster Harry Carey, an irascible sort whose broadcasting style was unique for its day. While nearly all sportscasters rarely uttered an unkind word about the players of the team that employed them, Carey (often fueled by not just a few beers during the game) let ‘er rip.
One day, the team the Cubs were playing had a man on first. I’ve long-since forgotten who the opposing team was, but I’ll never forget what happened on the play. The batter hit a long fly to left field. Since the Cubbie was Kingman, the base runner assumed he’d muff the play and was half way to third when Kingman surprised everybody (apparently including himself) by catching the ball.
He hesitated while the runner reversed course to get back to first before Kingman could throw the ball and double him up for an out.
Carey, seemingly equally surprised by Kingman’s catch, wasn’t so surprised by his inaction. Carey blurted into the live mike as he was calling the play, “Throw it, you idiot, throw it!” I nearly fell out of my chair.
Budweiser, a long-time sponsor of the Chicago Cubs, put together clips from sportscaster Harry Carey’s long career as the voice of the Chicago Cubs to have him “call” the World Series.
Carey’s trademark exclamation on those occasions when a Cubbie hit a home run was “Holy Cow!” It was never clear if he was saying this in surprise or an exclamation, but I’ll assume the latter.
Carey’s predecessor was Jack Brickhouse, the sportscaster I grew up with. Brickhouse was as affable as Carey was irascible. Brickhouse never said a bad word about
the Cubs players (or any others, for that matter.) When once asked why, Brickhouse said why make a player feel worse when he screwed up? He probably felt bad enough already.
While Carey lived through seasons when the Cubs had high points, Brickhouse never did. They were always the Loveable Losers during his long broadcasting tenure. The losing streaks were so frequent that once, when the Cubs won two games in a row, Brickhouse remarked the team was on a winning streak.
For the Cubs, it was.
On those occasions when the Cubs hit a home run, Brickhouse would shout into the mike, “HEY! HEY!” No ambiguity there.
When the Cubs blew a comfortable lead, Brickhouse would broadcast, “Oh, brother. It’s a brand-new ballgame.”
Thus, when the Cubs were in their final game of the National League playoffs, the game that would decide if they would go to the World Series, my wife—a Seattle area native—didn’t get why Cubs fans (and I) were all so tense in the 9th inning. The Cubs had a seven-run lead. Surely the game was all but over, she thought.
“You just don’t understand,” I said, without taking my focus off the TV screen. “You’re not from Chicago.” The Cubs had a long history of blowing comfortable leads at the last minute. None of us fans was going to relax until the third out.
But the Cubs being the Cubs didn’t let us off the hook after winning the National League Championship. Now it was on to the World Series.
The team fell behind the Cleveland Indians—another team with a long history of disappointing fans—three games to one. One more loss to the Tribe and the Cubs would remain cursed by the Billy Goat.
The Cubs won Game 5, Game 6 and jumped to a 5-1 lead in Game 7. Then a wild pitch sent two runs in and the Indians made it 5-3.
The Cubs came back with a one-run homer to lead 6-3 going into the bottom of the 8th. A Cleveland rally tied the game.
The Cubs, true to form, had blown a comfortable lead. As Brickhouse would say, “Oh, brother. It’s a brand-new ballgame.”
The Cubs scored twice more in the top of the 10th, an extra inning, and the Indians came back with one more run in the bottom of the 10th. But that was that.
The Cubs won. The Curse was over.
Holy Cow and HEY! HEY!