Chicago Cubs. We Believe.

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs have been in this position before. A 3-2 NLCS series lead. That was thirteen years ago and we know the outcome. There was blame put on this poor guy so unjustly criticized for hoping to catch a souvenir, instead catching hell and shame.

Tonight is different. The Cubs have earned this right to be here. They finished the season with the best record in baseball, fought back from adversity in this NLCS and now they can entertain the thought of advancing to their first World Series appearance since 1945.

Baseball fans across the world will be tuned in tonight, holding their breaths, praying for hope. This game will beat you up, staying up well past bedtimes and coming into work as if you’ve caught the red eye from Los Angeles back home to Sweet Chicago.

Celebrities can crash White House briefings all they want declaring their love for Chicago’s North Side darlings but in the end, once 8PM eastern hits, it’ll be Kyle Hendricks on the mound in front of 48 000+ faithful who will have his back because baseball is a lonely game. There’s only one player on one base at one time. One batter facing one pitcher waiting for a 90MPH piece of rubber and leather to come hurling towards him like a planet expecting a meteor to change history.

2016 could go down as one of the strangest years in history. Donald Trump could be President of the United States of America and the Chicago Cubs might be World Series Champions. I’ll let you digest that for a moment.

“Don’t anyone tell you that it’s just a game.” few truer words have been sung. Yesterday morning I tried to wake my son up for school, he’s six years old and getting up at 7AM is hard sometimes when it doesn’t require cartoons and Shreddies. I whispered in his ear,

“The Cubs won.”

He raised one finger, his eyes still closed, “One win away.” then he went back to sleep.

Tonight, the Chicago Cubs can punch their tickets to the World Series. In order to do that they must play like kids. No pretence, no knowledge that the pitcher they’re facing is the best in the world. Pure sandlot ball. The belief that when that ball connects with maple, it’s going to go far. There’s no other pitcher I’d rather have on the mound than Kyle Hendricks. He’s earned the start.  He’ll need to go deep into the game allowing Aroldis Chapman to do his thing. That’s it.

You see, the Chicago Cubs have escalated into something more than a baseball team. If they win tonight and advance to the World Series, it’ll mean that everything we teach to our children will be true. If they believe in something, it’ll happen.

Wrigley Field is a place like no other. We all can’t be there tonight but for those who haven’t been there, like Vedder said, “I’m sorry for you” the smells of freshly cut grass, hot dogs and sticky beer. The sounds of Pop! as baseballs get tucked into gloves and the sun’s heat,  the comfort food of the soul.

Ernie Banks knew it. Ron Santo believed it. Eddie Vedder is right.

We’re going all the way

Tonight, “Let’s Play Two”

Believe it.

 

 

 

Cubs Give Us Strength and Give Us Hope

So what makes the 2016  edition of the Chicago Cubs look and feel different? They’ve had really good teams in the past in particular,2007-2008 with grizzled manager Lou Pineilla and Stars like Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Geovanny Soto. You have to admit, that was a good team. But as we know too well, great teams don’t necessarily guarantee a successful post season.

Going into the series against the St. Louis Cardinals marks the final regular season home series for the North Siders. It’s a fitting end to an extraordinary season. Two bitter rivals going head to head at Wrigley Field and an opportunity to put the brakes on the Cardinal’s Wild Card dreams.

As the season rounds third and heads home before going into the gruelling post season march to destiny, there’s a lot riding on the Cubs. However, I think there’s a lot more riding on the fans then on the players.

“We understand that Wrigley Field is a special place, but I don’t think anybody is worried about history or what happened before,” catcher David Ross says. “If you go out and work as hard as you possibly can and play as hard as you possibly can, the only thing left is winning and losing. You don’t have a lot of control over that. It’s either your night or it’s not.”

Look at it this way, there’s no fan or player alive today that remembers the feeling of seeing the Cubs or playing on a team that won the World Series. There’s a lot of other players you can catch at Cooperstown who will share stories of glory days gone by but not the Cubs. Billy Williams can never tell you about the time he and Ernie Banks made that amazing run in the 1960’s. It never happened. We wish it did.

All those close years dashed by mathematics or happenstance. So let’s blame a curse or some poor fan who happened to be in the wrong place, but of course that wrong place was Wrigley Field and that place is the same place where we as fans gather and feel that we’re at the right place, this year, this team. Where history and myth collide like maple to leather and for one simple reason;

We believe it.

“Let’s Play Two” Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks Has Passed Away at 83

ernie-banks-500-sun-times

Ernie Banks retired before I was born. I didn’t grow up watching him play but his enthusiasm resonated throughout each game the Cubs played.

I didn’t need to watch him play. He was there in the infield. He was there in the dugout. He was there through it all. That’s what he meant to the  North Side team. He was the face of the franchise.

He played his entire 19 seasons for the Cubs never winning a World Series and never seeing the post season but if they were to give out an honorary one, then he would have received many rings.

The first time my wife and I visited Cooperstown, I wanted to see Ernie’s plaque. To sit and reflect on that marble bench in the hall and think about the days that he played. You know something? I almost heard him.

It didn’t matter if he never won a World Series, in 2013 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to world peace and culture and that my friends is the most important award anyone can ever achieve. To be remembered and honoured as a humanitarian, gentleman and a true representation of what humanity has to offer. That was Ernie Banks.

There were no scandals, there was only enthusiasm and genuine love for the game of baseball.

Never in the history of the game has any athlete represented their team with such dignity and grace as “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks.

He reminded players, fans and folks like myself who only knew the legend, that it was just a game. Most importantly, and this goes beyond the diamond and baseball, he reminded us all  how to be human.

Ernie taught us how to carry ourselves in the workplace. How to care passionately about our friends, our families and even through struggling times, sometimes,”Let’s play two!”

So, the best tribute that the Cubs can pay to their hero Ernie Banks this year, would be to go out and win it all.

Ernie Banks presence will be felt in the streets and the stands as Eddie Vedder sang,”Someday we’ll go all the way” We can bet that Ernie will be smiling that infectious grin.

Believe it!

Don’t Anyone Say That It’s Just A Game

So now that some of the Cubs key prospects are getting their chances to shine at the Friendly Confines, it’s time for the, “I told you so” segment of our show.

I’m going to start by saying that I had no idea these kids, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara, Kyle Hendricks were going to be this good. No idea!

The problem with us Cubs fans is we get set up for disappointment far too much. A hundred and six year absence from holding a championship does those things to you.

All the scouts can say, “I knew this kid was awesome since the day he was pooping home runs in his Pampers” but the truth is nobody knows how great a prospect is until they hit the fields and swing at the first pitches.

“He was impressive from a baseball standpoint, a tools standpoint,” Special Assistant Louie Eljaua said of Jorge Soler. “We see all kinds of players, all shapes and sizes, but when you see a kid that physically impressive and strong with the tools, it gets your attention. He played third base at the time. When we were scouting him in the Dominican, we let him take ground balls at third because it was his favorite position at the time.”

Louie might be an expert in his position, but truthfully when he wakes up in the morning makes his way to the bathroom and before he slaps on the Barbasol, two things go through his mind:

1. I still have a job.

2. Let’s play two.

That’s about it. You see, as Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid scribe William Goldman said, “Nobody Knows Anything” There couldn’t be a more truer statement in film, life and heck, baseball.

It’s a tough world that we live in, check your IPad for the latest headlines and you’ll see, but if you read between the headlines there’s another story going on. Last week, we were watching a game on tv and my son was playing in the kitchen. He heard that familiar opening, ‘Take Me Out To The—” Shoot, I don’t have to spell it out for you but my son came running into the living room and put his arm around my shoulder and we sang the rest. He’s a few weeks from four years old, folks. There’s no cynicism when he yells out, “Let’s get some runs, Cubbies” there’s only belief that the mighty Chicago Cubs is his team and they’re champions.

For the rest of us, “Someday We’ll Go All The Way.

Believe it.

—Mark