I am old enough to remember the 1969 baseball pennant race. My beloved Chicago Cubs, for so long, the “doormat of the National League” (so sayeth the poet Steve Goodman in the aftermath of that season) had risen to greatness, with — a confederacy of riches, including an all-star infield and catcher (Ernie Banks, Glen Beckert, Don Kessinger, Ron Santo, Randy Hundley), a pitching staff that included future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins and Ken Holtzman, and in Left Field, Billy Williams! I can still recite the starting lineup by memory. They dominated the National League all season. Until September.
The heat of summer and a shallow bench conspired along with the rise of another Cinderella team–the “miracle” New York Mets to snatch victory from the long-starving Cubs fans. There have been years since when the Cubs have dabbled in post-season play, and three times have they come this far–to the National League Championship Series (NLCS): 1984, 1989, 2003, each time shut down.
And that brings us to 2015. It’s been 70 years since the Cubs have gone to the World Series. Some say it’s the curse of the Billy Goat, placed on the Cubbies in 1945, and although I’m not the superstitious type, I have to wonder if there’s some merit in it. Seventy years. It’s time to put the goat to rest.
I have to say, I think this is the year to do it. The signs are all in place, and this year, the Cubs are the “miracle” team, conjured by the combined wizardry of GM Theo Epstein and Manager Joe Maddon. It’s a team of rookies performing way above expectations, and veterans playing better than they ever have done.
It’s like they’re playing under some sort of wonderful, powerful spell. Good magic to counteract the evil of the Billy Goats and Bartman Balls. And then there’s the Back to the Future II thing, predicting this year’s Cubs! Combine that with the sad passing of Mr. Cub Ernie Banks this year, who undoubtedly is looking down upon his beloved team like a guardian angel. Not to mention that this is the 100th anniversary of the venerable, classic ballpark Wrigley Field! The stuff of Hollywood movies and Broadway musicals. (Take that Damn Yankees!)
The Mets vs. the Cubs. Chicago vs. New York City. The Great White Way vs. The Magnificent Mile. Deep Dish Pizza vs. New York Pizza (I hate to call it actual pizza, however). Second City vs. SNL. It’s a rivalry for the ages. And it’s gonna play out over the next two weeks for the crown of the National League. Sorry, my dear friends and readers in New York, but this is the Cubs’ year. It’s time to put 1969 to rest with the wonderful, unlikely heroes of this year’s Wrigley Field diamond. It’s in the stars, it was in the (St. Louis) cards. Four games and 70 years of World Series drought will be vanquished. It’s destiny.