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Category Archives: Baseball
This is the final part of a series. You can start at the beginning here
I actually never thought I’d see the day.
The experience of this year’s baseball season for an old Cubs fan like me was nothing short of magical. And my lifelong quest to be at Wrigley for every postseason game in my lifetime has been completed. It couldn’t have ended on a higher note. I feel fulfilled. I was there when it happened.
This victory is so very sweet. This is for Ernie Banks and Ron Santo and Harry Carey and Steve Goodman and the millions of other fans and players who never got to see this day. It’s for every underdog in every pursuit. It’s for everyone who loves baseball, still the most beautiful, most storybook of all sports. (more…)
This is part 8 of a series. You can start at the beginning here.
After the Cubs victory in Game 5, my phone went haywire with messages from friends and family. Everyone was asking the same question, “Are you going to Cleveland?” I responded to each one of them, “If there’s a Game 7, I’ll be there. I haven’t decided about Game 6 yet.”
The truth is, I had decided days ago that I would only go to Game 7, assuming it was played. For one thing, I had no connection for tickets in Cleveland (believe me, I tried every angle I could think of) and tickets were going for astronomical prices. By skipping Game 6 and focusing on Game 7, if I had to spend big bucks, at least it would only be for one game. Also, my travel was already set for the return flight to New York, and changing it around would be a pain in the neck. (more…)
This is part 6 of a series. You can start at the beginning here.
The Cubs are in the World Series. Let me say that again. The Cubs are in the World Series. I’m going to let that swirl around in my head a bit. It was one step further toward the holy grail than the team had been in my lifetime. I was born eight years after the Cubs last appearance in a World Series. Wow. While my heart was saying 4 more wins, my head was already moving on to another place. Even if the Cubs didn’t win it all, this would be enough. Dayenu.
I had already decided that if the Cubs got this far, I would not go to Cleveland for the first two games of the series. Being there would have been nice, but my main objective was to be in Chicago for Games 3, 4 and (if necessary) 5. The games at Wrigley were the streak I was trying to protect, and I thought the odds were pretty good that the series would conclude during one of those three games. As far as Games 6 and 7 in Cleveland were concerned, I would wait and see what happens. (more…)
This is part 5 of a series. You can start at the beginning here.
I had a morning flight to Chicago via Phoenix and my friend Janis volunteered to drive me to the airport. The first hitch was that the plane was delayed and I just barely missed my connection in Phoenix. Fortunately they were able to get me on another flight about 90 minutes later.
The next hitch came in Chicago where the Chicago Film Festival folks were supposed to take care of transportation from the airport to the hotel. The greeters informed me that we needed to wait for another person to arrive and then a group of us would be riding together. I looked at the possibility of taking a taxi, but the line looked like it was nearly an hour-long. So, I sat down at the Starbucks at O’Hare and chatted with a Greek filmmaker who was also heading to the festival. One major traffic jam later, I made it to my hotel, hungry and tired. I could now appreciate how easy my earlier trips had been made by taking public transportation. (more…)
This is part 4 of a series. You can start at the beginning here.
The only flight I could get to Los Angeles was with a stop in San Francisco, but fortunately I had a day in between games. I would be staying with my friend Janis Nelson (yes, the same Janis Nelson who won the ticket lottery for me) and her husband Jim Ruxin in Brentwood. I did some research about getting to Dodgers Stadium by public transportation and decided that for the first time in my life, I would NOT rent a car in L.A. The plan was to depend on Uber, some busses and the kindness of friends to shuttle me around. I was also offered a parking spot that was a 10-minute walk away from the Stadium by a former student of mine, Geoff Booth. This would enable me to avoid dealing with the horrific parking lot situation at the stadium and allow for a quick exit afterward.
I had 2 tickets for each of the games, and Richie had decided he couldn’t make the trip, so I invited different people to come to each of the games. (more…)
This is part 3 of a series. You can start at the beginning here.
Just prior to the start of the playoffs, I got an invitation from the Chicago Film Festival to do a one hour speaking gig, and when I checked my calendar, it coincided with a possible 6th game of the NLCS, assuming the Cubs made it that far. They agreed to fly me to and from Chicago for that weekend, and to put me up in a hotel. Best case, I got my transportation and lodging taken care of for some of the games I might be attending. Worst case, I would be obligated to be in Chicago that weekend, even if the Cubs had been eliminated, or if the series had ended. I said yes, with the understanding that depending on what happened in the playoffs, I might or might not have to change some flights around.
So when the Dodgers defeated the Nationals, I could finally lock in some plans. The tickets for the unplayed games in DC were completely refundable, so no loss there. I had to book a one-way ticket to L.A. for Games 3, 4 and possibly 5. And my return trip would either be to NY if it was over after game 4, in which case I would then fly back to Chicago for the Festival on Saturday, or I would use the Festival ticket to fly directly back to Chicago from L.A. You with me so far? (more…)
This is part 2 of a series. You can start at the beginning here.
In my last entry, I neglected to mention that while in Chicago, I stayed in the home of Peter Gilbert, my friend, colleague and one of the makers of “Hoop Dreams.” Peter, who teaches in North Carolina, has hosted me for the playoffs several times over the years, including for all the games played in Chicago last year. So I’ve become a part of the family. Peter’s wife Dru and his kids Leo and Fay not only make me feel welcome, they have invested in my Cubdom by being among my stoutest supporters. As the Cubs victories have mounted up, they have expressed their belief that my staying at their home has been good luck for the team. So, they don’t want me staying anywhere else.
I also neglected to mention the fact that on the day that the Giants defeated the Mets for the Wild Card, I started growing my playoff beard. Facial hair growth has been a pretty standard baseball superstition for a long time, and I adopted the custom last year. Just to be clear, I really don’t believe that anything I do is going to affect the outcome of the games, but I like the idea of participating in some way. And besides, my grey beard makes me look a little bit like Cubs Manager Joe Madden, and he is the coolest manager in baseball. (more…)
Anyone who has been following me on social media the last two weeks, is aware that I’ve been on the road, with fingers crossed and fandom blazing, following the Chicago Cubs, as they attempt to break their 108-year championship drought.
I should mention first that my fanaticism is no recent development. I’ve documented in other entries on this blog, in great detail, how I became a Cubs fan (thanks, Dad), how my fandom was cemented as part of my identity, and how in 1984, the first time in my lifetime that the Cubs played a post-season game, I inadvertently began the quest that I am now on. You see, I have now attended every post-season game played at Wrigley Field since the day I was born—an achievement that used to bear a punchline, since there hadn’t been very many. But as the years went on, and the Cubs managed to get into the playoffs at least twice per decade, the numbers of games I attended began to mount up. The only limiting factor was that they never seemed to be able to get very deep into the playoffs.
I had dinner tonight with Peter Gilbert, of “Hoop Dreams” fame. We had a great time catching up on a variety of subjects, and inevitably ended up talking about the Cubs. I spouted off on one of my theories about why the Cubs are approaching their 102nd year without a championship, and Peter told me I ought to make this public, so here goes…
Baseball teams are built for their ballparks. Some ballparks are good for hitters, some for pitchers, and some for speed. Shea was a pitcher’s park, and so is Citi Field. Both the old and the new Yankees Stadiums were and are hitter’s parks. When the Astros opened what was then called Enron Field the same year that the Tigers opened Comerica Park, each of the two teams fundamentally changed from one type of ballpark to the other. I remember reading an article that suggested that Houston and Detroit should trade their entire teams with each other. Peter made the point that the Minnesota Twins have been brilliant at tailoring their team to their ballparks.
So what about the Cubs?
Wrigley Field is a very fickle ballpark. Some days, it’s a pitcher’s park and some days it’s a hitter’s park. You can tell which it is each day by looking at the flags in the outfield.
Here is my big idea…
Instead of fielding a team based on rightly-lefty percentages, the Cubs need to have two teams that they can platoon…one is the small ball team they field when the wind is blowing in, and the other is the long ball team that they field when then wind is blowing out. If they can just put together a decent lineup for both circumstances, and then adjust the lineup depending on which way the wind is blowing, I think we can finally lick this championship issue.
What do you all think?
Comments after the break… (more…)