Diary of a Cubs Fan – Part Six

Cubs in World SeriesThis 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.

I already had been promised a ticket for Game 4 by my longtime friend and master movie marketer John Iltis. John has been a Cubs season ticket holder for a very long time, and I’ve sat in his seats a fair number of times over the years. His seats are in the 2nd row, right behind the Cubs dugout. John’s invitation to join him for Game 4 was truly an honor. In the meantime, I started watching my inbox for signs of the Cubs ticket lottery so I could secure tickets to Games 3 and 5.

In previous rounds, I was immediately aware of when the lottery notices were going out, because I would start receiving rejections in my various email accounts. Once that began happening, I would send out a reminder to all my enablers to watch their in boxes for a possible winner. However, this time the Cubs changed things up. Jessica got an email from one of her enablers with a winning code, but it had been sent out the night before, and no rejection notices had gone out and therefore no one had been on alert.

The actual ticket sale was only an hour away at the point the she got notice, and the Cubs added one more wrinkle–this time the code could only be used along with the email that was originally entered into the lottery. Jessica and I were on the phone, comparing our ticket needs, and discussing how to approach things. We decided that the only safe thing to do would be to have her friend handle the actual buying of the tickets. Jessica went over things with him, and we held our breaths awaiting word of what had happened. Fortunately, he managed to get 2 tickets each to Games 3 and 5, all standing room only. And fortunately, Jessica agreed to shared them with me, in spite of the fact that she could have resold them for way more money. Like me, Jessica believes that the true fans deserve to be in the park. And with that, I was covered for all the World Series games at Wrigley and my streak was protected.

I had already booked flights on Southwest several weeks before, knowing that I could cancel and reuse the tickets if necessary. I reached out to the Gilberts and once again, they invited me to stay with them. I was all set.

Game 1, Cubs at Indians, West End Avenue

The Boys at the World SeriesFor the first game of the series, I invited some of my old Northwestern buds over to watch. David Wohl, Walt Dawless and Tom Quinn joined Beth & I for pizza and lots of wine, and we settled in to watch the game like normal people do. I had extra Cubs hats and a collection of rally towels, so we all got into the spirit.

The telecast went over the top in trying to hype the curses of both teams–creating excess and unnecessary drama. But the real storyline of the game was the return of Kyle Schwarber, who had been injured in the first week of the season, had season-ending surgery on his knee and had just been cleared by his doctors to bat in the World Series. His first at-bats since April would be in the World Series. Not only could the Cubs use the potential extra hitting, but it was a great ending to what had begun as a sad story.

The game itself was pretty disappointing. Indians pitcher Corey Kluber lived up to his hype and established himself as the main obstacle between the Cubs and the championship. He was working on short rest, but like Kershaw in the last round, he shut the Cubs down. The only good news was that Schwarber lived up to his hype, hitting the ball hard and getting on base several times. Final score, Indians 6, Cubs 0. 

Game 2, Cubs at Indians, West End Avenue

World Series on TVThe next night, I decided to low-key it with Beth, and didn’t bother with the hats, the t-shirts, the rally towels or the extra company, although David did drop by for a while. The result was exactly the opposite of the night before. The Cubs jumped out to a quick lead, Arrieta was masterful and the Cubs stole one on the road, a great sign for the upcoming games at Wrigley. Final score, Cubs 5, Indians 1.

With a split in the series, the soonest the Cubs (or Indians) could win the series would be in game 5, although the odds of either team taking 3 straight at Wrigley seemed slim.  But all in all, I was feeling pretty good as I packed to head back to Chicago yet again.

Game 3, Indians at Cubs, Wrigley Field

Bradwell FriendsI got to Chicago around 11am, and met up with some of my grammar school friends for pizza. It was a coincidence that Mayda Raffe was in Chicago to see “Hamilton” and had already arranged to have lunch with Bonnie Mamet and Sheri Kessler. Then they realized I might be in town for the World Series and contacted me to see if I could join them. Much to everyone’s surprise, we were also joined by Bob Tipton and his wife, who had just driven up from Florida to go to a series game. It was only noon, but much wine was consumed. I figured “what the hell,” since I would be going straight from there to Wrigleyville.

Bleacher PreacherMy Game 3 tickets were standing room, but designated as being in the Bleachers. I’d never done standing room at Wrigley before, so I wanted to get to the ballpark extra early to make sure I staked out a good spot where I could see the game. I was also supposed to meet up with a friend of Jessica’s, who was going to get the other standing room ticket (Jessica would be in her season ticket seats for this game). Jessica’s friend Jeffrey is one of those truly crazy Cubs fans, who attends so many games each year that the ushers know him by name. He had been in line to get into the park since 10:30 that morning, and was right at the front, along with a bunch of the other regulars. I joined them and was witness to a part of the Cub sub-culture I’d never been privy to before. These were the true fanatics, and they all knew and greeted each other as if they were part of a family.

I was advised by Jeffrey that the best standing room in the Bleachers was an area called the right field porch. It’s way on top of the right field bleachers and has one row of wheelchair accessible seats with standing room right behind. When the gates opened at 4:15 (15 minutes earlier than advertised), I ran up the stairs and was the first person to arrive in the area. I found a spot where there was a pole I could lean on, and the best news was that right next to my position was a bar. I went over to the women who was bartending, made friends and handed her my credit card. She would set me up with a tab, and when I wanted a drink, all I had to do was signal, and she would deliver the drink without my having to give up my spot.

The atmosphere was electric. After all, this was the first World Series game played at Wrigley Field since 1945. This was special and everyone knew it.

Ira Blecher Standing Room Game 3I had a completely unobstructed view of the field. As more people arrived, I made friends with the folks around me, and we all agreed to protect each other’s spots if one of us had to go to the bathroom. But I never left the spot. I was too wrapped up in the game, which turned out to be another intense pitching duel. Hendricks was pitching brilliantly for the Cubs, but Cleveland’s pitchers were shutting down the Cubs. The most  frustrating thing was that the wind was howling out of the park throughout the entire game. In fact, there had been high wind warnings issued by the National Weather Service for the area. Any ball hit high enough would probably leave the park. But the Cubs couldn’t elevate anything.

As happens with these sorts of games, it was decided by a run scoring single in the 7th inning. Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t help thinking that if Heyward had been playing left (he had been benched because of his cold bat), he would have caught that ball and it would have been a different ballgame. Final score, Indians 1 Cubs 0.

Not only had the Indians gone up by 2 games to 1, gaining back home field advantage, this also meant that the Cubs could no longer win the series at home. And even worse, the Cubs bats were cold as ever.

The next part of this series can be found here.

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