Saturday, October 22, 2016

EXTRA: It’s about time!!!

1945 is now an obsolete year for Chicago sports fans to care about.
The Cubs' big star of '45

The Chicago Cubs Saturday night managed to pull off a 5-0 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers, giving them the win in this round of National League playoffs and also ensuring that 2016 will go into the record books as the first league championship won by a Cubs team since, in the words of singer Steve Goodman, “the year we dropped the bomb on Japan.”

OF COURSE, THE big year that gets the attention is 1908 – as in it has been 108 years since a Cubs team managed to actually win a World Series. The Cubs have actually played in seven World Series since then.

Yet 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and the aforementioned 1945 were all losses – with ’32 particularly memorable when Babe Ruth did-or-did-not “call” that home run he hit for the New York Yankees in Game Three at Wrigley Field.

That latter season of 1945 is actually regarded as somewhat of a fluke, what with the way baseball was weakened with many of the real ballplayers getting drafted into military service during World War II.

As it turned out, the Cubs’ big name that year was first baseman Phil Cavaretta – who managed to avoid serving in the military due to a hearing problem. With shortstop Lennie Merullo (whose grandson, Matt, later was a catcher for the Chicago White Sox) being the last-surviving member of that team when he passed on a year ago.

BUT CONSIDERING HOW lacking the Cubs’ history has been in terms of ultimate victory, every little bit of praise gets overblown – particularly when one considers just how dreadful the franchise became during the 1950s, ‘60s and 70’s.
The Cubs' big star since then

Cubs fans like to forget that, thinking that the presence of shortstop-turned-first baseman Ernie Banks somehow made the team an elite franchise instead of just junk unworthy of his presence.

But all of that sinks into the past, as Chicago will have its second World Series in this century. The Cubs can now hint at some similar level of success with the White Sox. Who, after all, brought the Second City its first World Series win of the 21st Century 11 years ago.

And also gave Chicago the ultimate comeback that we’ll throw in the faces of Houstonites in a decade-or-so when their city likely surpasses ours in population.

BUT BACK TO the Cubs of ’16 – who had their segment of Chicago all worked up. I was in downtown and the Near North part of Chicago and saw my share of “W” flags hanging from various windows.
A heroic World Series moment against the Cubs

I also couldn’t help but notice Miller’s Pub, that antiquated restaurant on Wabash Street, which had its marquee sign set to read, “Hey Chicago, what do you say?”

Anticipating that the hard-core of Cubbiedom would fill in the next lyric of Goodman’s “Go Cubs Go” team anthem on their own. While White Soxdom would feel a gnarling punch to the gut at the very thought.

Yes, I made a point of digging up a White Sox cap to wear Saturday while wandering around the Cubs-leaning portions of Chicago. I actually got a couple of cheers, while most Cub-types merely gave blank looks.

ALMOST AS THOUGH they were afraid they would somehow jinx a potential victory if they got too cocky with their retorts.
No longer the last Cub to play in a Series

Because, after all, there’s still the World Series to get through. Let’s not forget that the American League champion Cleveland Indians have their own lengthy streak of years without success – nearly seven full decades.

As an American League baseball fan, I actually paid more attention to those rounds of playoffs than any of the NL nonsense of the past couple of weeks. This is a Cleveland team that beat up on Boston, then handily defeated Toronto. It isn’t a ball club that’s going to be intimidated by any Cubbie trash talk, by any means!

Which means that a week or so from now, we could very well have Cubs fans feeling crushed (and a few spiteful Sox fans feeling delirious) and the “Wait ‘til next year” slogan taking on new meaning.


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