We lived on Arlington Place, in a one-bedroom apartment with a Pullman kitchen—i.e., down-sized appliances arrayed in a line that could be hidden when the louvered doors were pulled across and shut. On the first floor of the building was an Italian restaurant called Salvatore’s.
We had moved there after she graduated from Purdue. We were young, broke, and didn’t care. She had a job at one of the exchanges as a runner. I obtained employment at Northwestern University School of Law as a clerk in the library. We hit Rush Street during “happy hour(s)” and ate beanie-weenies and celery and carrots—nice, well-rounded meals—for the price of a couple of draft beers. I tried to make whatever “open mic” night for stand-up comedy.
All my life I had been a fan of the Chicago Cubs National Baseball League Club®. We lived about seven blocks south of Wrigley. Arlington Place was just north of Fullerton and our building was just off Clark.
About seven blocks north of us was Wrigley Field. Tickets for the Terrace Reserved section (about 20 rows back of the dugouts) were $4.50. David Berg all-kosher hot dogs were a buck each. A 32-ounce cup of Old Style® was three bucks.
The Cubs sucked.
We went to games on the cheap. On a Sunday morning in April, we woke up late. When she told me it was 11 o’clock, I said, “Let’s get dressed and get brunch—and dress warm.” She asked, “Why should I dress warm.” I replied, “Because it’s an outdoor restaurant.” “Who serves brunch outside in April in Chicago?” “It’s a trendy place,” I said.
We took the 22 bus up Clark. “Where is this place?” she asked. “Near Addison,” I told her. “Near the ballpark?” “Yeah—real close.”
We got off the bus, I bought tickets, she guessed “brunch” consisted of David Berg all-kosher hot dogs, and we froze our butts off through a double header with the Giants. We drank beer as quickly as we could to be drunk enough that we didn’t feel as cold as we were. The wind blew in that day.
Other aspects of life might have sucked, but there always was the ballpark—and hope. The Cubs toyed with us in 1983. We were two-and-a-half games out of first on July 4. She and I sat 10 or 15 rows back of the plate for that double header against the Expos. The ‘Spos swept us, the start of, like, a 13 (or however many—enough to put the kibosh on the season) game slide. Still, we could go to the Friendly Confines, and all was well for three or four hours. We were close enough that we could walk home.
In 1984, the Cubs made the post-season for the first time in 29 years. We blew a two-game lead over the Padres. My heart was torn out of my chest at the final out. In 1989, I did not take the post-season seriously. My hunch was well-founded. In 2003, I thought we could do it. We almost did, except for Bartman. Last year, we were certain to win—“Back to the Future” had said we would.
The past couple of weeks, I have focused on work. We had been so good all season, I KNEW we would lose—probably, maybe, sort of.
I do not stay up very late. I set the DVR so I could watch the previous night’s game if we won, or erase it if we lost.
The funny thing was, when we lost the lead in the series against the Dodgers, I was not freaked out. I have been through this a few times. When I was 14 and the black cat ran out, at Shea Stadium when Ron Santo was on deck and we blew a nine-game lead in August and finished about the same number of games back of the Mets—and we had four future Hall of Famers in the lineup. There was 1984 and the grounder Leon Durham blew after Don Zimmer had left Rick Sutcliffe in too long. There was 2003 and the Wood-Pryor combo for starter on the mound.
This had a different “feel.”
On Saturday, I crashed about 9. I had the DVR set. When I got up, I checked my home page. Certainly Kershaw and shut us out. I looked for a headline about “Game 7.” Since I was a kid, the only team for which I have been a fan that has won a World Championship has been the 1985-86 Chicago Bears®.
In “The Natural,” the manager, “Pop,” as he shaves before the big game to see who advances to the World Series® tells his assistant manager something like, “You know Red, I wouldn’t care if we had lost in the Series. I just wanted to make it there.”
This morning I cried as I read the news. We are going to The World Series®.
I have a full day of work ahead. I will set the DVR for this week’s games.
The Cubs—my Chicago Cubs; OUR Chicago Cubs—are in The World Series at last.