Have you ever seen one of those old westerns where the bandit jumps on a horse and gallops for hours and you think, geez, how can a horse do that?
I feel like one of those horses. But my happy wounds are self-inflicted.
Friday, October 21, 2016
Friday came too early after the 4 and a half hour Cubs victory Thursday night. But how welcome was the result. We circulated a petition to have Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez banned from baseball for his ruminations between pitches. I watched with some close friends. On Thursday, our General Manager had announced that Friday at 11am, there would be a competition to see who could dress like the most diehard Cub fan. The two best Cubs costumes would each win a pair of tickets to GAME 6. Remember. We are part of the CBS Radio empire which broadcasts The Cubs on 670 The Score so the corporate season tickets for sales staff and clients are outstanding. Some of them are a few rows off the wall behind home plate. So I dressed accordingly.
My scruples got the better of me during the competition and I withdrew my name from consideration because I already had a ticket. Not that I had a chance. My argyle Cubs sports jacket and Cubs pajama bottoms were good but Geena Campobasso was wearing ivy and Lauren Davis was wearing a scoreboard.
Before I left for the weekend, I had to put the finishing touches on 2 Lin’s Bins for Monday. One was created to be used only in the event of a Cubs appearance in the World Series. The other was to be aired if we were not mentioning anything about baseball for the next 5 months. Thank God, we got to use the former.
And then it was time to spend Friday afternoon collecting on an auction item I had won at Joe Maddon’s Charity ‘Try Not to Suck’ Golf Outing earlier in the summer. After 3 martinis at this charity event a fundraiser for Maddon’s Respect 90 Foundation, I bid a bit more aggressively than I might have planned and won a round of golf at the hallowed Medinah Country Club, an item donated by the charming Steve Stratton. Medinah was showing off its autumnal splendor as four of us tried not to run out of golf balls.
There may have been gambling. There was a cocktail that featured bleu cheese stuffed olives. But I had to get on the road because Poi Dog Pondering was playing an XRT Show at the Vic Theater. We were only 10 minutes late and Frank and company was pulling out all the stops. A string section. A horn section. A trombone section! The phenomenal Poi Dog back up singers. “Complicated” was augmented by the “House-o-matic” Dance Troupe. Thank Poi, they live in Chicago.
You know what I hadn’t done all day? Dinner. So where do you go at midnight for the “Seared Strip Steak, Roasted Lobster Mushroom & Duck Confit Succotash, Caramalized Leek Ragu, Horseradish Celery Root Puree, Whiskey Demi-Glace.” Longman and Eagle, that’s where. Up at 4:30am. Home in bed by 2am. That’s a full day. A warm up for Game 6 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field.
Saturday. October 22, 2016.
Woke up at the crack of noon. Focused. Obsessed. Concerned with major issues. Which Cub hat should I wear? Should I bring my own scorebook to avoid having to pay 10 dollars for the full program? How early should I get to the Jim Beam sponsored pre-game party at the Gman Tavern? But it can’t be that easy. I had forgotten to send a script and some audio for Monday’s Lin’s Bin about the World Series and I only had access in my office downtown at the Prudential Center. Oh my goodness. I don’t want to go downtown, but I did. In such a hurry, I had no breakfast so I parked near Clark and Illinois and walked over to Xoco, Rick Bayless’ casual eatery around the corner from Frontera. And do you know what the Saturday special was? Goat Barbacoa-Braised goat, Oaxacan pasilla-tomatillo salsa, avocado, onions & cilantro. Goat. A few hours before a clinching baseball game that would spirit the Chicago Cubs into the World Series. C’mon, man. That wasn’t a lunch special. That was destiny.
From downtown it was up Lake Shore Drive to the XRT Jim Beam Pre-Party at Gman Tavern at 5pm. The line snaked down the block. Here’s a hint. If you are planning on watching a Cub World Series game at any bar around Wrigley, you will want to get to your destination hours before the first pitch. Joe Shanahan bought me a large Jim Beam on the rocks because, you know, sponsorship. The woman who runs Theo and Paul Epstein’s Foundation to be Named Later. Allyce Naimy, was kind enough to come by for hugs and congratulations.
Gerald Dowd, longtime member of Robbie Fulks’ band, was fronting a combo that featured Pat Williams on bass and Nick Kitsos (former Bodeans) on drums. They took the stage at 5:15. Did a great version of Springsteen’s Atlantic City. As much as I was enjoying the music, the bourbon and the XRT listeners I met, it was go time. Game 6 was beckoning. Marty Lennartz and I paused for a photo under the Metro marquee.
He was headed to the bleachers. I was headed to a sweet suite. Living the dream is not as easy as you think. At the conclusion of the national anthem, the crowd was so loud it sounded like having your head inside a jet engine. And it would get louder. There was a program in the suite so I became the official scorer for the duration. You Go We Go led off the bottom of the first with a double and the Cubs were rolling. The experts and pundits had all predicted a low scoring game.
They were half-right. There was that lingering expectation that Clayton Kershaw would quiet the home team’s bats, but baseball is a game where predictions wilt in the reality of a capricious game. It was the kid, Kyle Hendricks, who was the ace tonight. After he posted bagel after bagel on the scoreboard, we remarked how his expression walking off the mound resembled a junior high school student mildly disturbed that he’s missing a Dungeons and Dragons get together. On the biggest stage, Hendricks had all the anxiety of a shrug.
This game was a gift to Cub fans who spent years gnawing their fingernails to the bone. After the Rizzo home run in the 5th inning, the thunderous reaction underscored a measure of relief. When Maddon came to get Hendricks in the 8th, the crowd reacted in a kind of horror. We did not like the idea of closer Aroldis Chapman coming into the game in a non-save situation in the 8th inning. That’s why we don’t manage major league baseball games. Of all the strengths Joe Maddon has demonstrated, the most important one has been his faith.
His faith in Rizzo and Russell. And his faith in Chapman, who dispatched the Dodgers in the 8th with a quick DP and after giving up a hit, he allowed the poetic trio end the game, Russell to Baez to Rizz.
An exhalation of exuberance. Some people cried. Some people just stood and took it all in. Strangers hugged. High fives all around. The field was swarmed by media and Cubs players and just like that we were locked into a communal disbelief. I walked through the stands looking for old friends. My wife and son were in the bleachers so they went looking for Judy Caldow and Colleen and Linda, hard core right center field bleacherites. We took pictures of the hysteria just outside the ballpark and then we plunged into it.
We assembled near Murphy’s where the glare of Fox Sports Post-Game TV lights added an otherworldly hue to an otherworldly night. We decided to find a bar without a line and started walking north on Sheffield. Horns honking. Streets filled with people everywhere. W flags hanging from windows and porches. We didn’t stop our search until we got all the way to Montrose where we ducked into the where there were long cushioned benches around a table. Just big enough to accommodate all nine of us. Nine. Like a baseball team. Friends and family who have shared hundreds and hundreds of games at Wrigley. In the mid-80’s we would meet in the right center field bleachers.
By 1989 most of us had settled into season ticket packages in the terrace reserved. People who keep score and save the score cards. Fans who are at the opener every year and drag themselves to the final game of the season no matter what the fortunes of the Chicago Cubs may have been. Our celebration was muted and sentimental. 32 years together at Wrigley Field come what may. Dawson’s 47th homer in ’87. The first official night game against the Mets. Gaetti’s playoff homer. Standing together in 2003 holding up 5 fingers in the 8th inning. Just five more outs. All of that behind us now and the World Series looming.
We didn’t close the bar. We left at a respectful 1:30am. When my family got home, we turned on the game we DVR’d, looked at our scorecards and picked our favorite highlights to watch all over again. At 3:40am, I went to bed.
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Woke up around 1 in the afternoon. Drove up to NY Bagel on Touhy and when I parked, I listened to a preview of Monday’s Lin’s Bin about the World Series and for the first time since the victory, I let my emotions run like a river. Sitting in my car about to pick up bagels and cream cheese and anyone walking by would have thought my dog had died.
What you do when your world has tilted towards the sun? You take a deep breath and take it all in.
It was Sunday. Great to be alive.
October 24, 2016