In Al's article about today's 5-3 win over the Rockies, he mentioned how this season, at least so far, felt a lot like 1969. Several people (including myself) posted messages in the thread agreeing with him. One poster said something, though, about how that team had the biggest collapse of all time, and how they didn't want to talk about it.
As we know, it was a heck of a collapse, but it wasn't the biggest. But that's not the reason for this FanPost. To twist some classic words, I don't come here to bury the '69 Cubs, but to celebrate them. That team had four Hall of Famers on it (I include Ron Santo here because he will get elected one day) including Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins. It had what might be the Cubs' best infield since Tinkers to Evers to Chance, i.e., Santo at 3b, Kessinger at SS, Beckert at 2B and Banks at 1B. It had one of the most awesome starting rotations in Cubs' history, including Fergie Jenkins (21-15, 3.21 era, 23 complete games), Bill Hands (20-14, 2.49 era, 18 complete games), and Ken Holtzman (17-13, 3.58 era, 12 complete games).
Have you ever noticed the flags that fly in the Cubs' outfield (shown frequently on WGN) of the players whose numbers have been retired? Three out of four of those players were on the '69 Cubs (Banks, Santo and Williams, with Sandberg being the sole non-'69 Cubs player with a retired number). The 1969 Cubs were part of a string of six straight plus .500 seasons. The last time Cubs teams had done that were a string of 13 consecutive plus .500 seasons beginning in 1926 and ending in 1939.
Have you ever noticed on the left field foul pole, the words "Hey! Hey!"? That's from another '69 Hall of Famer, Jack Brickhouse. Some of my earliest memories are of listening to Jack Brickhouse announce games that no one cared about except me (and a few other die-hards). I heard the genuine excitement in his voice, and the sadness, as he went through the 1969 season with me and other die-hard Cubs fans. God rest his soul.
That song we all sing at the end of Cubs' victories, "Go Cubs Go". That's a Steve Goodman song, and he lived and died with the '69 Cubs along with all of us as well. God rest your soul too, Steve.
The '69 Cubs permeate Wrigley Field and everything that happens there.
Regardless of what happened in the past, if the '08 Cubs do it, we'll all celebrate and feel wonderful about it. But, if the Cubs had never come close since 1945, if they'd never broken .500 and been the doormat of the National League every single year, there would be something missing today.
Without those glorious years, where we came so close, where we fell in love with other heroes, other than DLee, the Big Z, Aram, Dome and so on, and where we cheered and cried with others who aren't there with us today, that makes today feel so wonderful. It is the fact that we've reached for it in the past, and failed mightily, rather than with a wimper, that sweetens it all.