The division clinched in Pittsburgh, the 1984 Cubs headed home. Before the season's final series, the scoreboard guys had some fun to show everyone walking by Wrigley Field how proud they were of this N.L. East division title team.
The Cubs then took two of three from the hated Cardinals (including a come-from-behind walkoff win the last day of the regular season, depriving Bruce Sutter of what would then have been a record-breaking save) in preparation for the NLCS against the Padres, which was to begin 30 years ago today, October 2, 1984.
There were no bleacher season tickets then -- in fact, few Cubs fans had season tickets at all in 1984 -- so there was a mad scramble to get tickets for the home games. Some friends of mine had found me a left-field bleacher ticket (back then, I was a right-field regular) for Game 2, but on that final regular-season day, I still sought a ticket for Game 1. One of my friends told me, "Try the box office."
In that pre-internet age, yes, playoff tickets were still sometimes sold at the box office windows. I went there and was able to buy one located not far from my regular right-field seat. (Even back then, all postseason bleacher seats were sold on a reserved basis.)
October 2, 1984 was a beautiful day in Chicago, as you can see from the photos. It was gloriously sunny and about 70 degrees, perfect baseball weather. The game time was even Cub-friendly at 1:15 p.m. CT.
And the Cubs played a nearly-flawless game and crushed the Padres 13-0. There were four Cubs homers, including one leading off the bottom of the first inning by Bob Dernier and one by pitcher Rick Sutcliffe. The Sutcliffe bomb flew directly over my head and out onto Sheffield. Sutcliffe threw seven shutout innings and struck out eight and Warren Brusstar finished up with two scoreless innings of his own. The only other Cubs pitcher to homer in a postseason game is Kerry Wood, in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS.
It was an absolutely perfect day, and the next day was just as good, as the Cubs beat the Padres 4-2 behind Steve Trout and Lee Smith. The weather was pretty much the same; we couldn't have asked for two more perfect baseball days in early October in Chicago, either weather-wise or baseball-wise.
The photos above, I think, capture some of the atmosphere of the day. Festive. Celebratory. Glorious, after 39 years of waiting for a postseason win. At the time it was the most lopsided shutout in postseason history; that's since been surpassed by the Braves, who did it in Game 5 and Game 7 of the 1996 NLCS over the Cardinals. But back then? 13-0 got everyone thinking the 1984 Cubs were the proverbial team of destiny.
Leading two games to none, needing to win just one in San Diego to advance to the World Series, I made plans to go to San Diego to see just that.
What could possibly go wrong?