Optional musical accompaniment: Cubs Go All the Way, apparently sung by Bobby "Boris" Pickett with help from Jack Bruce and Peter Lorre. Antipasto!
Really, I did it. As a singer, I'm a damn good guitar player. Enjoy.
The day after the day they went all the way.
You can set your watch by my cat. He insists upon being fed precisely at 6:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., no matter that else is happening. He's a creature of habit. He's also spoiled as hell, and so is his son, my other cat.
They're out there in the hallway right now, yowling at me because they are pretending to be hungry, in their peculiar Pavlovian fashion. But I can't feed them. I'm presently involved in trying to sweep up the remnants of the toilet tank cover, which has just been destroyed as a result of one of the duo's adventures.
The game is going to start in a half-hour, and I'm still sweeping up bits of porcelain.
The tank lever broke, you see. It sat in that water for decades, and the loop at the end gave up the ghost, announcing itself with a gurgling. So I fixed a rubber band onto the lever, so I could pull it without having to dip my hands in that water every time I take a leak.
The tank cover was balanced on the edge of the tub and the top of the garbage can.
I was watching Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo do the Bryzzo bit, this time as vampires who drive everybody batty, with special guest star David Ross, when a splash and a thunderous crash echoed from the bathroom.
The small cat, Shadow, liked the rubber band. He convinced his pop to help him pull it. They must have both been enjoying themselves hugely, up until the splash as the rubber band broke and the chain plopped into the tank.
Like I said -- cats.
I missed the rest of the commercial. Certainly it'll be on again. As the MVPs, in order, of the regular season (Rizzo), the playoffs (Bryant) and the World Series (Rizzo), the world is theirs.
Bryant did an interview where he complained, half-jokingly, that he couldn't drive cabs or swim with sharks any more. "I can't hide," he said. "I'm six foot five. Everybody knows my face. I have to shop online."
He was smiling from ear-to-ear as he said it, but it's true. Rizzo, Cubs, all of the Cubs, the same thing. They became John, Paul, George, and Grandpa.
The Cubby Bear is still rebuilding. What a party.
When Junior threw that last pitch, and Donaldson grounded out to Russell, it was like Krakatoa all over again. Considerably west of Java. East of the Mississippi.
Thousands of blue caps flew through the air, and white flags with blue "W"s on them were suddenly the "in" thing. I'm wearing the Martha Stewart collection version of the famous Joe Maddon "W inside a target".
Amazing. It took three days to find Al. We think he was so deliriously happy that he just floated away. Danny found him at the wrong 7-Eleven, with a Big Gulp in each hand and a big smile on his face.
He interviewed Theo, you understand. And Theo says to him, he says to him. "I heard you wanted to say something to me." It was on live TV, hard to miss. Ryan Dempster had been broadcasting from the left-field bleachers, doing the whole broadcast as Harry Caray, and somehow worked his way back to Al's section.
"I'm a BCB man," said Dempster. "And a BCB fan."
I don't know who the most of the other people in that area were, but no doubt a large percentage of them were BCB posters and staff, due to the fact that they were live-posting on the game thread while things were moving at a lightning pace, a display of the sheerest gonzo journalism I have ever witnessed.
That whole group followed the rest of the crowd onto the field. There was no stopping them.
The players saluted with their caps and made for the clubhouse. The cops walled the crowd off long enough for that to happen. The police and random members of the grounds crew adroitly herded the bulk of the invaders right back out and onto the streets of Wrigleyville. The cameras followed them until the director got the action back onto the field, where Ken Rosenthal was trying to interview Joe Maddon. The players, back on the grass, kept running in and out of range, spraying bubbly, completely out of control.
The BCB contingent got back in the scene when John Baker and Danny Rockett commenced a spirited rendition of "Go Cubs Go" in the vicinity of where second base used to be, with considerable vocal help, and the noise attracted the cameras. Dempster was still with them, and that was where it happened.
Theo stepped out on the field, talked briefly to Maddon, talked briefly to the players, got things going in a good direction. Dempster caught his eye, or his outlandish sports jacket caught his eye, or something.
Al had interviewed Theo a few times during the season. So they knew each other. But nobody had any idea that Theo was a lurker until he said what he said.
And then..."Yes," Al grinned from ear-to-ear. "Praise Theo."
I fell off the couch.
"Praise Theo," I echoed. I opened my last Old Style, tipped it. Washed down 1969, 1984, 1985, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2015, everything. Washed it down, swallowed it, made it all go away.
It was a new era.
The Old Style even tasted good. Food tasted better. Colors were brighter. There was a spring in my step that early November that lasted through to April. I took to bowing to the East periodically. Not to Mecca, but to Wrigleyville. To Him.
Radical behavior change.
I almost started liking people.
But that would have been too extreme. Instead I learned to appreciate ketchup on hot dogs at the behest of my grand-daughter. I took up knitting. I made Cthulhu caps for Christmas.
Had to take on an assistant to help compile Cub Tracks. Too many blogs sprung up over the winter. I couldn't keep track of them all. It was like the weird fiction boom, or Beatlemania. Amazing, really.
And the laughs. The whole season. More bandwagon-jumpers and fair-weather fans and box trolls than you could shake a fungo bat at, and just as many dedicated posters, and many mountain peaks and many ledges.
The infamous San Diego debacle, where Kyle Schwarber caught the ball in his cap and threw both ball and cap to second base, and the ump called the runner safe since the ball didn't touch Russell's glove before he reached base. New York upheld that ruling. I think they were paid to.
The notorious West Coast summer slump, so much like the annual Black Hawks Shrine Circus tour. Too much SoCal sun, too little sleep, not enough hits in the bats. The division slipped away for a minute there, until the following homestand, when Addison threw his graduation party and hit two grand slams in the first series and another in the second, on the way to 25 for the year. Javier Baez helped too. Bryant was on the DL with a hammy and Javy stepped up in his absence to the tune of a 1.421 OPS, equivalent to a right-handed Barry Bonds.
Javy was everywhere. After the Soler trade, he played a heap of outfield. He was a sparkplug...maybe the real MVP early on, coming out of the gate with a flurry of pinch hits and stolen bases and replacing Zobrist for a month when Ben got an oblique. Jorge just, well, he didn't acquit himself as well as one might have liked, and his vast potential is still yet to be seen.
It was a pretty easy move, most people thought. When Collin Cowgill and Rajai Davis both went on the 60-day DL, the Indians made Carlos Carrasco available, for Soler and Trevor Cahill, Matt Szczur and some cash.Though many people thought the price too high, it looks pretty good right now.
Carrasco straightened out his control issues and ended up ten games over .500 for the year, with 200-plus innings under his belt. And that was good, because Hammel got a hammy again and Hendricks gave up a lot of long flies during a summer when the wind blew out more often than not.
Soler and Michael Brantley became a feared combination. Lonnie Chisenhall, back at third, had a career year batting behind Soler, who ended up with 31 dingers and 80 ribbies. And 15 errors. But none in the playoffs. This was chiefly because the Indians didn't make the playoffs. Szczur contributed with his good attitude and glove, looking like a right-handed and slightly taller version of Sam Fuld. Cahill wasn't as good as Carrasco, but he wasn't bad for the Tribe, as he stepped into a rotation spot.
I apologize for not being able to tell this thing in order, all laid out nice-like. But I'm just digging into the memory banks, which are overloaded in the best of circumstances, and spinning this stuff out.
So many high points. I didn't manage to get to Chicago... too many things had to happen right for that to get done. But I almost felt like I was there. I watched every game, most of them with my grand-daughter, when she would come in after school. And every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, I sat me down and read every Cubs article I could find, and massaged the best of them into ports of inquiry with literary pretensions.
And it was hard to avoid the Cubs. The hype machine was in full swing...and the players were visibly loving it. And Joe. Joe was in hog heaven.
So many things. Such a time. It all runs together. These things happened: Sammy Sosa reconciled with the organization, apparently wanting to be part of the fun. Not everyone agreed that this was a good idea, but in the end, it worked out. Jed Hoyer said Manny made it happen.
Manny being Manny, behind the scenes.
Because magic. No. 21 is a roving coach this year. In between running his gas-station empire and buying desks for Dominican schoolchildren and enjoying apres-ski in the, Sammy helps teach young Cubs how to have patient at-bats, and how to drive the ball when their pitch comes. And he poses for pictures wearing Cubbie Blue, and says all the right things.
It's doubtful that everything will be forgiven, but for a proud man like Sammy Sosa to make that kind of sacrifice of time and what he sees as principle says a lot.
He's talking to Len Kasper on my TV right now, saying how happy he is because he missed the baseball and the Cubs, and blowing kisses. Manny Ramirez is standing a little bit too close with his hands behind his back. I suspect pie.
Sammy doesn't see him. He's looking alternately at Len and at Joe Maddon, who is approaching with a rectangular cardboard box slung over his shoulder.
I think the shards of porcelain are all swept up by now. I'm gonna have a sit.
The camera has started to pull away. Manny brings out what he had been holding, which turns out to be a giant scroll. He unrolls it to show the words.
Welcome back, Sammy
Is what it says. Joe hands Sammy the box. Sammy opens it and pulls out a giant boom-box. He shakes hands with Joe. The pregame crowd is so loud that you can't hear what they're saying. Everything is pantomime.
"Gracias," says Sammy. That was pretty clear.
Joe's mouth says "de nada."
And the beat goes on. Bryzzo have come onto the field and they're shaking hands with people in the stands, asking them questions, and writing the stuff down in little reporter's notebooks. Munenori Kawasaki has a fedora on with a press pass stuck in the hatband, and is photographing random fans.
They're all right up against the walls, and the cameras follow them, showing vendors of all sizes and descriptions distributing items from bobbleheads to beer.
My mouth is dry, and my eyes are watering. My heart is hammering so hard I think it's going to exit my chest and bounce around. I think I just swallowed my brain.
Highlights of last season are showing. Mammoth home runs by Bryant and Rizzo and Schwarber and Baez and Russell and Fowler and Heyward (in order of their finish), and spectacular catches and plays like when Rizzo dove toward second, missed the ball, and kicked it to Zobrist for the out, and when Russell sprinted out to short left, made the catch, and backhanded to Bryant for the second out, ending the NLDS and sending the Marlins home. Fowler's home run theft against Bruce. Bryant's grab high up on the wall in the right field corner to rob McCutchen of extra bases. Arrieta's Kerry Wood-esque behind the back nab of a bouncing ball ticketed for a knock and mind-present shovel to third to catch a wandering Neil Walker in the NLCS.
And more home runs and more titanic plays and my palms are sweating into the arms of my chair and I'm clutching those arms with a deadman's grip and I'm sure that the veins are popping out on my neck like my high-school opponent Randy Poffo's used to.
And the numbers are just rolling around in my empty old head. Bryant, OBP .405, 32 jacks. Rizzo, OPS . 966, 34 long flies. 3 errors at first base. Schwarber, who has turned out to be a pretty decent catcher, with 29 round trippers in 480 at-bats because he took a month off after getting beaned. He looks to have come all the way back, fortunately. I never did like Michael Wacha. It was great the way the Marlins took him apart in the wild-card game. Baez struck out 150 times, and equaled a sixth of that in homers, one more than he has years on this earth. Russell contributed an equal number in a Gold-Glove season. Fowler and Heyward both topped the 20-homer plateau, and Zobrist and Montero were not far behind as the team mashed a team-record 277 home runs, obliterating the old mark of 235.
The stuff that dreams are made of. Yeah, there were hard times, and the excitement and the highs and lows of a long season can take a lot out of a person, even as far removed from the game as I am, as a fan, as a sometime writer.
And arguments. Oh my! Donnybrooks, battles royale, take-no-prisoners snarling matches and passive-aggressive bitchy sideswiping and all the rest that goes along with blogville. Trolls out of the woodwork, oh yes. Friends rubbing friends the wrong way during brief losing streaks. Gifs of cans of soup and finger sandwiches and spontaneously combusting Pink Floyd handshakes and endless pontificating by both sides of any issue, and the returns of notorious former BCBers under new assumed names but bearing the same attitudes and turns of phrase.
I'll never forget when Not Hunter Wendelstedt was unmasked, or when M. Petit Gateaux's overheated rhetoric finally collapsed of its own weight.
I'll never forget when @Sut_ESPN showed up during a discussion of the '84 season, or when when everyone suspected that Mr. Star-nose was in fact a mole.
But most of all, I won't forget the expressions on the faces of Carl Edwards, Jr., and Kyle Schwarber as the throw from Addison Russell hit Rizzo's glove, and the caps went in the air, and the white towels with the blue W's on them waved in the air, and forty-two thousand-plus happy humans gave themselves and the team the longest, loudest standing ovation ever.
And I bet you did too, at home or in the bar or wherever you were. I sure as hell did.
And I'm proud of us all for taking the high road this year, for being the fans we hoped we would be, and not rioting or becoming arrogant or entitled. Maybe it's just about being a Cubs fan, the particular sets of circumstance and mindset that Cub fandom entails. Maybe we're different.
Maybe we learned from the mistakes of the past.
And now I'm sitting here in my leather chair, quivering, mouth dry, eyes wet, hoping against hope that we get to do it all over again.
The ceremonies are over. It's time to