In what President Barack Obama said was “the last official event at the White House in my presidency,” the avowed White Sox fan was treated to quite a number of gifts from the World Series champion Cubs, including a “OBAMA 44” jersey, a #44 Wrigley Field scoreboard panel, a “W” flag signed by the entire team, and a lifetime pass for him and his family to Wrigley, which he noted said “NON TRANSFERABLE, to general laughter.
The Cubs’ World Series title has brought joy and smiles to all of us since it happened last November, and the President’s speech, delivered with good humor, brought many of those smiles back to the assembled group of players, families, Cubs front office personnel, and Cubs Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg and Fergie Jenkins. I’m particularly glad those three were invited, as they are good representatives of all the Cubs teams that never won.
The President alluded to that by opening his remarks, which began about 45 minutes later, by saying, “They said this day would never come. None of my predecessors ever got a chance to say: Welcome to the White House, World Series champion Chicago Cubs.”
He then talked about being a Sox fan — at the end of the ceremony he said, “Among White Sox fans I’m the No. 1 Cubs fan” — and noted that his wife Michelle had grown up as a Cubs fan and has remained one throughout her life. He noted that Michelle had told him stories of coming home and watching the Cubs on TV with her dad.
How many of us have similar stories? This is, and the president also noted in his remarks, a way of connecting generations, something I’m sure almost all of us here feel. He also said that he’d hosted about 50 sports teams over his time in office and Michelle had come to none of the ceremonies — until this one. She was also responsible for inviting former Cubs outfielder Jose Cardenal to the ceremony, because he was her favorite player when she was growing up.
Then he went into a description of how the Cubs got to the World Series, with their 103-win season, great play in the postseason, gave specific shout-outs to many of the assembled players, in particular noting Anthony Rizzo (“my fellow 44”) and his leadership qualities. He also noted that a large number of White House staffers were Cubs fans and there seemed to be a large number of sick days during the playoffs, including by one who wound up being interviewed on live TV at a Wrigley-area bar, looking “kind of sheepish.”
After the president completed his remarks, Theo Epstein stepped to the podium, saying the team was “honored to be here.” Theo also complimented Billy, Fergie, Ryno and Jose, and acknowledged the families of all the players for their “behind the scenes support,” as well as all the various Cubs front-office members who were in attendance.
It was then Theo issued a “pardon” to the president for being a Sox fan and presented him with all the gifts.
It was a ceremony filled with great humor, laughter and smiles. I’m guessing you might have teared up a bit while reminiscing along with President Obama about the World Series, and seeing the World Series trophy on display at the White House.
I’m going to leave comments open on this post. I’ll ask that you keep your commentary to the ceremony or the Cubs or baseball, and please don’t bring politically-oriented comments into the discussion.
Thanks, and remember: Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in 29 days!