ST. LOUIS, Mo.(Cubs Tracker) -- And so it begins.
You work your entire life, putting one foot in front of the other, waiting for the gold watch, and then the boss calls you in.
"We're thinking about launching a Cubs app. We've looked all over the world for some fool to take this on. It's you."
I pause and stare at the gentleman in front of me. He is, as they all are, a Cardinals fan. Yuck.
"Let me get this straight," I ask. "You're going to pay me to write about the Cubs?"
And they think I'm the fool.
If you can make it thru this, all of your questions will be answered, and we will be friends for life.
My Cub illness began in the mid 60's. In second grade, I made my first investment on the Cubs.
They were playing San Francisco, and my father was convinced the Cubs were doomed. I begged to differ, and the debate was on. I had a crisp $1 bill in my piggy bank from my birthday. Fed up with the badgering, I went into the bedroom, brought back my life savings, and laid it on the table. I was going all in on the Cubs that day. Don Landrum hit a home run to win the game, and that was it. Hook, line and sinker.
A year or so later, after much pleading, my mother agreed to take me to Wrigley Field. Of course, the Cubs were a bad team at the time (insert your joke here and be done with it). I can still remember walking up those steps, third base side, box seats (I would soon be relocated to my real seats) and just stopping. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect. I close my eyes, and I can still see myself standing there nearly 50 years ago. I don't get back much anymore, but when I do, I always walk up that same entrance, and look around. This is my ballpark. This is clearly the greatest place in the world.
We may not have been great then, but we were in 1969. This was the first heartbreak of my life, much worse than any teenage girl would inflict down the line. Whenever I visit my therapist, which is not nearly enough, she doesn't ask me about my parents. She asks me about the Miracle Mets. I will take the 69 Cubs to my grave. Fergy throwing to the Rebel, Santo-Kessinger-Beckert and Banks around the horn. Hickman, Young and Billy in the outfield. The Lip in the dugout, and Jack in the booth. We owned the world until September. A nine game lead in September? You have got to be kidding me.
The 70's did not treat me well. My family moved to southern Illinois, and the White Stockings were no longer my hated rival. In fact, nobody knew the Pale Hose even existed (sort of like in Chicago.) I was surrounded by a new enemy: The Red Menace with the Birds on the Bat. To complicate matters for the new guy in town, these were some horrendous Cub teams. In fact, I blame the Cubs of this era for some of my major problems in life. When I was away at college, cable TV came to town. And with it came WGN, and Chicago Cubs baseball every afternoon from Wrigley. My choices were simple: head to the local pub to watch the Cubs and eat popcorn, or go to class. I never missed a game, and never attended a class. The grades suffered, and the job prospects went out the window. Imagine how much better my life would be right now if I wasn't spending those days watching Steve Ontiveros and Barry Foote try to play baseball.
Life too a good turn in the 80's. I actually found a job. My boss asked me how long I would stay, and I gave him the same answer I've given to every boss since then: "Until I get the job I want.......third base dugout, Wrigley Field." I didn't just find a job, I found a wife. Let me be clear: she knew about my problem before she made the dumbest decision of her life. So when I popped the question (halftime of a Bulls-Bullets game. The offer was only good if Bulls won. Incredibly, some hack named Mickey Johnson banked one in at the buzzer to doom me) she said yes, and we began making plans for the rest of our lives. The first big decision was the honeymoon. I told her to pick the date, and I would surprise her with the place. She looked at me sternly and said "We are not going to Wrigley for our honeymoon." "Of course not," I said. "What do you think, you're marrying a moron?" So she picks the date. I pull out my handy dandy Cub schedule from my wallet and proudly announce, "well, at least we're not going to Pittsburgh!" Spent a glorious week in Montreal. The Cubs went 1-3. Not sure which pitcher got the win for us, but the entire rotation had a losing record that year, and Mike Krukow led the way with 9 big wins.
And that brings us to 1984. The Red Baron and Big Lee, Bobby D and the Sarge, Jody and Ryno and the Bull. Hell, we even had a Penguin. You can't convince me the Padres were better than us. But on a late Saturday night, there was Steve Garvey circling the bases with his fist in the air, and although there was still one more game to be played, I knew. Everyone knew. And even with Sutcliffe on the mound for the deciding game 5, and even with what looked like a safe lead, I knew. Everyone knew. When a ball goes off Sandberg's glove, and another under Durham's legs, I slowly get up and turn the TV off. I am now thousands of miles away from home. I get in my car and start driving, unable to deal with what is happening, with no idea where I am heading. At some point, I turn on the radio, just in time for the bottom of the 9th, and Goose Gossage. Of course, this is the same Gossage that will be ushered into Wrigley years later as our latest salvation closer, years after his fastball has gone. I'm not sure where I was when Kennedy was shot, but I was somewhere near Fort Hancock, Texas when Gossage slammed the door. Next time I heard of that town, Red was on a bus to the ocean to hook up with Andy in Shawshank Redemption.
Life moved on after the Padres. But I wasn't sure my bride ever got over that honeymoon trip. So I told her I would make it up to her. She always wanted to go to California, so I said "sweetheart, I will take you up and down the entire coast of California. We will see it all. Four days in Frisco, three in LA, four more in San Diego. Prepare yourself for the vacation of a lifetime!" She was thrilled. Imagine her shock when the Cubs decided to take the same vacation, at the exact same time, as we did! 3-7 on that trip. Now, I'm not here to proclaim that 4-10 on my road trips is successful (although by Cub standards, it is not horrific. Horrific was 1997, when we started 0-14.) My point is I can proudly say I've seen the Cubbies kick a little bootie in every park I've been too. I said "a little."
As the 80's came to an end, my job sent me to, of all places, St. Louis. To add insult to injury, I have to walk past that damn ballpark every day. And in 1989, the Cubs were back, battling the Cardinals down the stretch. I went days without sleeping. And when "The Wild Thing" threw a heater past the Expos for the clincher, I made Busch Stadium my home away from home. Hung out for hours before and after work, just walking around the ballpark, wearing pinstripes, and nodding at every person I passed. Finally, life was good. And then Will Clark stepped into the box, and life got bad in a hurry.
Children would begin arriving in the 90's. You can't have children without giving them names, and I had some very specific names in mind. Chicago Cub Hall of Famers. It's a good thing I didn't have a big batch of kids, or I would have run out of names. To this day, when I introduce my children to people, there is this awkward pause. "Oh, you've named him after a Chicago Cub?" And then inevitably it's. "they will be scorned for life." My kids don't say much about it. They cheer, but I think they cheer more for Dad than for the Cubs. It's like "OK, if the Cubs win, dad will be happy and take us out for ice cream, so let's go Cubbies!"
The 90's, like every other decade before it, were not good to my Cubs. Oh, there was Kerry Wood striking out the Astros, and a quick playoff exit against the Braves when we sent Mark Clark to the mound against Greg Maddux, so I was more than ready for a new century. Incredibly, Y2K ushered in some remarkably bad baseball. But then, out of nowhere, the 2003 Cubs made the run of a lifetime. Dusty's Boys, Woody and Prior and the Big Z, Sammy and Moises. Hell, we even had Hee-Seop Choi. Took out the Cardinals down the stretch, blitzed the Braves in the first round, went up 3-1 on the Marlins, were ONE win away from going to the World Series with three games in hand, and I knew, I just knew, that all of my prayers were about to be answered. In fact, I was so certain of the inevitable, that I purchased a pair of World Series tickets on Ebay. Cubs vs Yankees in Yankee Stadium. Told the wife to pack her bags, that I was taking her to Broadway. I was more than prepared to steal from my kids college fund, take out a second mortgage, whatever. I would have crawled to Yankee Stadium.
And then I met a gentleman by the name of Steve Bartman, and I've been miserable old goat ever since.
By 2007, the Cubs were back, with back-to-back years in the playoffs, followed by back-to-back sweeps at the hands of the Diamondbacks and Dodgers. We were so close!!!!! (if you are measuring in light years). And since then, nothing. The Dregs on the National League. Our only purpose has been to make sure the Cardinals get whatever they need at the end of the year to steal another World Series. (Hello Carlos Marmol)
But Theo and Jed are rebuilding it. I'm assuming they care as much as I do. Castro and Rizzo are grizzled vets now. The soup is ready for Baez and Bryant and Soler. Jon Lester turned down millions elsewhere to toe the rubber at Wrigley (wouldn't you?). We have a new manager, the 44th in the 57 years of my life. They should rent, not buy. It's 2015 now. I'm not getting any younger. And this is the year "Back to the Future II" said the Cubs would do it. So here is our promise: we will be with you here every step of the way, thru spring training, thru the early months when hope springs eternal, thru the dog days of summer, thru the thrill of the pennant stretch, all the way until.........well, until they tell us to go home.
"Can't wait to see what you write about the lovable losers!"
"Hey, can you mention Brock for Broglio in your blog?"
"You know, on the Cardinals blog they are writing about 11 World Series titles."
"Why don't you just call the app "Losers?"
It might be a long year. The battle might be uphill. I am surrounded by good natured folks who sharpen their needles every day at my expense. But it's okay. I'm not going anywhere. Our message is loud and clear.
IF IT TAKES FOREVER.
About the author: Bob Cyphers has 35 years experience as a journalist in newspaper, radio and television. Sadly, he has even more experience as a die-hard, heartbroken, beaten down Cub fan. And although he promises that his beloved Cubs, as Ernie Banks predicted, would be "Surpreme in 2015," deep down Bob understands that life, and the Cubbies, offers no guarantees.