Wednesday evening into the early hours of Thursday I sat clutching my mug of herbal tea, glued to the television, pondering whether I could or even should stay up for the final score of the 7th Game of the 2016 World Series. I had a major presentation Thursday afternoon for the launch of a company project that would involve senior executives. But this was the Cubs! After a 108 year drought there was hope, even after they blew a huge lead that normally meant another loss was in the offing. But I refused to give up through the rain delay and a 10th inning and found myself jumping up and down while screaming with absolute joy, alone, in my family room in Winchester, Virginia 47 years after watching my first Cubs game on WGN, one of 6 channels we received with cable TV in Logansport, Indiana in 1969.
During my childhood I was a tomboy. While I did play with Barbies, during the summer I played baseball with the neighborhood boys. No softball for this girl! I loved hardball, pitching, batting and first base. I wanted to be a major-leaguer. Nothing was more exhilarating than hitting a home run over the roof of the neighbor’s garage. I played poker and marbles with the neighborhood boys for baseball cards, football cards and marbles and amassed quite a collection.
My parents were not sports fans beyond listening to the Indy 500 on the radio or attending local high school basketball games. After all, in Indiana, basketball was king. But for some reason I was drawn to baseball and the Chicago Cubs. Baseball was the perfect sport for radio. It’s slow elegance made it perfect for listening to afternoon games on my transistor radio while reading a book or sitting in the sun. I remember watching Ernie Banks hit his 500th home run on TV; I still recall the names of the 1969 team that came so close to winning the National League pennant: Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Don Kessinger, Randy Hundley, Glenn Beckert, Billy Williams, and Fergie Jenkins. So began 47 years of hope and disappointment.
Unlike my brother-in-law that remained ever hopeful to the rueful smiles of the rest of the family, I began to lose interest in the Cubs and baseball in general. The use of steroids in the 1990’s marred batting statistics of great players such as Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds and I no longer felt a connection to the game that celebrates individual and team achievement.
But once a Cub fan always a Cub fan.And Americans always love an underdog story. The 2016 World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs brought together two underdogs and America watched with hope. If the Cubs and Indians made it to the Series, there is hope for America! The Series distracted us from an bitter election season, police shootings, Vladimir Putin and ISIS.
Everybody was suddenly talking about the World Series at a time when people were pondering the demise of baseball. Maybe this is just what Baseball and America needed.
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