We are disoriented. Cubs fans are used to moving on to football by October. Our association with baseball in the fall has usually been looking over someone’s shoulder at a TV in a bar asking, “Who’s playing? Oh yeah? What’s the score?”
This year is all new. That’s because not only are the Cubs still playing on October 15th, but they have a really good chance of winning. Honest. I would not have said that through eight innings on Tuesday night. None of us would have. No, despite 103 regular season victories, we were thinking 1969 when the Cubs blew a 9 1/2 game lead in September. We were thinking 1984 when they were up two zip and got swept by the Padres in San Diego. We were thinking 1989 when San Francisco made easy work of them in the NLCS and 2003 when Steve Bartman seemed a latter day manifestation of Billy Sianis’s goat or 2015 when the New York Mets swept the Cubs in the NLCS. Now we are thinking, “Maybe, just maybe.”
That’s because Tuesday night the Cubs scored 4 runs in the 9th inning in a come from behind playoff victory over the San Francisco Giants. The Chicago National League baseball club had never done that in its 140 year history. In fact, now listen to this, no one had. No major league team in post season history had ever come from behind to score 4 runs in the 9th to win. Sorry to be repetitious. I could say it over and over again.
How did they do it? With children. Twenty-four-year-old Willson Contreras in his first half season in the majors drove in the tying run, and twenty-three-year-old Javier Baez in his first full major league season -- who is not only a wonderful baseball player but a gymnast and magician as well (look for his highlight film on YouTube in which he slides over, around, under and through tags, and in the field reaches behind himself in mid-air to tag out the other guy who can’t believe it until he sees the replay later) -- got the game-winning hit, and twenty-five year old Carl Edwards Jr. pitched a perfect seventh. And that is not to mention 22-year-old-shortstop Addison Russell who looks like a fawn and may be the team’s best all-around player, or 24-year-old-Jorge Soler who got so excited earlier in the year that he jumped out of the dugout and ran the bases with a teammate who had hit a homer, or 23-year-old Kyle Schwarber who wrecked his knee in the third game of the season going all-out to catch a ball in the outfield and is lying in wait for the 2017 National League, or 24-year-old Kris Bryant and gray beard Anthony Rizzo (he’s 27) who are vying for NL MVP honors or the best starting rotation in baseball or hired gun closer Aroldis Chapman who threw 13 pitches Tuesday not one of which was less than a hundred miles an hour to strike out the Giants in the 9th.
Wow! This is such fun. So much in fact that I didn’t mind at all not using the ticket my kids bought me for game five between the Cubs and Giants at Wrigley Field on Thursday. Nope. In fact, it was the very best baseball game I never saw.
-- Peter Ferry