Generations of Hope
This past weekend my wife and I were fortunate enough to have my father-in-law in town. While Johanna and her father Erich both grew up in Southern California, Erich's father George was born in Chicago and became a die-hard Cubs fan early on in life. To this day, Erich and his four siblings all continue to root for the Cubs. Johanna, her older sister Caitlin and their nine first cousins on their father's side - George's grandchildren - all bleed Cubbie blue. Here is a story that Erich likes to tell about his father.
My dad was eleven in 1935, living in Chicago. It was the depression and his father was out of work, but he had been a mechanic and manager of trucking for Standard Oil of Indiana before he got laid off. The Cubs were in the World Series that year. There was a Standard gas station across the street from Wrigley and my grandfather knew the proprietor from his work at Standard. For Game 3, the first at Wrigley, my grandfather took my dad to the station where they sat and watched the fans who could afford it go into Wrigley for the game.
After the Cubs finished off the rival Cardinals Saturday afternoon to clinch their second consecutive NL Central crown, Caitlin called Johanna from San Diego as the Cubs celebrated their post-season clinching victory on the field at Wrigley. She just assumed we were watching. To Erich's chagrin, Fox was carrying the Rays/Twins game but we were all over the score and well aware of the good news. George called his oldest child, Erich, to share in the moment. Caitlin and Johanna chatted about Chicago's post-season chances. Johanna then called her grandfather to celebrate the NL Central champs. He marveled that all of his descendants, each thousands of miles from the North Side (he lives in Long Beach now), had called him to share in his joy. That evening, before we went to dinner in Boston's South End, Johanna, her father Erich and I toasted the Cubs at City Bar in the Lenox Hotel.
The Wises of Long Beach are a family of Chicago Cubs fans.
Sometimes with a team as popular, marketable and seemingly omnipresent as the Cubs, minor successes can become overblown. As this phenomenon relates to the 2008 edition of the Cubs, it seems to have diminished their stature. Story after story about those lovable Cubs fans, the effusiveness emanating from Wrigley, and for one magical night from Miller Park, has overshadowed just how damn good this team is that Chicago has fielded this season.
They have scored more runs than any National League team. Only the Dodgers, in their spacious confines, have allowed fewer runs. No Cubs regular sports an on-base percentage south of .350. Their 110 OPS+ is their highest total of any Cubs team in 71 seasons. The 118 ERA+ Cubs pitchers boast is second only to the Dodgers. Their 188 run-differential is best in the National League by 72 runs.
There will be time to dissect the Cubs further when we evaluate their chances vis-a-vis their opposition next week for the NLDS but for now, let us acknowledge a regular season of historic significance for one of Major League Baseball's most beloved franchises. The post-season promises unpredictable twists and turns but there can be no mistaking that this is the best October team Chicago will field in generations. 73 years later, George Wise may be headed back to Wrigley for the Fall Classic.