Being a fan of the Chicago Cubs is a weird way to live life.
Millionaire Corner has its offices in Lake Forest north of Chicago. Cubs fans abound on the north side of Chicago.
This was an interesting week to be a Cubs fan. On Monday, new Cubs superstar rookie Kris Bryant hit two home runs to lead the Cubs to victory, at the time their eighth win in a row. Cubs fans are abuzz with the success of the very young Cubs team these days, even though the Cubs have gone 107 seasons without winning a World Series and has disappointed fans time and time again.
Like in 1984, when the Cubs won the National League Eastern Division to make the postseason for the first time since 1945. The Cubs lost the National League Championship series 3-2 to the San Diego Padres. Ryne Sandberg won the National League Most Valuable Player that season.
On June 23, 1984, Sandberg hit two home runs in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. The home runs came in the ninth and 10th innings, tied the game in both cases, and the Cubs won the game in the 11th inning. In Chicago, Sandberg’s two home-run game is a big deal, at least to Cubs fans, who celebrated the 31st anniversary of the game on Tuesday.
Bryant, a media-savvy talent, declared on Monday night it was a shame he hit his two home runs one day earlier rather than on the anniversary of Sandberg’s big day.
What is so weird about being a Cubs fan is that a two home-run game in late June 31 years ago is a big deal because the club doesn’t have that much really big stuff (like championships) to celebrate. (Kudos to ESPN Chicago radio talk show host and former Chicago Bears wide receiver Tom Waddle for pointing this out endlessly.)
On Tuesday night this week (the 31st anniversary night, as Cubs fans would call it), something unusual happened in the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. A fan named Keith Hartley caught a foul ball from the stands while holding his infant son Isaac in his arms. Isaac was drinking from a baby bottle throughout the play.
Hartley, it turns out, actually interfered on the play. The ball he caught could have been caught by the Dodgers infielder chasing the ball down. The umpires called the Cubs batter out because of the fan interference.
Still, Hartley was an instant hero, appearing on radio stations and TV news programs and on national sports programs as well.
His catch, however, immediately brought to mind the horrible day, Oct. 14, 2003, when Cubs fan Steve Bartman attempted to catch a foul ball that was much deeper in the stands than the one Hartley hit. Bartman’s failed attempt (he didn’t make the catch) did interfere with Cubs outfielder Moises Alou’s attempt to catch the ball for what would have been the second out of the eighth inning of a national League championship series game against the Florida Marlins.
Had Alou made that catch, the Cubs would have been four outs away from going to the World Series for the first time since 1945. Instead, the Cubs reacted poorly to the events in which Bartman was involved, and let the lead and the game slip away. They lost that series, and Bartman effectively lost his life.
That poor young man was hounded endlessly for what he attempted to do, even though Alou might not have been able to get to the foul ball on the play. Bartman went into hiding 12 years ago and has not been seen publicly, anywhere, since.
So let’s recap. A rookie phenom hits two home runs in a game in June, which recalls for Cubs fans the day a former Cubs superstar hit two home runs in a game one day later in June 31 years ago, even though those home runs did nothing to alleviate the Cubs’ long history of not winning the World Series.
On the day of the celebrated two home-run game 31 years ago, a man put his infant son in harm’s way potentially by trying to catch a foul ball that would almost certainly have been caught by a player in the field. That fan’s catch cost the Cubs an out, although lucky for that fan the Cubs went on to win that game. That man was celebrated.
That play brought to mind a play 12 years ago, when a man tried to catch a foul ball much deeper into the stands than the man from this week, didn’t make the catch, and got blamed for costing the Cubs a chance at the World Series.
It was a big week in Cubdom this week. Unfortunately for Cubs fans, that’s what constitutes a big week for them.