A pop, a hop and a trot….that epitomized the 1990′s for the Chicago Cubs. He, in all his glory, was the shining star of the team and the center of attention for all fans. His sprint to right field electrified the entire stadium before a pitch was even thrown. He made millions upon millions for the franchise and gave us the hope of a better day. We watched him grow into a man before our very eyes while he stole our hearts. Even in a 10-2 loss, as long as he went yard, it was a good day and the beer gardens were overflowing with people more so than their respective beers. Then in 1998 the rest of this great nation finally learned what we had been taught for years, not only was he a phenomenally talented baseball player, but he also had a contagious personality and a smile as bright as a light house beacon. Yes, baseball had definitely been ‘very, very’ good to him. He and his red-headed buddy captured everyone’s attention as they chased Roger Maris’ record. Then, there was that glorious evening in St. Louis where competition was forgotten and Gracie was right there to shake Mr. McGwire’s hand as he rounded the bases for the 62nd time that year. Who will ever forget the injected first baseman lifting his Dominican ‘brother’ up in the air as they celebrated the feat together. Finally, the healing that Cal Ripken Jr. started at the end of the ’95 season had been completed by the most unlikely of friends. Baseball was back, our boy was the MVP and the beloved Cubs were on their way to the playoffs.
Seasons continued to turnover and home run records were evaporating before our very eyes. Again, he managed to not only capture the nation but make us all cry that night in 2001 when he charged out to right field with the beautiful American flag flapping in right hand. He went on to finish that season as the first and only player in major league history to hit 60 homeruns in three different professional seasons.
Two seasons later, on a team loaded for bear, he was hit in the head with a Salomon Torres pitch on Easter Sunday. About two months after that his bat broke in half and at that very moment, his legend began to break in half as well. He kept it together for most of the season and into the playoffs. He hit one of the most memorable homeruns in Cubs history to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth during Game One of the NLCS. Eight short days later, the storybook season ended in a ‘horror movie’ type of manner and the crack in the legend began to deepen.
The ‘corked bat’ incident only worsened when whispers of steroids began circulating through the baseball media. The ’04 season was promising, the Cubs were good and a return to the playoffs seemed imminent. Then the team and the manager unraveled, blaming everyone from umpires to their own announcers, even physically threatening them at one point. They ultimately collapsed over the last week of the season and the once beloved star walked out on his team early and in the end, forever. One of his fellow players, ahem….KW, took a bat to his infamous boom-box and like that, his lore was finished, his time done and his storybook existence ruined.
All any fan wanted was to get him out of town and that is what the Hendry finally did. After a pathetic ’05 campaign, the once beloved star called it quits and returned to his homeland. He was never to be heard from again, or so we thought. After a year on the proverbial pine the popping, hopping and trotting star is back. Sure the average is down, but the pop and the hop are most definitely still there, it is almost a sight to be seen.
Some may feel the way I do and some may disagree, but as my favorite baseball team prepares to face the heart and soul of their past, there is only one thing I want to say….
I forgive you Sammy.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and until next time….
Stay Classy Cubs Fans!!