Around 10:45 on a Saturday morning in the fall of 2003, I went outside to grab a pair of shoes from my car. As I was heading back inside, I noticed my buddy Mike getting out of a cab. He was arriving, albeit a little late, for the Cubs double-header that day against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Mike looked a little out of sorts from the events of the prior evening and was drinking a mini-bottle of Aquafina. It is fair to say that he had stayed out a bit too late.
Mike is not a small man; he is about 6’6″ and has spent more than his fair share of time in a gym. He was wearing a long-sleeve white t-shirt and khaki shorts. He walked up to me with a good deal of water dripping down his chin and said,
“My wife is more mad at me right now than she has ever been in her life, if the Cubs couldn’t clinch today; there is NO WAY I would be here.”
And so began Saturday, September 27th, 2003, my favorite day at Wrigley.
We arrived at Wrigley, alongside Mike’s brother-in-law, and took our seats. The first game started at noon, and I hoped I would not be leaving for a long time. The evening before, in what I still consider a baseball miracle, the Milwaukee Brewers had defeated the Houston Astros. This meant that if the Cubs won both games AND the Brewers won again on Saturday that the Cubs would clinch the Central Division title, their first title in 14 years.
The excitement at Wrigley that day was like nothing I had ever witnessed. Grown men were so giddy you would think they had received a permanent ‘fun pass’ from their wives. Children were so amazed without even truly understanding what they were about to witness. The service vendors were running around so fast meanwhile being absolutely sure they did not miss a pitch. I cannot even fathom what Ron Santo was doing or thinking and I am sure it was not too easy to understand what he was saying. To all critics of the fan base at Wrigley, EVERY person there was paying attention to the game and knew exactly what was happening, even in the skyboxes.
For the next six some odd hours, time stood still, nothing outside of those friendly confines mattered. Around the seventh or eighth inning of the first game, the scoreboard showed a Brewers victory and the crowd erupted. The Cubs had a comfortable lead and every one of the 40,000 some people knew ecstasy lie right around the corner, hopefully.
I must be honest; I do not remember many details of either game because I just kept dreaming about what could be and what could happen. I could not wrap my mind around the possibilities or the shear fact that my team could clinch. All I knew was that the Cubs had the lead and the innings were ticking away.
There was a break between the first and second game and on my way back from the modern and palatial restroom facilities at Wrigley, it all hit me, “we are SO going to win this game.” There was no way the Pittsburgh Pirates were going to stop this team of “Dustiny.”
As the Seventh Inning stretch rolled around and the Cubs were winning, we were only six outs away. I do not remember the score, but I do remember a ground ball to Alex Gonzalez, and then….and then….the greatest jubilation I have experienced in relation to sports. I just started jumping up and down, clearing a solid two and a half inches with every leap. Mike, Steve and I were hugging each other like little kids. My second family, Section 409, was going crazy. My friends in front of me had turned around to hug and high five and go nuts, simply nuts. The sounds were deafening, the joy unparalleled and the feeling indescribable.
For the next 30 minutes I stood ON my chair at Wrigley to rejoice, and for once, my buddy Mike had to look up to me. I watched the Cubs celebrate their accomplishment on the field as the sweet sounds of Freddie Mercury took over:
“We are the champions, we are the champions, we are the champions of the world.”
It had been five years since the Bulls won a title and it was real good to hear that song blaring into the crisp Chicago evening once again.
Okay, so I cried, I had goose-bumps and I hugged more complete strangers in a 90 minute span than I ever have in my life. About 30 minutes after the game ended the crowd was fixated on a rooftop building off of Sheffield, the one with the blue awning and the infamous sign that read “AC145895.” Then a window opened on the third floor and a man crawled out. The crowd started reacting, and as he replaced the 1 and the 4 with double zero, it went insane. Only four more numbers to go I thought, only four more.
Soon there after we left the stadium and joined the swarms of Cubs Faithful on Clark street celebrating the greatest day Wrigleyville had witnessed in five long years. However, this was not 1998, this was going to be different. As you can imagine it was not easy to find our way into an establishment to join in the revelry, but just walking the streets was enough.
I arrived back at my house in Lakeview about two hours after the game ended to find a party. My roommate and many friends were not as privileged as I to be in the stadium for the game, and as anyone knows, it would have been too difficult to even move had they attempted to join the celebration at the epicenter of baseball at 1060 W. Addison. Therefore, they did the next best thing.
I had trouble concentrating on much that evening, outside of the Cubs. I hid in my room to watch hours of replays. One can enjoy a party any random Saturday night, but the Cubs have only clinched anything five times in the prior 58 years. I rejoined my friends quite some time later to say good night, after all, I had to get some sleep; the Cubs were retiring Santo’s jersey the next day.
As I awoke Sunday morning, I could not comprehend what I had witnessed the day before or that I would be returning to Wrigley in five short days for a home playoff game. That Saturday had been my favorite day watching baseball. As I walked downstairs to leave for the game I realized that no one had cleaned up from the previous evening. I surveyed the wreck that was my condo, and then I took a step back, smiled, and said aloud, “CUBS WIN!, CUBS WIN!”
I hope you enjoyed the story, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, and until next time….
Stay Classy Cubs Fans