FLY THE W

Today is November 2, 2016. Yes, the MLB season runs much too long. But that having been said we knew back in April that this would be the end of the road. I want to say this early in the morning, before a pitch is thrown that Cubs Nation, from the Ricketts family on down the line should be proud. No matter tonight’s outcome. As a whole we have never experienced anything like it before. Us, the Cubs are in a World Series. Let that sink in. I’ll be thinking of my dad tonight. Millions of the faithful (when you only do this once every seven decades or so there is lots of time to regenerate) who will no doubt be doing the same. Remembering a loved one who is no longer with us. In my case I want this at least as much for him as for myself. Dad became a Cubs fan around 1930 when he was 15. He worked (apprenticed really) for a local dry cleaners in his hometown of Wynne, Arkansas where he was able to pick up bits and pieces of the games on WGN Radio, which was “clear channel.” He could have just as easily become a Cardinals fan courtesy of KMOX out of St. Louis but he chose the Cubs. It could be argued that the Cubs chose him. 1930 was the year Hack Wilson hit 56 home runs, at the time a National League record. He also drove in 191, still the Major League record. In a 154 game season. Think about that, an average of nearly 1.25 RBI per game. But back to dad. Dad emigrated to Chicago in 1941. He quickly embraced all the sports teams but especially the Cubs. He was actually a resident of Chicago in 1945 but was away courtesy of the United States Military and WWII. Like many fans he knew the history of the team and could name the greats from a bygone era. Because of him, as the 1960’s rolled around and his only child caught the fever for the game and especially the Cubs, I learned about Gabby Hartnett and Charlie Grimm. About Andy Pafko and Dizzy Dean’s brief stay with the team. The Cubs were about midway among the teams bringing Negro players into the majors. They bought the contracts of a couple young infielders, one Gene Baker played second base. He hung around a couple seasons. The second was destined to become the greatest Cubs player of them all: Ernie Banks. By the mid sixties the Wrigley family, possibly frustrated with what by that time was two decades of mediocrity had begun to assemble a young team of home grown talent including two Rookies of the Year: second baseman Ken Hubbs who tragically lost his life in a plane crash. And Billy Williams. Ron Santo came in. A great keystone combination of Don Kessinger, who grew up down the road from my dad’s hometown in Forrest City, AR. And Glenn Beckert who was almost impossible to strike out. 1965 saw Ken Holtzman, who was sometimes compared to Sandy Koufax since both were southpaws and Jewish. Kenny outdueled Sandy one Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field. 2-1. 1966 brought Ferguson Arthur Jenkins, Jr. The pride of Chatham, Ontario, Canada as Jack Brickhouse often called him who would run off six straight 20 win seasons accumulating 3000 strikeouts (while allowing less than 300 walks) and come up just shy of 300 wins on his way to the HOF. He is one of the most honored athletes in the history of Canada. Cecil Randolph Hundley joined the fold and taught the baseball world at least a full season before Johnny Bench got credit for it that a catcher could use his mitt hand alone to catch, thereby leaving a hand free for pick off plays and gunning down base stealers. One young talent we let slip away was Louis Clark Brock. Beginning a tradition that would be repeated many times over the ensuing decades: leave the Cubs, win a World Series ring. The trade is often cited as one of the worst, not only in Cubs history but in the history of the game, period. The Cubs certainly got the short end of the deal, parting with a young, fleet footed player for a couple of, as it would turn out, washed up over the hill pitchers who would be gone before the next season ended. Brock of course went on to a HOF career that included over 3000 hits and at the time of his retirement major league record 938 stolen bases. What is often overlooked in this scenario is the choice was between Brock and Billy Williams. One of them was going to have to go because neither could play right field at Wrigley. Being my father’s son I was aware of all this and more. Trust me, dad is calm but happy and prepared for whatever tonight brings, win lose or draw. Being first, last and always  a Chicagoan, for me this is as good as it gets. The Chicago Cubs are still playing in a game that means something. There were many, many days I thought this could never happen. FLY the W! Go Cubs Go!

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