About a quarter-century ago, I did something Chicagoans of my generation almost never did: I switched baseball allegiances. I became a White Sox fan, after almost 40 years of heartbreak, roller-coaster rides, and anguish as a Cubs fan. I never looked back. Until this year.
The truth is, I haven’t been much of a baseball fan at all in recent years; at best you could probably call me a “fair weather fan.” But I regularly wear my White Sox cap, and continued to do so this fall, well into the playoff season when the whole city was focused on the North Side team. I will confess to having enjoyed a quiet pleasure as the Cubs kept winning. I didn’t watch their games, but I regularly checked the sports section of the Tribune to find out how things went. When they beat the Dodgers in the playoff series and were going to the World Series, I joined my kids in cheering out loud.
My wife Barbara has a superstition, as strong as that of any ballplayer who taps his bat three times on the plate when he’s up, or touches the bill of his cap before delivering a pitch. She believes that if she witnesses a game, our team will lose. She means it; therefore she won’t watch. I did not take the time to watch a whole game as the Series got underway, but saw snatches. Like all Chicagoans, I was dismayed as the Cubs went down two games.
But they rallied and last night I talked to myself before the game. “Ron,” I said, sotto voce, “you have to watch this game. This has never occurred before in your lifetime, and may well never occur again. You have loved the Cubs in your life, you have loved Wrigley Field, you love this city. There is no way you can sit this one out.”
And so it began. Six, seven innings of rewarding, gratifying baseball. They were actually on their way! The great Cub starter, Jon Lester, now in relief, was pitching masterful ball; just six more outs, and history would be made. Then Joe Maddon, the Cub manager, pulled him, putting Aroldis Chapman on the mound, he of the 100 mph fastballs. Only, tonight they weren’t. Bam. Bam. Bam. The worst bam of all was a two-run home run, and a tie ballgame.
I felt it in my stomach before I felt it in my head. That age-old thud, like something heavy dropping in my abdomen, the physiological equivalent of dread. And then the brain kicked in: anguish, despair. The inner voice changed. “No. No, not again. You are not going to do this to me one more time. You just aren’t.”
I reached for the remote and turned off the TV. Shortly after, I went to bed.
Barbara got up first the next morning and came back to the bedroom to give me the news. Was I happy? Absolutely! Was I ecstatic? No. Did I instantly regret that I hadn’t hung in there, that I had missed this unique event in my lifetime? No. If I had it to do over again, I would do it the same way — I would have flicked off the TV when the game was tied. Think of a soldier who suffers from PTSD, and sometime in the course of his life, someone bursts in and says: “Guess what? We’ve won the war!”
That’s great! Really! Yeah … that’s really good …”
Ron Moline is a longtime Oak Park resident.