Pearl Jam has been one of the most successful rock bands of the past generation. And their lead singer, Eddie Vedder, is also a huge Chicago Cubs fan. Late in the 2008 season, as the Cubs were closing in on a division title, Vedder released his song “All the Way” that expressed the hope of winning a championship that all of us have dreamed of for so long.
Down the stretch and right before the playoffs, I played that song over and over. It got me excited for a great postseason run. But instead, as we all remember, the Dodgers swept the Cubs out of the first round. For seven years, as the Cubs were going through their painful rebuild, I didn’t have the strength to play that song again. But when the Cubs got their magic number for a Wild Card spot down to one last year, I decided to look the song up on YouTube. As I listened to the song for the first time in seven years, I finally made peace with what happened in 2008. It was an important step in rediscovering the joy of being a Cubs fan, as I did throughout that memorable run of 2015.
I’ve been listening to Pearl Jam almost my whole life, so when they announced that they were coming to Wrigley Field, home of my favorite team, I knew I had to be there. My friend was able to get us tickets to Saturday night’s show, and we had an awesome time listening to (and singing along with) many of their hits and also a few covers. And like any diehard Cubs fan would, I periodically got on my phone to see how the team was doing in their game in Colorado against the Rockies (they won).
In spite of it being a great show overall, I was hoping it would have at least a little more of a baseball theme to it. (During their Wrigley show in 2013, Ernie Banks, who has since passed away, made an appearance.) After the first encore was over, I was a little disappointed in that regard. But then for the second encore, Vedder came back on stage wearing a Cubs jersey. I knew what was coming next.
Vedder talked about how his favorite player growing up was Jose Cardenal before the late Ron Santo’s three children, plus Cardenal himself, came on stage. Vedder then started playing his “All the Way” song, with clips of current and past Cubs highlights playing on the video board. It got me all the more pumped up during what has been possibly the greatest Cubs season of our lifetimes.
As Vedder was playing that song, I looked around the stadium and thought about all the historical moments – both good and bad – that have taken place there over the past 100 years. There were many Cubs fans in attendance (though it appeared there were also people there who aren’t baseball fans), and there was something special about us all bonding together with one of the team’s most famous fans, though the team was away playing a game on the road.
During the show, both Vedder and some fans were on stage, with stories about how the band’s music has influenced their lives. Many of Pearl Jam’s songs have been an important part of my life over the years. But Vedder’s passion for the Cubs has special meaning for me too. As I sang along with “All the Way” at the concert, I felt my passion for baseball coming out, along with my hope that we will someday see that final out that clinches a World Series victory.
Hopefully this will be the year we see it happen. But even if it isn’t, I’ll always remember this moment from the 2016 season. It’s all part of the journey, and though I haven’t met Eddie Vedder, I thank him for his inspiration he provides to Cubs fans everywhere. It reminds me that I’m not alone.
Brian Johnston is the author of the book The Art of Being a Baseball Fan, his story of following the 2015 Chicago Cubs, available on Amazon. He lives in St. Joseph, Michigan with his wife and two children.