When you buy tickets for a Major League Baseball game, you buy them having no idea what’s going to happen on that day. This is especially true buying them several months in advance, like we often have to do these days since tickets are in such high demand and attending a game requires a lot of planning. We just don’t know what the weather will be like, who will be pitching, or what the starting lineup will look like, much less whether our team will win that day.
I was at Friday’s Cubs game against the Brewers at Wrigley Field. I only bought my tickets about a month ago, but even at the time I had no idea how special of a day it would be. As most fans know by now, the Cubs were behind 4-2 going into the bottom of the ninth before they rallied for two runs, then finished the comeback win with a Miguel Montero walkoff home run in the tenth. After the game, the team celebrated their NL Central division title on the field, with thousands of fans hanging around and roaring their approval.
Back when I bought the tickets, I didn’t think the Cubs would be so far ahead in the division that they would actually have a chance to clinch the division title on that day. And had the Cardinals been able to beat the Giants the night before, that Friday’s game would have been the official clincher. Instead, due to the Cardinals’ loss on Thursday, the division was already wrapped up before Friday’s game.
While I normally root for the Cubs and against anyone who is right behind them in the standings, there was a big part of me that was hoping the Cardinals would win Thursday night to set up a possible clinching game the next day. And I admit that I was pretty disappointed when I saw that, with the division wrapped up, Joe Maddon went with a lineup of mostly bench players while giving stars like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist, Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward, and Addison Russell the day off. (Russell did later appear as a pinch-hitter and was part of the ninth inning rally.)
But even with the Cubs using mostly backup players against the rebuilding Brewers virtually at full strength, it still was a fun and intense game in which the home team came out on top. That alone made it an exciting day. And after mobbing each other at home plate following Montero’s game-ending homer, the team stayed on the field and congratulated each other on their division title, almost as if this win was indeed the clincher. It’s hard to imagine a more exciting day at Wrigley than that – at least in the regular season.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get to witness a Cubs playoff game in person, as tickets are so expensive. Even regular season tickets are getting to be costly, so I don’t usually go to more than a couple of games a year. So, I don’t know if I will ever again get to experience anything like what I got to see on Friday. While at the game, I made sure that I was cherishing every moment, and I’m sure I’ll never forget it. And to help me remember, I’ll display my Kyle Schwarber bobble head that they gave away in my house.
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.