Late to the Party

By Randy Richardson

Yesterday, I made a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field. The last time I had been there was Game 1 of the National League Division Series, a game that the Cubs won in dramatic fashion when Javier Baez hit a solo home run in the eighth that would hold up as the lone run of the game. That is still the best game I’ve ever attended, and I will hold onto it for the rest of my life.

randy-wrigleyA lot has happened at 1060 West Addison since then, but I wasn’t there for any of it. Not even for the celebration, a party that I’d been waiting for since 1969, the year I became a Cub fan.

After that first postseason win, I watched every game on TV. All but one at my home in Evanston. The one that I didn’t watch in the friendly confines of my home I watched at the Yard House in Coral Gables, Florida, near Miami. That was Game 7 of the World Series. I’d searched Google for a Cub-friendly bar but while there are some in Florida, I didn’t find one near Miami, where I was staying for the night and had to be at the airport at the crack of dawn. I hoped that it would be a fast game and wouldn’t go into extra innings. Deep down inside I knew what was to come.

When the grounds crew rolled the tarps over the infield at Progressive Field after the ninth inning, I looked to my friend – a White Sox fan – and gave him the nod to get Uber to take us back to our hotel. We made it back to the room just in time to catch Kyle Schwarber lead off the tenth with a line drive single to right field. I saw Kris Bryant slip on the wet infield grass as he threw the final out to Anthony Rizzo. And for the next week, that was about all I saw or heard about the Cubs’ first World Series championship in 108 years.

In my 46 years as a Cubs fan I’ve often imagined what it would be like if it finally happened. I thought there would be cheers and hugs and more than a few tears. I didn’t experience any of that. That next morning, I was instead in Cuba, an island country frozen in time, with almost no connection to the rest of the world. They do care passionately there about baseball, and word had already spread that the Chicago Cubs had won the World Series. But there would otherwise be no real news of what was happening in Chicago. If hell had frozen over or if pigs had flown, I wouldn’t have known about it.

wrigley-marqueeSo, that brings me back to yesterday, exactly a week after 5 million Cubs fans reportedly celebrated in an historic parade from Wrigley Field to Grant Park – making it the seventh largest gathering in human history. I made my own personal pilgrimage to the Friendly Confines, which, I discovered, is already a construction zone all the way around it. There were a handful of others like me, walking around it from a distance, taking it all in – breathing it all in. Most were congregated at the corner of Clark and Addison streets, taking selfies of the iconic red marquee, which now reads “WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS.” No exclamation mark needed.

lakeview-baseball-cluBut the one thing that I really came to see was the Lakeview Baseball Club building, located across the street at 3633 North Sheffield Avenue, where for years I’ve seen those historic “EAMUS CATULI!” and “AC” signs, posted in large, white capital letters on a blue background on the upper facade of the building, just beyond the ballpark’s right field bleachers. Both are Latin-based and loosely translate, respectively, to “Let’s Go Cubs!” and “Anno Catulorum,” meaning “In the Year of the Cubs.” The numbers that follow refer to three different date markers – counting the years since the team’s seasonal and playoff success, from the divisional title, to the league title, to the World Series. When I looked up at it yesterday, for the first time I saw all zeroes after the AC. That’s when it truly sank in.

When I came home, I read “You Go, We Go,” Dexter Fowler’s behind-the-scenes account of Game 7. If you haven’t read it, do so. It beautifully paints one of sport’s greatest stories in vivid colors.

In this article, Fowler tells the story of his leadoff home run and the last out. And of course Jason Heyward’s locker room rally cry during that rain delay.

Wrote Fowler: “He saw that there were a lot of emotions swirling for us, and he said what needed to be said: We’ve come too far to let it slip away like this. We’re the better team. So let’s turn up and just go out and play like we know how.

“It wasn’t anything we hadn’t heard before, but it was something that we needed to hear at that exact moment. And it was how he said it that really had an impact. You could see it in his eyes, you could hear it in his voice. It was really something. I’ll never forget it.”

After reading Fowler’s words, I fully appreciated why Theo Epstein signed Heyward to that eight-year, $184 million contract, and it had little to do with his batting average. I also came to realize how lucky the Cubs were when Fowler, at the beginning of the season, walked away from a better deal with the Baltimore Orioles, to return to Chicago.

Then, finally, I watched the victory celebration, which my wife had thoughtfully recorded for me. All five hours of it. That’s when all the tears that I’d been holding inside for all these years finally came out. It was just me, alone watching TV in the den. But I no longer felt alone. It was perfect. And it was everything that I always thought it would be.

Randy Richardson is the author of the Wrigleyville murder mystery, Lost in the Ivy, and a regular contributor to Wrigleyville Nation