All the Game 3 home runs make dreams clearer for suburban Cubs fans
By Burt Constable
A rocking Wrigley Field, with just a smattering of red-clad St. Louis fans among the 42,411, clearly is jacked for a higher level of postseason baseball after Monday's 8-6 win gives the Chicago Cubs a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. The noise level dims to a low roar only after Cubs ace pitcher Jake Arrieta gives up four runs in a game for the first time since June. But Cubs fans have a solution.
"As soon as (Anthony) Rizzo and (Kris) Bryant start hitting, every other team is in trouble," predicts James Ross, 26, of West Chicago, who sits in the bleachers with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Gratzke, 25, of West Chicago, his brother, Dan Ross, 24, of Downers Grove, and his mom, Karey Ross, 55, of Warrenville.
Five innings later, Bryant and Rizzo jack back-to-back homers. Cubs hitters Kyle Schwarber and Starlin Castro hit the team's first two homers. When the Cardinals pull to within a run, Jorge Soler makes it 7-4 by smacking the Cubs' fifth homer, and then Dexter Fowler adds the Cubs' sixth, setting a Major League postseason record and giving bleacher fans plenty of souvenir opportunities.
"I'll try, but if it tips off my glove, it's your responsibility," 7-year-old John Dollinger of Round Lake tells his dad. Gary Dollinger made a promise while watching the Cubs' wild-card victory in Pittsburgh during a business trip last week for Pongworks Inc., his software-development company in Libertyville.
"If the Cubs win, I'll take you to one of the games (at Wrigley)," he told his son then, setting the stage for Monday. For many, this Cubs game is a family affair.
With his two season tickets in the Wrigley bleachers, Wally Scott of Palatine brings daughter Nina to Monday's Cubs victory, and he'll bring daughter Tori Tuesday for what he hopes will be the clincher. He also brings along an old friend of sorts.
"I have to bring Ron Santo to a playoff game," says Scott, 53, who wears his No. 10 Santo jersey as a tribute to the late Cubs Hall-of-Fame third baseman, beloved for his annual optimistic proclamation. "This is the year!"
Scott, a pilot for United Airlines, doesn't like to take anything for granted, but he notes that his flight schedule just happens to be very accommodating for any postseason games that could be at Wrigley. He'll be in Hong Kong for the away games that will start the National League championship series and in Tel Aviv for the away games that start the World Series, but he'll be able to attend all the games at Wrigley.
"The Lord looked down on me and said, 'You're going to be home on the home games,'" Scott says, stopping short of predicting his Cubs finally will win the World Series. "You just don't want to say it out loud."
Fans acknowledge the painful collapses of the past and project hope for a bright future, but they are enjoying the present, even when the game is tight and the series still has at least one more game to go.
"I like (Cubs' Manager Joe) Maddon's philosophy," says longtime fan Sean Hruby of Geneva, referencing Maddon's "Don't let the pressure exceed the pleasure" mantra. Hruby is used to sitting with his mom, Debby Hruby of Wheaton, as they haven't missed an Opening Day in 31 years. But playoff wins against the Cardinals are even better.
"I'm just enjoying this year," Sean Hruby says, "like I will next year and the next year."
The 1989 season ended with a playoff loss to the San Francisco Giants, but Cubs fan Guy DeRosa, 48, of South Elgin remembers the thrill of postseason baseball at Wrigley Field.
"It was a great memory for me and I want my boys to experience it," says DeRosa, who coughed up $1,200 for bleacher seats for him and his sons Guy John, 10, and Joey, 9. That was cheaper than the season tickets he gave up five years ago for economic reasons.
"We ran out of money but never ran out of love," DeRosa says.
"If the Cubs win and the Mets win, I'm already there," says Gary Dollinger, who has a ticket lined up in New York. While conceding that older Cubs fans still hate the Mets after that team broke the hearts of 1969 Cubs fan, he says he can blend his dual fanships.
"We all have one thing in common. We both hate the Cardinals," Dollinger says.
Fans will get another chance to hate those Cardinals on Tuesday.
Regardless of how this postseason ends, Scott says Cubs fans should be encouraged.
"It's like a plan that finally is coming to fruition," Scott says, noting the Cubs now have better young players, better facilities, a better farm system and a blueprint for success. "This is the beginning. You can see that the Cubs will compete. It's beautiful."