Constable: To all the Cubs we've loved before
As difficult as it is to come to grips with Chicago Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman surrendering that stunning game-tying homer to the Cleveland Indians' Rajai Davis in the bottom of the 8th inning Wednesday, it's even harder to hang up on my worried, widowed, 89-year-old mom.
"Oh, Burt," Mom says in a shaky voice as soon as I answer the phone. "I don't think Joe Maddon should have put in Chapman. I don't think he's …"
"Mom, Mom," I interrupt firmly. "Mom. You might be right. But I've got to go."
Instead of reassuring Mom that her Cubs will find a way to pull out the victory, I dump her so that I can get started on my alternate "Cubs Lose World Series in Shocking Collapse" column.
"This Chicago Cubs season, as do all Cubs seasons of our lives, ended short of a World Series championship," I type into the laptop while staring at the TV in my living room. "In an especially heartbreaking collapse in which Chicago seemed to have the game won twice, the Cubs lost 9-8 in extra innings to the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 on Wednesday night in Cleveland to lose the series and crush the dreams of Cubs fans hoping their team would end a 108-year drought. Goats, black cats, foul balls and other creatures in the folk tales of curses continue their nightmarish hold on the dreams of innocent Cubs fans, who just want to see the team win one measly World Series before they die."
It went on like that for a while, comparing the old, lingering pain of never making it to a World Series with the raw, fresh pain of coming so close. Like blood oozing from a wound after you rip off a Band-Aid, memories of years when the Cubs didn't win the World Series begin to flow. It's surprisingly cathartic.
Like many Cubs fans, I had penciled in 2016 as the year World Series heroes Mark Prior and Kerry Wood would be inducted into the Hall of Fame together. I remember polishing my "Cubs Go to the World Series" column from the grandstand in Wrigley Field in 2003 when a foul ball, an error and a bunch of bad stuff made me rewrite that column. That Cubs team had a pair of young players I thought fans would cheer for the next decade: Corey Patterson and Hee-Seop Choi, who reminds me of Dad, who died that year without ever seeing his Cubs win a World Series.
We were watching that 2003 Cubs team on TV in the farmhouse room in which Dad was born 87 years earlier and would die in another week. "Hey, Burt," Dad said so loudly that he startled me. "How come the Cubs aren't playing that big Chinese fellow at first base anymore?"
I explained that Choi, who actually is Korean, suffered a concussion. Dad nodded and that was the last conversation we had. So many readers say this World Series reminds them of loved ones and former Cubs who didn't live long enough to experience the joy. Songwriter Steve Goodman's "Go, Cubs, Go" is our anthem, but Goodman died before the playoffs started in 1984. There are lots of W flags and Cubs hats in cemeteries today.
Many fans teared up during the postseason when they'd show footage of the old third-baseman Ron Santo clicking his heels to celebrate a victory during the 1969 season. Fans still love the players from that team. Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams made appearances during the postseason.
But Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, who died in 2015 at age 83, now is confined to the black-and-white footage of him blasting homers above the ivy-covered left-field wall. For years, my computer password in the newsroom was Beckert, in honor of my all-time favorite Cub, second-baseman Glenn Beckert.
It doesn't matter if they are Hall of Famers such as Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson, stars such as Mark Grace, Leon Durham and Derrek Lee, really good players such as Jose Cardenal, Shawon Dunston and Randy Hundley, or cult favorites such as Paul Popovich, Carmen Fanzone and Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes, the names of players who didn't make it to a World Series with the Cubs still hold a place in our hearts.
As does Mom, who is pretty happy with Ben Zobrist and the World Champion Cubs when I call her back about 12:30 a.m. Thursday.