Constable: Bote miracle rekindles feelings from 'Sandberg Game'
Even with our Chicago Cubs trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning and down to their last strike, my wife, Cheryl, and I are enjoying our night at Wrigley Field. It's a perfect summer evening with a soothing breeze. The fans around us are having fun. We did get to see masterful pitching performances from the Cubs' Cole Hamels and the Washington Nationals' Max Scherzer.
But, we both know what could make it better.
"It could happen," Cheryl says to me the moment before it does.
Twenty-five-year-old rookie David Bote, the 554th player taken in the 2012 draft, the guy on the Cubs' roster because star Kris Bryant is on the disabled list with a sore left shoulder, launches a ball into the night, into the center-field batting eye 442 feet from home plate, and into Cubs' lore as a game-winning, pinch-hit, walk-off grand-slam home run.
"It's magical. It's incredible. It's an unbelievable feeling," a Gatorade-drenched Bote says during the postgame, on-field interview for a national TV audience -- not that fans could hear him above our screaming. We are coming up with the words "magical," "incredible" and "unbelievable" on our own, as we blanket each other and giddy ushers with high-fives instead of Gatorade.
"You'll remember this one," an older fan says as we wend our way out of a joyous Wrigley Field.
I remember the last time my wife and I celebrated an epic comeback together at Wrigley Field. The Cubs were down 9-0 to the Houston Astros on Aug. 29, 1989, when the home team, anchored by Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace, staged an improbable rally before a 10th-inning, bases-loaded single by Dwight Smith gave the Cubs a 10-9 win.
Of course, that reminds me of sitting down the right-field line on June 23, 1984, for another walk-off victory that was perhaps the most memorable regular-season victory in Cubs' history. My friend, Mike, snagged us tickets for that nationally televised game on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field against the hated St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs were down 7-1 by the second inning. Trailing 9-3, the Cubs scored five runs in the sixth inning to make it exciting.
By the bottom of the ninth-inning, the NBC TV booth already had awarded player-of-the-game honors to the Cardinals' Willie McGee, who hit for the cycle, the only time I've ever witnessed that rare feat at Wrigley Field. But we fans, who already sensed the 1984 season would be "magical," "incredible" and "unbelievable," knew it could happen.
In a battle of future Hall-of Famers, Sandberg hit a game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth inning against Cardinals closer Bruce Sutter. After the Cards pushed across two runs in the 10th inning, Sandberg crushed another game-tying homer off Sutter in the 10th. It was exhausting for us fans who had to go into hysterics in consecutive innings. The game, which propelled the Cubs second-baseman to the season's MVP award, became known as "The Sandberg Game" everywhere except in the household of backup infielder Dave Owen, who got the game-winning, bases-loaded, pinch-hit walk-off single for a 12-11 victory in what he probably calls "The Owen Game."
As fans, my wife and I simply enjoy the moment as we walk into the Wrigleyville night after witnessing "The Bote Game." I've watched the replay a dozen or so times since seeing it live. Part of the fun of being a fan is imagining all the magical, incredible and unbelievable things that could blossom from the seeds planted tonight. I'm not only certain that Bote's homer will be part of the commemorative 2018 Chicago Cubs World Series Championship Season DVD, but I'm thinking it might even get a mention on Bote's Hall of Fame plaque in 2038.