Rozner: Chicago Cubs win on night to remember at Wrigley

Updated 9/12/2018 6:12 AM
  • Chicago Cubs' Ben Zobrist (18) is greeted by his teammates after scoring against the Milwaukee Brewers during the second inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in Chicago.

    Chicago Cubs' Ben Zobrist (18) is greeted by his teammates after scoring against the Milwaukee Brewers during the second inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in Chicago.

Everything about it felt like playoff baseball Tuesday night.

The crowd at Wrigley Field was way into it. The temps were October cool. The winds off the lake shouted postseason baseball.

And the Cubs and Brewers were playing for first place in the Central.

There hasn't been a bigger game this season for either club, just the way it's supposed to be in September with so much on the line in a divisional game.

Ask the players and they'll tell you they would have signed up for this opportunity before the season, to be in this spot at this time with a chance to control their destiny, notwithstanding the Cubs having given up a fairly comfortable lead in the division of late.

Big game, big night, big crowd.

It was ideal, the kind of event Cubs fans have come to expect in recent years.

Yet, there was something nagging all day, something asking a question and begging for an answer.

It was Sept. 11, now 17 years after the terrorist attacks in New York and D.C., and it was a mere afterthought for most along the way, if even a thought at all.

At the store, at the coffee counter, on the highways and at the ballpark.

There was barely a mention of it anywhere.

Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be, a people unafraid to move on with their lives, the ability to avoid the bog and march forward.

Sports, especially, provide a great opportunity. Much as it's discussed as life and death, it's really not. It's entertainment, the ecstasy and agony of winning and losing offering the perfect opportunity to escape that which plagues us.

Still, it hit with force Tuesday afternoon on the drive to Wrigley, watching the planes lined up above the Kennedy, one after another landing on two runways from the east, the roar of the engines, so stark the sound of flaps engaged.

It brought back to memory a drive to Wrigleyville on Sept. 13, 2001, as the Cubs held a closed workout in an attempt to stay sharp amid a week of canceled games.

There were no planes landing at O'Hare, not many cars on the streets, the ballpark empty, save the players going through the motions.

It all seemed so pointless.

In the car and listening to the news that day, the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald -- which occupied the top five floors of the North Tower -- spoke of the 700 employees who did not make it out of the building.

There were the many stories of parents waiting for the phone to ring, already knowing in their hearts that they would never speak to their children again.

The moment that has never gone missing -- the one that haunts -- is that of the widow who spoke of her husband on one of the ill-fated jets, his final words to her from an airplane phone a whispered goodbye and, "I hope you have a good life."

That one never goes away.

It was impossible to consider baseball or sport of any kind that week, but it began again the following week and was, of course, a tonic.

For those unaffected personally, the tendency is to move on quickly, back to the daily grind. It seems like a very long time ago now, and with each year there are fewer memorials and less consideration given to what occurred on that horrible day.

At Wrigley on Tuesday, there was a brief mention of the anniversary and a moment of silence, though not all on hand were willing to observe or do so quietly.

And then thoughts turned immediately to starter Jose Quintana, who's been superb against the Brewers in his career, but decidedly mediocre in general since arriving on the North Side.

Quintana was terrific Tuesday night, working out of a jam in the fourth and nearly finishing 7 scoreless before leaving with the bases loaded and two outs for Justin Wilson and clinging to a 2-0 lead.

Wilson struck out pinch hitter Manny Pina on 3 pitches and the Cubs finished off a 3-0 victory in style, bumping their first-place lead back to 2 games.

It was a great night at the ballyard.

So what was the question, exactly, the one that preoccupied so much of the day? Was it having something to do with how quickly we forget, or was it that we must forget quickly in order to survive?

The answer was not forthcoming, no more than was the question. What's certain is there was a baseball game Tuesday night, and a very good one at that.

Maybe there doesn't have to be an answer or even the correct question.

Maybe it's just what we do.

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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