Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Lights On In October

The year was 1906. Cubs versus Sox. And, well, things haven't always been too hot many years which followed. Yes, the Cubs had a couple more World Series appearances thereafter. And the Sox were solid until the scandal of 1919. Those Damn Yankees always held them back, even in better seasons once the New Yorkers' new (now old) stadium got built and a guy named Ruth came around.

But a renaissance is occurring. 2005 was a banner year on the South Side of Chicago. The Cubs are in postseason two years in a row - a first in our fine town since anytime you might remember.

1906 featured day games only. But this year, the lights will likely shine both Northside and South. It's a sight I never thought my eyes would witness.

This season is something special. Who knows how far the rivals will advance. Still, it's a sight to behold and treasure every step along the way. One would hope this could become an annual occurence. But with our sports teams' history, neither will I trust it shall. Instead, I'm enjoying the experience.

Special experiences. Isn't that, in some sense, what life is about?

And what more special than baseball?

Perhaps a once in a lifetime chance comes with the tiebreaker game. It doesn't have to happen all that often. Much less involving your city's team. To boot, the home team is determined by a coin flip which gets thrown late season "just in case." An odd evolving of events over the last week of this season ended with the Sox and Twins both in first. Yet only one could make the playoffs. So the ritual for determining a Central Division Champ was set into place.

The date, first, was postponed by another rarity: a rainout played end of season only "if necessary." A weekend of rain which threatened to keep the Tigers and PaleHose from playing ANY of their three game set in mid-September left one game outstanding. And the Sox had to win. They did, on yet another rainy day. Which brought the team from Minneapolis to the Cell. Better on our home turf that theirs - where White Sox never fare too well.

I got a ticket to the game! A lousy seat it was. Behind a pole in upper deck where home plate is obstructed. Some kindly fan did not show up. So I moved down the row. Ah, that's much better!

Now, sometimes fans just mess around. They do the wave. They eat. It's fun, I suppose, but not about the game. This night was different. Absolutely intense. No one dared miss a pitch. Even in running to do your duty or buy a beer, every pitch; every out was sought to be seen. And a sight of itself was the "blackout", with fans asked to wear their team's color of note. Good guys (and girls) all the stadium round was fancied with darkness. And on the concourse, the outfield deck, even fundamentals porch stood nothing but fans, fans, fans.

"Let us duel!" For our honor, for the right to move on, till death may the best team win. Two pitchers in tight battle gave up hardly a hit. And excitement it came when they did. Could Ken Griffey, the son, in this twilight of career toss out that Twin from third to home running hard? On one hop, rightly placed, pegged by A.J. he did, as the catcher carried Cuddayer out to tag.

There was Nancy playing poignant Na Na Na Na Hey Hey, Take Me Out To The Ballgame, Goodbye. Then came Thome to bat and a point with his stick - center field - just like Ruth once foretold. Here's the pitch, and it's hit, flying far, flying fast - this Southsider hero now on an otherwise cold evening heated up fans to a flame so intense - but one run all it held.

'Twas enough for John Danks who threw brilliantly, till the 8th. One man on, one man out, this threat tying run stilled for a moment the crowd with concern. Then came the cry of a clown. "Goooooooooooooooooooo!" pierced the stands - just like Andy once did - built the cheers, the excitement, then that classic call, "YOU! WHITESOX!" clarion. "Whack!" on next pitch: doubleplay.

Bobby Jenks took the ball. Here's one out, now it's two. Then the hit out onto center field. Diving in Anderson nabbed it and "Hey Hey!" Jack, "Holy Cow!" Harry, Hawk tell me, "YES!" "That's a White Sox Winner" Rooney would say. One run us - shutout. Let's celebrate! Dance! Champagne! Sing!

An environment like no other. Of it I was a grateful part. Postgame party onfield and in stands lasted so long. Something special to tell generations to be. Winning tradition, long may it live!

Yes, Tuesday, September 30, 2008 may have been a "blackout." But the lights will certainly shine on North side and South in Chicago October this, is true. May they meet at the end of the month!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happened upon your blog via Catholic Answers Forum. Except for your preference for the White Sox, it seems like quite a nice spot. However, no one is perfect.

In any case, your reference to WDCB made we wonder if you will make any mention of the 100th birthday of Gene Krupa on January 15 (also my father's 90th, but music was not his area of expertise). Krupa was quite the musician in his day and grew up on the great south side of our city, attending Immaculate Conception parish at 88th and Commercial. One of the other CAF contributors said that he thinks Krupa lived in a house at the back of lot at 8845 S. Commercial, across the street from the church. He's buried at Holy Cross cemetary in Calumet City.

In any case, I admire a person who has his priorities in life straight: faith in God, faith (?) in Chicago baseball, and enjoyment of good music.

God bless and happy new year,