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It was the summer of 2006.  I was on a two week business trip to Quincy Massachusetts with a free weekend in between that I decided to use as an opportunity to sight see around and about the historic city of Boston.

As I plotted my trip, one destination was a must.  Fenway Park. I’ve got a thing for ballparks and stadiums and Fenway, with its iconic “Green Monster” wall that spans left field was a must.

There was a game that day, but it was 90 degrees outside, ticket prices would be exorbitant and I didn’t want to spend my only day in Beantown watching a ball game I really didn’t care about.  I would be satisfied with taking a lap around the park and catching just a glimpse of the field.

I took the T (as the locals call their train transport) and ended up at Fenway well before game time.  I bought a Red Sox Tee at a souvenir shop and walked around the historic park.  Nowhere could I catch a spot to view the actual playing field as brick walls encased the park.

As I turned left off Yawkey Way to Van Ness Street, there seemed to be a gap in the park and while there was an opening, the actual field of play was not in view.   I had a Kodak disposable camera.  This was before cell phones came standard with cameras.  2006.  The good old days.

I implored anyone inside the park to let me in for 5 minutes or at the very least, take my camera to snap a shot of the field.  I told them I came all the way from Chicago just to see the Monster. The only interest I received was from a local policeman who soon approached me.  I extended the same plea to him, but all the constable said was, “Move along, sir.”

A stranger in a strange town, I did as directed and satisfied my trip to Fenway with a T-shirt, and a bottle of “Wicked Cold” water I bought from a street vendor on Lansdowne Street just behind the “Green Monster.”   I only saw “The Monster” from the back side.

Yesterday, June 20, 2017, I took a tour of Wrigley Field with my wife and some out of town guests.  What better site to show Chicago to the visitors than a trip to the iconic ball yard the year after the Cubs first World Series title in 108 years.

My back was sore and my knees were aching and we lagged behind the tour group as we moved from the right field bleachers to the left field upper deck grandstands.

“Excuse me, excuse me sir,” said a fellow peeping through the gates in the right field corner as I took a turn to head up the stairs.

Normally, I ignore this stuff, but I stopped and said, “Yeah, I’m just on a tour here.”

He said to me as he extended his cell phone through the gated barrier, “I ‘m from New York and came by just to see the inside of Wrigley Field. Can you take my phone and get some pictures for me at least?”

Eleven years later and it just took a second for the serendipity of the moment to reach me.

“Absolutely,” I replied.

I took the phone, handed it to my wife who had observed the side gate to the inside of the field was open and said, “Go snap a whole bunch of pics for this guy.”

She did.  She didn’t ask why, she clicked away.  After 26 years, I still love this girl.

I handed back the phone to the New Yorker and my wife and I moved along to catch up with the tour group.

Some may call it a fortuitous moment for the New Yorker. Some may call it Karma. I prefer to see it as serendipitous.  Somewhere in New York this weekend, a guy is showing photos of his visit to Wrigley Field that have the green field, the ivy and the monster center field scoreboard.  My wicked cold water botte is long gone.

I was happy to accommodate this fellow’s request and show the friendliness of Chicagoans.  After all, Ernie Banks said, these are the “Friendly Confines.”

And, I share this tale because sometimes a special moment happens that merits mention.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAPerhaps getting over the conditioning was the hardest part. The media perpetuated the myth on us all. The Billie Goat, the Black Cat, “He who shall not be named.”

Everybody loves a good curse story.

But when analyzed rationally, the “curses” seemed a little silly to me.

So as a fan, I chose to ignore them in the 2016 playoffs. Pass them off as illogical, unfounded, inane.

Conversely, this required me to dispense with some “big game” practices of my own. There would be no lucky shirt, no lucky chair, no lucky place to watch the game.

If the curses were silly, likewise I had to eschew my former superstitious habits from playoff years passed. Not washing that lucky shirt was equally as mindless. And, my co-workers and family thanked me for that one.

Here it was, Game 7 of the World Series and the Addison Street Miracle was still alive. Alive and well in fact, leading 6 – 3 in the 8th inning.

Lines were forming already to buy World Series keepsakes. Then it happened.

Two routine outs are followed by a single, a double, a home run and bang, it’s 6-6. Cleveland is rocking. The Cubs seem to be reeling.

All around the Windy City, the conditioned are checking out, nervous wrecks. Uttering responses like “not again”, “here we go”, “I can’t believe this is happening.”

I remained steadfast. Voicing positives like, “show some faith”, “believe.” I had no “lucky shirt” on. Yet, I was out there on the ledge invoking the masses of my Cubs fandom friends via text, post and the spoken word to hang tight. Grind with these guys.

Hang tight they did through 9. “And we’ll have an extra inning ball game today,” as Jack Brickhouse used to say.

Then the rains came. The rains that washed the slate clean for the Cubs, down three games to one in Chicago, now inspired one Jason Heyward to rally the troops. In the weight room in the depths of the visiting locker room in Cleveland, during the 17 minute rain delay, JHey reminded them they were the best team in baseball, able to overcome adversity.

We know how the story ends. 5 million people in Chicago today were a testimony to the fact that the story had a happy ending. The cryptic Eamus Catuli sign now reads. “AC000000.”

Two noteworthy quotes I caught in the myriad of post-game interviews in the wee hours the day after the November 2nd game:

Jayson Heyward on the team meeting:

“At the beginning of the day, we never worry about win or lose. We just worry about how we’re going to go out there and have fun, compete, be right there for the guys next to us and not take the situation for granted.”

Jon Lester on the curses:

“I think the biggest thing is nobody really cares in there about a curse or a goat or anything else, you know what I mean? A curse is an excuse for looking for a way out.”

Have fun. Be there. Don’t look for excuses. Maybe that applies to more than baseball.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you’re 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs.

EPILOGUE:

Truth told, I started the Cubs Chronicles because I believed this would be the year and wanted to record my thoughts along the way. Maybe share them with a reader or three.

With two of my longtime friends, fellow lifetime Cubs fans, Terry and Steve, I firmly believe we blazed the path to victory with our attendance at the game one victory. The ten remaining dominoes fell after that first nudge. We are 4-0 lifetime in Cubs Playoff games.

Whatever curses were once perceived have now been exposed as irrational. Don’t let foolish barriers stop you from dreaming.

IMG_1233 (2)I was awakened last night by the sound of a light rain sprinkling across Chicagoland about 4:00 AM. There were a few flashes of lightning and a soft rumble of thunder.

As I tossed to get back to sleep, my thoughts turned to the 1984 movie, “The Natural.” The lightning flashes, Roy Hobbs takes a mighty swing, launches a long foul ball and breaks his Wonderboy bat.

Bobby gives Hobbs his handcrafted Savoy Special bat, Roy hits a dinger, Knights win Knights win.

That’s when it hit me. This isolated odd sprinkling of rain was sent to wash away all the bad that has happened at Wrigley the last two days. The flash of lightening and the rumble of thunder was to re-energize the bats. It’s all gonna be good for Game 5 tonight.

Those are the kinds of things you think of when you’re a Cubs fan.

This is the kind of hope you harbor that your team will come through.

No doubt, the Cubs need a revival. Can I get an Amen?
No doubt, they can win three in a row against Cleveland. Preach it, brother.
No doubt, they will win tonight. Do I hear a Hallelujah?

The rains have washed away the evil spirits. The truth will set the Cubs free.

The Friendly Confines will be our friends again.

The Cubs are gonna hit again. They’re gonna field again.

Come what may, the Cubs are gonna win again and again and again.

Win one, and it’s off to Cleveland in continued pursuit of the prize.

For some, a return trip to Cleveland is considered a cruel second place prize in a raffle. For the Cubs, it’s now for the Grand Prize.

One out at a time, one inning at a time, one game at a time.

Hey Hey Holy Mackeral. Go Cubs Go. You gotta believe. The opera ain’t over til the fat lady sings.

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