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Let's Play Two

The Dodgers and the Mets were in game five of the division championships and it occurred to me that the winner would be facing the Cubs in the NLCS. As a long time White Sox fan I'd spent the better part of the last three decades hating the Cubs. Normally I'd just assume I'd be pulling for whoever they ended up playing.

However, now I've been on the west coast for so long I've truly become a San Francisco Giants fan. To be a Giants fan means having a deep contempt for the Dodgers. So the idea of a potential Cubs and Dodgers NLCS made me face my true baseball fan soul.

What I discovered is that Tony Bennett has won out over Frank Sinatra and my roots are now truly more on the west coast than the midwest, where I grew up. The true measure of this was revealed to me when I realized in a showdown between the Dodgers and the Cubs I'd have to pull for the Cubs. Mind you I might not have been pulling very hard for them, but anything is better than the Dodgers getting to the World Series.

I guess we’re defined equally by not only the team we root for, but by the team we decide to see as evil incarnate.

There are several things that have made the Giants number one in my heart over the White Sox. Without a doubt winning three World Series in six years didn't hurt, but the fact that the White Sox, as they play in the American League, have a DH and the Giants don't has really changed the way I like to watch baseball played. The game is just better without the DH.

The Cubs, Dodgers and Yankees are rich teams in big markets. The (L.A.) Dodgers and Yankees have thrown their money at the game always feeling that anything less than a World Series Championship is failure. The Cubs, on the other hand, have been satisfied to just take the money from their fans and delivered mediocrity knowing they would still pack their quaint ballpark just by coming close to the playoffs every few years. Success at Wrigley Field has been measured by accountants not championships. It’s hard to like a team that has treated its long suffering fans so callously. Just think if they win the World Series this year they can ride that gravy train for another century. If is often joked about the Cubs that any team can have a bad century. But in fact the Cubs have had a tremendous century, they just haven’t won any championships. The lovable losers have been taking it to the bank for a long time now.

It was this attitude that eventually drove my loyalties from Wrigley Field to Comiskey Park and there they’ll stay in Chicago. I was drawn to the White Sox as, like me, they had to win to succeed. I felt closer to a team that had to produce results than one who was living on a type of inheritance and was milking it for all it was worth. It took a lot to drive me away from the team of my youth and the first place I ever saw a major league baseball game, but the Cubs did it.

My mother loves the Cubs and so if they do win I will be very happy for her and the other Cub fans so desperately praying for their beloved Cubbies to finally break the fabled curse. The same goes for the players who will be the real champions if they can pull it off. However, the ownership of this fabled franchise should not be let off the hook. They could have pulled this off much sooner with the resources at their command. The reason the Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908 is not due to the players or fans, but due to the callous economic interests of the various owners over the years.

I was lucky to visit Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. It was an amazing experience for someone who loves baseball and nothing moved me more than the plaque honoring Ernie Banks. Behind me in my office sits a framed scorecard my dad kept when he took me to a game in Wrigley Field on August 24th, 1962, the day after my ninth birthday. Warren Spahn pitched for the Milwaukee Braves and Hank Aaron hit a home run. A young player named Lou Brock was playing center field for the Cubs. Billy Williams was in right and Santo was on third. The Cubs lost. On the front of that scorecard are the autographs of Don Landrum, Ken Hubbs and the incomparable Ernie Banks all scored for me by my dad.

So for my mom, dad, Ernie and that beautiful game in 1962 I will root for the Cubs to make it this time in spite of the suits who have run the franchise so cynically for the last century. Terrible owners have given Chicago the Black Sox and a hundred years of frustration for generations of faithful Cub fans. It’s time to think about the game, not them.

“Let’s play two,” said Ernie, the most beautiful quote in baseball. For the next two weeks, I’ll be a Cubs fan.