AND THE GAME WENT ON AND ON AND ON – Marilyn Armstrong

Adorable Yet Endless


Garry retired to the bedroom after the 10th inning. Not that he was giving up on the game. He just wanted to watch it in bed. I’m more comfortable sitting up, so I stayed in the living room.

Sometime after midnight, the dogs got restless. I was sitting on their bed. Mind you, they have another entire sofa and right now, all three of them are in a coma on it. At night, though, they like to spread out. They give us the evil eye. Mental arrows: ” Pass the late night treats and go to your OWN beds!” Woof.

Game three of the World Series. A pitcher’s battle. It’s the ninth inning and the score is Angels – 1 and Red Sox – 0. Everyone has played brilliantly. I’m willing to give this one to the Dodgers, but in the top of the ninth, the Sox got a singleton homer and at the bottom of the inning, the score was 1-1. There are no”ties” in baseball (or for that matter, basketball or football either). Only hockey allows tied games. And in this case, this being the World Series, they were going to play forever if necessary.

They ran out of baseballs twice. Or was it three times? Four times? That actually meant hundreds of balls were all over the park.


“Game 3 was the longest postseason game in MLB history at seven hours, 20 minutes. It surpassed the previous record of six hours, 23 minutes, which was set in Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS between the Giants and Nationals in Washington (San Francisco won that game, 2-1, in 18 innings).

• Game 3 was only the eighth game of any kind (regular season or postseason) since at least 1908 to exceed seven hours in length. The last was on Aug. 24, 2013, between the Phillies and D-backs, which lasted seven hours, six minutes (Arizona won, 12-7, in 18 innings).

• In terms of longest World Series games, Game 3 eclipsed Game 3 of the 2005 World Series in total length — that game between the White Sox and Astros was five hours, 41 minutes, ending in a 7-5 Chicago victory in 14 innings at Minute Maid Park. The White Sox went on to sweep the Astros for their first World Series title in 88 years.

Friday’s Game 3 between the Red Sox and Dodgers also set a new record for longest World Series game in terms of innings, at 18. The aforementioned Game 3 in 2005, as well as Game 1 in 2015 (Royals 5, Mets 4) and Game 2 in 1916 between the same two franchises that are playing in this year’s Fall Classic (Dodgers 2, Red Sox 1) held the previous mark at 14 innings.

• To put the time it took to play Game 3 in perspective, consider this note from STATS: The entire 1939 World Series finished in less time, wrapping up in a tidy seven hours, five minutes. The Yankees swept the Reds in that one, with none of the four games lasting longer than two hours, four minutes.”

2018 World Series Game 3 Statistics – MLB NEWS


We started watching around 8:30 in the evening. At three in the morning, I came out of the bathroom and the game was still tied at 2 to 2. I asked Garry what would happen if the game went on so long it bumped into the next day’s game?

“Interesting question,” he said. I had a mental image of the game that never ended. Thousands of baseballs later, the exhausted teams, no longer able to throw, run, or bat would just lay in their places on the field and sleep on the grass.

BOSTON, MA – October 24: Boston Red Sox’s Andrew Benintendi catches a fly ball hit by Los Angeles Dodgers’ Brian Dozier during the fifth inning of Game Two of Major League baseball’s World Series at Fenway Park on October 24, 2018, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Christopher Evans)

Regardless, both teams used everybody. Every player, every pitcher. Everyone looked tired and beat up. How will they play today? No one can run. They will all limp from base to base.

It was an adorable game in a baseball kind of way. When somewhere around the 14th or 15th inning, Cora used his last batter — which meant there was no one else he could use who was actually a batter — you had to figure something was bound to happen.

I was coming back out of the bathroom (again) during which time the Dodgers had hit a homer.

The game was over. Finally. Garry flipped off the light and I murmured “I thought it would never end!” By then, I didn’t care who won. I was just glad it was finished. I’m sure the players, announcers, even the crew agreed.

A TERRIBLE WONDERFUL YEAR – TWO ARE WON! – Garry Armstrong

And tonight, minus the rain and the lightning, game two commenced … and we won. Two down, two to go. 

No power outage and there will be a day off, then they will be off to L.A. It was 47 degrees (8.3 Celsius) in Boston. It will be hot in L.A. It was a good day. 

Maybe the Sox really ARE the superpower team?

Yes, we won. Again. So far, and even better!!


I’ve asked my “Uncle Louie” to supply the music for this piece.  So much of what we’ve shared and written this year has been tinged with negativity.  It’s the state of our nation and world – greeted by dawn tweets and midnight White House tantrums.

Baseball has been my salvation.  It has been for most of my life. I’ve escaped to the field of dreams from youth, rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers, to the 20 something years cheering for Casey’s inept New York Mets, to retirement years yelling for the Red Sox to exorcise decades of futility.

This year, the sons of Teddy Ballgame have produced perhaps the best team ever to play at Fenway Park, exceeding even those early years when Babe Ruth was our Mr.October. Regardless of how the Sox fare in the upcoming World Series, they’ve already given us a season about which we can ponder for years to come.

This piece has a different feel for me.

There’s no “David Versus Goliath” theme for our hometown team.  For decades, we could point to the Bambino curse and generations of despair marked by garish plays like “… the ball went right through Buckner’s legs,” and “… there’s a long drive outta here. The Red Sox lose — thanks to the bat of Bucky fuc##ng Dent.

I could sprinkle images of past stories with snapshot memories of music, movies, politics. Iconic stories covered along with personal interviews with major players.

Not this year.  We’re on the outside, looking in. Like regular fans.

Our TV baseball package has precluded us from watching Sox games live.  We’ve been able to follow all the other teams — except the Sox.  Ironically, I’ve seen more games of our blood rivals, the New York Yankees than the Bosox. It’s reduced my nightly high anxiety where I frantically reach for my blood pressure meds as another game lurches on the high cliff of danger.

Marilyn is the score updater with reports from her computer as we watch Aussie melodramas or our favorite procedurals.  It’s a different feel.

Marilyn tells me, “We won again.”  I allow myself a sigh of satisfaction and look forward to reading the sports section online the next day. It’s a new world!

Pundits outside New England are pointing out that the Red Sox are seeking their 4th World Championship in 14 years.  It’s the national attitude faced by the Bronx Bombers for so many years.  There’s no underdog love for our Red Sox in small towns and big cities across the country as the World Series fervor begins.

I look at this year’s Red Sox and smile. A paternal smile.  A grandfather’s pride.

I don’t have any inside anecdotes. I appreciate the growth and maturation of the players.  There’s an irony to how this team is constructed.  Mookie Betts, the frontrunner for “Most Valuable Player” honors wasn’t the first choice to be the franchise player he is.

When the talented Jacoby Ellsbury bolted from the Red Sox to the Yankees for a mega contract 6-years ago, we felt betrayed again. We wondered how Boston would revive its outfield.

The Sox Suits said they had a youngster with huge potential. He was an infielder with an impressive minor league career. Fine, but how does an infielder help us with the outfield gap and power loss with Ellsbury’s flight to Gotham?

The question rippled with tsunami-like waves across Red Sox Nation.

I remember watching a spring training game with a young — very young –Red Sox outfield. Who were these players? Too young to shave and, certainly, not ready for prime time baseball!  There was Jackie Bradley Jr. who roamed centerfield like a young Willie Mays. The aforementioned Mookie Betts seemed okay in right field, but there was more interest in his first name than his player bonafides.

Many of us wondered if he was related to Mookie Wilson,  the one-time Mets star who hit the ball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs in the ill-fated 1986 World Series.

Our brave, new world was just beginning.

The next five years included a World Series triumph,  3 Eastern Division crowns and 2 (3?) last place finishes. These guys were definitely the spawn of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Fenway Park, Boston – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Meanwhile, the Yankees were overhauling their team and presenting baseball with an intriguing collection of young sluggers.  We were scared out of our retro Red Sox.  I admit to angst and anxiety all winter as I watched the video and stats of these youthful Pin-stripers. Aaron Judge,  Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and the newly acquired Giancarlo Stanton who’d come close to 60 home runs as the National League MVP last year.

Surely, New York would crush the Red Sox like Rob Gronkowski plowing through a defensive line of mortal defense players.  It didn’t look good as the 2018 season rolled around. I avoided reading pre-season predictions, something that was a rite of spring for most of my 76 years.

The Yankees were the flavor of the year team, biding their time to acquire their 28th World Series title.

2018 Red Sox Team

My anxiety ramped up when I realized our baseball TV package excluded live Red Sox games.  Surely, that was a sign. I wouldn’t be able to see the Sox doomed chase of the Yankees.

A funny thing happened along the way.

The Red Sox won the regular season opener. An olive branch, I thought with cynicism creeping through my fevered fan’s brain. But the Sox kept winning. Game after game. Injuries and illnesses, they kept winning.

Meanwhile, the vaunted Yankees stumbled off to a mediocre start. A month into the season, the Red Sox were in first place and had established a nice distance from New York and every other American League Eastern Division team.

I scratched my head, watching a Yanks game.  The young sluggers were struggling. The pitchers were inconsistent. I laughed at the Yankee broadcasters who smugly made excuses for the team which, they said with enormous confidence, would right itself and catch the runaway Red Sox who they referred to sneeringly as “that other team.”

I dared to wonder.

Soon, the Sox, aka “The Sawx” to sports journalists outside New England,  were highlighted nightly on the national sports outlets. Old beisbol-wise guys were marveling over J.D. Martinez who was everything and more as our big-ticket free agent slugger.  Boston’s “3  Bee” outfield — Andrew Benintendi, JBJ (Jackie Bradley, Jr.), and **MOOKIE** Betts were making highlight-reel defensive plays and mashing the horsehide with incredible regularity.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

As the regular season unfolded, the Sox kept winning.  The Yankees improved and gave chase, providing a little drama … but the Sox never fell behind. Not once. Their longest loss was three games.  “YES,”  the Yankees Broadcast Network, relentlessly told fans that the Sox would fold and succumb to the mighty pinstripers.  Yes. I believed “YES.”

Marilyn wasn’t so sure and kept commenting, “We are playing really well, you know? Like … all the time.” We, the skeptics, were exposed as the Sox continued to roll through the regular season, spiced by a late August sweep of the Bronx Boys that left us giddy in Red Sox Nation.

I noted, with surprise, that the Sox were doing all “the little things” that mark a championship team. They were disciplined and aggressive at the plate. They ran the bases with abandon and played defense like never seen before, at home and on the road. They even BUNTED – something akin to walking on water in New England.

Rookie manager Alex Cora, a former utility player and member of past Sox teams, pushed all the right buttons. He utilized all the players on his roster.

Cora had the respect of players who “dissed” previous managers. He didn’t shirk from pulling pitchers who were tiring but nonetheless argued to “get one more inning.”  That argument had severely cost previous managers and Sox teams. Cora was honest and straightforward with players as well as upper management and media.

He was a breath of fresh air from the “Bull Durham” baseball clichés of the past.

The pennant at Fenway

Boston, to almost everyone’s disbelief, in and outside of Red Sox Nation,  swept past the Yankees and defending World Champions Houston Astros, to await the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers as their opponent. The Dodgers soundly defeated the stubborn Milwaukee Brewers to advance to baseball’s biggest stage.

It’s going to be a very interesting series.  Many of us have a tinge of Dodger Blue from our childhood days as Brooklyn Dodger fans.  The Boys With Mics are calling the Dodgers underdogs because they haven’t won a World Series in 30 years. Not since Kirk Gibson’s iconic home run off Dennis Eckersley.

The Cathedral of Baseball is open for business!

A moment remembered with Vin Scully’s perfect line:  “In the year of the improbable, the impossible has happened.” Here’s hoping the now-retired Vin Scully graces Boston and offers a few more memorable game descriptions.

The Cathedral of Baseball is open.  It’s diverting our attention from a world gone crazy.

Here’s to the Boys of Summer who’ve made this Autumn our field of dreams.

A DAY TO BELIEVE – WORLD SERIES GAME FOUR – 2017

Today ought to be the fourth game of the World Series. The actuality of this event will depend on the weather in New York and Boston. It is supposed to rain in both cities, so I suppose it’s a matter of exactly how much rain. It will have to be a real deluge before they will call a game of this magnitude … but players get seriously hurt on wet fields, so the possibility is up there.

Assuming the games go forth, those of us who have continued to believe throughout the long season are also pleasantly bemused.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sport- After suffering two crushing defeats at the hands of the defending AL champs, the Yankees send Masahiro Tanaka to the hill to stop the bleeding and help them get back into this series.

Both the Red Sox and the Yankees were two games to nothing when they got to this coast. That’s bad in a five-game playoff series. If you want to be realistic about it, it’s probably fatal and your team is about to be washed out to sea. Again.

Instead, both Sox and Yankees pulled game 3 out of the bag. We won.

Now the standings are two-to-one for both teams. Everyone, including us, had assumed the American League playoff would be the “real” series this year. Houston and Cleveland are powerhouse teams. They’ve got it all — pitching, hitting, fielding. As far as hitting goes, the Sox are wildly out-gunned. If David Price hadn’t come into the game yesterday and shut down Houston, there would be no game today. Ditto for the Yankees.

Ending in a huge 10-3 victory for the Red Sox!

Mind you, we aren’t so deep in the denial and belief bag that we are sure we are going to win the whole thing. In any case, we have to remind ourselves that only one team from each league team will go to the series — and only one will win in the end. Everyone else, no matter how terrific they were all season, goes home and dreams of summers to come.

But this is the time for belief. Maybe it won’t happen but it is nice to have this spark of hope and a little glow of wonderment. There hasn’t been a lot to believe in — or much we could see as wonderful this year — or last year, either.

We need this. Even if it’s just for a game or two.

FLY THE W

A Chicago Tradition, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


If you watched the National League baseball playoff games, or the World Series, you may have noticed many Chicago Cubs fans with white flags.  No, they were not trying to signal surrender.  The flags have a large blue “W” in the center, signifying a Win for our local heroes.  With a little clever marketing and the help of social media, #FlytheW  began to appear everywhere.  Cubs fans were buying up these flags for their houses, their cars and to take to the ballpark.  While it was only a minor thing in recent years, it has exploded into a giant marketing gimmick this year.

By JayCoop - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
By JayCoop – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

It is not something new to the guys who run the old mechanical scoreboard in center field.  Yes, the big metal board is still out there and an iconic part of the ballpark.  No modern digital board can replace it, although we have added those during the recent outfield renovation.

Soon after the old scoreboard was finished in 1937, the team adopted the practice of flying a flag after the game to signal whether the team won or not.  A blue flag with a white “L” would signify a loss.  There were important reasons for these flags.

Before the era of hand held devices with sports apps, before even the transistor radio, a main way for fans to learn the outcome of the game, was to look up at the scoreboard.  If you did not catch the game on the radio or find the score in the afternoon papers, the Daily News or the Chicago American, you could see the result flying from above Wrigley Field.  Before television, and before the internet, you might want to know what color flag was raised after the game of the day (no night games for us until 1988).

I am not sure exactly when I was lucky enough to own a transistor radio, but before that it could be hard for us to run down the result of the game.  We lived close enough to the park to ride our bikes to the field to see the flags.  People going home on the Howard-Englewood “L” train (now the Red Line) could look west from the Addison stop to see if the team had a victory.  It was important way to spread the news to the North Siders.Cubs L flag

For most years of my young life we were more likely to find the “L” flying over the park.  Whether we were in the park or just hanging around outside, it was a rare day when we saw the white flag go up.  With every blue flag came the belief that tomorrow, or at least next year, we would begin to see the “W” more often.

Via Ron Cogswell
Via Ron Cogswell

If the need to signal the neighborhood with the outcome of the game has long passed, the tradition of flying the flag remains.  When the game is over, all the little pennants with the National League team names on them are taken down and the “L” or the “W” rises.  On double header days, you might find both flying at the end of the games.  Double headers, of course, are now a rare occasion.

This year we have been treated to many Wins in the “Friendly Confines,” as former MVP Ernie Banks used to call the park.  Local flag makers had trouble keeping up with the surprising demand for W flags big and small.  We have taken a long standing practice at the park and turned it a national phenomenon for our national pastime.

Cubs Win
Cubs Win, Cubs Win, Cubs Win.  Holy Cow!

Longtime Chicago broadcaster Harry Caray (11 years with the White Sox, 16 years with the Cubs), hoped to see that “W” over a World Series.  He did not live to see it, but he promised us it would happen.  He died at the age of 83 or around that (another story) and saw many flags fly over the park, but not the most important one.  A statue of Caray is now outside the park.

Some years, he was much more popular than the “loveable losers” the Cubs had on the field.  It seemed unfair he missed out, so a long time sponsor arranged for the flag and Harry to make to Cleveland for the final call.  You can fly the “W” now, Harry.  We finally made it.

JOY IN WRIGLEYVILLE – RICH PASCHALL

Mudville, too – Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day;
the score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
a sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

mighty-casey-us-stamp

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
they thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that –
they’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

Credit: Wikimedia commons
Credit: Wikimedia commons

Perhaps you are familiar with the famous baseball poem by Ernest Thayer. It was first published in 1888.  For Chicago Cubs fans it seemed almost that long since their last World Series Championship.  The Cubs won in 1907 and 1908.  Fans had been waiting ever since for the North Siders to win again.


But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
and the former was a lulu and the latter was a fake,
so upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
for there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.


No matter how good the team or even how big a lead the Cubs may have had during a regular season, they always seemed to strike out when they were needed the most.  I recalled vividly the crushed hopes of Cub fans in 1969 when the Cubs had such a big lead on September 2, no one thought they could possibly miss.  Then they lost 17 of 25 games and the hated New York Mets went on a winning streak to steal away the pennant.  Like this year’s Cubs’ team, the 1969 players just seemed too good to lose.


But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
and Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball;
and when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
there was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
it rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
it knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
for Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.


The last time the Cubs made it to the World Series was 1945.  Their team, just as all the others in major league baseball, had many replacement players.  Most of the young and able-bodied men of the country were fighting in World War II.  It was at game 4 in Wrigley Field that the now infamous “curse” was placed on the team by tavern owner Billy Sianis.  It seems Billy bought two box seat tickets to the game, one for himself and one for his goat.  The goat was let in, but after a rain fell on the crowd, the goat did not smell too good.  Cubs owner and chewing gum magnate, P K Wrigley, had Sianis and his goat removed from Wrigley Field.  On the way out, Sianis put a curse on the team which became a legendary story all around town.


There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
there was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
no stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.


As the years wore on and some very good teams failed to bring any glory to town, local fans began to blame the Cub’s bad luck on Billy Goat.  Over the years, the Cubs even let the Sianis family bring a goat to Wrigley Field to help lift the curse, but it never worked.  The Cubs found ways to lose.


And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
and Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped–
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
and it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.


The Cubs held a record of futility no other team could claim.  When they last won the World Series, they were not even in Wrigley Field yet.  The ballpark opened in 1914.  Pictures of Chicago in 1908 show horse drawn carts on the streets.  Now we go to the games by bus and by “L” train.  Those who live on the north side of Chicago know not to drive to the park.

1908 Giants vs. Cubs
1908 Giants vs. Cubs

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
he stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
he signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
but Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said: “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
but one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
and they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.


The second oldest baseball park in existence (Marilyn and Garry will tell you which one is older) had never been home to a World Series champion.  With a team that looked better than the Hall of Fame rich 1969 edition, this seemed to be the year the Cubs would bring home the trophy.

With the Cubs down 3 games to one in the Series, it looked bad, but our heroes battled back.  Then in the 9th inning of game 7, the team lost its lead and the rains came. But that story did not end there. 

If you don’t know the end of the poem, you can click the link that follows. Our story ended differently, this time.  I am sure you heard about it. 

Yes, there is joy in Wrigleyville. Mighty Casey hit that ball and knocked it right out of the park.


Read the entire poem here: Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888, Ernest Thayer, The Daily Examiner, June 3, 1888. Or, here, where it is dedicated to Garry, a lifelong fan of America’s Pastime: FOR GARRY ON THE OCCASION OF HIS BIRTHDAY … CASEY AT THE BAT.

THE EIGHTH GAME – THE 2016 WORLD SERIES ON A PARALLEL EARTH

FOR FANS OF AMERICA’S PASTIME:

It’s the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series. The pitchers on both teams are done in. No rest for the weary because the game is tied. Exactly as the inning ends, it starts to rain. Heavy downpour. Buckets and sheets of rain.

world-series-2016The deciders call a rain delay — and everyone holds their breath.

I’m actually watching this in real time as two underdog teams play one of the best games I’ve ever seen, in or out of the World Series. Everything has happened, pretty much.

The rain delay is supposed to be ended in 8 minutes and I have every confidence this is exactly what will happen. It’s the Cubs and Cleveland in the ultimate duel to the death. They said John Lester was crying coming out of the dugout as the rain delay was ending.


But in another reality — a parallel universe the same as ours, but — not exactly. Because in that universe, the rain doesn’t end. They can’t restart the game, thus leaving it tied at 6-6 … and neither team has it in them to play another game. Maybe they can play some more the following day. Call it extra inning or innings following a 24-hour rain delay. How does that work out?

And what if, in yet another dimension, a tornado struck. Destroyed the stadium. Both teams barely escape with their lives. They can’t restart the game … so … they put it into the books as a tie. With an asterisk. They give two sets of World Series rings and each team gets a trophy. There’s a first time for everything, right?

Somewhere else, a darker ending. The powers-that-be deny both teams a win and instead, schedule a runoff game as soon as they can. Both teams blame dark curses and malign fate.

What do you think happens in that alternate Earth. Which team — either, neither or both — wins the World Series?

cubs-win

This is earth. Our earth. On this world and in this dimension, the Cubs have won the World Series for the first time after a 108-year drought.

Congratulations Chicago! As Red Sox fans, we know how it feels … and isn’t it fine?

PLAY BALL! – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I am a lifelong baseball fan. When October rolls around, I can smell baseball in the wind, I can hear it in the rustling autumn leaves.It’s World Series time again! The Red Sox are not playing in it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t cheer from the sidelines. It’s been a long time since either contending team had a Big Win.

72-Garry-Baseball-HOF_013

Even though our team  isn’t in it, it has been an interesting season.

Last year’s last place Sox made the first round of this year’s playoffs. How did they do that? How do you take a losing team and become an (erratically) successful team in one year? Two years ago, they went from world champions to last place in a season, so I suppose the magic goes both ways. They achieved the leap both times without major lineup changes or anything weird happening with owners.

Improved esprit de corps? Better coaching? Something in the water? Wanting to give Big Papi a great send-off? But, I digress.

Go Cleveland! Go Cubs!

Spectator sports give all of us less talented lovers of the game a chance to participate, if not on the field, at least in the recliner. We all yearn for our personal “walk-off home run” at the big game. These days, it might be a really great night out at our favorite Sushi bar … or a little spare money to spend on something frivolous. Maybe a new lens for one of the cameras?

Mind you, we are not unhappy. Life continues to be engaging, entertaining, amusing, satisfying. Fun.

We’ve had to adjust. Find different ways to have a good time. We aren’t going to be partying all night (did we ever enjoy that, really?). Or taking long road trips. Life is not picking on us personally. Everyone has to adapt. We change. Our world changes. Unless you want to be one of the people who sits around grumbling about the “good old days” and how nothing is as like it used to be, we need to find things to enjoy and new ways to do them. It requires an effort of will to make it happen … and maybe a bit of creative thinking.

72-Garry-Baseball-HOF-new_074

Meanwhile, back in the stadium, the grand game — America’s Pastime — is being played out for our great enjoyment. The leaves may be falling from the trees (it was a spectacular display this Autumn), and to top it off, like the cherry on top of the banana split, we get our October classic … which could possibly run into November (but most likely, won’t).

Okay, all of these philosophical meanderings are prologue to the Frank Capra-resque World Series which begins tonight. The long-suffering Chicago Cubs versus the blue-collar Cleveland Indians. It’s Gary Cooper against Henry Fonda. Plenty of heroes and no villains except maybe the umps. It’s the sons of Tinker to Evers to Chance taking on the ghosts of Bob Feller, Al Rosen, Larry Doby and Vic Wertz.

I was collecting my first baseball cards when the Indians last won the World Series in 1948. My maternal Grandfather had just turned 21 when the Cubs won their last World Series in 1908. I still remember the stories he shared with me about those long ago Cubbies when I was still wearing short pants.

In those days, we wondered if our beloved Brooklyn Dodgers would ever beat the dreaded Yankees in the World Series. Thus began a lifetime of always rooting for the underdog. Angst has ever been a part of my DNA while rooting for my teams. So often defeat has been snatched from the veritable jaws of victory.

I felt nearer my God to thee when my hero Duke Snider and Brooklyn’s Boys of Summer finally defeated the damn Yankees for the 1955 World Series.  Apple-faced southpaw Johnny Podres was the unlikely pitching hero.

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Forty-nine years later, I stared in disbelief at the television as the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series after 87 jinxed years. It was the icing on the cake after a historic comeback in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees, finally exorcising the curse of the Bambino.

I recall describing my love of baseball to Teddy Ballgame, the legendary Ted Williams. Williams didn’t usually spend time with the media. But Teddy and I shared a link to John Wayne who I’d met and with whom I’d shared stories about legends. Duke admired Boston’s #9 and Williams liked Wayne’s no-nonsense screen heroes.

The movie “Field of Dreams” comes closest to capturing my love affair with baseball. Beyond your favorite team, there’s the love of the game, its complex drama and generations of heroes.

It doesn’t take a Hoyt Wilhelm-Tim Wakefield knuckleball to understand why baseball is a religion for some of us, especially in this year of political upheaval. The Cubs-Indians World Series will be a breath of fresh air from the toxic world of Orange Head and his minions.

See you at the park. Let’s play ball!