Last Sunday, a day after the Chicago Cubs won the National League pennant, my wife asked if I planned to write about my favorite team reaching the World Series after a 70-year drought. I told her I didn’t know.
I wanted to, but I wasn’t sure I could adequately describe how Cubs fans feel about reaching the World Series for the first time since the end of World War II.
I could describe the futility that has been Chicago Cubs baseball over the past seven decades. Since the Cubs last appeared in the World Series, the New York Yankees have played in the Fall Classic 26 times and brought home the title 17 times. Even the New York Mets,who weren’t born until 1962, have appeared in the series four times and won it twice.
I could tell you how much the world has changed since Cubs last played for baseball’s championship. In 1950, the world had 2.5 billion people; today, it has 7.4 billion. Since 1945, humankind has put a man on the moon and invented the following: the microwave oven and the TV remote control (in the same year, 1955), the jetliner, the polio vaccine, the video game (in 1962, believe it or not), the computer and then the personal computer, the cellphone and then the smartphone, the MRI and GPS.
In 1945, the Cubs drew 1 million fans to Wrigley Field, their iconic home on the north side of Chicago. Since then, more than 122 million people have passed through the turnstiles at Wrigley, but not one fan has seen a World Series game there.
But none of the above numbers and trivia describe how Chicago fans felt after watching the Cubs win their first pennant in 71 years. The best I can do is liken it to a lifelong wish finally granted.
Imagine the child who wanted nothing for Christmas but a pony. That first Christmas ended in disappointment, then the next and the next. Each Christmas held the potential for the wish to come true, and so the child held out hope, but each Christmas ended in disappointment.
And so it has been for Cubs fan. Each season since 1945 began with a wish and hope and, quite often, promise, but each season also ended in disappointment. But like the child longing for a pony, Cubs fans never lost hope because each season carried possibility, and on occasion, the Cubs got tantalizingly close to a World Series berth. But you know the story: Each season ended in disappointment.
Until this season.
How does it feel? Last Saturday night, I saw fans still in the stands long after the game was over, I suspect because they had never before seen what they had just witnessed, and they wanted to relish the moment. I saw people spilling into the streets around Wrigley Field, seeking to share what could literally be a once-in-a-lifetime event. I saw TV footage of a grown man crying as he watched the game’s outcome from a bar. I got misty-eyed myself because I had been waiting for that moment my whole life. My wife was alternately crying and laughing, both in joy.
I know I said earlier that numbers can’t adequately tell this story, but I want to pass some final ones along to underscore what a World Series berth means to Cubs fan. On StubHub, a ticket outlet, tickets to see the Cubs play a World Series game in Wrigley Field were selling for prices that would make the NFL’s Super Bowl blush. Standing-room-only tickets were going for $2,500, bleachers seats for $2,800 and higher. Seats with better views, well, you might want to sit down for this: no less than $4,000 a piece, many from $6,000 to $15,000. I even saw tickets priced at $40,000 and $99,999.99.
My World Series budget, set many years ago, was $1,500 a ticket, so I’ve been priced out of Wrigley Field.
But that’s OK. I’ve seen something I thought I might never see: the Cubs play in the World Series. So I’m good.