Fly The W!

associated press/Ben Margot
Chicago Cubs celebrating their divisional playoff win over the San Francisco Giants

            August 8, 1988 is a date that is seared into my memory. It’s really an insignificant date as far as history is concerned, minus one event. On 8/8/88, as it was marketed, the Chicago Cubs played their first home night game at Wrigley Field.

            The Cincinnati Reds became Major League Baseball’s first team to play under the lights on May 24, 1935. Seeking to capitalize on the opportunity to host night games, the vast majority of clubs added or built new stadiums with lights through the 30s and 40s.

            But not the hold-out Cubs, who played daytime baseball on the north side of Chicago exclusively for 53 years after MLB went electric.

            That night, baseball fans from around the world tuned in to witness the end of one era and the beginning of another. But the Great Umpire in the Sky wasn’t quite ready for the change. The game was rained out in the third inning. And for a night, baseball traditionalists held off the inevitable march of progress.

            My family and friends think I’m an idiot savant for having the ability to remember details of such a marginal event. But the Cubs were the baseball team of my adolescence. Players Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston, and announcer Harry Caray were just a few of the heroes who made their marks on me.

            Through the magic of newly developed Cable television, millions of latch-key Generation Xers were able to watch the Cubs on Chicago superstation WGN or the Braves on Atlanta superstation TBS. Every day after school or camp, we tuned in to baseball. It was especially fun when the two National League teams squared off. As Cox subscribers, we had the Cubs broadcast team on WGN on channel 18 and the Braves broadcast team on TBS on channel 17. One click away, yet miles apart. Magic.

            Although both teams were traditionally bad, the kids who became Braves fans had their loyalty rewarded in the 1990s. Atlanta reeled of a decade’s worth of division titles and a World Series title in 1995.

            The Cubs have made the playoffs a couple of times since then, but a World Series championship has been elusive since they won back-to-back titles in 1907 and 1908. Their championship drought stands at 107 years. They’ve been called lovable losers, yet remain one of the most popular professional franchises in the world.

            I haven’t talked much pro baseball this year, and, because many believed the Cubs are jinxed. This team has broken generations of hearts, but as eternal optimists, there is hope that this may be the year.

            When the Cubs win, they raise a flag with a giant blue W on a white field over Wrigley Field. “Fly the W” has become a Cubs fans’ rallying slogan. I won’t allow myself to believe the Cubs can win it all until the World Series trophy is in hand. I’m rapping my desk as I write this column, but the Cubs need eight more wins to break whatever curse(s) the team has.

            Just like the boy who watched all those Cubs games years ago, I’ll be tuned in to the National League Championship Series when it opens Saturday at Wrigley Field a 7 p.m.

            Fly the W! Eight more times!



Categories: The Pennant Chase