HAWL IN: Mets series another chance for Cubs to get rid of the past

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The 1969 Cubs' late season collapse, which included a New York appearance of a black cat, is one of the stories passed down to generations of Cubs' fans.

CHICAGO – This is your father’s time for revenge.

I know it is for mine.

A Cubs and Mets National League Championship Series is also a chance for this story to get pushed to the past. Call it the next round of therapy for suffering fans of North Side baseball.

When I was a kid growing up and watching Cubs baseball, my dad, Chuck Hawley, would always have a story about this infamous season in team history. If you were a Cubs fan who grew up in a family of rooters from a generation ago, you probably have heard the same.

This was the summer of 1969 when a then 24-year pennant drought was on the verge of being ended by a team which had built talent over the past decade. With Banks, Beckert, Hundley, Kissinger, Santo, Williams and a host of other veterans, the Cubs finally appeared ready to smash through what was then two-decades of playoff despair.

For a few months, it seemed the Cubs’ year.

With the “Bleacher Bums” in full force, the Cubs stormed out of the gates by winning 11 of their first 12 games. Ken Holtzman¬† threw a no-hitter. Ron Santo clicked his heels. Jack Brickhouse blared out a dozens of “Hey Hey!” screams as the Cubs kept winning games in thrilling fashion.

I heard the stories from my father and then later saw the highlights on old videos of the jubilant team and their fans. I even learned some of the lyrics to Hey Hey Holy Mackerel, the “Go Cubs Go” rally song of that era.

Following a 3-0 shutout win by Fergie Jenkins over the Giants on Aug. 16, the Cubs had a nine-game lead in the new National League East division.

As with many stories of the Cubs past, you know what comes next.

A young Mets team caught fire. The Cubs cooled off. A black cat pranced around Santo in the on deck circle at Shea Stadium. By Sept. 10, the Cubs lost the lead division lead to New York. Eight days later they trailed the Mets by five games.

On Oct. 2 the Cubs beat the Mets in front of just 9,981 fans at Wrigley Field as their season came to an end. They won the game, but lost the war to New York, who ended up eight games ahead of the Cubs for the NL East crown.

In a span of two months, the Cubs lost 17 games of ground in the standings and Exhibit A of the team’s pain and suffering was established for a generation of fans to pass down to their children.

So what do you think was on my mind when the Mets’ Jeurys Familia struck out the Dodgers’ Howie Kendrick to end the other National League Division Series?
Yup, 1969.
That’s just how it is for Cubs fans for the last few generations. Every opponent has a connection to the past. The Cardinals were the “Big Brother” that tormented their I-55 rivals over the years, and that storyline was played out over the past week. Now that the Mets are coming up in the National League Championship Series, the same talk about 1969 has crept up again.
It’s just how Cubs fans are wired. The past is always present. But now is another chance to change that.
Last week the Cubs took care of the first demon of their past by getting rid of the Cardinals in four games in the NLDS. Their enlightened manager has inspired a “Know No Better” group of young players that scored three come-from-behind victories in beating St. Louis.
On Saturday at 7:07 p.m., the next chance begins. Seven tries to win four games and erase the past ghosts of 46 (the Mets) and 70 years (NL pennant). What stories will be told from here on out will play out over the next week.
Maybe then a new Cubs’ tale can be passed down to the generations. Perhaps 1969 can remain in the past for good.