CHICAGO – How much do you remember about the team that occupied Wrigley Field in 1991?
A number of you weren’t alive and those that were had no real reason to have terribly fond memories of the season. Don Zimmer was fired after 37 games, Jim Essian took over, and the Cubs finished 77-83, 20 games behind the first place Pirates.
But they did win the last game of the season, a 7-3 triumph at Wrigley Field over the Cardinals on a 49 degree day on the North Side. Andre Dawson had a pair of homers and Greg Maddux went the distance in a thrifty two-hours and four minutes.
In the grand scheme of things, all of that is basically irrelevant. What was said in the booth is what lingers 25 years later on another chilly night at Wrigley Field.
In his traditional season-ending commentary, Harry Caray gave fans some hopeful words to send them off to the winter of 1992 in what could be argued one of his more memorable sayings.
“To bad we couldn’t have had a victory that meant a pennant, but that will come. Sure as God made Green Apples, someday the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series,” said the longtime broadcaster on WGN’s “The 10th Inning Show” that afternoon. “Maybe sooner than you think.”
Leave it to Harry to say what every Cubs fan has told themselves at some point over the last 71 years. The “Sooner than you think” part might have applied in a few select years, but thought of “Someday” was always in the back of a rooter’s head.
Finally, someday is today.
At 9:45 PM central time when Javier Baez’ throw to first smacked the glove of Anthony Rizzo, someday arrived.
Cubs 5, Dodgers 0.
Cubs 4, Dodgers 2 in the National League Championship Series.
AC 0000108 is now what the “Eamus Catuli” sign across the street reads.
Someday is today.
Unlike everything else over the past 71 years, the moment arrived void of harrowing drama. After failing to score on Clayton Kershaw in Game 2, the Cubs had a lead two batters into the game. When the Cubs got up 3-0 – the same lead they had in potential pennant clinchers in 1984 and 2003 – Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo put those thoughts out of people’s heads with solo homers.
Kyle Hendricks made the moment come along quickly as he worked quickly and efficiently through the Dodgers order. He allowed a hit on his first and last pitch of the night, but in between he didn’t allow anything. Not a walk or a hit in 7 1/3 of his finest innings of his major league career.
Five outs to go? Aroldis Chapman took care of another ghastly Cubs number with a double play.
Another off the bat of Yasiel Puig with two outs in the ninth brought about the moment of dreams.
Someday is today.
With ball in hand Rizzo raced towards the mound with the rest of his teammates to join in the celebration. Raucous fans created a stirring backdrop of “W” flags and perhaps the loudest rendition of “Go, Cubs, Go” since the song was created in 1984. You could hear the song on Sheffield and Waveland Avenues and thousands more celebrated outside.
The crowds were just as significant on Clark and Addison where the marquee proclaimed the accomplishment.
“2016 National League Champions.”
You haven’t seen that on the marquee since 1945, when messages were put up by hand and not by a couple of clicks of a button. World Series were still two years away from being on television when the Cubs lost to the Tigers in seven games. Since then there’s been black cats, 1969 collapse, Garvey’s homer, Durham’s error, Clark reading Maddux’s words, the foul ball down the left field line, the Gonzalez error, Piniella sweeps, and those Mets again.
There were 15 last place finishes in either the National League or their division with three years with 100 or more losses since 1945.
Every single year would end with the same word that Harry echoed at the end of the 1991 campaign. “Someday” was the refrain that represented the pain of three generations of the franchise that never saw a World Series.
But now they will. Now someday is today, this moment, right now. Solid building by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer in 2011 paid off in a once-in-a-lifetime moment that fans imagined for decades. Joe Maddon brought it all together for the team’s 110th and so far most rewarding victory of 2016.
Someday is finally today. As sure as God made Green Apples, the Cubs will play in the World Series against the Indians starting Tuesday.
It was everything Harry might have dreamed it would be.