In 2003, a lot of things were changing for me. I was graduating from Purdue, dating my soon to be wife, watching a Cubs team that would thrill me the most and hurt me the worst in the span of a week and getting cut off from my parents credit card. Though getting cut off was hard, nothing was as hard as the emotional damage that the Cubs gave me that October. Nine years later, it still hurts and leaves a void that a Stanley Cup couldn’t even help.
I started dating Laura in April of 2003. We were hanging out earlier, but it wasn’t really official until April. April 1st, to be exact. That just happens to be the day after the Cubs opened the season with a 15-2 shellacking of the New York Mets. Happy days indeed. 2003 had to be a magical year. My beloved Cubbies were exciting me as much as my future wife.
I took Laura to her first game in 2003. It was her birthday, June 1st. Now, the Cubs lost that day, but it was still magical. We were sitting on the 3rd baseline. Near the Bueller seats and about eight seats away from a seat that would become the most famous seat in the most famous ball park in history. In the 5th inning I stood up and purchased a delicious Old Style for me and my girlfriend. I heard the crack of the bat. I handed her the beer and saw everyone’s head swivel. I looked up, located the ball and reached for it as it smacked the palm of my hand. I didn’t secure the ball and it rolled away. Before I even retracted my hand a security guard was checking it for damage. I told him I was good and he left my side. That was the closest I came to catching an in game ball. I have caught many batting practice balls. The most recent birthday game I caught one for Laura and my sister, who’s birthday is on the 2nd.
She was hooked. I was hooked that she was hooked. A month later I stumbled through a shitty proposal that I previously mentioned. We then went to another game in the summer. This was in the bleachers this time. We sat in Left, like we always do now. This game, aside from the seats was a bit different. There was a rain delay this game. Wrigley in 2003 had a rule. Beer sales during the day would conclude after the completion of the 8th inning. Well, the rain delay occurred before then and they continue to sell beer during the delay. Phil Tanner, Laura and I drank our faces off. Jon Turner may have been there as well. We stood at the fence, smoked cigarettes and drank beer in the empty bleachers as the rain poured. We were wet. We were drunk. Laura fell in love with Moises. I offered her boobs. He smiled.
We stayed with Smacks the Clown at his apartment on the north side and bought Standing Room Only tickets to the game the next day. These Cubs were good. Wood and prior were studs. Sammy wasn’t clearly cheating yet. The role players knew their role and Hendry landed gold with Kenny and Aramis. We were watching every game. Every game mattered. I had chills when the Cubs and Cardinals took to a 5 game series in the beginning of September. Moises hit a ball down the line and it landed near those fated seats. The ump called it foul. He melted down. Dusty pointed at Tony and they argue from across the field. This was baseball! The Cubs took four of five and launched their post season chances. Will this be it.
The Cubs took the Braves in 5 games to open up the playoffs. Say what you want about Kerry Wood, but he willed the Cubs into the division series against the less talented Florida Marlins. The Cubs lost game one. Shit. Here we go. Why Cubs? Why?! Well, game 2 they destroyed those scrappy Marlins. Game 3. Extras. Cubs pull it off, up 2 games to 1. Game 4, Cubs dominate again. The Cubs are up 3 games to 1. Only one more win and World Series. We got this! Game 5, Beckett blanks the Cubs. Understandable. Game 6. 5 outs away. A foul ball, here of all places to that seat a few months ago I sat near. Moises goes for it. A bunch of fans go for it. It drops. One fan gets blamed, even though it was many fans. An easy grounded to second to the luckiest man of Chicago baseball lore. Alex Gonzalez boots it. Marlins pour on 8. Cubs lose. Game 7. Anyone remember Alex Gonzalez? No? He’s lucky. Wood in his most glorious badassness hits a bomb to take the lead, but alas, the Cubs shit on my head.
Phil Tanner, Laura and I drove to Chicago for game 6. We were cashing out when a fan and Gonzalez changed Chicago baseball history. Laura and Phil Tanner had to carry me to the car. They handed champagne out anyway and it always goes straight to my head. I will never forget those highs that year. Leading a cheer in Harry’s while the Cubs were dominating. Having hope even until the 9th inning. I’ll never forget that low. I still feel it. In Theo I trust to take that away. In 2003 a lot of things changed for me. One thing hasn’t. I still hold hope that one day, that one Playstation commercial will come true, and Steve Bartman can throw out a first pitch at Wrigley that is caught by Alex Gonzalez.