Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, retired from baseball long before I started watching the game. Over nineteen seasons, he hit 512 Home Runs and won the MVP Award just two years before he hung up his cleats. Although I never saw him play the game, his influence on it, and me, cannot be missed by even the casual fan. His biggest record is a testament to how dedicated he was to the game, and how much the game has changed.
Yesterday, Ryan Vogelsong re-signed with the San Francisco Giants. He had been “very close” to a deal with Houston, but when he went to visit the Astros, he said that he “didn’t feel comfortable.” I don’t for certain what that means, for e the humidity n Houston is unbearable, but maybe it meant that he just didn’t know anybody and it made him feel a little lost. In any case, he quickly re-signed with the Giants.
Ernie Banks never experienced that process. Fans never wondered what team he would sign with over the off season, and no GM ever thought to themselves, “I should trade him to a competitive team for four prospects.” Mr. Cub was a Cub for life. I am equally sure that he wanted it that way, but you have to wonder if today’s system of free agency and lack of team loyalty is better or worse for the game? Where would Ernie Banks have gone if the opportunity had been available to him?
For whatever its worth, I hated Free Agency as it originally impacted the game. And the 1981 Strike just drove home how divisive the issue was at the time. But as years passed, and new and different teams began to become competitive, I think that the issued softened for fans. Yes, we missed the loyalty of some players, but at the same time it was replaced by the excitement of the off season and getting to see who your team went after, or if you’re a Mariners fan, what they didn’t do to improve the team.
Ernie Banks was one of the last of the Golden Age players, certainly of the Hall of Famers from that era of the 50’s and 60’s. He spent his whole career in Chicago with the Cubs and never tasted the post-season, even if he did sniff it a time or two. But one man can’t win a pennant, it takes a team. And for all of that time, the Cubs just never really had that team. Okay, maybe in 69, but then again, they’re the Cubs. And since Steve Bartman wasn’t around yet, they had to find a way to fall down on their own.
Cubs fans and Baseball fans everywhere mourn the passing of a man whose enthusiasm for the game was such that even while playing for the Cubs, he always wanted to play two. His laugh and smile were infectious, and even if you like me, never saw him play, you could watch his interviews and meet him in person and know that he had no regrets and that he played baseball for the love of the game.
Adieu, Ernie Banks.
I have several friends who for no explainable reason have spent their lives as Chicago Cubs fans. They are making my life worse than I ever imagined.
For Cubs fans life is lived by the simple philosophy of Al Bundy, “No Good luck goes unpunished.” For the Cubs fan, it’s simply a given that no matter how well the first seven innings or first three games go, in the end there will be some easily foreseeable unforeseen disaster that will end the good times with an ever more devastating manner of dream crushing defeat. Face facts, the only reason the MLB 12 The Show commercial works at all is because it’s the Cubs who win the games’ player World Series – an event so unlikely even in a video game that you might as well save yourself the heartache and spend the money you would have spent on the game playing the Thai National Lottery.
In any case – and this is my point – my beloved Stockton Ports are NOT the Chicago Cubs.
As recently as 2008 the Ports won the California League Championship, and late last season got on a late season run (including a 17 game winning streak) that saw them beat the Modesto Nuts in the first round and the hated San Jose Giants in the Division Championship series, before falling to the Lake Elsinore Storm in the League Championships (as a ToTaL aside, the Storm have been noted as having one of “the best” logos in MiLB, a theory with which I vehemently disagree, it’s just plain creepy).
Recently though, we have noted here that the Ports have suffered a bit of a downturn, including the interminable 17 game losing streak (and 20 out of 21) that seemed to find the team finding very Cubesque ways of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Once the streak ended, it seemed like things would get back on an even keel, a few roster moves were made by the organization and now it would all seem like a distant bad dream.
Until there were two outs in the 7th inning of a game against the Visalia Rawhide (who as another ToTaL aside DO have an awesome good tagline: “Roll Hide!”), with newly arrived Sean Murphy on the mound throwing not just a shutout, not just a no-hitter, but a perfect game (well, a no hitter after one out, anyway).
With the wind howling through Banner Island Ballpark, a rip in the time-space continuum opened up and the BIB suddenly became Wrigley Field. Four errors and six runs later, it was all gone, like smoke in a mirror as if it had never been.
And now Cubs fans think that this fully justifies their inflicting their own misery on me by comparing their own longsuffering ways with my temporary discomfort, which of course, it does not.
And I intend to keep on saying that until I start to believe it, without that little tiny cub of doubt running around my brain telling me that for the next 100 years it’s always going to be this way.