O.K., Freeze it! Freeze everything in and around the ballpark, right where it is. Good. Now, let's you and I walk around and taste this, one of the most delicious days in the haunted history of Wrigley Field.
Look at the 70-year-old geezer high-fiving the dude on skates. Look beyond leftfield at the guy in the tie leaning out the third-story window, hanging a can of beer off a fishing pole and lowering it to fellow Cubbies fans on the street. Check out the guy in the wheelchair shimmying to the "Cubs win!" chant being banged out on an overturned bucket and a cracked cymbal.
You talk about overturned and cracked symbols: The Cubs are winners?
When this gloomy Saturday began, they were the Susan Lucci of baseball. Ninety-five years since their last world championship. Fifty-eight since their last National League pennant. Fourteen since their last division title. Hell, it had been 71 years since the Cubs had clinched any kind of title at Wrigley.
The true faithful were ready to dodge pianos falling from the sky. Like that guy in the red minivan, leaning nonstop on the horn. His name is Ralph Dynek. I don't know who the sickest Cubs fan in the world is, but Ralph has got to be in the photo. He named four of his kids after streets near Wrigley. There's Addison, 15, Clark, 13, Sheffield, 11, and Grace, 8. Oh, and little Ivy, 6.
"I've been set up before," he was saying at the start of the day. "I've had my heart broken too many times. I keep waiting for a ball to roll through Leon Durham's legs, the black cat to walk out at Shea, something awful to happen."
Chicago led the NL Central by a scant half-game over the Houston Astros, who were playing the pathetic Milwaukee Brewers. It looked as if the Cubs would need to sweep a doubleheader from the Pittsburgh Pirates—that hadn't happened in 23 years—on Saturday and then maybe win again on Sunday using No. 1 starter Kerry Wood, which would screw up their rotation if they made the playoffs.
But somehow, for no apparent reason, s—didn't happen.
By 3:30 p.m CDT on Saturday the Astros had lost to the Brewers and the Cubs had won Game 1, 4-2. At 4:05, in the first inning of Game 2, Sammy Sosa hit a baseball nearly to Lake Michigan. By 6:30 the Cubs were jitterbugging away with a 7-2 win. They had magically, unthinkably won the division in one 18-inning, six-hour dream of a day. Not only that, the last out and the first appearance of the sun came at the exact same moment. What do you know? Ernie Banks was right: It was a good day to play two.
O.K., now freeze it!