It is midafternoon in Wrigley Field, and several dozen Chicago schoolchildren are sitting together in the stands, waving their arms and shouting, "We want out! We want out!"
Well, it is understandable. Wrigley is a salutary place in the spring, with the ivy on the outfield walls just turning green and the real biological grass nice and thick on the field and the sunlight pouring down unimpeded by apparatus for artificial illumination. But anyone familiar with the tradition of Chicago National League baseball—an inheritance of day games, rowdy bleachers and recurrent despair—can sympathize readily enough with these children, who evidently have been dragooned into going out and breaking their young hearts rooting for the Cubs, when they could be in class safely diagraming sentences.
But no! Wait! Correction. The children are not yelling "We want out!" They are yelling "We want an out!" And what's more they are getting it. Rick Reuschel, the Cubs' heavily stomached starter, is setting down the final splashily outfitted Astro (the new Houston uniforms appear to have been dipped into mustard, ketchup and other gaudy sauces) in a 4-2 Chicago victory last week. The children are whooping and holding up a bedsheet banner that says "Happiness Is Being a Cub Fan."
What a notion. But the fact is, it makes sense. The Cubs, who last year finished firmly at the bottom of their division, are in first place now, and for much of the season they have had the best winning percentage in the majors. Gone are such established luminaries as Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Randy Hundley and Glenn Beckert, but solid people remain: Rick (Road Apple) Monday, Don (Road Apple) Kessinger, Jose (Junior) Cardenal. And a bunch of new, largely unheard-of Cubs are acting confident and aggressive, including a poet-pitcher and a reserve third baseman who has eaten a Texas grasshopper.
It must be said that "Wrigley's Believe It Or Not" is a phrase being used in Chicago by cautious observers. Will the Cub bubble burst?
"The Cubbies're beautiful," cried a fat man named Vern in the center-field bleachers last week.
"The Cubbies're often beautiful," said a fat man next to him named Chuck, "this time of year."
"These're not the Cubbies we know," noted Vern.
"Yet," countered Chuck.
But let us not dwell on the past. Steve Stone's lifetime won-lost record through 1974, with the Giants, White Sox and, last year, the Cubs, was 25-34. This year he is 5-0, with an ERA of 1.02. His poetry has been carried by such diverse media as the National Jewish Monthly and the UPI wire. In Memories he comes out for living in the present: