Through the middle innings, as the All-Stars chipped away at our lead, I couldn't help but notice that we did look a bit geriatric in the field. Fly balls were dropped, and a couple of double plays came up short, but when a Cub got the ball to a cutoff man or ran to back up a base, I felt a tremendous sense of pride. Forget the fried chicken and the beer—both teams had come to play.
Another moon shot off Boone's bat tied the game 9-9, and when neither team scored in the sixth, Ray Dorsey, the All-Stars' coach, offered to end it there "to preserve your 22-0 record," he said. "Play on," said Coach Wilson. Now that's the Cubs, I thought. None of us would have had it any other way.
With the score still even, I squatted down at the start of the eighth and found myself engrossed in the action out by second base. Schlee and Weller were working on their timing, and, as Weller leapt and whipped the ball to first to complete their practice double play, it dawned on me why a reunion of Little Leaguers had worked. For one afternoon the who-you-are and what-you-do that spoil so many reunions didn't matter anymore. We'd gone back to a time when the common denominators were a bat and ball and a game we loved to play.
A hook shot to leftfield knocked in three All-Star runs in the top of the eighth, and before I could say "undefeated" I was back on the bench, and my Cubs were down to their last out. Then, with men on first and second and one run already in, Brooks hit a rising line drive up the middle. I jumped off the bench screaming, "Touch 'em all!" but the right hand of Cas Roop, the infield umpire, flew up. "Out!" he said. The would-be extra-base hit had nicked Donnie Ecker's CUBS FOREVER T shirt as he started toward third. The game was over, and when I slumped back down on the bench my Cubs were 22-1.
That night, as the team gathered around the TV in Hartzler's living room, we were laughing and reminiscing once again. Beer and the prospect of seeing ourselves on the 11 o'clock news had helped put the loss in perspective. As our spot came on and a team photo flashed onto the screen, I looked up, and standing next to me was Hun-Pots Brooks. I reminded him that 30 years ago, the night we'd defeated the All-Stars, he'd told us that we'd remember the game for the rest of our lives. He smiled at me and we both nodded. "Cubs forever," I said.