- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Everyone's got a hat!" the bachelor party, all innocence, chorused gleefully, as I s-l-o-w-l-y returned to my seat.
I gazed across the asylum. Impending doom? Where was it now in Wrigleyville, where it always grew thicker than ivy? Gone, the fans around me kept insisting, vaporized ever since the Cubs had swept their four-game series with the second-place Brewers in July, the last three of those games outright thigh-slappers. "It's strange, because we've walked into this trap before," Will Wagner, the author of the 2005 book Wrigley Blues, had mused over pregame pizza.
"Nope, we're not going to have a '69 again," declared Chris, referring to that most notorious of Cubs collapses when a black cat scampered past Ron Santo in the on-deck circle at Shea Stadium as his team was busy trashing a nine-game mid-August lead. "This is the best Cub team since the '30s. We've got five pitchers who'll have double-figure wins. We win by five even when we don't play well. We've got depth and we've got versatility—guys that play everywhere and can hit almost anywhere in the order. We're always up 5--1 in the third or we're coming back to win in the eighth. I've been waiting for this team all my life."
On cue, the eighth-inning comeback began. Pint-sized pinch hitter Mike Fontenot socked one into the wind stream and watched it vanish. Phils 4, Cubs 2. Alfonso Soriano short-hopped the wall in right center for a double, then Ryan Theriot lined a single to right. Dr. Drew led the entire rightfield bleachers in Olé! Olé! Olé! Olé! "Never saw a Cub team like this!" howled Chris. "Never out of it!" Derrek Lee walked. Bases jammed. Entire joint on its feet. Another Marty-missed call, number 22 from his steaming girlfriend. A 1--0 fastball to Aramis Ramirez: Oh my God....
Ramirez sent it deep into the night sky, the wind whipped it further yet—grand slam! Cubs 6, Phils 4. The crowd boom was sonic, an eruption so deafening that it startled attendants at a parking lot a mile and a half away; how loud would it have been if so many people weren't kissing and screaming? Every plastic cowboy hat but my missing one twirled high above a Brokebacker's head like a bronco rider's. "Marty ain't gettin' none tonight!" shouted Chris, "but A-Ram is!"
No one departed after the Phillies submitted in the ninth. Everyone stayed and sang like a college crowd chorusing its fight song—
Go, Cubs, go!
—everyone, that is, except Marty, smiling too hard to sing, bent in half with bliss over the rightfield wall, head dunked in his beloved basket.