I didn’t realize how stark those half-dozen words would appear until I typed them. I have spent my life moving between exultation and bitterness, sometimes in the same day, sometimes in my Leon Durham or Steve Bartman memories in the space of a few seconds.
I rode high with Ron Santo’s heel clicks in 1969 and fell to the ground with Don Young’s missed catch that same summer, symbols of the aura of great men and goats that surrounds my men in blue.
And now Ron Santo is gone, another one of the tens of thousands of fans who were born, lived their lives and then died, never once seeing the team they love defend the honor of Chicago in the baseball championship of the world.
In 1984, up two games to none in a five-games series against the San Diego Padres, the Cubs let the national league west champion back into the series, losing 7-1 in Game 3 and allowing a Steve Garvey homerun in the bottom of the ninth to tie the series. Then, leading 3-2 in the seventh of Game 5, with the eventual Cy Young winner, Rick Sutcliffe, on the mound . . . The Error.
Cubs lose, 6-3.
They installed lights at Wrigley in 1989. The Cubs went on to win 93 games and the Eastern Division championship. They won the first two games at home against the Giants, held leads in each of the next three games, managing to lose all three.
Just before the season started in 1998, Harry Caray died. He would have loved the new flame-throwing rookie, Kerry Wood, a name Harry could have actually pronounced. The Cubs finish 90-73 and win a one-game wild card game against the Giants at Wrigley.
Too much work. The team scores four runs in the series against Atlanta and spends the next two years in the cellar.
Five years later, 2003, and the magic is back. Five out of six from St. Louis in September when it actually mattered. Dominant ball against the upstart Marlins. Five outs away from the World Serious.
Great men and goats. Exhilaration and bitterness.
Which is a lot of words to get to the Picture of the Week.
Cruising along the Fort Lauderdale intracoastal waterway yesterday on the Carrie B with my wife and eldest daughter, one particular feature at one of the many lavish waterfront estates caught my eye.
With the glare of the water and the bright blue sky, I couldn’t trust myself until I got home and downloaded the pictures, but I thought I had seen a Cubs flag beneath the stars and stripes up on the beautiful home’s flagpole.
I was right, some fabulously wealthy Cubs fan, was proudly proclaiming loyalty as the team gets ready to defend the honor of Chicago in a new season.
But look more closely. The flag is flying upside down.
In another month or so, I’ll be on the deck of a Chicago Architecture Foundation tour boat, narrating the glories of the Chicago River. I will speak nonstop for an hour-and-a-half, describing between 70 and 80 buildings during that time.
Every one of those great buildings, except one, has been built since the Cubs last won the World Series. In some places structures have been designed, built, torn down and new buildings erected during that time. In a few cases the cycle has occurred several times.
A century is a long time. The flag is flying upside down.