1984: A Significant Cubs Collapse – T.Boswell

Heart of the Order-BoswellThomas Boswell’s outstanding baseball storybook, The Heart of the Order (Doubleday, 1989) contains a heart-rending chapter for every Chicago Cubs fan – “1984: The Year the Cubbies Lost the Pennant.” If the memory of their close encounter with the World Series isn’t painful enough, there are videos on the Internet to bring the pain back.

But while the memory kills, Boswell’s description of the Cubs collapse in that final NL series with the San Diego Padres will at least make you smile – because he writes so well. Small consolation, I know, but still worth the read. Allow me to share his side of the story of that September Fall (Yes, there is a double meaning in that word “fall.”).

In the absence of any ongoing drama, the doings of the Cubs became the game’s official summer saga. Perhaps a perennial losing team touches a far deeper chord in people than any mere winner cold. You learn wisdom in defeat, not victory. George Allen, with typical football myopia, said that losing is like dying. Cub fans know he had it wrong: losing isn’t like dying; it’s like living. So what? It ain’t so bad.

Maybe Chicago’s feelings about the Cubs were summoned up by a sign in a restaurant near Wrigley Field. ‘Any employee wishing to miss work because of death or serious illness,’, it read, ‘please notify the office by 11 A.M. on the day of the game.’

By the time the postseason began, the Cubs were practically the nation’s mascots. Perhaps those years of fantasy baseball had the whole country primed for an orgy of paeans to day baseball, old brick outfield walls and ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ during the seventh-inning stretch.

Then, just in time, the Cubs came to the rescue. The ancient order remained intact. The Cubs proved they were still the Cubs. The ivied park with its cheerful message – you don’t have to go to the World Series every year, or even every lifetime, to be cherished – was safe (p.133).

There is more to this sad but well told story. The painful details we will leave for next time.

By the way, have you noticed where the Cubbies are in the standings this year? Dare I say, poised to make the playoffs?!

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