The moment anticipated by many but expected by few actually has arrived. The Cubs are participating in the World Series.

Share story

BY DAN LEPSE

It turns out there is crying in baseball.

After the Chicago Cubs clinched the National League pennant last week with a game-ending double play, televised camera shots showed spectators throughout Wrigley Field weeping. Social-media posts from around the country displayed watery-eyed fans celebrating. There were even some tears shed in my basement.

The moment anticipated by many but expected by few actually has arrived. The Cubs are participating in the World Series.

Conversations about the Cubs often center on the year 1908. That’s the most recent year they won the World Series. The present-day scarcity of parking near the neighborhood ballpark wasn’t an issue back then, as Henry Ford had just that year introduced the Model T.

It wasn’t until 1916 that the Cubs even started playing at Wrigley Field.

The American League-winning Cleveland Indians would have elicited the nation’s sympathy against any other opponent, as they have been without a title since 1948. They’ll have to wait another 40 years to reach the Cubs’ current 108-year dry spell.

Though I would absolutely love to put that championship drought to rest, it’s hard to imagine being any happier than right now. The fact that the Chicago north-side squad hadn’t reached the World Series since 1945 always had been a greater source of frustration.

A 10-year-old kid attending that Fall Classic against the Detroit Tigers would be 81 today. Entering the Series, the Cubs had played 11,309 games since that previous World Series appearance.

It’s outrageous that the most precious diamond in baseball went 71 years without hosting its ultimate event. The Tigers won the 1945 World Series 4-3 over the Cubs.

How tragic would it be if Augusta National went seven decades without conducting the Masters? Or Daytona a NASCAR race? Or the Rose Bowl a postseason college football game?

The address at 1060 West Addison, which the Blues Brothers listed as their home address to fool the cops, is the site of the best ballpark in baseball. Sorry if the Red Sox faithful are offended. Your giant green wall is nice, but it can’t compare with the ivy-covered outfield walls, hand-operated center-field scoreboard and iconic red marquee of Wrigley Field.

The venerable ballpark’s long absence from World Series spotlight stops on Friday when Game 3 takes place at The Friendly Confines. I intend to be there. If an affordable ticket doesn’t become available to join the 40,000-plus fans inside Wrigley, then I’ll stand with the multitudes outside.

It’s an indescribable feeling, a state of shock and disbelief. I’m ecstatic.

The Cubs World Series appearance will officially become real for me when I hear the public-address announcer precede his introduction of the starting lineup with the phrase, “And now introducing your National League Champion Chicago Cubs!”

I’m a sucker for that kind of pageantry. That’s why opening day is so captivating.

In their first home game this year the Cubs got a comeback win, and I was at an opener there for just the second time. On my first opening day at Wrigley the Cubs lost. But I won as my girlfriend said “yes” to a marriage proposal under the marquee.

Tricia is a wonderfully supportive wife who tolerates (some would say “enables”) my Cubs obsession. She allowed me to drag an old entry turnstile from Wrigley Field into our house and approved of Cubs-themed names for our three daughters, including Sammy (Sosa) and Kerry (Wood). Our youngest is named Addison after the street Wrigley Field sits on, but in a bit of good fortune a young, rising star named Addison Russell now starts at shortstop.

Seattle baseball fans aren’t likely a sympathetic audience to listen about Cubs woes. The Mariners have never been to a World Series.

A frequent inquiry from locals is why I follow the Cubs and not the hometown Mariners.

The Mariners didn’t exist when I was a kid. For one year the Pilots brought baseball to Seattle and I attended a few games. But they immediately skipped town and headed to Milwaukee.

Two years later a trip to Chicago when I was 9-years-old featured a visit to Wrigley Field for a doubleheader. I was enamored with the ballpark. And the Cubs won the opener behind a home run from Seattle native Ron Santo and a win from starter Ferguson Jenkins. The second game was postponed midway through because of darkness (Wrigley did not have lights then).

I sincerely hope the Mariners bring a World Series to Seattle. I root for them against everybody except the Cubs.

If you are just now paying attention to the Cubs, you’ll see a team that is drastically different than its predecessors. This season’s Cubs feature precise pitching, hard hitting and most uniquely, dynamic defense. During the past several decades, more fly balls have been dropped by Cubs at Wrigley than fish have slipped from the hands of tourists at Pike Place Market.

The reason so many fans were nervous with a 5-0 lead late in the clinching NLCS game is that the franchise has a history of what former Cubs and Mariners manager Lou Piniella once termed “Cubby occurrences.”

Before the infamous grounder between Bill Buckner’s legs damaged the Red Sox’s 1986 championship dreams, Cubs first baseman Leon Durham made the exact same error that cost his team a 1984 World Series berth.

In 2003, fan Steve Bartman was reviled for interfering with a foul ball in the NLCS Game 6 collapse. But the blame should have been placed on Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez who, despite posting the league’s best fielding percentage at his position that year, misplayed a routine ground ball that would have resulted in a double play.

Because baseball is America’s national pastime, many people outside our borders are unaware of the Cubs’ history of ineptitude.

My brother Steve lives in Chicago and housed two German exchange students one summer. We attended a Cubs game, and on the way home one of the girls asked in a thick accent, “Are the Cubs always, every year winning the championship of America?” I replied, “Well, not every year.”

But maybe this year.

Dan “Sarge” Lepse is an assistant athletic director at Seattle Pacific University who worked 20 years with UW athletics. The lifetime Ballard resident shares a nickname with one of his favorite Cubs, Gary Matthews.  

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Paul Barrett at pbarrett@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.