However, I have come to see things differently. Losing has always been in the card because divine forces have been acting on the field and behind the scenes telling us to repent, accept defeat, before it was too late. The 2003 season was foretold to me when I first became a fan back in the ‘70s; I was too young to understand then. In those days Rick Reuschel and his sorry-ass brother Paul were leading the team into a pit of despair. This was the post-1969 team that never recovered from the shame and humiliation of falling out of first place late in the season. This was the team that featured Bobby Murcer in right, Jerry Morales in center and Jose Cardenal in left; Steve Ontiveros, Ivan DeJesus, Manny Trillo, and Bill Buckner; the infield third to first, and a battery of Ray Burris and George Mitterwald. Burris was hailed as the “New Fergie Jenkins,” another thing that never quite panned out either. After running his record to 12 and 10, I recall him saying in an interview, “I like to nibble at the corners.” My brother and called him Death-Ray. His best season for the Cubs was ’76 when he went 15 and 13.
What held the seasons together were the venerable announcers: Jack Brickhouse, Lou Boudreau, and Vince Lloyd, the latter of which had a major league vocabulary, the likes of which has not been seen in sports broadcasting since. He once referred to Ivan Dejesus as the “majordomo” of National League shortstops. In contrast, when Pat Hughues said that a Houston hurler had a “plethora” of different pitches, Ron Santo, the old third-baseman, responded, “What in the heck is a plethora?”
For us, there were always signs of hope, which of course was the problem. After team owner Philip K. Wrigley died, things were going to change. Wrigley was an enormous tight wad and after he died, the new management decided that they would put up the cash for a free agent. The year was ’78 and the Savior was Dave ‘King Kong’ Kingman, a ball-mashing, home-run hitting bone head who ended up with over 400 career round-trippers and a minuscule .222 batting average. He was a gorilla: a six-foot-six masher with a bad temper and a penchant for strikeouts.
Cub fans already knew him. When he was playing for the Mets he was on first base in a tight game and the batter hit a sharply hit ball to deep second. Kingman slid hard into second to try to take out utility infielder Mick Kelleher at short as he took the throw. Kelleher couldn’t have been taller than 5 foot 9. When the 6 foot 6, 210-pound Kingman went in hard, Kelleher jumped on his back and punched him in the back of the head until the two could be separated. That was baseball!
Both players put this behind them when Kingman came to Chicago, and he actually had a couple of good seasons. He hit .266 with 28 homers in his first season. His second year was one of his best seasons in baseball. He knocked out 48 homeruns and hit .288. He took a mean cut at the plate. Jack Brickhouse would tell us that the whole stadium feels the breeze when he swings and misses. At the time of his retirement he was fourth in all time strikeouts by a hitter. He never hit for average, but some of the shots he hit have yet to land, others broke windows out of the buildings on Waveland Avenue. His downfall in Chicago occurred when he started writing a weekly column for the Tribune (albeit with the help of a ghost writer). His antics and personality took over and drove a wedge between him and the Cubs management and he was gone a year later.
To be continued…
Crossposted at My Ongoing Struggle with Misanthropy: http://jimmygabacho.com/?p=845