Thursday, October 16, 2003
MarkBernstein.org
 
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Waiting 'til next year

Winter came, in the end, to the Cubs. Again, we wait for next year.

This couldn't happen to any other team. The Cubs have not won in my lifetime. Or my mother's. My grandparents saw the Cubs in the series, but they never saw them win. But -- the history! The stories!

"Turn back the hands of time,
Give me the youth that once was mine:
Where the hell is Clem Labine?
Let's do it over again."
--Lament, on the occasion of the Miracle at Coogan's Bluff

Fans of classical tragedy -- that is, the followers of Brooklyn and Boston -- can conjure a host of tiny changes that alter everything. If Torrez bears down on weak-hitting Bucky Dent, if Bill Buckner can reach down just one more time, if Buckner can simply manage to fall down and stop the ball, decades of failure end in sudden joy. Moments like these, polished in memory, themselves form patterns, instantly recognizable by fans. Merkle's boner. The homer in the gloaming. Pesky holds the ball. The shot heard 'round the world. Mays' catch. The Sixth Game. -- hypertext narrative and baseball

The Cubs are not tragedy. They are something else: the victims of fate.

Meanwhile, in another field entirely, the greatest pitching matchup of modern history, perhaps the greatest ever, happens tonight. Walter Johnson - Christy Matthewson? But that was an exhibition game. Pete Alexander-Cy Young? Koufax Ford? Mercy.