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The Truth, Mainly - 10/09/1995

So the World Series is coming — so who really cares?

I've been around the block a time or two. I'm an old guy. You want to know how old? I'll tell you:

I'm so old I remember the last time the Chicago Cubs were in the World Series. Fifty years ago this week. Five decades. A half century.

You know how long ago that was? It was so long ago we still thought baseball was a warm-weather sport and we thought it should end before Thanksgiving. Imagine that.

Not that I care about baseball any more. It's been all downhill since Bobby Thompson hit that home run off Ralph Branca back in Ought-Fifty-One. That meant the Dodgers, who were still in Brooklyn (Divine Law having not yet been repealed), blew the 13-game lead they had in August.

That 13-game lead was the high-water mark of American civilization. I lost interest in baseball after that. Who could care about a sport that allows the Dodgers, still in Brooklyn, to blow a 13-game lead? Not me, that's who.

So I really didn't even care when O'Malley moved the Dodgers in '58 from Brooklyn to LaLa Land. You know what I said? I said "Who even cares? Not me, that's who."

After that, things fell apart because the center, Ebbets Field, hadn't held. So-called major league baseball teams started showing up all over the country.

It was as if God had never said "Let there be major league baseball and let it be confined to the northeast quadrant of the United States."

Are you aware there are "major league" teams now in places like Denver and Seattle and Montreal? Even in Texas, for crying out loud.

There are so many of them that now we've got divisions of the National League and the American League—eastern divisions and western divisions and south-by-southeast divisions and north-by-northwest divisions and who knows what else by the time you read this?

And now there's something called "wild-card spots," whatever that means. I don't know and I don't care. When I'm in a barbershop and they start talking about wild-card spots in baseball, I walk out. A man can takes just so much.

Anyway, wild-card spots are what got me remembering the last time the Cubs were in the World Series. A week or so ago in Wrigley Field—do you know they have lights there now?—the Cjubs were playing a team called the Expos—what the hell's an Expo?—and the Cub pitcher gave up a home run. So this madman came down out of the stands and jumped on the pitcher's back. They rassled around a while like they were some Bill Veeck stunt.

And listen to this: the sports page said it was because the home run may have cost the Cubs "a chance at the NL wild-card spot."

Well, la-de-damn-da.

Like I say, I don't know what a wild-card spot is and I don't want to know, but I'll bet you this: I'll bet the madman who jumped the pitcher couldn't tell you the last time the Cubs were in a real, honest-to-God World Series. Anyone who gets that excited about a wild-card spot doesn't have any sense of history.

The Truth, Mainly


He probably doesn't even remember the great nicknames players had back in '45. Who's got a great nickname now? Nobody, that's who. OK, maybe that guy they call The Big Hurt. Maybe that's not a bad nickname. But who else?

Fifty years ago, everybody had a great nickname. Stan the Man and Snuffy Sternweiss and Country Slaughter and Scooter Rizzuto and Dizzy Trout and Babe Herman and Stubby Overmire and Joltin' Joe and the Splendid Splinter and King Kong Keller and Rube Melton and Frenchy Bordagaray and Goody Rosen and Dixie Walker and PeeWee Reese and Pistol Pete Reiser and Leo the Lip and Stinky Stanky and Rapid Robert (Bullet Bob) Feller, the Van Meter Meteor.

Those were nicknames to conjore with.

Jolly Cholly Grimm was the Cubs manager in '45, and Handy Andy Pafko had 111 RBIs, so they won the pennant. Not a north-central division championship. Not a wild-card spot. They won the pennant of the whole National League.

And the Detroit Tigers won the pennant of the whole American League because '45 was the year Prince Hal Newhouser went 25-9 and Hammerin' Hank Greenberg came back from WWII and hit home runs like he'd never been gone.

The Cubs lost the series, of course, when Prince Hal beat them in the seventh game, 9-3.

And the whole thing was over by Oct. 10. You can look it up.

But don't expect guys who get excited over wild-card spots to remember any of that. They can't remember last week. Not that there's anything from last week worth remembering.

But some of us have been around the block a time or two. We're old guys. We remember when baseball had Real Significance.

Take that two-out double Cookie Lavagetto hit to the corner of Ebbets Field in the bottom of the ninth inning in the '47 Series that ruined Bevins' no-hitter and won the game for the Dodgers.

Somebody ought to write an epic poem about it.


Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage meaning from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.


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