October has to be the greatest month of the year. Fall is in the air, football has taken over our lives and for those who have old souls; it’s playoff baseball. Tonight is the play-in game between the Blue Jays and Orioles for the American League Wild Card and tomorrow the Mets and the Giants will play the 1 game playoff for the National League. These games are recently new to baseball and have made the playoffs so much more intense. Baseball is usually a game of series, but when you break it down to a single game all bets are off. Each team will use strategy that is not standard for this baseball, doing everything they can to win. Tuesday and Wednesday of this week are slow TV nights so do yourself a favor and watch these games. You will see baseball in a different light.
Now this October has something special and more unique than most. In my opinion there are 3 major baseball stories that will be amazing to see written this year. All 3 involve cities that are near to my heart. #1: Lets start with the most recent city of champions, Cleveland! This is a place I know as my second home. I married into it but have embraced the city and its sports craze with all I have. I don’t have the years invested as many of my other friends and family who’ve lived their entire lives there, but I still love it. When the Cavs won the NBA Championship this past season it felt as if a weight was lifted off the city. They are no longer the bastard-child of the sports world. At that time the Indians were in first place in their division and playing well, but after the Cavs won the Tribe found another gear. The city and the fans seemed to lift their sails higher and are riding the winds of momentum. Is it possible for a city that has been tormented and tortured for so long to run off 2 major titles back to back in different sports? Has God finally found love for this city again?
#2: Chicago is the greatest summer city in the country! That’s a fact. If you’ve never spent a summer in the heart of downtown Chicago you are missing out on life and I strongly advice it. And while there you must make time to visit Wriggly Field, home of the Cubs. Over the last 108 years this team has been known as the “loveable losers.” Cursed by the baseball gods and banished to a lifetime of misery. Could this be the year that all changes? Is this the team that will finally bring a championship to the North side? The Cubs are lead by a curse-breaking GM from Boston, Theo Epstein and one of the most unconventional managers the game has ever seen, Joe Maddon. I love this city and love watching this team. This is the last great sports story that has yet to be written and they are closer now than they have ever been before.
And #3: The Boston Red Sox. This is the team of my youth. I’ve loved the city of Boston ever since I was a child. They broke their curse in 2004 and are playing for their 4th World Series in 12 years. Teams that have won recently don’t usually create the best sports stories. There has to be something extra to equate them with the 108 years of loosing for the Cubs and the misery of an entire city going from classic meltdowns to possibly winning back-to-back titles in different sports. That something extra is a man on the Hero List: Big Papi, David Ortiz. It was on the back of Ortiz that the Red Sox found the strength to break their curse. He led the city on its biggest comeback ever after the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. He has been the face of hope for that team and city ever since he arrived in 2003 and he is retiring from the game. Will we see him have one last epic run in the playoffs? Will he be able to lead and carry the Red Sox to another championship on his way out?
This has been the greatest final season any player has ever had in history: hitting .315 with 38 HRs and 127 RBI! When the Red Sox came back from down 3 games to none in the ALCS against the Yankees in 2004 I cried like a baby. When they went on to win their first World Series in 82 years against the Cardinals I cried again. When Papi gave his speech on the first game in Boston after the bombing where he coined the phrase “Boston Strong” and declared they wouldn’t fall to terrorist and that “this is our Fucking City” I cried. When he finally walks off the field for the final time I will cry again.
Which is the best story to be written this year? Is it Believeland? Can a city crushed in sports history fill the streets on the shores of Lake Erie twice in one year? The Indians do have Terry Francona as their manager. He was the manager for Boston when they won in 2004. He gets the Red Sox in round 1 knows that team very well. Is it the Cubs? Can the lovable losers change their destiny? Or is it Big Papi riding off into the sunset? Can he carry a team known for being a looser for years to 4 championships?
All 3 are great stories and I would love to see any of them, but my heart is with Papi. Cleveland finally got a championship and maybe 2 so quickly would do more damage than good. I don’t know if that city is ready for so much success so soon. And for the Cubs, it’s been 108 years for them; but the city of Chicago has won many titles over the years. The Blackhawks and the Bulls have had dynasties and the 85 Bears are one of the greatest NFL teams of all-time. So they’ve had plenty to cheer for over the years. Also the Cubs are very young and talented. If they don’t win this season they will be the favorites to win next year and probably for years to come. Theo has built that franchise the way he built Boston in the early 2000’s and the championship will come. But for Papi, this is it. The last time for him to make his mark on the game. Don’t get me wrong; I will be thrilled with any of these outcomes.
Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland A’s and former major leaguer, has a saying: “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” This is how I feel every October. And in the greatest quote from the best baseball movie of all time (Field of Dreams)
People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. “Of course, we won’t mind if you look around”, you’ll say. “It’s only $20 per person”. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.
Is baseball slow and boring sometimes? Sure. But it’s also nostalgic and therapeutic. I long for October baseball, for it is money I have and peace I lack.