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Sitting in a green wooden seat marked number “3” in the second row of section 27, I saw Sammy Sosa practice swinging near the dugout. His forearms and shoulders bulged giving a muscular shape to the blue and red Cubs jersey. His thighs were as thick as baby cedar trees. Sammy stepped up to the plate calmly. As he tightened his blue batting gloves snug around his wrists, he also dug two spots for placing his feet. I heard chants from the rising crowd behind the Cubs dugout “M-V-P, M-V-P!”. In Wrigley Ville, a small residential region of northern Chicago, he’s often referred to as “Slammin” Sammy Sosa. The Cubs captain lead the National League with 63 home runs surpassing Babe Ruth’s 1927 and Roger Maris’ 1961 records for the second time in his career. Any baseball card will tell you that he stands six feet tall and weighs 220 pounds. However, a baseball card won’t admit that Sammy hit a ball nearly length of two football fields. At 1:30 p.m. that Sunday, Waveland avenue residents knew that their homes were in danger of Sosa’s homeruns flying into their yards or worse – their windows.
* * * *
Trips to Chicago were not something I could do regularly. Six courses at MIT kept me busy enough that a weekend out of town would disrupt my study schedule. An inexpensive ticket and really good reason would allow me to travel home. During early October, flights were selling for half the normal prices since the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11th. I had no fears of flying unlike some of my paranoid colleagues so I bought a United Airlines ticket to go home. I wanted to see two things: my family and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
* * * *
The cheers for Sammy renewed an energy that I lacked for the three years of college. The boisterous voice of the crazed fan sunk deep into my eardrum, “Let’s go Sammy, hit one out for me, baby.” The Internet radio version of the Cubs games over the last three years never produced this type of quality.
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Cubs fans filled the stadium to limits. Something like 38,000 people showed their true colors, red and blue, by their attendance at the beautiful Wrigley Field. Little babies, grammar school children, high school kids, young adults, and elders made the crowd that day. A game at Wrigley was a family event. It was not a place for men in $2000.00 suits along with women half their age. The style of Wrigley is characterized by the die-hard Cubs fan. Even though a win that day wouldn’t change the fact that the Cubs were eliminated from the playoffs, every one was on his/her feet cheering on Sammy. A Cubs fan spirit and the pride of Wrigley will never be broken down despite the last 93 years without winning a championship. The future, next season’s outcome, is something that a die-hard Cubs fan has been looking ahead to since 1908. Since the curse of the Billy goat 1945, fans wait for just a chance at the pennant. At the 1945 World Series, William Sianis bought two tickets for himself and his pet goat, Murphy. Ushers turned Sianis and the goat away and the “Billy Goat Hex” at Wrigley Field was placed. Attempts to bring a goat back into the stadium have been made but no Cub bears a N.L. Pennant ring.
The history of the curse collides with the emergence of a winning Cubs team of 2001. Chicago watches Sammy Sosa every at-bat hoping to shatter the 56-year-old curse once and for all. Sammy is physically strong but has a burden of unimaginable magnitude. Years of failure continuously stack atop each other like a tower of defeat. Wrigley needs a savior and his name might as well be Sammy Sosa. We are tired of the outsiders expecting the Cubs to lose. Cubs fan pride grows nearly as strong as the hex that binds the team’s success. We welcome any chance to put us in the playoffs to win it all. No one likes to remember the pity year of 1999, when the Cubs lost the Division series against Atlanta in three straight games. Cubs fans’ desires were let down during the first playoff appearance since 1987. It was the wild card position, the worst team allowed in the playoffs, but still it meant we could still play after the regular season. However, I look back and see 1999 as a dirty trick of the curse. Heroics led the Cubs to beat the San Francisco Giants in a one-game playoff for the wild card spot. We didn’t win the division, or pennant or World Series, but people were ecstatic. Vendors started printing hats, t-shirts, just about anything with “Chicago Cubs – Wild Card 1999.” Isn’t that pathetic? A wild card playoff spot does not fulfill the emptiness of 97 years without a World Series title. I look back to that day and remember saying, “Cubs fans, go ahead, be happy for now, but there is much more to win so don’t spend your cheers in one place.”
Sammy keeps his eyes on the ball as the Pittsburgh pitcher hurls a fastball towards the plate. I saw this pitcher warming up and he can really throw some heat. My view is from the side, so I cannot distinguish a good pitch from a bad one. However, I watch as Sammy pulls the bat from behind his head and around his body, quick and rhythmically. His signature skip, hop and jump and you can make that 64 homeruns for the year. However, in this last regular season game, there are no playoffs ahead. Just next year.