Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Monday, March 22, 2004
I was laying about on Saturday afternoon, trying to avoid doing anything around the house or falling into the deadly trap laid every year by the fine folks at the NCAA, and I had the good fortune of running across an old baseball game on ESPN Classic. Not just any baseball game, mind you, but one of the all-time great games of Cub lore. June 23, 1984: the Ryne Sandberg two home run game.
I don't have any personal memories of the contest as I was thirteen at the time, living in Portland, OR, and fairly fresh in my Cubfandom. Of course, I've heard all sorts of stories about it second hand since I moved to Chicago, but, to my knowledge, I'd never had the distinct pleasure of witnessing the events.
I'll also add that I'm not much for information retention. In five years, if you ask me who was on the roster in 2003, I'll have a hard time recalling anything beyond major highlights. Thankfully, the likes of Lenny Harris and Troy O'Leary will fade from memory, but I'll also forget fun stuff like Todd Wellemeyer's first impressive outing in Milwaukee, or Doug Glanville's leadoff homer against Al Leiter in a late September game with huge playoff implications.
I hate that I'm that way, but it's a fact of my existence. Six months later, I already had to look up the Glanville homer to make sure it happened in September. Luckily, there are excellent resources at my disposal that keep me from making foolish factual errors in my writing (baseball-reference.com, baseballprospectus.com, retrosheet.org to name a few), and for a more visceral experience of days gone by, there's ESPN Classic.
One of the side effects of reliving such divine moments are the little, or sometimes not so little, things you notice. In all the hubbub surrounding Sandberg's amazing performance that day, other gems got lost. Had Ryno not come through with his second homer in the 11th, this game would still be a classic, but would likely be referred to as the Willie McGee Cycle game.
Quick! Tell me who had the game winning hit for the Cubs. Many of you may be steeped enough in the legend to know, but I hadn't a clue that Spike Owen had an older brother, let alone one who played in the Majors. Yet Dave Owen was the lucky soul who came up with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the 11th, and he responded with the game winning single to right, one of only 27 hits and 16 RBI he had his entire career.
Baseball fans revel in the small things. The forgotten key play - like Leon Durham's walk, steal of second, and advance to third on a throwing error that forced St. Louis to load the bases in the 11th. The unknown player who got the biggest hit of his life to win the game. The star whose brilliance on a particular day was overshadowed by another who shone just a little brighter.
It's these very things that I routinely forget, letting them fall out of my consciousness like a two week old grocery list. But not anymore. This year could be one where every little moment will be precious. So, despite my failings, my natural tendencies to lose the minutia in the fog of memory, I'm going to savor and remember all that I can.
This season could be a once in a lifetime experience, and I don't want to miss a moment of it. Not now, not thirty years from now.