[This post is a part of the Letters to an Adopted Child series. Read the series preface here.]
Wrigley Field is the home of the Chicago Cubs. Our team’s stadium is known for the ivy that grows along the outfield wall, the basket that turns fly balls into home runs, the wind that cuts the ball down one inning and then carries it out the next. Wrigley is also known for the rooftop seating across the street, which is where your grandfather sat while the 21-year-old Kerry Wood struck out twenty Houston Astros, completing a near-perfect game that some say was greatest pitching performance in history.
And that’s really what we talk about when we talk about Wrigley Field: history and family. You’ll hear people say how the scoreboards used to not be there, or how they remember when Wrigley did not have any lights. Certainly, you’ll hear a lot about what people think of Steve Bartman, a fan who knocked a foul ball away from the left fielder Moises Alou. This man became another manifestation of a decades-old curse. First appearing as a goat in 1945, as a black cat in 1969, and then as Bartman in 2003, this curse had famished Cubs baseball, blocking the team from playing in the World Series for 71 years, and keeping it from winning it for 108 years.
Wrigley Field, historically, has been a losing place. It has been nicknamed the Friendly Confines, which I always took to mean that our team would not put up a real fight.
But Wrigley Field is also where Kyle Hendricks nonchalantly out-pitched the Hall of Fame Los Angeles Dodger, Clayton Kershaw, giving up no runs on two hits in the final game of the National League Championship Series, played on October 22, 2016. Where the Cubs’ batters scored in half the innings they hit, and where the closer, Aroldis Chapman, showed confidence unshakable enough to be imitated by millions of anxious, curse-believing fans around the world.
On that night, first baseman Anthony Rizzo caught the final out on a throw from middle infielder Javier Baez to complete a series-ending double play. Rizzo would also catch the final out in Cleveland a week and a half later on a throw from the National League MVP, Kris Bryant. But it was on October 22 when Rizzo, the team captain, who had long been the sole bright spot of losing seasons, who bore the weight of an entire city’s expectation, looked out into the crowd of forty thousand delirious Chicago fans and punched his arms out in victory, as if to say, We did it. We did it.
After the game, a reporter went into the stands and found Dorothy, an elderly woman who had been going to every Cubs home game since 1984.
“Did you ever think this day would come?” He asked.
“No,” she said. “I just wish my brothers were alive to see this.”
I was in Wrigleyville that night, just outside the stadium at a bar with many other fans. None of us had tickets to get into Wrigley, but we wanted to get as close as possible.
When the game was over and we left the bar, we saw Chicago police patrolling the roads, blockading certain paths leading closer to the stadium. The streets were soon thick with celebrating people, people so happy that the neighborhood became dangerous.
At one point, I found myself at an intersection so full of people that I was pushed up against a corner storefront, unable to move. For a brief moment, I thought I might not escape the crowd, ever.
But, I thought, at least the Cubs were winners in Wrigley, piled up on the pitcher’s mound, full of joy and astonishment like a dead man brought back to life.