Here’s a great book! Titled “Cubs Nation”. By Gene Wojciechowski. Published in 2005. Written about (and during) the 2004 season.
The front cover proudly proclaims: “162 Games – 162 Stories”, and that’s exactly what it is. Every game is a chapter. Date, score, location, stats and stuff. Followed by a story peripheral to the Cubs on the field. 162 stories or so.
My goodness, there’s Greg Maddux, Las Vegas oddsmakers, collectors, Mark Grace, George Will, Wrigley beer vendors, a guy who was shot dead, a wedding party, Ron Shelton, Ernie in L.A., Cubs’ director of stadium operations, a Wrigleyville real estate agent, The Sport Of Kings, e-Bay, umpire’s room attendant, The Lansing Lugnuts, an NBC broadcaster, The “Lemons”, S.I. photographer, Cubs media guys, and a 3B coach.
Then there’s a Korean Cubs fan, a singer, an architectural design director, a scorekeeper, scouting director, a Pittsburgh Pirate, The Cubs’ Trainer, director of ticket operations, an MLB DVD producer, a non-roster invitee, backup pinch hitter, Corey Patterson, Eric Karros, Michael Barrett, LaTroy Hawkins, a St. Louis columnist, Rick Sutcliffe, Ray Ordonez, Ozzie Guillen, a marketing director, and Jerome Holtzman.
Also All-Star ballots, red shirted ushers, a media guy, a minor-league callup, an umpire, a ticket sales guy, Carlos Zambrano, a reliever, a fantasy baseball guru, a first-aid nurse, Ron Santo’s dog, parking lot attendant, Cardinals fan, Cincinnati writer, uniform factory, Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Fame, Studs Terkel, Bartman, baseball bats, Sammy Sosa, falling concrete, a 4-way trade, Nomar, Matt Clement, and a scout.
Don’t forget the store owner, another scout, Andy Pafko, Gary Pressy, 2 bleacher bums, faxes to Ron and Pat, Joe Borowski, Jim Riggleman, Dr. Tom House, New Era sales rep (Cubs caps), Cubs team historian, Kerry Wood, Steve Stone, Corey Patterson’s dad, Bill James, Wrigley head groundskeeper, Cubs traveling secretary, a wheelchair guy, Sam Sianis, Marlins president, Wrigley home clubhouse manager, and Chip Caray.
Plus a Cubs hater at Comiskey, Chicago Firemen, John McDonough, Cubs coordinator of special events and entertainment, Billy Williams, Cubs scouting reports, Todd Walker, Mark Prior, Hidemi Kittaka, Ed Lynch, a djembe player, Rick Fuhs, Jim Hendry, Dusty Baker, and more. Followed by a great epilogue.
Some of my favorite quotes:
- “These guys were pretty good before I got here.”
- “Mazzone and Maddux were together longer than a Kia warranty.”
- “The eighth inning, Dusty Baker says, ‘can be a lot more important than the ninth’.”
- “Grace suffers from the collectibles triple play: retired, didn’t retire as a Cub, didn’t get a postretirement job with the Cubs.”
- “Little Known Fact: Cubs pitchers pick the jersey tops worn for the game.”
- “There is a kind of Cubs fan who seems to relish the fact that there’s been so much losing and futility. They need to get out of the house more and get a life.”
- “Mr. Wrigley used to say that the moon and stars are for love, that baseball was meant to be played in the daytime.”
- “I’ve had it great here. Everybody’s been so nice. If God should take me tomorrow, I don’t think I’ve missed anything. I’ve seen it all.”
- “Hitters only remember what they hit, not what they didn’t hit.”
- “Blacks were associated with the South Side of Chicago. The North meant, like, Minnesota – The Great White North Side. Anybody my age who grew up here would understand that.”
- “He is of the Cubs world, but he isn’t entirely in it.”
- “You don’t find any Yuppie Red Sox fans.”
- “Organs aren’t my favorite musical instrument. I hear an organ and I immediately look around for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”
- “I could buy a beach house in Wisconsin on the tinted window concession alone.”
- “Zambrano’s schtick is getting old to opponents and, if you had to bet a nickel, to teammates alike.”
- Caray and Stone are paid to call and analyze the game, not wave red and blue pom-poms.”
- “They’re really wearing tailored suits.”
- “I tried to talk Yosh into giving me #14. He says, ‘No, that’s retired. That’s Ernie Banks’s number.’ I said, ‘Who’s Ernie Banks?’.”
- “Hire good people and let them do the job.”
- “The whole financial thing of the game has changed. It’s a runaway train.”
- “Movement is more important than velocity.”
- “It’s not a game anymore. It’s money. Money talks.”
- “…a lot of these people seem to be very close friends with the Bud and Old Style vendors.”
- “…they can hit our pitching, we can’t hit theirs.”
- “Baseball is a game of failure coached by negative people in a misinformation environment,”
- “There’s no crying in baseball.”
- “This was a game so devoid of Cubs highlights that you wanted to chug a frosted mug of Clorox and send it down with a Lysol chaser.”
- “Live it up, the meter’s running.”
- “The reality of it – and nobody wants to hear this – is that it comes down to luck.”
- “The bullpen is as vulnerable as a comb-over in a wind tunnel.”
- “…I didn’t get dumb overnight. It doesn’t happen like that.”
The author does it real well. As you can see, this is quality writing on interesting subjects. I wasn’t around for the 2004 season, but with Gene Wojciechowski fleshing it out, I feel like I was. And, in a way, I was. If you don’t know the “Cubs Nation” after reading this book, there’s no hope for you.