This was an early slogan from Ernie Banks..Hall of Fame SS/1B for the Chicago Cubs. 1969 started as a magical year (and almost a FULL year) for Cub fans. I turned 10 yrs old in May of 1969. It was my fourth season as a full fledged Cubs fan. We lived, at the time, in a southern suburb, Oak Forest. My father was a lifelong Cub fan and had handed down his knowledge and wisdom of this storied franchise.
Banks, Glenn Beckert, Don Kessinger, Ron Santo, and Randy Hundley protected the bases and supplied some offense. Billy Williams, Jim Hickman, Don Young..with help from Al Spangler.. patrolled the outfield. The starting pitchers, most teams used only four back then, were Fergie Jenkins, Bill Hands, Ken Holtzman, and Dick Selma. These four started all but 15 of the 162 games. Phil Regan and Ted Abernathy, a submarine baller, finished the games on the rare occassion that the starter didn't go 9 innings. This team was loaded. Go Cubs Go!!!!
From April through June, this Cubs team held the heart of the city with their excellent play. They won their first four games! They were 41-19 on June 15th. Incredibly winning more than 2/3 of their games. Young fans like myself were proudly walking around with Cub hats, Cub T-shirts, Cub STUFF all the time. What a summer!!! The veteran fans , like my Dad, were smiling day after day. The beauty of Cubs baseball is that it's played in the daytime. Wrigley Field had no lights in 1969. Day baseball, better yet, day winning baseball, is the best baseball of all kinds. It was watched at home by kids on summer vacation. It was listened to at work by the Dads (and Moms) and made the workday fly. This 1969, my friends, was splendid!!
Things started to change a bit in the middle of June. In the midst of a road trip, the Cubs were swept in a four game series by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hmmmm?? The only other time that year that the Cubs didn't win a game in any series was a short 2 game series against these very same Pirates back in April. No big deal, we thought...we're still the best team in the National League. The team picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and won the next 9 of 12 games. We're doing fine!!! The Cubs finish June with 50 wins against only 27 losses. Being 10 yrs old at the time, I didn't even know who was in 2nd place, but it didn't matter, we were headed to the World Series.
July started to show some cracks in the juggernaut heading toward super stardom. The record for the month was a pedestrian 15-14. Not bad, but there were a few short losing steaks starting to leave the fans with a few less smiles. August started with a 7 game winning streak...aha!! we're back on track, baby. August ends up at 17-11. We're doing fine 83-52 with just one month separating the Cub fan from the World Series. It couldn't come fast enough.
Now, unbeknownst to a 10 yr old, there was a perennial laughingstock team in New York, the Mets, who were having a pretty good year. Nothing special, but pretty good. At the end of May, the Mets were 21-23. Nine full games behind the streaking Cubs. Through June, after they had a 19-9 month, they were still 7 1/2 games behind. No problem folks.Through July, the Cubs still lead the suddenly pretty good Mets by 6 1/2 games. The Mets had a monster August, but the Cubs were still in front and in charge by 4 1/2 games. The grown ups in Chicago may have been getting a little nervous, but us kids knew better...we have this one.
September....school's back in session, the summer has a few weeks of official calendar time left. Heading to 5th grade with my favorite team flying high in the National League was not too bad. Life was good
September was not good to the Cubs...8 wins and 17 losses. This included an 8 game losing streak. Oh Boy. The Mets go 23-7 in September. Bye bye 1st place in the National League, bye bye World Series...hello long suffering Cub Fan Club..
The Mets won the World Series in 1969. They delivered a wonderful year for their adoring fans. The Cubs, didn't win the WS, but they gave a 10 yr old his first taste of winning baseball (for 5 of 6 months).
I've been living and dying with my favorite team every year since. 2013 will be the 44th season since 1969. It's almost April...I'm feeling like this may be the year!!! Go Cubs Go !!
Pained - oh how I remember this season; it was the same year I had gone to Wrigley to see the Cubs play in person for the first time. Way out west of Elgin, IL, I was playing my third year of Little League (I was an inaugural member helping to form this league) and every practice I would emulate one of the Cubs players - hoping one day I could play alongside my heroes.
I was so crushed when the team faded in September, that I lost all interest in watching Major League baseball for at least 10 years. Ironically, 2013 is my first year as a Cubs season-ticket holder. My how things change!