You could’ve guessed 63 innings weren’t enough, not even close, because this World Series was far too intriguing to settle into the average time frame of any Fall Classic, where a champion is crowned and a loser is banished to a long, cold winter filled with regret.
Baseball’s grand stage this year was something bigger, better. The two most-tortured fan bases put their faith in their pennant-winning teams, both of whom did everything humanly possible to negate decades of misery. Simply put, a lot more was on the line than a trophy.
If you looked around Progressive Field on Wednesday night, when the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians spent another night unable to get out of each other’s way, you witnessed the full scope of human emotion. You saw the anxious fan, the hopeful fan, the joyful fan, the devastated fan, the emotionally drained fan who couldn’t take one more inning of this grudge match, and the charged fan who never wanted this drama to end.
No matter which group you were leaning toward, we were treated to a baseball game people will talk about for a long time. Fans wait and wait for their teams to be a part of something as special as this because the promise of joy.
And when the Cubs put a big blue bow on their 10-inning victory in Game 7, joy certainly came.
Some waited longer than most. And when you raise a glass in celebration today, tomorrow, and forever, think of these folks and smile.
Meet Hazel Nilson.
She is 108 years old, and grew up within walking distance of Wrigley Field, so it’s no wonder she developed an affinity for the Cubs from a young age. She remembers the games as young adult, when she bought her first car for $28 dollars and worked hard as a gym teacher at the height of the Great Depression, according to a story by NBC10 Philadelphia.
All these years later, she never lost faith. This week her faith has been rewarded in a big way, making it even more special that her neighbors threw her a viewing party for Game 7. And believe it or not, they reached out to the organization suggesting that some players bring the World Series trophy to New Hampshire so she can touch it.
She said that would check off the final item on her bucket list.
But what’s even better, she called this win. Her reasoning had nothing to do with momentum, the Chicago lineup shaking off a slump, Kyle Hendricks’ remarkable postseason stretch, or any of the other typical things people would want to discuss.
Hazel was convinced the Cubs would win because her age proved it. They last won 108 years ago and there are 108 stitches on a baseball.
A stitch for every year she’s waited and there are no more to count. What a feeling.
Meet Loretta Dolan.
She is 101 years old, and her beloved Cubs last won the World Series six years before she was born. She was 31 when they last made an appearance in the Fall Classic and, of course, she remembers all the misery that followed. But she stood by her team, kept score at hundreds of games over the years and even developed a reputation as friendly face around the Friendly Confines. She even threw out a ceremonial first pitch – over a decade ago for her 90th birthday.
She can recall the long playoff droughts, Rick Sutcliffe blowing Game 5 of the 1984 NLCS, Bartman in 2003, the stacked lineup choking in 2008. And all the other frustrating tidbits that add up at unbearable levels.
But they finally got to the big stage to face the Cleveland Indians last week, ousting the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.
“The beautiful Cubs win and that was really something!” she told ABC7 Chicago.
Imagine the joy now.
Meet Virginia Wood.
She’s 101 years old, and doesn’t believe in curses. Her wheelchair is always parked in front of the television when the Cubs play because, well, what better way to spend evenings?
“Oh, I’m counting them going all the way, absolutely,” she told National Public Radio.
Talk about faith being rewarded.
Wood’s son, Gary, says he and the family have been hoping for a title simply because it’s what Virginia’s been wanting for her birthday for quite some time. “She’ll be 102 next month,” he said.
This kind of gift didn’t need wrapping paper.
Meet Ray Styrlund.
He is 105 years old, and all he wants to think about, talk about, gush about in his East Moline, Illinois home is the Cubs.
“I felt relieved,” he told WPRI when they finally made it to the World Series for the first time since 1945. “I can’t wait another 100 years.”
Actually, Ray swears the key to his longevity is rooting for the Lovable Losers (well, we need a new moniker now, but you get the point).
“Turn to being a Cubs fan and you will live longer,” he said. “It’s that simple. Me, I got great genes. My mother lived to be 100; an uncle 104; dad’s sister, 100. My wife, she was 98 when she passed, and we were just shy of being married 73 years. I have all that good going for me, but the key is being a Cubs fan. I’m living to see them win a World Series.”
What more could you ask for?
By: Brian Fitzsimmons