The Winter Meetings are over, the fellow blogsfolk are dispersed and busy, and I’m missing baseball a ton. We’re about two months and change from pitchers and catchers reporting, which is great, but that’s still two months before quasi-meaningful baseball with guys on teams that I actually care about. With the longing for baseball and the boredom comes the daydreaming of games gone by.
In the summer of 2010, it was the fourth summer that my family and I were Chicagoland residents since we had moved to the area for graduate school. I didn’t start going to Cubs games in earnest until the 2009 season, when I finally finished my classes and rotations and started getting into a groove in my thesis lab. Before then, my last game at Wrigley was in 2001, when Sammy Sosa still played (though he had the day off when I went, lame) and Deion Sanders had the summer off to play baseball. I had gone to a few games earlier on in the season with my son, but this summer, I had sent my wife and kid home to California to visit family while I chugged along doing thesis research. I also got a chance to go to a few games on my own.
The 2010 Cubs were not very good at baseball, but a far cry from the 90+ loss teams we suffered through over 2011-2013. Lou Piniella was still managing the skeletal remains of the last three winning clubs, and there was still a lingering hope that a window of contention would reopen. We all know different now, but I did start thinking then that it would be a good time to start a fire sale and turn the club around. Outside the blog, though, I enjoyed the games as a fan. It was fun to hang out at the ballpark and watch the games, take in the sights, etc. Summer weather was very pleasant as well, particularly at night. There were two specific games that I remember well.
In July, I went to two games within a week. On a Tuesday evening, I hung out with a friend from lab as he had an extra ticket and didn’t want to see it go to waste. I hadn’t planned to go that night as my friends were coming in on Saturday for the Cardinals game, and this game was against the Astros. The Astros, same as now, were worse than the Cubs and so I expected them to win. The starter was Ryan Dempster, who wasn’t terrible that year, so the chances that the Cubs would win seemed exceptionally high.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. I recall Dempster getting pummeled early and was surprised he was even allowed to go five innings. With the score at 7-1 Astros in the bottom of the fifth, I noticed that a bunch of fans had made an exodus. The Houston starter was Wesley Wright (now a Cub) and he was cruising along until that inning, when the Cubs offense exploded to close within a run and chased Wright. The Cubs would tie the game an inning later, and altogether would score 13 unanswered runs with the help of some suddenly sizzling hot bats and shoddy Astros defense. Aramis Ramirez had three homers and Geovany Soto also homered. It was one of my favorite games I’ve ever attended because the win was so unexpected given the context.
It was also memorable because that night, I noticed a funky change in the vision in my right eye. Over the next few days, the vision kept deteriorating (I had never been able to see very well with that eye but it was noticeably worse) so I got it checked out on Friday and discovered that my first guess was correct–the retina had detached. They couldn’t do the surgery until the following week, so I went to my next game with a detached retina (yay!).
This one was a Saturday early afternoon game against the Cardinals. My college friends came in for the weekend and we got to the game after the first inning was already underway, so we missed Albert Pujols‘ first plate appearance. The Cubs were down 2-1 at one point but eventually went ahead for good, not that we knew it at the time. The bullpen was hemorrhaging runs and threatening to give away the lead. Pujols ended up walking twice in the game, the last time against Carlos Marmol (who else?) in the top of the ninth. But the Cubs did end up winning and the half-Cub/half-Card fan crowd all had a good time. I recall that we wanted to see Pujols destroy a baseball and break a window across the street, but each time he came up it was relatively tame. Through both games, Starlin Castro had excellent performances and despite their record at the end of the 2010 season, the Cubs did play very well.
The following Wednesday, after my friends had gone home, I had surgery to repair the detached retina and I don’t think I went to another game until the following season. At least, I don’t recall going to any memorable games, certainly none as memorable as those two that week. It was not a good season overall, but I enjoyed those two games immensely. Maybe one day I’ll enjoy a similar streak of games in a championship season.