I was not able to get back to Chicago to attend this year’s Cubs Convention (Behind the Ivy recaps the 2014 event here), though I have attended a convention before and it was awesome. I was able to join the late (unfortunately) Stephanie Leathers who was the Publisher & Editor of the Bleacher Banter, at the Hilton & Towers (prior convention location). Stephanie was a great hostess who had attended the conventions since it was created by former team president John McDonough, that debuted in 1985. It was a great weekend for me to be there as there were so many things to see and do. I remember spending a lot of time in lines to get autographs. One thing I was planning to do next time I attend a convention was to attend some of the break out sessions to find out even more about my favorite team.
One session this year that I would have made sure I attended was the session about the 1984 season. From reading the article on the Chicago Tribune’s Sports Section webpage, the session had Lee Smith, Rick Sutcliffe (The Red Baron), Scott Sanderson (Sand Man), Gary Matthews (Sarge) and Jay Johnstone from that team talking about what they all went through. I do not know specifically what was talked about however, that was the summer for me between graduating high school and starting my college career at Western Illinois University. 1984 did not seem too out of the ordinary than previous seasons for the Cubs as it seemed that there was always the eternal hope that this would be the year that the Cubs would win the pennant and at the end of April, the Cubs were tied for the division lead. In May the Cubs were only a half game behind the Philadelphia Phillies for the Eastern Division. As the Cubs continued their pennant chase, Dallas Green, the General Manager at the time, felt that the Cubs still needed a little more help. On June 13, 1984; Green made a trade with the Cleveland Indians that brought Sutcliffe along with Ron Hassey and George Frazier for Mel Hall, Joe Carter and Don Schulze. With Sutcliffe added to the starting rotation, it seemed that the Cubs got a spark for an incredible run.
The Cubs just seemed to really come together on June 23, 1984 against the hated St Louis Cardinals and former Cubs Reliever Bruce Sutter. This is the game that has been affectionately dubbed “The Game” and solidified Ryne Sandberg as a Most Valuable Player candidate plus a true future Hall of Fame Second Baseman. Sandberg hit two crucial home runs off Sutter for the Cubs to pull out the victory. Jim Frey, the manager, seemed to have the team really heading in the right direction. Sutcliffe, who had struggled in Cleveland to start the season, would go 16-1 for the Cubs and would win the 1984 Cy Young Award, Sandberg won the MVP award and the Cubs won the National League East with a 96-65 record. The Cubs finished 6 1/2 games ahead of the New York Mets and would be playing the San Diego Padres for the National League Championship. Things were looking real good for the Cubs to make their first World Series since 1945 and Cubs Nation was excited.
Things started out well for the Cubs as the playoffs at the time were a best of five series with alternating home-field advantage between the two divisions. 1984 was the year that the National League West Division were to host the last three games in the NLCS with Games 4 & 5 if necessary. The Cubs started out strong in winning the first game 13-0 followed by a 4-2 victory in game two. Wrigleyville was going insane as it was the first time in a long time that the Cubs looked to be heading further into the playoffs as there was only 1 more victory needed in the next three games in San Diego. Game 3 did not go well as the Cubs fell 7-1 to the Padres and in Game 4, Closer Lee Smith wound up struggling in the 9th inning as the Cubs fell 7-5.
We still had Game 5 for all the marbles; yet, things just did not go that way. Is it something to blame Leon Durham for when the ball went between his legs in the bottom of the 7th inning? Not the best time to have a mental lapse by Durham, of course; however, still opportunities to be able to pull out the victory. Was it the distraction of the San Diego fans starting what has become known as “The Wave” in the stands? You can’t blame something that the fans were doing for the Cubs just falling apart at the end of the game. Do you blame manager Jim Frey for leaving Rick Sutcliffe in too long if it appeared that Sutcliffe was losing his stuff or how does one decide where the blame falls?
The only thing that I know for sure is that I was originally under the belief that the 1984 Playoffs were the year that Major League Baseball screwed the City of Chicago and Cubs Nation by switching the home field advantage from the East to the West. Yet everywhere I am able to search show that the Padres had the home field advantage as the two National League Divisions (American League too) would flip back and forth who had home field and in 1984, it belonged to the Western Division. I just remember believing that the Cubs had every chance to win the series and get to the World Series and for some reason once again, it did not come to fruition and my heart was broken as much as everyone else. The thing that made things worse for me is that I was just starting my freshman year at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois, which had just as many St Louis fans as it did Cub fans. I am too young to remember 1969, but 1984 and the subsequent seasons that the Cubs made the playoffs, especially 2003, leave a major scar in my heart.
Will the Cubs ever end the streak of years since making a World Series or the streak since winning it all? Does it seem that the Ricketts Family is taking the team in the right direction? That is now coming up for major debate strictly from the perspective that the Roof Top Owners are not willing to see the bigger picture for the neighborhood or the team. At this point with the way things are going, I would support the move to Rosemont versus continuing the struggles with the Roof Top Owners. The Cubs would still be technically in Chicago and having a new stadium that is state of the art, plus all the new streams of revenue would most definitely help with the transformation to the Theo Epstein’s Cubs Way. We are all hoping that at least once in our lifetimes that the Cubs return to and win the World Series. The problem is that none of us are getting any younger and right now it seems that the Ricketts Family is not any better than the Tribune Company or the Wrigley Family when it comes to business decisions and doing the things that are right and will help turn this franchise around. Tom Ricketts, you and your siblings have made a gallant effort to stay at Wrigley Field; however, it is time to cut bait and continue to do as you have promised, which is delivering a contender and World Series Championship.
1984 is something I wish I could forget and I am sure that the stories that the players shared during the break-out session were entertaining however, it is still something that is painful. I think for me that 1984 hurts a lot more as I was still a young kid at 18 years of age. There is still so much hope every year that the Cubs will some how pull off what seems to be the impossible and yet here we are once again saying, “What ‘Till Next Year.” Right now it does not seem like next year is anywhere near. I strongly feel that it is going to be at least another year before the Cubs are a bit more competitive and I still strongly believe that by 2020 that the Cubs will finally win it all and be contenders year in and year out.