MLB: Former Cubs recall heartbreaking seasons

Bergen Record
October 17, 2015
By Pete Caldera
Always a Chicago Cub at heart, Bill Hands is hopeful that this could finally be the October of their dreams.
"I honestly thought that next year would be their year," said Hands, a 20-game winner for the star-crossed 1969 Cubs out of Rutherford High School, speaking of the young corps of Cubs who’ve developed into a powerhouse ahead of schedule.
It’s been scores of next years for the Cubs, pennant-less since 1945.
But just as the Red Sox excised the "Curse of the Bambino" in 2004, the 2015 Cubs could wipe out the "Billy Goat Curse" – settling the debt of their 1969 fall to the Mets, their 1984 playoff collapse versus the Padres and their 2003 October nightmare against the Marlins.
"It’s good to know the history of the uniform on your back," said Doug Glanville, the Teaneck High School grad who played for the ’03 Cubs, a team that came within five outs of winning a pennant. "There was always an awareness of that – a culture of a curse, or whatever else was taking us from our destiny."
The new-edition Cubs begin their pennant-quest tonight at Citi Field, the start of a best-of-seven NL Championship Series and a renewal of an old rivalry against the Mets.
"Radioactive might be a better word" than electric, Glanville said of the NLCS atmosphere in Chicago. "I still remember the intensity for me in ’03, how powerful that was. You could feel it in the air."
This year’s Cubs were 7-0 against the Mets, echoing a vintage feeling from the Summer of ’69.
"To this day, I feel we had the best team," Hands said of his Leo Durocher-led Cubs, whose 10-game mid-August NL East lead vanished in less than a month. "We didn’t play particularly well the last four, five weeks of the season and the Mets were just unbelievable the rest of the way."
Glanville’s Cubs could nearly feel the spray of victory champagne, leading the ’03 NLCS three games to two and ahead 3-0 in the eighth inning of Game 6 at Wrigley Field when an unfathomable chain of events led to eight Marlins runs.
"The way the floodgates opened, it was unstoppable almost," Glanville said, recalling how it all unfolded – from Cubs fan Steve Bartman impeding a catch by Chicago outfielder Moises Alou to the critical fielding error by shortstop Alex Gonzalez to the devastating doubles hit by Derrek Lee and Mike Mordecai.
"I felt like we had our own culture, our own ability to rewrite history," said Glanville, who doesn’t apply the weight of Cubs history toward the events of Game 6; the Marlins went on to beat the Yankees in the ’03 World Series.
"Teams that are great capitalize on those moments," Glanville said. "You tip your cap to them, because that’s what champions do."
Currently a baseball analyst for ESPN, which will carry all the playoff games on its radio network, Glanville said he’d love to see Bartman return to Wrigley Field if the Cubs advance to the World Series.
"The poor guy seems to be in purgatory or exile, or whatever it is," Glanville said of the fan whose attempt to catch a foul ball snowballed into a chapter of agonizing Cubs lore. "I’ve always felt bad for him.
"They call it the ‘Bartman Game,’ and there was so much more to that game," Glanville said. "It was just a moment that things seemed to pivot around."
For the ’69 Cubs, their pivotal moment might have arrived on Sept. 8, at Shea Stadium, the night a black cat crossed the visitor’s dugout.
Hands started that game, dusting Tommie Agee in the first inning; Jerry Koosman responded by hitting Ron Santo in the second and the Mets won, 3-2, the first of a two-game sweep that cut Chicago’s lead to a half-game.
Now, it’s the Cubs young sluggers – Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo – going up against the electric arms of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom.
Led by Theo Epstein, a chief architect of the Red Sox’ revival – ending a world championship drought that dated to 1918 – these Cubs are built to have the type of staying power Boston enjoyed.
"This is a new generation," Glanville said of a Cubs’ team whose accelerated pace has them in play for their first world title since 1908. "It’s pretty crazy to be this good this quickly."
Republished from
Photo Credit:  Associated Press


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