“Strange isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. And when he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” – Clarence the Guardian Angel, It’s a Wonderful Life
In the years of our youth we are a lot like young George Bailey. To paraphrase the iconic character in the Frank Capra classic, we know what we want to do “today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day after that.” Sometimes life gets in the way of those pursuits, which I suppose is the moral of the entire story, and the arc that makes up our own existence.
If you are reading this, you more likely than not witnessed that glorious groundball to Kris Bryant just after midnight on November 3, 2016, the night the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years. Whether or not the North Siders ever win another championship in our lifetimes, all of us will one day pass from this life with that memory in tow, a feeling that was eternally lost on three generations of Cubs fans and then some.
On this day four years ago, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.
8-7 in 10! pic.twitter.com/8TmYOXN3PT
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) November 2, 2020
In a delicious twist of irony, there are also 108 stitches on a baseball, and if each marked a year in our lives, none of us would likely ever get to start a second lap. Life moves as fast as a Nolan Ryan fastball, especially once we enter adulthood. Where our formative years seem almost never-ending, eventually we all get jobs and many of us get married. We may have children and grandchildren and then one day we retire, basking in the wonderment of all we’ve accomplished and contributed to others.
Then, in what seems like almost the blink of an eye, we are gone forever. We rarely realize that each worldly ending is just as significant as every day that passes before. For that reason alone, we should cherish each breath we take because the next is never guaranteed. That said, there is true glory to our inevitable deaths if we’ve made the conscious decision to caringly live in the service of others.
Winter is a cruel time to think about endings, but it is as poetically apropos as it is sorrowful. It’s funny how our goals change as we churn through a life cycle. We cannot take fame or money with us, only our love for others and the peace of mind that comes with knowing we made the most of that which we are capable. It’s hard to think of endings as the beginnings that they truly are because we’ve been conditioned to grieve the loss of life, rather than honor it.
It’s a selfish sensibility, making it a struggle to find the appropriate ways to say goodbye and to give proper thanks. Today, it is a struggle for me.
The size of one’s heart is often measured not in the amount of love he or she receives, but that which is given. I suppose that’s an expansion of the Lennon/McCartney lyrics to the Beatles’ song “The End,” but that doesn’t make it any less true. As George Harrison eloquently added a few years later, “Give me love, give me peace on Earth, give me light, give me life.” For four mop-topped lads from Liverpool just trying to have a little fun, they were quite the profound quartet. Life, as Harrison intimated, is truly eternal if we believe it is the spirit of man that is immortal and not the flesh.
We’ve built a wonderful community here. Each of you who contributes in the comments section has become family to me. When I fire up my laptop and peruse the observations and criticisms you are all kind enough to leave, I feel filled with the warmth of this beautifully diverse yet perfectly strange ménage. When we lose a family member, whether it’s because someone gets sick of reading me, or for a greater, unknown purpose, it’s always a heartbreaking moment.
It took the Cubs one full lap around an entire baseball to win a championship, so let’s take a moment to appreciate the beautiful symmetry of that accomplishment. More so, let’s all take a look inward, and think about each stitch that represents the years of our lives. In turn, let us also be thankful for all we’ve accomplished, and for the glory that lies yet ahead.
“Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.” – Clarence the Guardian Angel
Sliding into Home
Our good friend Scott, aka Twin31s, received news this week that his prognosis is worse than feared. Right now, he and his family need a lot of prayer and positive thoughts. No matter where his path lies, please, next time you are at Wrigley Field, do me a small favor. When you see that number 31 flag that flies in honor of Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux, think of our family member Scott and warmly remember that that flag will one day honor three great men who’ve touched our lives.
Scott, I say to you, and as we’ve discussed previously: There is no pity in death, only in not living life to the fullest. It is just our ashes that return to Earth, their rightful place, whether it’s the fields of Gettysburg or the warning track at Wrigley Field. Our spirit returns to its comforter, and the love we’ve given to others will never abandon them.
I’ve looked up to you since our first correspondence, and always will. When we last spoke, I told you I have three heroes: Joshua Chamberlain, John Basilone, and Alfred Rascon. You, sir, are now at the top of that list.
Today’s preamble is my tribute and expression of gratitude to the most amazing friendship I’ve been blessed to make in the last year or so, one that would not exist if not for Cubs Insider. Scott wanted me to write a book, but this daily column is all I can muster right now. From this day forward, the Sunday Rundown will remain dedicated to my “big brother,” miracle or not.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs signed right-handed reliever James Bourque to a minor league deal with an invite to camp. He may not make the team, but he has an 80-grade mustache.
- Former Cubs manager Joe Maddon heaped a super-sized amount of praise (video) on his former boss, Theo Epstein.
- The Angels’ skipper believes Epstein could lead the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl if he wanted to give the NFL a shot.
- Though Tom Ricketts claims his franchise faces “biblical losses” in the wake of the pandemic, the team’s baseball-adjacent businesses make that a tough pill to swallow.
- Reliever Kyle Ryan hopes that 2021 represents “a return to normal” for baseball.
- Three outside-the-box trade targets from New York could help the Cubs fill their hole in left field.
Major League Baseball payrolls plunged to $1.75 billion total during the pandemic-shortened season, down from $4.22 billion the previous year. The Dodgers led with $98.6 million, the smallest amount for the top spender in 20 years. The luxury tax has been suspended, but if full salaries had been paid and a complete schedule played, payrolls likely would have increased by 4% from 2019.
The Reds may be constructing their roster on the cheap this winter, which may not sit well with some of last year’s additions, who saw Cincinnati as a team on the come.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona agrees that it’s time for the organization to change its nickname.
I sure hope things are different come April, but this capture of Anthony Rizzo should be the prologue to any video recap of the 2020 season.
Anthony Rizzo handing out hand sanitizer at first base 😂 pic.twitter.com/gyJ23ML39O
— ESPN (@espn) July 25, 2020
They Said It
- “Whatever [Theo Epstein] wants to do, whether it’s something within the baseball industry, whether he wants to be something in politics, if he wants to get into private-sector business wise — there isn’t anything he can’t do. I truly believe that.” – Joe Maddon
Sunday Walk Up Song
Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles – “No piece of music can make you feel better than this. It’s such an optimistic song, with that little bit of ache in it that makes the happiness mean even more.” – Tom Petty