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This is the year


I woke up with a sore arm the other morning.
It was probably just another dull unexplained ache of age 63, but then again, the pain was sharp and in the elbow, making me think I strained it the night before.
I’m working on a project for our blueberry bushes. Sabra has three of them in the corner of the back yard, and they have to be protected from marauding birds. Sabra dealt with it herself, making three perfect cylinders of chicken wire to put over them. They were amazing structures, 3 1/2 feet in diameter and 5 feet tall, light as a feather, each as neatly made as the next. Unfortunately, the bushes are now plumping out and their wire petticoats no longer fit. Plus sizes are not available. Time for the perfectionist (Sabra) to step aside and let the cobbler (yours truly) at it.
So, maybe I hurt my elbow humping around the dozen odd boards the day before. The plan is to frame the entire corner, a task made more interesting because the shape is a trapezoid with odd angles all around. The perfect project for an old Polack with a chop saw who has never joined a true right angle in his life. By 4 p.m. I’d put in a good day’s work, at least for me. Normally, I’d have called it a day, but the Cubs and Cardinals were going at it in Game 4 of their series.
I got hooked on the lovable losers around the fourth grade. My main man Dave (Buzz) Buzzello and I would listen to the game on a transistor radio, the size of a paver, while we played catch. As we tossed the ball, we’d take turns being Vince Lloyd, Milo Hamilton or Jack Brickhouse.
“Hey! Hey! It’s a fly ball deep to Billy Williams! He dives! He makes a spectacular catch! The man on first didn’t tag up. He pegs a bullet to the infield! Santo doesn’t cut if off. Banks pulls it out of the dirt. He’s out! Holey Mackerel! Cubs win! Cub WIN! CUBS WIN!. One simple toss could be played out for five minutes.
I stayed loyal through the 1969 debacle, when I’d often talk over the games with my baby sister, Bonnie. How do you go from nine-and-a-half ahead to eight back in a little over a month? There was always next year.
In the late 1970s, I’d listen to the games over the Armed Forces Radio Network while stationed in Germany, sitting with my army pal, Ger, in our courtyard. The games were live, so they often started at 10 p.m. local time.
The collapse in 1984 didn’t shake my devotion even after Gatorade mysteriously ate a hole in Leon “Bull” Durham’s glove. There was next year. Ditto for Les Lancaster forgetting the count in 1989. Next year.
Something snapped in me in 2003, however. Not only did the Cubs choke in epic proportions but a true blue innocent fan got caught in the crosshairs of unreasoned public blame. If I’d have been in Bartman’s chair, I’d have reached for the ball, too. It was the #$%&$ Cubs who let the Marlins score eight runs.
I swore off for an entire year, but started up again in 2005 because I took a job for the summer as a painter. Is there a better way to make a boring job go faster than listening to a ball game? A team with ace pitchers Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior, Greg Maddux and Ryan Dempster might not lose a game the entire season by my estimation. Besides, they had Dusty Baker at the helm. Their 79-83 fourth-place season didn’t deter me, there was next year.
That brings me to this year, which is the year. Mostly, I like to watch games on the television with other people around. I love it when a group of people jump up and shout in unison over some great play.
Better yet is attending games. There’s nothing like the roar of the crowd.
But every once in a while I like to just listen to a game on the radio by myself and quietly go back to the lawn in the middle of a 10-year-old’s endless summer.
It was a great evening. I actually got a lot done. Baseball and radio combine to make a great work environment for me. I may have hurt my arm by over-doing it. But, then again, maybe it was the fist pumping as the Cubs won 6-4.
“It might be... it could be... it is! Holy Cow! This is the Year!”