Never in my 40-plus years as a Chicago Cubs fan have I done what I was guilty of recently.
Since the family TV antenna got struck by lightning in 1969 and we made the switch to cable, I’ve lived and died with the Cubs. I’ve lived a little, and died a lot, but for the first time July 25, I found myself rooting against them—at Wrigley Field, of all places.
Don’t get me wrong. I still think the Cubs are a young team on the rise, and I would ordinarily never want them to lose, but on July 25, there were extenuating circumstances.
It was my first trip to Wrigley Field in 20 years, due partially to me living in California, and partially due to me not wanting to make the trip by myself.
I wasn’t by myself July 25. My 27-year-old daughter surprised me with tickets for my birthday. Not only did I get to spend the day with her watching our favorite baseball team, but she also did the driving.
Being red-headed and fair-skinned, my daughter smartly got us tickets under the third-base grandstand. Not only were we protected from the sun, but we benefited from a nice breeze blowing into our faces. It was the most comfortable I’ve ever been at Wrigley for a July game.
And what a game it was.
Both pitchers looked strong early, but the visiting Philadelphia Phillies took a 3-0 lead on a Ryan Howard home run.
The Cubs were scuffling on offense. Batter after batter flailed and missed at changeups or swung late on heaters from Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. I muttered to anybody within earshot that you can’t score runs or win games without hitting the ball.
The Cubs’ batting futility continued through the middle innings. They had a couple base runners, thanks to a pair of walks and a fielder’s choice, but nobody got farther than second base.
It got to the seventh inning, and I realized, as I suspect most of the 41,000 in attendance did, that Hamels had still not allowed a base hit.
An error allowed two more Phillies runs to score, making it 5-0. Anybody who knew baseball knew that with the way Hamels was pitching, the Cubs were not going to mount any miraculous late-inning comeback.
But there was still plenty to cheer for.
Hamels retired the Cubs in the seventh and eighth innings, and began the ninth just three outs away from a no-hitter and baseball immortality.
After the first two batters were retired, Kris Bryant lifted a long fly ball to center field that looked from my vantage point like it was going out. The Philadelphia center fielder sprinted back to the wall, turned and dove back toward the infield, catching the ball in his outstretched glove just inches before it would have hit the warning track for a hit.
I had just witnessed a no-hitter!
Sure, it would have been neater if a Cubs pitcher had thrown it, but I saw baseball history made.
Sure, the two walks kept it from being a perfect game by baseball standards.
But here I was, enjoying the day with my daughter, 20 years after bringing her to Wrigley Field for the first time as a 7-year-old. We laughed, we talked baseball, and we sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
It sure felt like a “perfect” game to me.