Toasts & Prayers

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September 8 Prayer

PSALM FOR THE CUBS
By James Finn Garner

Sweet Lou is my shepherd, I shall not want to root for the Sox, or tune in to the Bears, just yet.

He maketh my team lie down in front of the Reds, he leadeth me along the still bats, but that’s OK.

He restoreth the franchise, yet in the meantime leadeth me down paths of anxiety, paranoia, dispepsia, agita and dread, all for the team’s sake. For this am I ever grateful, because by this point I’m certainly used to it.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of 100 years of suckitude, I will fear no team, for Lou is with me, as long as he doesn’t try and drive me all the way to Cincinnati. The rods of his batters, they comfort me, his pitching staff—ehhh, not so much.

Lou prepares a postseason banquet in the presence of mine enemies, laden with Wisconsin bratwurst and fried brain sandwiches and Philly cheesesteaks and Arizona Iced Tea. He will anoint the heads of my team with champagne, may their cups runneth over (but please let them not over-runneth second base).

Surely titles and pennants and World Series rings will follow me all the days of my life, and my team will no longer dwell in the basement of the National League forever.

Right.

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August 5 Toast

By Carrie Muskat

Here's to veteran baseball columnist Jerome Holtzman, who recently passed away. I hated your cigars, but I hope you saw that my presence in the press box didn't mark the end of civilization. Thanks for motivating me, Jerome.

Here's to Wrigley Field, my home office. No matter what happens, it will always be Wrigley Field.

Here's to Andre Dawson, the classiest player I've ever met. I would've given my knees to him if it would've helped.
Here's to Adam Greenberg. I hope he gets another at-bat.

Here's to Kerry Wood, the only player who ever told me he felt bad about the money he was being paid. He wanted to come back to the Cubs for nothing because he felt he owed it to the fans. Wood's 20 strikeout game in '98 is why I love this game. You show up at the ballpark in May when a rookie pitcher is scheduled to start, and never know what will happen.

Here's to Zim and Riggs and Dusty. They all wanted to be the one. Here's to Lou. He could be the one.

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July 8 Toast

By Kyle McCarthy

It’s been written that because in baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young.

During the making of Ballhawks, we discovered something else about the physics of the game -- that in baseball, space can be overcome just as time. While the voices of the game love to go on about the game happening “within the lines”, the truth is the very nature of the batted ball defies this notion.

In that instant when a struck baseball travels out of play – into the stands, occasionally out of the park, the players on the diamond cease to participate in the action. But despite what the text in the rulebook dictates the action does not end here. On the contrary, it continues and extends past the physical and written boundaries of the game.

This is where the magic begins, because within that moment the play must still be made, but the onus to do so falls squarely on the fan. And when that play is made -- either by chance or skillful positioning -- the individual on the receiving end of that baseball becomes part of the moment, part of the game, and by virtue of their souvenir, part of major league baseball history.

So lift your glass one and all, to baseball, the game that defies both space and time. And to -- most especially to -- the beloved Chicago nine who remind us that hope also defies both space and time.

Go Cubs.

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June 4 Prayer

By Jonathan Eig

Dayenu (Translation: It would have been enough)

For Ken Holtzman

If He had led us through a century without a World Series triumph, it would have been enough.

If He had led us through a century without a World Series triumph and not allowed Hippo Vaughn to lose a no-hit game in 1917, it would have been enough.

If He had allowed Hippo Vaughn to lose a no-hit game and not given us the idiot P.K. Wrigley, it would have been enough.

If He had given us the idiot Wrigley and not banished Grover Cleveland Alexander to the St. Louis Cardinals, it would have been enough.

If He had banished Grover Alexander to the Cardinals and not sent Babe Ruth’s called shot into the center-field bleachers, it would have been enough.

If He had sent Babe Ruth’s called shot into the bleachers and not granted Bing Miller’s game-winning hit in the fifth game of the 1929 World Series, it would have been enough.

If He had granted Bing Miller’s game-winning hit in the 1929 World Series and not blinded us to the availability of a minor-league outfielder named Joe DiMaggio, it would have been enough.

If He had blinded us to the availability of Joe DiMaggio and not cursed us with the goat, it would have been enough.

If He had cursed us with the goat and not given us the College of Coaches, it would have been enough.

If he had given us the College of Coaches and not made us wander through the arid expanse of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, it would have been enough.

If He had made us wander through the arid expanse of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and not cast out Lou Brock to St. Louis, it would have been enough.

If He had cast out Lou Brock and not showered blessings upon the Mets in the summer of 1969, it would have been enough.

If He had showered blessings upon the Mets in the summer of 1969 and not directed a ground ball through Leon Durham’s legs, it would have been enough.

If He had directed the ball through Durham’s legs and not sent forth Greg Maddux to Atlanta, it would have been enough.

If He had sent forth Greg Maddux to Atlanta and not delivered unto us the prophet Steve Bartman, it would have been enough.

If He had delivered unto us the prophet Bartman and not made clumsy the hands of shortstop Alex Gonzalez, it would have been enough.

If He had made clumsy the hands of Alex Gonzalez and not corked Sammy Sosa’s bat, it would have been enough.

If He had corked Sosa’s bat and not sent the plague of loud salsa music from Sosa’s boom box, it would have been enough.

If He had sent the plague of salsa music and not rendered feeble the arms of Prior and Wood, it would have been enough.

If He had rendered feeble the arms of Prior and Wood and not given us Sam Zell it would have been enough.

If He had given us Sam Zell and not smote Geremi Gonzalez with a lightning bolt, it would have been enough.

For all these things we say Dayenu. It would have been enough. Really. And let us all say, Amen.

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June 4 Toast

By D.C. Brod

A few weeks ago, my husband and I met our new grandson. Meyer Solomon Brod lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, but his dad is a Cubs’ fan, and so we’re hopeful. We brought him his first Cubs cap, which he wore with the expression of one who realizes it’s been a century since they’ve taken the World Series and he’s a little dubious about the gift. But, it’s early in his life, just as it’s early in the Cubs’ season. And both are filled with possibilities.

I’m sure that most of us have memories of our introduction to the world of baseball. For me, it was how I bonded with my father—these were the pre Courtship of Eddie’s Father days, and communicating with the munchkins was mainly Mom’s job. But my dad and I would sit in the basement watching our black-and-white set, and he’d sometimes let me sip the foam off his beer while Jack Brickhouse announced the Cubs. I was annoyingly inquisitive. At first I would ask him why he’d uttered a little moan or a gasp of excitement. (He wasn’t what you’d call effusive.) Then I started to ask more pointed questions. And he’d answer the clueless ones: “Was that good or was that bad?” along with the ones showing signs of awareness: “Why doesn’t the pitcher like any of the catcher’s suggestions?”

Learning about the Cubs is such a special part of being a kid. And so I am proposing this toast to young Cubs fans everywhere. To the kids who will attend their first game at Wrigley Field. To the fans in their tiny jerseys and big-brimmed hats, being held my moms and dads. These smallest fans may not know what’s going on, but some have got this goofy smile, and I have to believe they know that they’re in a special place.

Here’s to the young ones who have been around only a few years and may not get the game yet, but who show up with a Ryne Sandberg glove on one hand and a hot dog in the other. They’ll cheer or groan along with the crowd and then look around to figure out why.

To the kids who will be watching in the family room and realize, for the first time, that they know when a suicide squeeze is coming.

And maybe we can remember what it was like to look at the game with a kid’s fresh perspective. Learn something of the power of patience from Fukadome. Witness Theriot’s cat-like athleticism as he leaps over a sliding base runner while throwing another runner out. Zambrano’s fire. Watch wide-eyed as Soriano goes deep … as he did last night … and maybe almost forget his recent lapse in the outfield.

As for Meyer, we’ve no doubt he’ll be a ball player. If he’s lucky, a Cub. And if Nana gets her way, he’ll be a shortstop.

Finally, here’s to all the Cubs fans who enter the world this year, and here’s hoping that someday they’ll be telling their own kids: “I was born the year the Cubs ended that century-long dry spell. I was born in 2008.”

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May 7 Toast

By Tammy Lechner

As a Cubs fan New York-born and raised, who has never lived in Chicago, and who has spent the past twenty-one years living in Southern California… it is my greatest joy – and here I speak for all us “Far-Flung” Cubs fans – our greatest joy… to join the heart of this fraternity here in Chicago. Getting to know you – the “Chicago” Cubs fans is what truly brings this devotion home, because this is where it lives and breathes and continues on from season to season. And mostly, this is where it is understood – no questions asked as to why in the world would anyone pick the Cubs as their favorite team.

My desire, as a young self-inflicted Cubs fan growing up in New York, was to one day be among you…to sit with you in the bleachers, and to celebrate CUBS WIN! along the streets of Wrigleyville. And when I finally came to Chicago and Wrigley Field for the first time in the early ‘80s I realized that the reason this dream lives on with such renewed faith from year to year is because the Cubs fans are the Cubs. The names on the uniforms might change from year to year – and certainly with much more frequency now than before – but the dream continues because we do not change. We remain in the bleachers and on the rooftops and dancing in the streets on our way to the Wrigleyville saloons. We remain loyal to the traditions of throwing back the other team’s home runs and singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” with Harry… in real time or posthumously.

During my many trips to Chicago through the fifteen years I worked on the book, OUR TEAM-OUR DREAM, to tell the story of our eternal journey, I can say that I never met a stranger. Traveling around this magnificent city by train and by foot with expensive camera gear in tow, I never once felt fearful. Maybe it was because the main thing people noticed about me was the grin I wore from the happiness I felt to be accepted and understood, here in the home base of OUR TEAM and in the heart of OUR DREAM. I also can say that I’ve never laughed out loud as often or as spontaneously as I have while hanging with the Cubs fans of Chicago.

And so, my toast is to you – to us -- the Cubs fans – to those who came before us, and to those who come after us… to those who remember 1945, and to those who wait for the first big dance to arrive in our Friendly Confines. We are not the Lovable Losers but rather the Lovable Winners. We are THE CUBS… and let us salute the past 100 years, and the next 100 years… and this year – “Let’s Get Some Runs!”

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Prayer of the Faithful (May 7 Prayer)

By Donald G. Evans

Jim, the Almighty GM, lowered Lou, his friend, from the booth; with confidence we ask him to save all his fans, living and dead. Our response is, “Lou, hear our prayer.

For Alphonso S., who is afflicted with fear of the wall and lack of plate discipline, that he may gladly accept late-inning defensive replacements and a drop in the lineup. We pray to The Lou.

Lou, hear our prayer.

For Rich H., our dearly departed lefty, who cannot master the strike zone, that he find his way in Iowa and return to the Heavenly Bigs. We pray to The Lou.

Lou, hear our prayer.

For Felix P., who is young and nervous and overmatched, that he return to the five-tool ways of his more youthful days. We pray to The Lou.

Lou, hear our prayer.

For Carlos Z., who is in a battle with caffeine, that he resist the beckoning fingers of Red Bull and Starbuck’s and all those other high-jolt sirens. We pray to The Lou.

Lou, hear our prayer.

For Aramis R., who does not possess the wherewithal to always give his all, that he may find solace in hustle. We pray to The Lou.

Lou, hear our prayer.

For Kerry W., who is prone to plunking leadoff hitters with his 94 mile per hour cut fastball, that he retain the roar of the lion while taking lessons from the lamb. We pray to The Lou.

Lou, hear our prayer.

For Bob H., whose 7.04 ERA symbolizes a typically piss-poor start, that the summer sun may shine on his slider. We pray to The Lou.

Lou, hear our prayer.

For Daryle W., whose average is less than a hundred, that he discover pinch hits in his bat and that we may never see his lumbering fat ass in right field. We pray to The Lou.

Lou, hear our prayer.

For our retired Cubbies, that they may find redemption as color analysts, and outfield coaches, and special assistants to the General Manager, and guest conductors. We pray to The Lou.

Lou, hear our prayer.

For our deceased fans and all who have bled Cubbie blue, that they may have their reward of goodness. We pray to The Lou.

Lou, hear our prayer.

For all of us who have fallen asleep in the hope of rising again, that we may see the World Series face to face. We pray to The Lou.

Lou, hear our prayer.

For all of us assembled here to worship in faith, that we may be gathered together again in Lou’s Kingdom. We pray to The Lou.

Lou, hear our prayer.

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To Hope (Opening Day Toast)

By Donald G. Evans

The death of Hope. This is usually a metaphor to dramatize a dire situation, explain the inexplicable, to underscore something very serious. Not with the Cubs. With the Cubs, dead means dead.

As in my Busha, born on the North Side in 1913. She used to keep one eye on Maplewood Street and the other eye on WGN, and she’d yell to us kids playing on the street, “The Bums! They’re losing.” Or, “That Phil Regan. I tole you he was no good.” Heart attack got her in 1985, and the Cubs weren’t even warming up yet.

As in Dzia Dzia, born in 1914, who never got to see a winner through the Great Depression, World War II, decades working in the steel mill, through another decade in an insane asylum. He used to raise his gray eyebrows, pinch a toothless grin that might have been teasing and might have been serious, and say, “This could be the year.” He was saying that just before he died of old age in 2001.

As in Jack Brickhouse. Born in 1916, when Brooklyn was the Robins and Boston was the Braves, Jack would be the voice of the Chicago Cubs from 1940 until his retirement in 1981—all except 1945, the year he served in the war and the year the Cubs won the National League pennant for the last time. When a brain tumor got Jack in 1998, at least ten years too soon, I know he was screaming, “HEY….hey?”

As in Mike Royko, born on September 19, 1932, when the Cubs were the best team in the National League. He remained a loyal Cubs fan through a World Series loss in 1945 and a plunge to laughing stock status, until Dave Kingman pushed him too far. He died a sort of White Sox fan, of brain aneurysm and strokes on April 29, 1997, the beginning of a season in which the Cubs best pitchers were Jeremi Gonzalez and Kevin Foster, Brian McRae was roaming center, Kevin Orie was trying his luck at third, and the team was heading for a fifth-place finish with nearly a hundred losses.

As in Steve Goodman, born on the North Side in 1948, the folk singer could only laugh at his beloved team during his short life. He wrote songs like, “Go Cubs Go,” “When the Cubs Go Marching In,” and, “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request,” which was never granted. He died of complications from a lifelong battle with leukemia, just 11 days short of the team’s first playoff appearance since long before he was born. His ashes are scattered around home plate.

As in John Belushi. He never had a chance—born in the first month of 1949, whatever period of prosperity the Cubs had enjoyed was long over. The Cubs finished in last place the year of Belushi’s birth, and never even had a winning season (and then by the slimmest margin) until John was 14. The Cubs never finished higher than fifth until John was 18. The Cubs finished last or next-to-last in 17 of John’s 32 years, and didn’t make the playoffs until 1984—two years after a speedball’d already done him in.

As in Albert Witt, my Aunt Judy’s father, born in 1921 and retired as long as I knew him. Albert required just two things for a happy retirement: mass quantities of Old Style and WGN. He used to sit in his recliner, the whole trick being never to leave his comfortable chair and never ask directly for others to fetch him more beer. He’d say, “I’m dry! I’m so dry!” This after his 10th Old Style. A few Old Styles into it, Albert would get joyful, even melancholy, waxing nostalgic about great Cubs players, great Cubs games, memorable seasons and memorable plays. Properly sauced, he would turn curmudgeonly and fatalistic. His favorite phrase was, “Sons of lousy cocksuckers!!!” which I’m sure he was muttering still when he died of a stroke in 2005.

So here’s to all the Cubs fans who are no longer suffering, and to those of us who still are. And let’s also drink one to those sons of lousy cocksuckers who can end our misery, without putting us out of our misery.