The Rundown: Remembering the Summer of ’84, Bryant Trade Speculation Won’t Go Away, Manfred Not Going Away Either

“You may glory in a team triumphant, but you fall in love with a team in defeat. Losing after great striving is the story of man, who was born to sorrow, whose sweetest songs tell of saddest thought, and who, if he is a hero, does nothing in life as becomingly as leaving it.” – Roger Khan, The Boys of Summer

In the couple of years that I have been with Cubs Insider, I’ve noticed that most of the Cubs blogosphere and the team’s fans on social media, especially Twitter, skews much younger as a demographic. It’s odd conversing with people who can barely remember what Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire did 20 years ago when my Cubs memories go back all the way to the days of the Don Kessinger-to-Glenn Beckert-to-Ernie Banks double play combination.

In fact, nothing broke my heart more than seeing Banks retire after a three-home run, six-RBI season in 1971. I was a 7-year-old kid and, having very few memories of the 1969 season, ’71 ws my first experience with Cubs heartache. Sure, there were some fast starts and lean autumns all through the 1970’s and early 80’s, but nothing punched me in the gut like Banks’ retirement until 1984.

Everything changed for the Cubs that season. That was the year in which baseball’s perennial Lovable Losers transformed themselves to become the national phenomenon they remain today. They were Chicago’s very own Boys of Summer, with apologies to Kahn. There were a number of reasons for this metamorphosis:

  1. The Ryne Sandberg Game.
  2. Rick Sutcliffe.
  3. Offseason acquisitions of Gary Matthews, Bob Dernier, and Scott Sanderson.
  4. A breakout season by catcher Jody Davis.
  5. The hiring of Jim Frey as manager, replacing Lee Elia.
  6. A tight divisional race against the hated Mets.
  7. Harry Caray.
  8. The mainstream debut of “Go Cubs Go” by Steve Goodman, which pushed aside “It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame” as the team’s anthem.
  9. Playoff baseball at Wrigley Field for the first time in nearly four decades.

When the ’84 season started, the Cubs were coming off of a stretch in which they played .500 baseball or less for 11 straight seasons. They started with one established star, Bill Buckner, who was traded 21 games into the season to the Red Sox for Dennis Eckersley so that Leon Durham could take over at first base. Shortly thereafter, they traded Mel Hall and Joe Carter to the Indians for Sutcliffe, George Frazier, and Ron Hassey. Hall had been involved in an altercation with teammate Dick Ruthven in spring training that year, so no one much cared that he was shipped off to Cleveland, but Carter was to be the team’s first home grown star since Billy Williams and Ron Santo.

The organization seemed almost directionless with the moves they were making. Was it a youth movement or more of the Cubs’ usual MO, bringing in veteran players to help pad attendance at Wrigley Field?

But then Sandberg had his breakout game against St. Louis, Sutcliffe won 16 of 17 decisions in his first season on the North Side, and the ’84 Cubs became unstoppable, winning the division. I can still hear Caray screaming “The Cubs are the champions! The Cubs are the champions!” when Chicago clinched against the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium at the end of September.

The playoffs were a different story, however. The Cubs won the NL East with the National League’s best record at 96-65 and faced San Diego in the five-game NLCS for the right to go to the Word Series. Because the Cubs did not have lights at Wrigley Field, and because baseball was just starting to evolve into a prime time game, rookie commissioner Peter Ueberroth awarded home field advantage to the inferior Padres, who had won the NL West with a 92-70 record.

The Cubs won the first two games at Wrigley Field, including a 13-0 whitewashing of the Padres in Game 1 in which Sutcliffe dominated on the mound and at the plate. Surely the Cubs were finally going to the World Series. I mean, it was a given. It was downright inevitable after they took a 3-0 lead in Game 5, until a soul-crushing error by Durham allowed the Padres to rally past the Cubs.

I still can’t hear Jump by Van Halen without thinking of that glorious ’84 Cubs team. What a summer. I still hate the Padres, though.

Cubs News & Notes

Tuesday Stove

Some baseball executives think the Astros may have been using buzzers to relay pitches as part of their alleged sign stealing scam.

Whether it’s the Houston scandal, the attempt to strip minor league baseball of 42 affiliates, or the implementation of new rules in the independent Atlantic League, Rob Manfred sure gets a lot of headlines. Yesterday, a revelation from the GM Meetings indicated that a consistently constructed baseball isn’t realistic. MLB acquired Rawlings, the company that manufactures the balls, last year.

The Brewers unveiled new logos and uniforms to celebrate the team’s 50th anniversary season.

Christian Yelich land Nolan Arenado lead a list of stars who would have been free agents this year had they not previously signed contract extensions.

Andújar is seen as a potential target for the Braves if Josh Donaldson departs as a free agent, with young left-handers Max Fried and Tucker Davidson (Atlanta’s No. 13 prospect) going to the Yankees in a hypothetical trade.

New Music Tuesday

  1. Damn the Torpedoes by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Petty was probably one of the biggest parts of of my transition into adulthood. My collection of original-release, unplayed Petty vinyl is now complete.
  2. Led Zeppelin IV aka Zoso by Led Zeppelin – Is there a better song than “Going to California” when you are in a contemplative or reflective mood? The lyric “I wonder how tomorrow could ever follow today” was my last thought before going to bed after the Cubs on the 2016 World Series.
  3. Horses by Patti Smith – I finally got a copy of the original release in mint condition. To me, it’s akin to Indiana Jones finding the Holy Grail.

Apropos of Nothing

One of the lyrics to “It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ball Game” goes like this: “It’s a beautiful day for the ladies, so throw all your dishes away!” Try getting away with that today.

Extra Innings

Astrogate is not a thing. Please stop calling it that. Thank you.

They Said It

  • “[The bullpen] is a puzzle we’re going to be putting together all winter. We’ll look at every possible angle to do it — minor-league free agency, major-league free agency, trades. We’re gonna be creative… but right now, there’s a lot of flexibility. It’s hard to picture that painting right now.” – Jed Hoyer

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Gloria by Patti Smith. Absolutely phenomenal.

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