Let me ask a new question: Wasn’t it great in 2008?
Being in the stands on Sunday afternoon when the Brewers clinched the Wild Card and their first trip to the post-season in 26 years was nothing short of amazing. I have seen some very exciting games in a number of different sports, and I was there for every home game when the Milwaukee Bucks nearly made the Finals in 2001. But I think this was probably better, or at least, more surreal.
When I got to the park at about 20 minutes to 12 on Sunday, I just wanted to take some time mill around and soak up the atmosphere on what I knew could be the last day of the season. I listened to or attended almost every game in 2008, and overall, it was a great time to be a fan; I wanted to cement some things in my memory, regardless of what the day’s outcome would be.
I watched the Brewers take batting practice for a while from a number of different vantage points– I tried to push my way toward the field near homeplate. I stopped for a few minutes in right field and stood with the kids flexing and patting their gloves, waiting for a ball to fly out. I slowly made my way all the way around the stadium, and as I recall now, I had no thoughts of the team moving on at all. I’ve never seen it. I had no idea what to even imagine.
Dave and I settled in to our seats, and for the first 6 innings of the game, I didn’t have a lot of confidence. How can you when it’s been so long, and you’ve been thrilled but ultimately disappointed by this team so many times over the years? Sitting amongst a swath of fans from Chicago, who always seem to know just how to condecendingly twist the knife never helps.
Then it was the 7th, and we realized that CC had gone from laboring to dominating. It was a 1-run game, and nobody was going to pile up a bunch of hits. If we could manage to push a couple across, I started to like our chances. They tied it at 1 with PATIENCE AT THE PLATE, and after 161 games and 7 innings, the season was down to the last 6 outs.
When we got to the bottom of the 8th, one of the Cubs faithful in front of me said something like, “Aww, not Homerun Howry!” And he turned out to be absolutely right. Braun blasted that 2-run shot after Mike Cameron had singled, and the stadium exploded as the dreams of 40,000 people began to come into focus. A scoreboard check showed that the Brewers were up, and the Mets were down. If both could hang on for a couple more innings, it was going to happen.
I wasn’t nervous during most of the game. I had sort of resigned myself to the notion that we would either not make it, or at best not have our fate decided that day– quite honestly, I felt like Milwaukee would be traveling to Shea Stadium on Monday for a head-to-head matchup with New York. But once they got the lead, I broke into a cold sweat. The Cubs remained a great team, and they were only down by 2 runs. I needn’t remind the Brewers faithful of what had happened just 10 days before. They were up, but not quite in.
The difference on this day was CC. What an amazing performance to cap such a remarkable season! If the Brewers go anywhere in October, it will be because of this guy. And if he leaves for greener, lu$her pa$tures after it’s done, I know that I’m one fan who won’t blame him. I’ll just hang on to the memories of this glorious summer of baseball that finally pushed through to fall.
So now it’s time to shake off those unflappable monkeys that are the 1982 Brewers– it’s true, this incarnation hasn’t won a league championship yet, but they have a chance every bit as good as that group did 26 years ago. The stories of these current players are no less compelling. The fever around the city is no less severe. Like Favre and White and Holmgren finally silenced the ghosts of Starr, Hornung, and Lombardi up in Green Bay 12 years ago, so can these players do for the Brewers. Not because anyone wants to forget the great days in the past, but because we want to believe they’ll be here again.