While I was sitting in my freshman year world history class on the morning of Oct. 3, 1984 - while my teacher, Mr. Kelly, discussed the Hammurabi Code - my mind far too easily wandered from the subject matter ("an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth") to how I would be spending my afternoon.
I was going with my younger brother, Ron, to see the Cubs host the San Diego Padres in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. It was my first postseason game and with a victory, the North Siders would be just one victory away from reaching their first World Series since 1945. It was heady stuff.
In those pre-Internet days, the Cubs invited fans to send postcards (one per address) that would be placed in a random drawing for postseason tickets. Those selected would be offered the opportunity to buy up to four tickets to a single game. I mailed the Cubs three postcards. I used my family's address and also was granted permission from my grandparents and great aunt to use their addresses.
The Cubs received hundreds of thousands of postcards so I was not overly optimistic, but I suppose our chances would have been better in 1984 than they would be today to be selected in such a lottery. The season ticket base was much smaller then, so a far greater number of single-game tickets were made available.
We were offered the chance to attend Game 2 of the NLCS. I remember being somewhat disappointed about failing to score World Series tickets, but in retrospect things worked out for the best.
Since Wrigley Field did not yet have lights, it was a certainty that the game would be played in the afternoon. All of the adults in our lives were working, so my father decided that it would be OK for me and Ron to attend without adult supervision. We bought two tickets in the terrace reserve level in the right-field corner.
I had only been in high school for a little over month and was pretty sure that the dean's office would frown upon a student missing classes to attend a baseball game. I reviewed our student handbook and my suspicions were confirmed. Attending a baseball game was not listed as an acceptable excuse - even if it was a postseason game.
Dad ordered me to go to school in the morning and said that he would be by with my brother to pick me up at around noon. I informed him of school policy and told him to come up with another alibi for getting me out of class. He assured me that he would take care of it.
I was sitting in religions of the world class, listening to a lecture about Buddhism when the slip arrived from the dean, informing me that my father had arrived. I was walking on clouds through the school's hallways, but my mood changed on a dime when I made it to the dean's office and found Dad yukking it up with the dean, assistant dean, and secretary to the dean.
"All set?" Dad asked.
The dean grabbed my shoulder and in a tone of voice I found sarcastic said, "Have a nice time at the Cubs game."
Way to let the cat out of the bag, Dad!
As we headed north to Wrigley Field, we talked about the Cubs' 13-0 rout of the Padres in Game 1, the previous day. I saw little of that game because of a school and an afternoon orthodontist appointment. By the time I made it home, the Cubs were ahead by 13 runs in the eighth inning.
There were two ways to look at the Game 1 result:
* The Cubs would have no problem with the overmatched Padres.
* It was too easy and the Cubs had used up all of their luck in the first game. I think I was leaning to believing the latter.
The Padres were taking batting practice when we arrived at the park on a gorgeous, sunny fall afternoon. It was perfect sweatshirt weather.
When the Padres left the field, the Cubs' Ron Cey and another player from a team that was not playing in the postseason (I can't remember who it was) participated in a sponsored MLB home run hitting contest. It was a semifinal and the winner would advance to the final round to be held prior to a World Series game.
I found it strange that Cey, less than an hour from playing in a postseason contest, had to participate in such a stupid contest. I don't even remember who won the contest and the crowd did not seem to take much of an interest in it.
We were seated well back in the terrace reserve level under the upper deck, several rows behind a large group of brown, mustard, and orange-clad Padres fans. A guy in the row in front of us was holding a handheld Sony Watchman TV and bragged throughout the game to those seated around us how cool it was to watch replays during a game at Wrigley Field. Cool technology, I thought, owned and operated by an idiot.
The game began and the Cubs took a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first against San Diego starter Mark Thurmond. Bob Dernier singled and, taking advantage of Padres first baseman Steve Garvey's poor throwing arm, advanced all the way to third on a Ryne Sandberg 5-3 groundout. Dernier scored when Gary Matthews grounded out to short. Go-Go Cubs!
The Padres scored their first run of the series in the fourth against Cubs starter Steve Trout when they were able to parlay a leadoff double by Tony Gwynn, but the Cubs answered in the bottom of the frame with a Sandberg RBI double.
Garvey, in a preview of coming attractions, delivered a two-out RBI single in the sixth, but Trout, in the game of his life, remained in control.
Trout ( 8 1/3 IP, 5 H) set down seven of the last 10 players he faced and was removed with one out in the top of the ninth after walking Kevin McReynolds.
As Lee Smith strutted in from the left-field bullpen, my enthusiasm about the Cubs being two outs away from a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 series was tempered by the fact that the tying run was stepping to the plate.
Smith blew away Carmelo Martinez with a strikeout for the second out. He reached a two-strike count when Terry Kennedy got a hold of one, lining a fastball deep to left. Fortunately, a stiff breeze blowing in from left and knocked it down. It landed in the glove of left fielder Henry Cotto on the warning track.
It was excilerating to contemplate that the Cubs were up two games to none. A National league team had never lost an LCS after leading 2-0. It seemed preposterous to think that it could happen to us.
"One more to go!" I exclaimed.
I should have known better.