I was in a sour mood when I woke up on the morning of Oct. 5, 1989. I was still in distress over the Cubs' 11-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants the previous night in the opening game of the National League Championship Series. Coal gray skies and a steady rain did not help my frame of mind.
But a phone call from my father instantly turned my frown upside down. Dad told me that he had scored four bleacher tickets for that night's Game 2 at Wrigley Field and that he hoped to take me, my younger brother, and my grandfather. The problem: I was attending St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa - 180 miles from Chicago - and did not own a car.
An hour later, we had our solution. It was Aunt Bea to the rescue. When my great aunt heard about our predicament, she sprung into action and bought me a roundtrip plane ticket from Moline to Midway.
I got a ride to the Quad Cities airport after my 2 o'clock class and arrived in Chicago by 4:30. The length of the flight was, as my Uncle Bill would say, two cigarettes, about 20 minutes.
The rain from the Quad Cities had followed me to Chicago and it was still raining when we reached Wrigley Field at 6 o'clock. But by 6:30 the rain had stopped and the tarp was removed. The game started on time at 7:20.
Bleacher seats were reserved for that postseason game and our seats were in the second row in right-center to the left of the batter's eye. I was 19 years old and had been to Wrigley Field dozens of times, but this was the first time I ever sat in the bleachers. Our seats were sweet.
Cubs pitcher Mike Bielecki got off to an inauspicious start by walking the first hitter of the game, Brett Butler. But Bielecki brought the crowd 39,195 to life when he picked Butler off of first base.
Former Cubs ace Rick Reuschel was on the mound for the Giants.The 40-year-old sinkerball specialist won 17 games during the regular season for San Francisco and had gained a reputation as one of those pitchers that if you hoped to hit him, you'd better hit him early.
To the delight of the Wrigley faithful, the Cubs teed off on "Big Daddy."
Jerome Walton singled and scored on Ryne Sandberg's triple to the right-field corner. After Dwight Smith lined out to first baseman Will Clark, Mark Grace made it 2-0 with a double. Andre Dawson just missed a home run, launching one onto Waveland Avenue, but to the outside of the left-field foul pole. Dawson fanned for out No. 2, but that proved to be the last hitter that Reuschel would retire that night.
Giants manager Roger Craig gave Reuschel the hook and called on Kelly Downs, but the two-out rally continued. Joe Girardi walked and Bielecki lined a single to center for two more runs to make it 5-0. Walton followed with his second single of the inning to knock in Girardi with the Cubs' sixth run. When Smith grounded out to Clark to finally end the inning, the Cubs received a standing ovation.
Bielecki allowed a two-run homer to Kevin Mitchell in the fourth inning and surprisingly was removed by manager Don Zimmer with two outs in the top of the fifth after issuing his third walk.
San Francisco threatened to further tighten the game in the top of the sixth, putting runners on second and third with two outs, but reliever Les Lancaster escaped the mess when Walton leaped into the ivy directly below us to snare a long drive off the bat of Ernest Riles. The Cubs extended the lead to 9-2 in the bottom of the frame when Grace smashed a three-run double into the right-field corner off lefty reliever Craig Lefferts. Grace, in what wound up being a losing cause, went 11-for-17 with five extra-base hits in the series.
Could the Cubs hold on?
With the crowd on its feet and two outs in the top of the ninth, Clark smacked a liner to left. Smith, running forward, misjudged the ball but recovered by making a leaping catch to end the game and even the series.
I arrived back in my dorm room three hours later after making the worthwhile whirlwind trip. Unfortunately, it was the only pleasant memory from that postseason.