God’s Last Trip to Wrigley Field
God flew into Midway because he heard that O’Hare was busy as hell. Also, he thought the airline charges for checking bags was inhuman, so he wanted to fly Southwest.
This time he made sure to double-check his seat-back pocket before he deplaned, because he always put his glasses there when he flew. He had forgotten them during a layover at London-Heathrow a few years ago en route to the Vatican for Pope Francis I’s papal inauguration. This resulted in his missing the initial papal address due to a turn on Via del Consolato instead of Via della Conciliazione.
The street signs are so damn small, he would later complain. Plus, driving in Italy is nerve wracking.
This trip shouldn’t be as difficult. God knew Chicago like the back of his hand. This was one of his favorite towns in the world. In fact, he came often enough to consider it a second home. If it weren’t for the weather, he’d always say, I’d live there instead of Heaven!
His most recent visit hadn’t been for a miracle. It was a simple trip out to Bolingbrook in the winter of 2013, to help a man change a tire on the side of route 55 in eight degrees below zero weather.
This year, however, he was here to perform a miracle.
The last time he had to perform a miracle in Chicago was also at 1060 West Addison, in 2003 when he donned a navy blue sweatshirt, a green turtleneck, black headphones, and, of course, his glasses. He called himself Steve Bartman, and he reached over the left field wall in the top of the 8th inning of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series to ignite chaos in a game that could have led to the Chicago Cubs’ first World Series appearance in 68 years. His intrusion deflated the energy at Wrigley Field that night enough, leading to a devastating loss. Initially, he had planned on attending Game 7 just to make sure the Cubs lost, but he figured the Cubs would lose that one without his help. They did.
God had always found creative ways to perform miracles that made the Chicago Cubs lose. From cursing the team while dressed as the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern to overtaking the body of Will Clark in 1989 and hitting .650 against them for the San Francisco Giants, the almighty always found a way to assure the team’s demise. In 2006, tired of meddling in individual games, he became the general manager for a day and signed Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year deal. That, he figured, would buy nearly a decade of losing so that he could pursue other miracles for a while.
You see, God is a die-hard Cubs fan. Ever since baseball became professionalized, he had adored the Northsiders. He kept his hand out of the game for decades until the early 20th century. After seeing his favorite team win a second consecutive title in 1908, God felt selfish. The issue is that he holds such compassion for humanity, that he wanted others to have the opportunity to experience the glory of winning. Why, of all beings, would he need to keep winning? He tried to help them lose subtly for a few years, but the players began getting too close.
Tonight was Game 7 of the World Series, the deciding matchup. The Chicago Cubs were hosting the Los Angeles Angels, and God decided he needed to attend just to make sure his own self-interests weren’t indulged at the expense of thousands of Angel fans.
He tossed his white leather duffel bag over his right shoulder and hopped on the Orange Line toward the Loop. He knew he had about 45 minutes, so he reviewed his plan. Transfer to the Red Line at Roosevelt, head north, exit Addison. Easy enough.
The next part was a bit more complex, though. He didn’t quite know how they would win tonight, but he had a gut feeling that the Cubs would prevail with the help of spectacular defensive play by their centerfielder. Thus, he made sure to obtain a ticket in the bleachers, just above the 368-feet marker in left-center field. If his intuition proved accurate, he could find a way to intervene from there. Unsurprisingly, God’s hunches tended to be pretty spot-on.
The game went smoothly for the Angels. They led two-to-nothing after seven innings and seemed destined to finish this without any aid from above. As God finished his second beer, the Cubs began to mount an uncharacteristic rally in the bottom of the 8th to take a four-to-two lead. The hushed fears of another losing effort soon gave way to the sheer and unrestrained euphoria of 38,000 fans.
As the top of the 9th inning began, Wrigley Field was a house of emotional anarchy. God had kept his hands clean for the first eight innings. He was hoping that the Cubs would find a way to blow this game by themselves. They usually did. But right now, his stomach was turning over with the guilt that he felt winners should harbor.
How can people live with this? Winning. Making others feel less than you. It’s horrible.
In typical Cubbies fashion, the closing pitcher allowed a leadoff single and then walked two batters to load the bases. It never does come easy in Chicago, even when God isn’t involved. The almighty took a deep breath, hoping the opposing team could finish this by its own doing, without divine intervention.
Then, after the pitcher induced a popout to third base for the first out, up came a lanky left-handed hitter. Two outs to go. God’s right leg was shaking in anxious anticipation. He could feel the collective angst of the entire crowd. It was as though nobody wanted to exhale for fear of toppling this house of cards.
Then, the opposing hitter walloped a pitch out toward God. The fans in the stadium stood in horror. A grand slam would put the Angels ahead in this deciding Game 7 and end the season for the Cubs. God smiled.
He reached out his kind hand, gracefully beckoning the ball to land within his grasp. The centerfielder raced back at full speed, leaving his feet without even the slightest concern for the ivy-covered wall behind him, jumping and slamming into the unforgiving bricks. The ball never reached God’s hand, but instead disappeared into the outfielder’s glove. The stadium absolutely erupted.
God had never seen so many grown men hug each other. Strangers were kissing one another. Sweaty palms turned red as they reached up to slap any hand within reach. A tear fell from an elderly man seated a few rows away.
This gave the great almighty cause for consideration. Was it time to allow the Chicagoans to feel the joy that comes with a victory such as this? He wondered if their century of suffering over the losses of their beloved Cubbies was perhaps too cruel. Was his own fear of being selfish actually creating more pain than joy?
Is it time for the Cubs to win the World Series?
God knew the answer. Looking back at the mass hysteria on Waveland Avenue, the uninhibited laughter of tens of thousands of men and women dressed in blue and red, God decided with certainty to cancel this year’s miracle. It was time to allow his dear Cubs to break free from the shackles of more than a century of failure.
But something weird was going on beneath him. He couldn’t see the centerfielder in the outfield ivy. The man appeared to be caught between the vines. More than that, he was unable to remove the ball from his mitt. Apparently, the velocity of the flyball was so great that it got stuck in the webbing of his glove after he caught it.
He panicked as the baserunners all tagged up, realizing they could advance. The other outfielders raced to his aid, trying desperately to extricate the ball.
The runner on third base scored easily. The runner from second rounded third and was waved home by his coach, leaping up and down in excitement as his arm waved like a windmill. As the runner from first base came bounding around second, the Cubs outfielders took the entire mitt from their teammate’s hand and pathetically launched it as far as possible toward the infield. It fell limply to the ground in short left field, like a catapulted octopus, as the Angels took a most unorthodox five-to-four lead.
The rest of the game went according to Cubbie tradition. The fans grew silent and wary. The players tensed up. The only two words God could make out from the fans who surrounded him were the two most spoken words at Wrigley Field since its opening in 1914: why and fuck.
The final batter hit a weak groundball to the first baseman and collapsed in defeat halfway to first base as the Angels players dogpiled atop the pitcher’s mound.
No miracle from God needed. The Cubs found their own miraculous way to lose.
God took the Orange Line back to Midway that night. Sitting alone, holding his scorecard from the game, listening to Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right,” he overheard two children sniffling behind him. Rather than turning around, he simply caught their reflection in the window and noted that one was sitting on his father’s lap, the other in the adjacent seat. The father, a man in his late thirties, stared blankly into nowhere, consoling his sons the best he could by saying, “It’s okay. Wait ‘til next year. It’s okay. Wait ‘til next year.”
God was torn. For decades he had performed miracles to make sure that his team didn’t have an unfair advantage, to bring joy to others before himself. He found it to be astounding that such an occurrence could take place without his doing. Such is Cubs baseball.
God put his scorecard away and looked at the other faces around him. They all wore a variation of pain, distress, agony. All from the plight of a baseball team.
Perhaps he’d come back next year and perform a different kind of miracle, allowing his favorite team – the beloved Chicago Cubs – to bring a unique kind of joy to a city known for its passion.
“We almost had ‘em,” said a mustachioed older man to God’s left. He smiled at God without irony, exhibiting the unending hope that comes only from living in Chicago, the city of broad shoulders.
Perhaps, thought God, all is right with the world as it is.
Louie Centanni is a teacher and writer currently completing the final semester of his M.F.A. in Fiction at San Diego State University. He is fascinated by speculative and metaphysical concepts that manifest themselves in the mundane. His writing has been published in The Daily Aztec, Phyllis Scott's Emerging Writers series, and is awaiting publication in The Berkeley Fiction Review #34. He also has a self-published novel, available through Amazon, entitled A Couple of Unorthodox Love Affairs (2010).