About 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning—escaping the pouring rain—I’m in the Cubs’ dugout with David Ross, the Cubs’ 39-year-old catcher and team leader who was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates after completing his final major league game. When Anthony Rizzo told him on TV that he was “an emotional wreck” and Ross advised him “just continue to breathe,” Cub fans tried to breathe, too. Ross had given up two runs on a wild pitch that bizarrely bounced off his mask and now he’s telling me, contrary to the instructions of every Little League coach, that “I was trying to hit the [solo] homer.” It was, he says, “nice to get one back.”
As we chat about his being the oldest player ever to hit a World Series home run, he mentions how much he loves Chicago and Chicago fans—family people rooting for a team with family ownership and a family feeling among players. I babble in a way just short of embarrassing about how I had grown up within walking distance of Wrigley Field, how my late grandfather had taken my late father to the 1945 World Series and my father had taken me to my first Cubs game more than half a century ago, and how starting at age 9 I had spent my summer days in the bleachers watching the Cubs lose before passing the fever on to my kids.
Ross stands up from the Cubs bench and says: “You need a hug, too,” then wraps me in his arms, the sweet rain and sweat of his championship T-shirt transporting me home.