THE QUIET MAN

THE YEAR 1969 proved to be a momentous and contentious time for America. On 20 July astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder on the lunar excursion model and became person to walk on the moon. Just a month later approximately half a million young people camped in the muddy pasture owned by Max Yasgur in Sullivan County, New York, for four days of music at a festival known as Woodstock. To a thirteen year old growing up in Mishawaka, Indiana, however, something truly miraculous was happening that summer— the Cubs looked as if they were headed to the .

Longtime Cubs fans will tell you that cheering for the Cubs’ long-suffering fans, me among them. I cursed team takes some intestinal fortitude. As National Public the Cubs’ ineptitude and the Mets’ brilliant play. Radio broadcaster Scott Simon once observed, being a Heartbroken over my team’s collapse, I failed to Cubs fan is like rooting for the Italian army or raving about notice the quiet man wandering the Mets’ , offer­ your Edsel. Led by and powered ing a steady guiding hand to a team filled with talented, by the hitting of and the pitch­ but young, ballplayers. Indiana native , pro­ ing of right-hander , however, the Cubs filed in this issue of Traces by Wes Gehring, guided the were the talk of baseball in the summer of 1969. Forgetting Mets to not only a division title, but the their usual ‘June swoon,” when the heat of day baseball at pennant and a World Series victory over the heavily saps the strength of their players, the Ctibs favored Orioles as well. “They say that a man­ on 14 August led the National League’s Eastern Division ager only wins a few ball games here and there over the by eight and a half games over the second-place St. Louis course of a season,” said , a Mets , Cardinals and nine and a half games over the third-place “but Gil Hodges won the 1969 World Championship. All . I watched as broadcaster the players know that. He did it with his mind.” described every thrilling Cubs victory, each one cemented Hodges, of course, knew the game intimately from his by Santo clicking his heels with glee. days as a stalwart with the What happened next is still hard for me to believe. Dodgers. A powerful hitter with 370 home runs to his The Cubs faded, and as they struggled to win games, credit during a career that began in the 1940s and the Mets caught fire, winning thirty-eight of their last ended in the 1960s, Hodges earned the respect of team­ forty-nine games to pass Chicago and take possession of mates and fans alike. “He was the strong, silent type first place for good on 10 September. , Mets and everybody who played for him .. . respected him,” and today a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, said , who played for the Mets from 1968 said that when he and his teammates journeyed to to 1971. “Maybe some of us didn’t agree with him, but Chicago in October for the last series of the season after we always respected him.” Although a heart attack took clinching the division title, “I felt kind of sorry for some Hodges’s life in 1972, he lived long enough to disprove of the Cubs.” Seaver should have spared his feelings for a famous quote from former foe Durocher. Sometimes, the opposition and instead placed his sympathy with the at least, nice guys do finish first.

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