There is so much to write about the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. Game 3 was a classic. The final score of a few of the games have been misleading, but overall it has been an excellent Fall Classic. I will revisit the World Series soon.
The World Series drought for the Cubs has been well documented, to the point of nausea. Over 70 years since they last played in the World Series and over 100 years since they last won it all. This background was great leading up to the World Series, but as the series has gone on I am less interested in it and more focused on the here and now.
Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd…(World Series of Dreaming)
Four years ago I had to opportunity to go to a game at Wrigley Field with Jesse. He was working in Chicago for a month and I flew over from New York to stay with him for a few days. We went to a game at Wrigley Field between the Cubs and Giants. We sat in the right field bleachers right behind Hunter Pence. It was a beautiful day game. Madison Bumgarner pitched for the Giants (I honestly did not remember him pitching until I looked up the game tonight). The Cubs were in the middle of rebuilding and were not very good that season. However, the Baseball Gods smiled upon us and the Cubs beat the Giants 6-4.
The most lasting memory I have, besides just being at Wrigley was singing Go Cubs Go after the final out. I am by no means a die hard Cubs fan. I grew up watching their games after I got home from school. I loved listening to Harry Caray announce the games and singing Take Me Out To The Ball Game. I felt a connection to the Cubs even as they were rebuilding, so watching them win a game then singing Go Cubs Go was magical.
The end of Game 5 of the World Series was a nice reminder of my experience at Wrigley with Jesse. Joe Buck managed to stay out of the way for a few minutes and allow the Cubs fans to sing Go Cubs Go on national television. There is something about listening to an entire stadium sing a song in celebration of their beloved team. For all the heartbreak and the decades of waiting, the Game 5 victory at Wrigley Field felt like a weight was lifted off Cubs fans. In some way that victory is enough to allow Cubs fans to wait until next year. The time, money, effort, and energy that many people put into baseball out of love can seem like a one way street, but there are moments like after Game 5 where it is clear that the love is traveling in both directions.
I was sitting in front of the television scrolling through Twitter while watching the beginning of Game 5 of the World Series. I see a tweet in Spanish; sorry I cannot remember who posted it. I speak zero Spanish, but my eye caught the names of Brian Mejia and Oscar Taveras. Something did not seem right about it so I copied it and dropped it into a translator to get an idea of what it was saying. Not recognizing Brian Mejia’s name, I thought for a moment the tweet was referencing Taveras so people would have a connection to him. As soon as I hit enter and the translation came up, I was stunned. My mind just went blank for a moment as I tried to process that Oscar Taveras was dead. Oscar Taveras, a young man who I had seen play just recently hitting a pivotal home run for the Cardinals as they fought the Giants in the NLCS. I hoped it was a mistake and the media was reporting just a rumor, which would later prove false. As time passed and the reports came flying in, the horrible truth set in. Never mind his abilities on a baseball field, Taveras and his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, 22 and 18 respectively, were gone far, far too soon.
I watched Game 5. Madison Bumgarner was brilliant, throwing a complete game shutout. However, I had lost much of my interest in the game. Various media outlets were reporting Taveras’ death, before Fox finally reported it during the game. Some people felt Fox should have been quicker to inform the public of his death, but I appreciated their restraint to be sure the information was correct before their reporting. Listening to Ken Rosenthal report on Taveras left me feeling empty.
I watched the game. Even though I have no connection to Taveras besides watching him play, I was felt the sadness of his death deep. A member of the baseball family was suddenly gone. The Juan Perez double in the 8th inning, which scored Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence, made me smile a little. Perez and Taveras were friends; they had played Winter Ball together in the Dominican Republic. I am not sure I could have continued playing had I just learned a good friend of mine had died. I was happy for Perez, if only the double was able to give him a few moments of reprieve from the sadness and pain he was going through.
The reaction all around baseball to the news of Taveras’ death was shock. One by one teams released statements expressing their sadness for the families and friends of both Taveras and Arvelo. Competition no longer mattered; rather the humanity is what mattered. Two mothers and two fathers lost their children. Siblings lost their best friends. People lost close friends. Two young people with many more years of life ahead were gone.
Everyone around baseball knew the death of Taveras and Arvelo were bigger than the game. The baseball family extends from Oscar’s teammates and opponents to the people who work in and around baseball to the fans. They all came together to collectively mourn and remember these two people. The idea of a baseball family is real. While Cardinals and Cubs players and fans may not like one another on game day, there is always a sense of respect for the other team. Baseball brings people together through their love of the game. While the baseball world is preparing to crown this years’ champion, it understands life is far more important than a game. Humanity will always trump competition. Oscar Taveras and Edilia Arvelo have left us far too soon. May they both rest in peace.