Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Chicago Cubs - Story of a Curse - Rich Cohen -------------------- 4.5 Stars

I'm familiar with Rich Cohen as I read one of his other books and blogged about it here. As you can see, this was about the Chicago Bears. Similarly, both books tell the history of each franchise while going into interesting anecdotes and stories about the many individuals that helped form these great organizations. While I liked the Bears book a lot, I found this one even better!

I really enjoyed this book. From the beginning pages, talking about the start of baseball and what the game was like in the 19th century, through Cohen's vivid and excellent recounting of the 2016 Cubs World Series win, Cohen treats each story, person, and page in the book with humor and care. Perhaps because I knew less about the early times of baseball (compared to football) and it goes back much further, I found the start of the book riveting. Learning about the early "mudball" pitchers, the real Babe Ruth, the early Cubs teams that actually won championships, it was a great walk through history.

Later, he goes through all the "lovable losers" Cubs team that my father's generation knew more intimately. He also posits that part of the reason for the beautification of Wrigley was because the owners knew the team was no good and were hoping fans would come out for a day at the beautiful ball park and enjoy the "friendly confines" (interestingly, he said a Yankee friend had their own way of finding beauty with their team... it was called winning).

Near the end, he goes through the lead up to the World Series championship and had a great interview with Theo Epstein that I found fascinating in helping to understand and explain how the Cubs went from being so bad to so good (hint: you have to the former to get to the latter).  Of course, the summary of each individual World Series game (yes, all 7), were probably my favorite pages of the book. I could so vividly remember each of the big plays, the highlights and the heartaches of one of the greatest World Series in baseball history. And, yes, even a few tears were shed again upon "seeing" them win again in my mind.

Perhaps the most unexpected and enjoyable part of the book was Cohen's take on the whole thing. While he delivered the facts and history with great fashion, much of the book was about his own life growing up around Chicago and the life of being a Cubs fan (his father urged him not to be and for part of his life he truly did give up on the team). And that really is the recurring theme of the book; what it was like to be a grown adult while still trying to be a Cubs fan. In my life, it took 35 years to see them win; but for many other Cubs fan, it took a century or never happened. Was there a curse for those 100 years, was there not? All part of the great narrative of his wonderful story!

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