If the spirit of the late Bill Veeck were to come back every October? Where would you find that spirit? And could he help the Cubs?
The Crack of The Bat
The cold autumn rains of October started when the game was almost over. Sheets of crying rain against the lights of the stadium. Wrigley Field slowly draining, the crowds taking one last look, the giant switch thrown and the empty park goes dark.
Except for the huddled figure sitting in the darkness of the center field bleachers.
Veeck. Waiting for every October to come back.
You hear the crack of an unseen bat hit a ball that comes soaring into view, climbing, arcing off into the distance as if the ball could literally go on forever.
You think, "go on forever" and somehow another switch is thrown and you are back under a summer sky, back in Giametti's 'green fields of the mind.' You smell summer again, hear the crowd cheer, listen as a pop top fizzles open a beer Veeck hands you as he says, "you know what used to be here? I mean long before the park. Long ago, a seminary stood on these grounds. Place they trained ministers."
"Oh I guess some of those gin joints on Clark Street got a little bit loud. That's when the church up and sold the place. Not a real good place to be studying theology I guess."
"Maybe the religion part left a little something here? I mean, here you are. I remember your funeral. As distinguished a gathering of baseball royalty I've ever seen."
"That's right," said Veeck. "You and your pal Larry, you were there. I meant to thank you for that."
"Hey, we're just fans. We're here to thank you. Kind of amazing you'd be thanking us."
"Well, that's one of the things about the game. It's for everyone. It's a place where we can all say thanks. I remember when I owned what, the St. Louis team? Or was it the White Sox? The teams all run together now where I am. All those silly little rivalries where someone is hating someone else. All that's gone for me. Now I just think about saying thanks. Fact is, what story was I telling? Oh yeah. Some guy calls the park, asks 'what time does the game start?' and I just say, 'What time can you get here?'
I tell you though Mr. Veeck, sure doesn't seem like baseball is for everyone. All the money grubbing stuff. Taking the games off regular TV so folks can't watch. All that greed..."
"Well, you're right young man. That's been a problem since those factory boys back in Central Park started hitting balls with sticks and some genius said, "Hey, you think there could be some money here?
The greed does its best to get in the way. Sometimes, lotta times it wins. But does that make it right? No, the game is here for everyone. Sometimes its just really, really hard to find."
"How do I make sure I can find the game, Mr. Veeck? How do I made sure to hear that welcome, say those thanks, feel that summer breeze?"
"Well son, I guess the best way to say it, is that you got to look for those moments."
"Like in the game tonight. Right fielder throws up his arms because a ball gets lost in the ivy planted on the wall. Cubs save a run because the ball is lost in the ivy. Now, you know anywhere else that could happen?"
"And do you know who planted that ivy?"
"Mr. Veeck, every Cubs fan knows that you planted that ivy."
"That ball getting lost tonight. That was a moment. Now what's a moment for you? You look at that ivy covered wall and you see what?"
"Me? I see Andre Dawson standing at the wall and throwing out a guy at home. A throw like some kind of magical moment?"
"See," said Bill Veeck. "That's what I mean. You find your moments and you hold them close."
"So then why are you here tonight? Why did you come back?
"Oh I'm always here. You just don't know it. Don't see it. You lose the moment. So what I do every October is that I come sit up here in the center field bleachers. Where any and all can see me if you look hard enough. And then here above the orange, red brown splashes of the autumn leaves, I watch the game with anyone who might care to join me."
"You saw the game huh? Pretty depressing. Anything you can do to help the Cubs somehow come back?"
"What would I tell them? I'd tell them, listen to your manager. That Joe Maddon fella? Now there is a guy who thinks like I do. You hear what he keeps telling his players? Even now. Especially now. He tells them, 'Don't let the pain get ahead of the pleasure.'
Don't let the pain get ahead of the pleasure.
And with that message Bill Veeck faded from the center field bleachers. The October rains started up again, poured in to the sound of the message:
Don't let the pain get ahead of the pleasure.