Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cold? Flu? Yes, that's the ticket

     A colleague asked me if I were excited about the Cleveland Indians winning the pennant this week, and I answered, candidly, that I was excited when they won it in 1995 and actually saw a World Series game in 1997, leading to the column below, which got me in hot water at work, for reasons I will explain afterward. As you read, try to imagine what landed me in the editor's office, having my future employment called into question.

     I'm sorry, but there won't be a column today; I'm feeling under the weather.  

     World Series tickets!
     Must be some kind of virus I picked up Monday — I forgot my wool hat at home, and with the change of weather and all those people sneezing on the bus. 

     An old friend from Cleveland called and said he had a big piece of Fall Classic pasteboard with my name on it.
     Much as I'd like to be at work Tuesday, finishing that piece on global warming (really), it seemed the responsible thing to stay at home and not risk infecting my co-workers. 

     "I can't. . . ," I began, pausing long enough in shock that he began to reply when I cut him off, ". . . believe it! Yes! In a heartbeat." There was the sticky matter of my job, however, the livelihood supporting me, my loving wife and two adorable children.
     Because colds have a way of racing through a workplace, especially at this time of year.     

      Southwest Airlines. One-hundred and sixty-three dollars. That was a lot. But my God, the World Series. I'm 37 years old and I've never been to a World Series, never mind one in Cleveland, with the Indians, whose dismal record of endless, soul-crushing mediocrity served as the dreary background to my nondescript youth.
     And who knows if it's just a cold? The flu, pneumonia, meningitis — all going around this time of year. Better to take a day and rest and not risk making it worse. 

     Game starts at 7:20 p.m., Chicago time. Though I'll be there an hour or two early, just to gaze in abject awe at the red-white-and-blue bunting surrounding the upper decks, to soak in the atmosphere and, if history is any judge, a couple of big cold ones.
     To be honest, as sick as I am, I still hate taking a day off. Responsibility is key to any job, and if you don't show up one day, well, that just adds your burden to the weary shoulders of your co-workers. 

     Of course we'll win in dramatic style, the way the Giants beat us back in '54. The only thing people remember from that is Willie Mays running to make The Catch, and then that tremendous throw to the plate, his cap flying. A nice moment for him and most everybody else. Not so nice for those in Cleveland.
     Slack off and you risk getting in trouble at work. That's awful. Your boss is all grim-faced, and everybody is discussing what to do about The Problem, and you feel like you're back in first grade, in the principal's office for building a volcano of snow on the radiator. 

     The Marlins aren't even a real team, just a marketing concept put together to sell sportswear to teenagers. Teal? How'd they come up with teal? They had to do a survey of what teens wanted to wear on their hooded sweat shirts to get a color like that.
     I remember getting fired from a job once — my last job before this one, now that I think of it. A small suburban daily newspaper. For something I wrote in my column, coincidentally. My boss looked like he just swallowed a lemon, and he asked me to go for a walk. He did the deed on the side of Schmale Road, in Wheaton, with the traffic whizzing by. 

     Did I mention that my grandfather took me to my first Indians game? It was the only thing we ever did together in our entire lives. I can still see him sitting there in his neatly laundered sports shirt, smelling of cigarettes and Luden's cough drops, cheering. He's long gone now.
      But things have a way of working out. That newspaper folded shortly after I left, and the guy who fired me took some job in the distant collar counties and was never heard from again. I ended up here. 

    Well, not here, not at the moment, but at the World Series in Cleveland. I'll be back here tomorrow. Eight a.m. flight. Don't tell anybody.
      —First published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 21, 1997

    "What is this?" the editor at the time asked me, an hour after I turned in the column. I brightly explained to her that I was going to call in sick and attend the World Series in Cleveland. She frowned. "You know you could be fired for this? For calling in sick when you're not sick." 
     I'm not sure what I replied. Certainly not, "But I'm NOT calling in sick, not really, you muddle-minded martinet. I lay it all out in the column. I'm attending a World Series in another city at no cost to you whatsoever! Plus you get a fun column out of it. Isn't that the important thing?" 
    Apparently not. I no doubt apologized and wheedled, my only goal being to get my ass to the game, which Cleveland lost to the ersatz Florida nine in what I remember being a 4 and half hour ordeal in 42 degree weather that saw my pal and me at a bar in the flats before the final pitch was thrown.  I do remember seeing Bob Hope at the beginning of the game, a distant speck in a box, waving to the crowd. 
      The editor, incidentally, went on to a glittering career at the Tribune, where fidelity to rules is highly prized.


  1. Good for you for taking the day off and going to Cleveland for the World Series. I don't know very much about the Indians' history, but I do know that former Cubs radio broadcaster Lou Boudreau played for them a long time ago, became a manager, and was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame. A Cubs/Indians World Series would be wonderful, a strictly midwestern affair, two cities only 344 miles apart, both sadly lacking in World Series winners (though the White Sox won it in 2005 by some miracle). But I don't want to get ahead of myself; congrats to the Indians, and best of luck to the Cubs tonight!

  2. As a former Boston and Josh Beckett fan, I like when Beckett finished the Indians off a few years back in the AL playoff. Especially when the owner there flew in Josh's ex galpal to rattle him. It didn't work. Beckett said thanks for flying in a friend. The owner there sounds like a Trump follower.

  3. I seem to remember that Beckett as a Marlin gave up something like 7 runs to the Cubs in a playoff game and still won.

    john, not-a-Beckett-fan, still waiting for Godot and a Cubs World Series

  4. Once or twice when I was in grade school, I came home for lunch and my mom would say, let's go to the Cubs game. Then she'd write me a sick note. I value those afternoons more than anything else learned during those years.

  5. Once or twice when I was in grade school, I came home for lunch and my mom would say, let's go to the Cubs game. Then she'd write me a sick note. I value those afternoons more than anything else learned during those years.


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