Countdown to Opening Day: 32 Days… We were ‘this’ close.


#32…Juuuust a bit outside. Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

32 Days to Opening Day and, as Spring Training sees its’ first pitch, a look at the number 32 in Cub lore makes me want to do a couple of things.

First, pinch my thumb and index finger close together without touching. Second, say “Missed it by that much.”

That’s the number 32 in Cub history.

As a former newspaper editor and a self-proclaimed ‘wordsmith’, I rather enjoy playing with words and their roots. The same can be said about names. That, to me, is what made my look at number 32 so comedic.

Statistically, #32 hasn’t produced anyone headed to Cooperstown without a ticket. But, harken back to 1972 – Milt Pappas on the mound on a sunny, early September day. Bruce Froemming behind the plate. Pappas faced 26 batters – 26 batters down. On a 2-2, and then a 3-2, pitch – a strike from a perfect game – Froemming called two very close pitches balls. Pappas got the no-hitter by retiring the next batter, but he has never forgiven Froemming for those two pitches. As recently as 2006 the two went on a Chicago radio station and argued on-the-air about the pitches. I’d say it still resonates.

Missed it by that much.

Dan Larsen had a perfect game in the 1956 World Series. He wore number 32 for the Cubs, right? Oh wait, no DON Larsen threw the perfect game in the World Series. DAN Larson wore 32 for the Cubs in 1982. Missed it by that much.

A guy named ‘Cy’ wore 32 for the Cubs in 1942. Yeah, Cy Block – not Cy Young. What rhymes with ‘Cy’? Nye. As in, Bill Nye, The Science Guy. Or, as we Cub fans could say about the number 32: Rich Nye, The Pitcher Guy. Rich Nye spent four seasons with a 32 on his back in Chicago, and he won 13 games in 1967.

Missed it by that much.

If only Loyd Christopher could have had Marty McFly’s Sports Almanac from Back to the Future II when he was wearing the number 32 for the last pennant-winner Wrigley Field has housed. Then Dr. Emmitt Brown could have told us what to expect – and maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much every time we say “wait ’til next year”. Ah, Christopher Lloyd, not Loyd Christopher? Close, but no cigar.

It’s safe to say that non-Cub baseball fans love to make fun of our guys. I once met Al Hrabosky and when I told him I was a Cub fan, he retorted with, “Seriously? Why?!” We, as a group, are able to see the comedy of errors that has been the Cubs franchise for decades. It’s what will make our appreciation for a winner skyrocket…someday.

32 also represents being close to a winner. As in, 1932. A World Series season for the Cubs. Hey, there aren’t that many. Of course, they lost that Series and Babe Ruth stole the show with some ‘called shot’. How would that series go over now, Cub fan? You want to finally see the Cubs get to the Series – even if once they get there they get swept by the Yankees?

Seems that even in 1932 there was one thing all Cub fans could say in unison.

Missed it by that much.