Every New Year’s Eve, everyone looks back at the past 12 months and ahead to what the flip of the calendar will bring to our lives. 2021 brought tremendous upheaval and dramatic change for Chicago Cubs fans – but there’s reason to have optimism for what’s coming next.
It would be easy to look back at this year and focus on the negatives. After all, in a span of 24 hours, we watched some of the most memorable and beloved Cubs players of this generation shipped off at the trade deadline. But there was a lot more to 2021 than just that late July fire sale that saw Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez playing out the rest of the year in new threads.
For much of the first half, Chicago surprised us – outperforming expectations – and perhaps no single moment was more wholesome than the return of 100 percent capacity crowds at Wrigley Field. I hopped on the Red Line for that Friday afternoon matchup against St. Louis and, till the day I die, I’ll remember the whole experience.
The weather was perfect – and I took in a Cubs victory from the center field bleachers with the iconic scoreboard looming behind me. The grass and ivy looked greener, the sky bluer and the beer tasted colder than ever. And who could forget Anthony Rizzo’s miraculous 14-pitch at-bat that culminated in a home run into the right field seats?
And in that same weekend, the bleacher bums were in peak form, unleashing cup snakes across the seats, with one estimated to be comprised of more than $43,000 in empty beer cups. To say Cubs fans missed the Friendly Confines is putting it very mildly. Baseball was back – and even with the pain that came, perhaps it was time for us to finish this chapter, as unforgettable as it was, so we can turn to the next.
Bryant’s return to Wrigley was another emotional moment – and one that anyone in attendance knows what I’m talking about. The former NL Rookie of the Year and MVP teared up in pregame ceremonies and watching him getting multiple standing ovations as a visiting player still gives me chills thinking about it.
Chicago Cubs: Closing one chapter, only to begin a fresh one in 2022
Speaking of that next chapter, though, we saw some excitement in the form of Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel – two late-blooming sluggers who took on duties at either corner infield spot. Wisdom broke Bryant’s Cubs rookie home run record and Schwindel brought home back-to-back NL Rookie of the Month awards, to boot.
Expecting an offseason of pain and disappointment, we got a pleasant surprise with the Marcus Stroman signing – and the team’s other moves seem to suggest that tanking isn’t part of Jed Hoyer’s plans. So while 2021 was another roller coaster of a year, it was one that Cubs fans won’t soon forget.