It was a late September Sunday back in 1982.
The Cubs were in Montreal and they had just swept a talented, veteran Expos team as part of a six-game winning streak.
That Cubs team was in the first year of a major overhaul being undertaken by new general manager Dallas Green. Quite predictably, the Cubs had started their season meekly, with a record of 40-65 through the end of July.
However, after the calendar flipped to August, the young and evolving roster started to turn the corner and the Cubs posted a respectable 33-24 record the rest of the way.
So why am I hearkening back to my youth to remember this bunch?
Well, this current Cubs team is showing some of those same signs that corners are being turned and parallels to ’82 really hit me yesterday. As Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez lit up your television, and Starlin Castro dazzled all series long, they gave you a glimpse of what could be to come as early as the next year or two.
Things were nearly the same in 1982, when you could see it building with young players such as Ryne Sandberg, Leon Durham, Jody Davis, and Keith Moreland. The ’82 version had also just called up one of their top prospects for a taste in Mel Hall.
That aforementioned sweep of the Expos had Harry Caray even more excited than usual. It was enough for him to resurrect a little ditty that he had sung earlier in his Cardinals broadcasting career, but updated for his current team.
I won’t soon forget Caray joyfully singing “The Cubbies are coming, tra la, tra la! The Cubbies are coming, tra-la, tra-la!” He warned the National League the Cubs would soon be a force.
Lee Smith came in to close out the series looking every bit the dominating young closer after failing as a starter under the previous regime. Flash forward to Hector Rondon, a Rule 5 pick, up doing his best Smith circa 1982 impersonation yesterday as he shut down the Mets with his electric high-90’s stuff.
A year and a half after Harry sang that giddy ditty, GM Green would find the pitching and the right mix of veteran leaders to surround his young core and make them contenders in 1984.
Could we be seeing that same process unfolding here and now?
I see enough of the young talent already to know that with just a little additional pitching and veteran presence, this team may be ready to win as early as next year or the following season. Comparisons aside, that game yesterday led by a promising young pitcher in Kyle Hendricks, gave me a reason to sing.
But I think I’ll just leave that to Harry.
“The Cubbies are coming tra-la, tra-la!”