I walked over to a circle of beat reporters, three of them: a young banana-shaped one; a middle-aged, balding, red-haired one; and an old stately one with no hair at all. I said hello. Without a word, each turned his back on me. It took me some time to realize that these reporters, who after each game filed stories for the Tribune, the Sun-Times, and a third paper I had never heard of, were actually participants in the Cubs’ perpetual loss and naturally took a pride in the project that made it necessary to resent someone like myself, who had come aboard the Titanic to snap a few shots before shoving off. Of course, that ship was at least heading toward a conclusion, a climax. The Cubs, on the other hand, were and are forever adrift.
The only friend I made among the press was a kid entirely untouched by the stinking heartbreak of history. His name was Nick, and he was on summer break from Drake University in Iowa. He had landed a part-rime job writing about the Cubs for his hometown newspaper in Oak Park. A few times a week Nick went to the clubhouse and, without the least hesitation, pulled aside his favorite players. Before this game, he had talked to some of the Cardinals, even to Will Clark, rumored to be the crankiest man in the league.
Nick said, “Can I ask you some questions, Mr. Clark?”
Mr. Clark said, “Get the fuck away from me, kid.”
Nick told me that Mr. Clark had stunk of beer.