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CUBS NATION by Gene Wojciechowski Kirkus Star


162 Games, 162 Stories, 1 Addiction

by Gene Wojciechowski

Pub Date: April 12th, 2005
ISBN: 0-385-51300-3
Publisher: Doubleday

From sportswriter Wojciechowski (ESPN: The Magazine), the story of a year spent with Wrigley Field as home base, with trips radiating out into the surrounding neighborhoods (and to away ballparks).

In some circles, it was thought that 2004 might be the year the Chicago Cubs would snap their 95 consecutive seasons without a World Series win. So, to position himself for a particularly good story, Wojciechowski attended each of the team’s 162 games to chart its quest for glory. Victory didn’t arrive for the ball club, but Wojciechowski came up with gold. Each game is an opportunity for a story, sometimes as sweet and distilled as condensed milk; others are spun out over a few pages, still others take a more serious tack—poring over the murder of a fan outside the park, in one terrible instance. Lesser but still hurtful passages include rude trades and declining talents. The author recounts discussions—sometimes as interviews, sometimes as quick prose pieces—with radio announcers, or with the guy who sings “The Star-Spangled Banner,” or the one who muffed throwing in the first pitch, with the umps, the park organist, the fans who wait outside the park for homerun balls, and the scouts. There are admiring, low-key tributes to writers like Mike Royko and Ron Shelton, who penned the screenplay for Bull Durham. And there are the ballplayers themselves, from the bench-sitters to the Hall of Fame prospects, including Greg Maddux, seeking his 300th win as a starting pitcher, and Sammy Sosa, swinging for the fences but suffering a slump year. Wojciechowski works the ironies and the absurdities of throwing in your lot with a baseball team, and he conjures the special pleasures of Wrigley Field, its lack of commercialization, its greensward, its ivy walls.

A wide-screen feast for Cubs fans and a quick-witted standard for sportswriters.