KYLE SCHWARBER hit a legendary home run during Game Four of the NLDS in 2015 against the Cardinals pictured here. It was the first playoff series clinching victory at Wrigley Field in team history. Schwarber was traded from the Nationals to the Red Sox last night. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)
Why you will love the “Hoosier Hit Man”
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
BOSTON — Let me put it this way: Sox fans are going to love Kyle Schwarber.
It’s not just because I’m biased – and I am. We were born two days apart for starters. In 2015, I was a 22-year-old Wrigleyville resident and a pseudo DePaul University student, splitting my time between a cheap ticket to see the National League’s bottom dwellers and listening on the radio when the upstart Cubbies hosted some of the better and more expensive teams.
The latter scenario typically included a slightly dangerous maneuver by my fellow Wrigley rats and I to climb up to our very secure roof and play a game within the game: Listen to the roar of the crowd and guess what happens during the few seconds it took for the legendary Pat Hughes and the Cubs radio broadcast to catch up. We got pretty good.
Nothing sounded quite like a “Schwarbs” homer.
Wrigley always reached another decibel when the rookie from nearby Indiana University went “yabo”.
Put that bias aside. Boston will love Schwarber because he’s made for the moment and nobody appreciates a clutch hitter more than Fenway Park.
During his first postseason in 2015, Schwarber set the Cubs’ all-time postseason home run record. Let me start a new paragraph to let that sink in.
He went deep five times during a magical run in which the Cubs beat the Pirates in a Wild Card game, then their rival Cardinals in the Divisional series – the first playoff matchup between the two – before finally falling to the Mets in the NLCS.
It’s almost as impressive as his home run streak this season, when he “unleashed the beast” to the tune of 16 dingers in 18 games during the month of June. That set an MLB record for the most home runs in a calendar month by a leadoff hitter. Barry Bonds in 2001 and Sammy Sosa in 1998 were the only other players to hit 15 in a 17-game span.
I was at the Game Four clincher when the “Hoosier Hit Man” slugged his most famous homer over the Budweiser sign in right to extend the Cubs’ lead in the 7th, following orders just moments before of the GOAT Harry Caray whose legendary call of “Let’s get some runs!” rang out after an incredible rendition of “Take me out to the Ball Game.”
Rumor has it he called his shot to teammate Dexter Fowler when playing catch in the outfield the inning before.
No, you in fact, can’t make that up.
I was way up in right field. You might call them the cheap seats but it ended up being the most historic place to witness Schwarber’s home run ball curiously hanging out on top of the scoreboard. That set off a Chicago mystery still unsolved. Was that really the ball? People swore it left the park and landed on Sheffield Ave. Some say it incinerated upon contact with the Earth’s atmosphere. Some say they saw Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks, who passed away in January of that year, fly down from the heavens, snag it on the hop, smile and disappear. My theory: it cleared Sheffield, bounced somewhere off a Wrigley rooftop and returned safely to the Friendly Confines to make sure it had a good view of the Cubs winning just their second playoff series since their World Series championship in 1908. And they did it, thanks in large part to “Schwarbo”. The Cubs later put a glass case over that ball to commemorate the moment.
How did a kid who used to order extra wings on 25 cent wing Wednesday’s at Kelly’s Pub just to have dinner set for the next night make it into the first series clinching playoff victory played at Wrigley Field in team history? He took a chance.
Sitting out on the stoop at Addison and Racine, we were approached by a couple of slick-looking sharks who were offering tickets for…40 bucks a piece. “Ya right,” was the response of everyone on that stoop…including me. After hitting us with what could only be a bogus line about just having sold a bunch of tickets out front and these were their last two, take it or leave it, I looked over at one of my more diehard Cubbie friends, a lifer from Chicago.
“Worst case?” I asked.
“We’re out 40,” he said, on the same page.
We agreed, grabbed the surely fake tickets and sprinted down the street just minutes before first pitch. We hardly slowed down at the gate, ready to see that vaunted red X over the turnstyles. When it went green, we had to take just a quick second to celebrate before the sprint continued up the ramps. We didn’t even have time to stop for an Old Style.
Red Sox fans are wondering where “The Big Schwarbowski” will play. Most wanted his former teammate: old friend Anthony Rizzo because the Sox need a first baseman and despite what Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane says in Moneyball, no, it’s not that easy to learn.
Where he plays? I’ll let Alex Cora figure that out. Having “Schwar Machine” in the lineup will be exciting…especially during the most compelling of moments…that’s when he’s at his best.
Trading for “Schwarbs” is a chance the Sox are smart to take. Even if he ends up being a rental, what’s the worst case? We’re out a hit-or-miss prospect. The best case? Kyle Schwarber provides us with one of the best memories of our lives.