September 23, 1998. How can it be 20 years already? The “Brant Brown Game.” The “Oh Noooooo” game. It was Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers in the thick of a playoff race.
The Cubs and New York Mets were tied for the wild card entering this game in Milwaukee, the 159th of 162 games in the 1998 season. Chicago had actually led the Brewers, 7-0, going into the 7th inning.
My buddy Matt in Galesburg, Illinois tagged me in a Chicago Tribune tweet celebrating the 20th anniversary of the game in which Ron Santo, then WGN-AM color commentator for the Cubs, had one of the most emotional radio calls of all time.
I told Matt that this brought back memories and may inspire a blog post. All these years later I had my memory of the game all wrong…maybe.
When checking the calendar, the game in question occurred on a Wednesday afternoon. I’ve always remembered listening to this game on AM-720 WGN driving back from the Quad Cities to my hometown of Annawan, Illinois. My memory had it occurring on a Sunday afternoon following a visit to my local card shop in Colona, Illinois. But I was a junior in high school and this was a school day.
I guess I misremembered, but at any rate it is an all-time moment from 1998. This was the year I became a baseball fan again after drifting away in 1993, and completely left the game after the 1994 strike.
Fortunately for Cubs fans, including the ultimate fanatic Ron Santo, the Cubs were able to secure a tie for the National League Wild Card forcing a one-game playoff with the San Francisco Giants.
Chicago went into the National League Division Series matching up against the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta cruised to a game one victory behind the pitching of John Smoltz, 7-1. The Cubs forced extra innings in game two, but lost 2-1. Atlanta would sweep by winning game three, 6-2.
While 1998 ended on a whimper with a three-game sweep, it was the Cubs first playoff appearance since 1989. The season also brought us pitching sensation Kerry Wood and his 20-strikeout game. And of course, the great home run chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. It was also the season that brought me back to the game I love.