Kyle Schwarber — only 22 — has already secured spot in Cubs lore with home run ball
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You could say this is like putting the Hope Diamond on the roof of an apartment building and telling jewelry fans, “It’s up there, now leave it be!’’
We’re speaking of the home run ball Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber cranked onto the top ledge of the videoboard in right field at Wrigley Field Tuesday night. The mighty blast was the last run scored in the Cubs’ 6-4 win over the Cardinals, propelling the Cubs to their first National League Division Series championship in 12 years.
In the realm of Cubdom, this is Mythology 101.
The ball was thought at first to have cleared the “Budweiser’’ sign and onto Sheffield Ave. Some Cubs devotees felt they had seen a miracle and the ball vanished and was taken to heaven by the God of Baseball.
But when the ball was finally discovered on the flat precipice above the board, and the Cubs authenticated it as “The Schwarbs Ball’’— or the “One Sphere Forged By the Tears of 107 Years,’’ oh boy!
The little orb was placed under a tiny plexiglass box, where it shall stay atop the board for an indeterminate amount of time.
If it becomes the symbol that leads to a Cubs World Series title, let’s just say it stays there forever. Or until Grant DePorter gets his mitts on it.
“Pure genius,’’ is how manager Joe Maddon described the enshrinement. “The way tradition and lore are dealt with around here — I mean that will stand the test of time.’’
He added that he was happy the ball was nicely encased, to keep out the elements. As for the scoreboard itself, once a contentious new thing, “They definitely gotta keep it there now,’’ said Maddon.
Of course. Because that hunk of metal cradles a piece of magic that could be part of the Cubs’ march to glory.
Schwarber, just 22, is magic for sure. Straight out of Indiana University, where the Cubs identified him as a serious prospect after his sophomore year when he was a first-team All America and named the best college catcher, Schwarber has only played 74 games total for the Cubs. Yet his mark is that of a blacksmith on a two-penny nail.
In just 232 regular season at bats he hit 16 home runs, six doubles and drove in 43 runs. And just five games into the playoffs, he has seven hits, three home runs, five RBI, and is batting .538, with a crazy slugging percentage of 1.231.
That he has been a key reason the Cubs have sailed this deep so fast into the playoffs goes without saying. That the Cubs were able to get him high in the draft by basically tanking several seasons is a nice reward for failing.
Schwarber bats left-handed, so that home run looked like so many of his muscular hits — a lightning-quick sweep of the bat with a slight and beautiful upward thrust to it, propelling him automatically toward first base.
“I didn’t know whatever happened to the ball,’’ he said when asked in the clubhouse Thursday. “It’s pretty cool that they’re leaving it up there.’’
So he didn’t follow its flight, either? Didn’t know if the clouds parted and a hand reached down?
“Once you hit it, you know it’s gone,’’ he replied. “You watch it for a little bit and then you put your head down and start running.’’
Indeed, he said “Georgie” —Jorge Soler — probably hits home runs the farthest on the Cubs.
The hubbub over the homer has pretty much shocked the young man.
“It’s crazy. I just look at it as it’s a home run. People are kinda taking it to the next step.’’
Yes, that’s what they’ll do in these parts, son.
And what of the rumor that you actually called the home run? Like, when centerfielder Dexter Fowler said when you were both out in the field that you were going to hit a homer the next time up?
“I was just joking out there with him, just ball talk. Just talking. And I said, ‘I think I’m gonna hit a home run.’ ”
Kind of like Babe Ruth’s “Called Shot’’ then?
“No, not all,’’ Schwarbs said quickly, humility pouring from him. “I’m not gonna go up there and point.’’
Over in another part of the locker room you ask Fowler if Schwarbs guaranteed a tater.
“That’s what he said.’’
Well, now the myth grows.
And the Schwarbs Ball is up there, encased.
A beacon pointing the way. Maybe a true anti-goat.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.