The Cubs appear to have Dustiny
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

I have Cub Fear.

I come to you as a card-carrying Candlestick Park Frostbite Victim Giants Fan to admit that as the playoffs begin ... I have Cub Fear.

If I were a Brave Fan, I'd have a serious dose of Cub Fear. The Giants won't face the Cubs until the NLCS. The Braves have to deal with Cub Fear now, in the NLDS.

Dusty Baker
Dusty Baker has brought great energy to the Cubs this season.
(Then again, who's really a Braves Fan? They get, like, 15,000 of the most apathetic Atlantans they can find to watch playoff games at Turner Field. Atlanta: One of the worst sports towns in America. But that's another column, for another day.)

Back to Cub Fear: Perhaps the most unusual two words in the history of baseball.

Admitting Cub Fear any other year would be laughable, on par with a Democratic presidential candidate owning up to Al Sharpton Fear, or a Hollywood actor hoping for an Oscar nomination revealing he has Keanu Reeves Fear.

But there is a storm of destiny brewing in the Second City, and if your National League team has to get past the Cubs, you are fearing it all: The sight of Sammy Sosa turning on a fastball, the knee-buckling curveball from Kerry Wood, the audio replay of Ozzy Osbourne singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Most of all, you fear Dusty.

It was ex-Giant Rod Beck who coined the term "Dustiny" when Dusty Baker managed the Giants.

Yes, Rodney Roy Beck -- a Cub legend who saved 51 games in 1998, his first year at Wrigley.

That happened to be the last year the Cubs made the playoffs, beating the Giants in a one-game playoff for the wild card -- a Giants team managed by Dusty Baker.

Do you not see the baseball gods at work here?

I have Cub Fear mostly because I know the Power of Dusty, a manager who exudes more magic than a voodoo man in a Caribbean cave.

Dusty's got more charisma than a 1980 Ronald Reagan (the "shining city on a hill" Reagan, not the Iran-Contra Reagan), and more charisma than a 1992 Bill Clinton (the Fleetwood Mac "Don't Stop" Clinton, not the "depends on what the meaning of the word is, is" Clinton.)

Dusty Baker
Chew on this: for team spirit.
Cub Fan, you are in good hands.

I expect you all to show up at Wrigley in October, chomping on toothpicks en masse.

Good karma.

Plus, it gets the most stubborn pieces of bratwurst out of your back molars.

I read the Chicago papers online over the weekend, and could see the Perfect Cub Storm building.

Dusty has made these guys believe. Belief is a commodity in short supply in Chicago the last, oh, say, 95 years. Belief in the Cubs has always proved as ephemeral as a springtime sunny spell off the shores of Lake Michigan.

You choose to believe ... and a wind chill of 25 degrees is always just a day away.

It was Eric Karros, a new Cub, who said that Dusty had told the Cubs, and I paraphrase, "you have to respect history, but it has no bearing on what we do this year."

Winston Churchill in a Cub warm-up jacket.

Dusty also told the city of Chicago back in November, when the grim winter was coming and the Cubs were two months removed from 95 losses, "Why not us?"

Holy mother of Ernie Banks: Dusty Baker in a Cub uni is a beautiful blend of George S. Patton and Tony Robbins, minus Patton's megalomania and minus Robbins', well, megalomania.

There is plenty of evidence that Cubbie Magic is in the offing.

  • Their closer, Antonio Alfonseca, goes down with a brutal injury just before the season. Dusty chooses as his closer Joe Borowski, whose last name is actually Polish for "Joe Six Pack". The guy is two years removed from the Mexican League, and turns into Bruce Sutter, that is if Sutter knew how to order enchiladas in Monterrey.

  • The Cubs trade for Randall Simon, a bad karma move if ever there was one. The guy KO'ed a high school girl in a sausage outfit at Miller Field, not only skinning her knee on her summer vacation, but ruining the integrity of one of baseball's last bastions of purity: The Milwaukee Sausage Race.

    Get this: Not only does Simon find a welcome home in Wrigley, he becomes a fan favorite, and produces well enough at the 1-Bag to help the Cubs' remarkable 19-8 September.

    And then, and then, the Cubs clinch with the help of consecutive Brewers' wins over the Astros! The story is as improbable as the making of sausage itself.

    Dusty Baker fans
    There's nothing better than seeing a fan club go the extra mile.

  • Finally, you knew it was Dustiny when Johnnie B. Baker gave his official September Seal of Success by shouting down the Ultimate Mullet Fraud himself, Tony La Russa in a memorable smackdown to open September. Remember reading Dusty's lips on the replays? He was not, in fact, shouting "FINE with me!'' or "FALL is coming!" There were other f-bombs, and Dusty was letting La Russa know that his Cubs were for real, and were intent on sending La Russa home for a winter's worth of cold cereal and late mornings viewing "STYX: LIVE FROM DENNIS DEYOUNG'S BASEMENT" DVDs.

    There are some things that make me think my Cub Fear is misplaced, that the Cubs will prove as toothless as ever in October.

    One is those sad, horrible batting practice jerseys they wear at home. Come on, Tribune Company. You have one of the senior circuit's most legendary franchises, playing in the most epic park in America, and every game is B.P.? How about some understated home whites? Dusty looks like a giant blueberry in his outfit. Bad stuff.

    And two, it was in Wayne Drehs' story that I read where one of the celebratory songs played over the Wrigley sound system on Saturday night was "Jump." Wayne did not specify: Was it Van Halen's "Jump" or the Pointer Sisters' "Jump"? If it was Diamond Dave and the crew, we're OK. If it was Ruth, June and Anita ... minus points for bad music karma.

    That said, Cub Fear looms for fans in Atlanta, San Francisco and Florida.

    Cub Fear is real.

    Cub Fear is frightening.

    I found myself this weekend waking up in a cold sweat, imagining Mike Ditka over my bed, spewing saliva in my face as he shouted his way through "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

    Somebody pull me a cold one at Murphy's Bleachers -- quick.

    Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes every Monday for Page 2.



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