Losing, even 15-5, is something the Cubs have gotten used to these past 100 years or so. But what happened during one of Boston's home run trots truly was something the Cubs won't get over for a long time.
Team president Crane Kenney, sitting in the coveted Green Monster section that rises above Fenway's famous 37-foot high left-field fence, caught a home run hit by Jarrod Saltalamacchia(notes) in the bottom of the fifth inning. The blast ricocheted off an advertisement high above Kenney's seat and pretty much fell right to him. How's that for bemusing happenstance?
To make matters worse, Kenney — in clear violation of widely accepted Cubs fans programming — did not throw the opponent's ball back onto the field. Instead of acting like one of the Bleacher Bums, he sought a young fan and tossed him or her Salty's dinger ball. Well, harumph!
It's one thing for a clever ball hawk perched in the Wrigley Field bleachers to defy protocol and keep the souvenir homer. To deflect the peer pressure, some even treacherously switch out the homer ball for a ringer and throw that one back.
But the team's own president — not quite at the Ricketts ownership level, but close — acting oblivious to bleacher tradition? And in front of Red Sox Nation, the more successful junior franchise? Unacceptable. Scandalous!
Watching him, it's doubtful Kenney thought for even a nanosecond of throwing back the ball. The guy wouldn't last three innings in Chicago's bleachers. He's just so hard to figure.
Hey, it's time for a confession: If I ever catch a home run ball at Wrigley, or any park, I wouldn't be one of the sheep who throw it back. I'm keeping that sucker. Literally rejecting the opponent's home run ball is perhaps the weakest fan tradition in sports. For example, imagine a Cubs fan telling his grandson he once caught a home run by Jason Heyward(notes) who, in 25 years, is about to be inducted to the Hall of Fame.
"What did you do with the ball, grampa?"
"Uh ... I threw it back."
See how silly it is? And it's not like the umpires are going to be fooled by the ball bouncing back on the field and so they wave off the homer. OK, maybe some umpires would get fooled.
Like an infection, the practice of tossing back the home run ball has spread to other major league parks. Some folks even throw back foul balls hit by the enemy. Cardinals fans, you know who you are. Admiring Cubs fans for their loyalty, patience, persistence, blind devotion — whatever — is OK. But wanting to ape some of their worst behavior is unconscionable.
Fans in some parks still can be thrown out by security for throwing a ball on the field. But it's a shrinking minority.
It will continue, if for no other reason than to spite the suit in the front office who refuses to lead by example.
I have a crazy feeling that what happened at Fenway was a missed opportunity. Perhaps, if Kenney had thrown back Saltalamacchia's homer, Cubs fans would have seen how uncool the act was, and a seed would have been planted. It could have been the beginning of a counter revolution. Inside of a decade, we could have wiped out the exercise entirely.
But Kenney's pseudo-thoughtful and charitable action in flipping the ball to a child ruined any such remote possibility. They'll be shouting "Throw it back!" at Wrigley — and elsewhere — for a long time to come.
Thanks for nothing, Crane Kenney.