By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — During the Cubs’ final road trip of the regular season, Kris Bryant wore a Bears jersey with the No. 89 and Mike Ditka’s name on the back.
Standing adjacent to Bryant’s third base prior to Game 1 of the NLDS, Ditka ripped off his jacket and revealed to reporters his Cubs jersey. Surely enough, it had Bryant’s No. 17 on the back.
“I’m wearing this in honor of Kris,” Ditka said with excitement.
The 1985 Super Bowl-winning Bears coach was proud to sport Cubs pinstripes in anticipation of their playoff push. He was invited to say “play ball” prior to first pitch.
Ditka has become friends with Cubs manager Joe Maddon, a fellow Pennsylvanian. He met with Maddon in the clubhouse prior to the game, then chatted again with the manager and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein on the field while watching batting practice.
Known for his fiery temper, Ditka marvels at how Maddon handles tough times.
“I probably didn’t handle (adversity) as well as Joe will,” Ditka said with a laugh.
As the coach of a Chicago championship, Ditka can appreciate what the Cubs are pursuing. Given their 108 years without a World Series title, the feeling is even stronger.
Ditka looked toward the bricks and ivy in left field and recalled running into it back in 1961, when the Bears played their games at Wrigley Field. But the ballpark has been modernized through a detailed process.
Wrigley Field has a unique feel prior to the playoff’s beginning.
“This is pretty special,” Ditka said. “It’s been a long time. This is a long time coming. It’s going to be fun.”
The 1985 Bears had an unparalleled swagger to their pursuit of a Super Bowl championship. Their “Super Bowl Shuffle” was created well before the actual Super Bowl.
These Cubs have their own mix of personalities and haven’t shied away from their goal of winning the World Series. Pitcher John Lackey said in August, “I came here for jewelry.”
A fan of this team, Ditka appreciates how the Cubs have pursued a World Series title.
“What’s their goal?” Ditka said. “If you can’t mention your goal, then you’re foolish.
“They got to carry it all the way across the goal line now.”
Game 1 on Friday night against the Giants brings the beginning of the Cubs’ pursuit of a championship. Ditka can’t wait to watch.
“There is no such thing as perfection,” he said. “But they’re pretty darn close.”