The Los Angeles Dodgers had just wrapped up a two-run top of the eighth inning to tie Game 1 of the 2016 NLCS at three runs apiece. The Chicago Cubs, trying their best to salvage a win at Wrigley Field, loaded the bases before sending pinch hitter Miguel Montero to the plate.
Moments later, the Friendly Confines were shaking and the noise could be heard from blocks away. Montero blasted a grand slam — only the third in a pinch-hit at-bat in MLB postseason history — to right field for an 8-4 lead, one the Cubs wouldn’t give up.
As Montero rounded first base after his historic game-winning hit, a lifelong Cubs fan watched from closer than anybody else in the stadium.
Joe Flaherty, a 2014 Loyola alum and Chicago native, has worked security for the Cubs since 2010. This postseason, Flaherty, a broadcast journalism major at Loyola, has been positioned on the field near the visiting team’s dugout.
For a fan who went to his first Cubs game in May of 1998 and has been a die-hard fan ever since, Flaherty said he’s been living a dream come true watching this postseason — the Montero grand slam included, which he said was his favorite moment in the seven years he’s worked for the Cubs.
“People are always like, ‘You’re so lucky, you’re so lucky,’ and I’m just like, ‘Yeah, I know’,” said Flaherty. “I don’t know what other response to give other than, ‘Yeah, you’re damn right,’ because there’s a handful of people in this scenario. And I just take stock in that and be grateful for that.”
The Cubs went on to beat the Dodgers and win the pennant in six games, moving on to their first World Series since 1945.
The win and the celebration were a long time coming — 71 years to be exact. But for Flaherty and his family, the Cubs’ success was a relief in a time of need.
In March of 2016, Flaherty’s mom passed away. Following her passing, Flaherty and his dad, John, found an apartment about a mile and a half away from Wrigley Field. Joe moved into the apartment in May, and his dad moved in later in August after selling the family’s previous house.
Two months later, they’re coming home to an apartment within walking distance of Cubs and MLB history. Joe said the postseason success has been a needed distraction.
“You think of all the people you could be celebrating that with, and just to know that they’re there in a way [is a relief],” Joe said. “That part of it hasn’t really hit me yet, either.”
Joe is now living his dream, but until recently, it was just that — a dream. Until 2013, he worked as an usher at the gates of Wrigley Field, taking tickets and directing fans to their seats. Then after moving to the security staff, he was promoted to a managerial position early in the 2016 season.
But before the postseason began, Flaherty said he was informed that the MLB requires two security supervisors to work on the field during the games, and that he was the staff member chosen to be the second supervisor.
With the promotion came a few perks — employees are given an opportunity to purchase postseason tickets at face value before the general public can buy them. Joe’s dad has taken advantage of those tickets, as he’s gone to almost all of the Cubs’ playoff games this season.
“I was at the game when they won the pennant, and just talking to my brothers and sisters and all my friends, it was surreal. It took a while to sink in,” John said. “I was watching [Joe], and I had a good view of him on the field. That’s something else. There’s only a couple people out there besides the baseball players, and he’s one of them.”
For Joe, the postseason run is something to soak in while it lasts.
“It’s something I’m still working toward appreciating, because who knows, it could be another 108 years until we see something like this again,” Flaherty said. “If you were to tell the kid who bought a [Carlos] Zambrano jersey when he was 10 that, ‘Hey, you’ll be out there for the World Series,’ I would’ve called you a liar to your face.”