Mark and Mike Chernoff have had at least one catch every month since Mike’s childhood, a sweet father-and-son ritual that gained public attention as Mike rose up the executive ranks with the Cleveland Indians.
But none of those catches was quite like the one for this month.
Mark, WFAN’s vice president of programming, and Mike, the Indians’ general manager, checked off November of 2016 on the first day of the month – in the indoor batting cage at Progressive Field in Cleveland before a World Series game.
Tough to beat that one.
“Just before Game 6 he changed into his shorts and T-shirt and was ready to go,” the elder Chernoff said. “It was great.”
Mark was back on the job Sunday at MetLife Stadium for the Eagles-Giants game after going along for the Indians’ playoff ride, a trip that came up one victory short after they led the Cubs, three games to one.
Mark attended all four games in Cleveland, but he passed up the three in Chicago to babysit with his wife, Sally, in Cleveland and allow Mike’s wife, Sarah, to attend the games at Wrigley Field.
The highlight, though, might have come in Toronto on Oct. 19, when the Indians clinched the ALCS.
“The exhilaration that I felt, I just reached out to my son and gave him a big hug and he gave me a big hug,” Mark said. “That was just, like, a moment in time. It was so exciting to be there.”
The elder Chernoff stressed that he understands the triumphs were his son’s and the Indians’, not his. But still . . .
“I don’t ever want to put myself as a part of the team,” he said, “but feeling for my son and having known these guys for so many years since 2003, I really feel a fabric of the town at this point.”
Mike, 35, joined the Indians shortly after graduating in 2003 from Princeton, where he played on the baseball team. He was promoted to GM when team president Mark Shapiro left for Toronto last year and Chris Antonetti was elevated from GM to replace Shapiro.
Mark watched the games in Cleveland from Antonetti’s and Mike’s suite.
What was Game 7 like?
“I had a huge rooting interest, obviously; the hope was they would come through,” he said. “I think everybody was dejected, Chris and Mike and everybody, when it was 5-1 and 6-3. And then Rajai [Davis] hits that two-run homer [in the eighth] and I think everybody felt great, like this is great, tie game, the Indians have it.”
They did not. The Cubs won, 8-7, in 10 innings.
“Everybody was great about it, hugging and saying we’ll see you and this was a great year,” Mark said. “They were obviously all dejected because they lost Game 7, but I think it’s one of those things where eventually you’ll look back well after the season and say, ‘Look what we accomplished.’”
Before the game Antonucci noticed how nervous the elder Chernoff looked.
He said Antonucci told him, “What if I had come up to you on Feb. 1 and said, ‘Game 7, World Series, Progressive Field, 70 degrees in Cleveland?’”
Said Chernoff, “I said, ‘70 degrees in Cleveland I find hard to believe.’”
While following the Indians, Chernoff did his best to keep up with his day job. He flew back to New York after Game 5, worked in the office Monday and Tuesday, then flew back to Cleveland on Tuesday in time for his catch with Mike.
He returned home Thursday and was in the office Friday.
Thanks to WFAN-AM’s 50,000-watt clear channel reach, he was able to listen on his early morning runs in the dark, when the station’s signal covers a broader area.
“It didn’t get light there until close to 8 o’clock in the morning,” Chernoff said. “I could hear Boomer [Esiason] and [Craig] Carton making fun of me . . . So I‘d call up later and say, ‘Don’t worry guys, I know what you’re doing. I heard.’”