When the Chicago Cubs announced on Oct. 25 that Kyle Schwarber, the team’s young slugger who had sat out almost all of the 2016 season with a knee injury, would be on the World Series roster, David Cihla had to work fast.
He drove to Cleveland, where the first two games of the World Series would be played, and got to work on his Schwarb-O-Meter sign — a nod to the Shawon-O-Meter sign Cihla and fellow 1981 RBHS grad Jim Cybul made famous in 1989.
That year the Cubs made an unsuccessful run at a World Series bid, helped in part by the suddenly hot bat of another young player at the time, a free-swinging and formerly light-hitting shortstop named Shawon Dunston. The Shawon-O-Meter tracked Dunston’s batting average as it rose from below .160 in May to almost .300 by the end of the season.
The Shawon-O-Meter became a totem for the 1989 Cubs and part of team lore. The sign that became ubiquitous during TV broadcasts that year is now part of a collection at the Smithsonian. The one Cihla and Cybul created for the 1990 season is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Still another is displayed in a memorabilia case about Cubs legends in the Wrigley Field bleachers.
Twenty-seven years later, Cihla rushed to Cleveland, armed with cardboard and magic markers, to bang out a sign to celebrate the return and calculate the slugging of Schwarber who, like Dunston did as a Cub, wears the number 12.
“Literally the night before at 3 a.m., I was throwing it together. I was coloring it in in the cab going to the game,” said the 52-year-old Cihla, who was shown during the broadcast holding up the sign after one of Schwarber’s run-scoring hits in Game 2 of the series. “I was coloring the numbers as I go during the game.”
The Schwarb-O-Meter, by which Cihla calculates, in real time, Schwarber’s slugging percentage, made its first appearance in the 2015 National League Championship Series, which the Cubs lost to the New York Mets.
Part of that original sign, the “Schwarb” part, is among the items displayed in a case outside the workout room that forms part of the Cubs’ clubhouse below Wrigley Field.
Cihla, who owns the real estate business Cihla Realty on Chicago’s Northwest Side, told the Landmark on Monday afternoon that he was heading to Cleveland for Game 6 of the World Series on Nov. 1, where Schwarber will be in the lineup as the Cubs’ designated hitter. He’ll stick around for Game 7, if the Cubs can win Tuesday.
“I’ve never met [Schwarber],” said Cihla who did meet Dunston on several occasions and gave him a Shawon-O-Meter as a memento. “Maybe if they win it all in Cleveland we’ll get to celebrate with them.”