Like so many people, I’ve been a Cub fan all my life. That’s a long time. I’d pretty much given up hope of a World Series Championship . But at the end of last season, “wait ’til next year” finally meant something.
I grew up watching and listening to lot’s of Cub’s baseball. I remember hearing the game at Wrigley Field when Stan Musial got his 3000th hit. As an aside, my son and I were in St. Louis the night Lou Brock got his 3000th. Although to be honest, we were at the concession stand buying him a Cub hat when Lou actually got on base. Whatever.
I had a tiny TV in my bedroom and I’d watch all their home games. At night, when they were on the road, I’d lay in bed with the radio on. Remember Vince Lloyd, Lou Boudreau, and Lloyd Pettit? And of course, Jack Brickhouse on TV. I knew batting averages, home runs and RBIs. I spent all my money on The Sporting News so I could track of all the stats.
I was lucky. My uncle played semi-pro ball in Chicago. He was a pitcher and his nickname was “Lefty”. We called him, “Uncle Lefty”…Duh. His career ended one Saturday night as he went to the corner drug store for a newspaper and was struck by a hit and run driver. He survived the accident, barely, and he loved the Cubs. After the accident he lived with his sister, my grandma. He bought the first color TV I ever saw and would sit in his room, in the dark, watching baseball.
I remember times he’d come over to our house with lunch, brought fresh from the deli. We’d eat ham and swiss sandwiches on rye and the two of us would watch a Cub game. Several times he took my dad and me to the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago for the annual Older Timers’ Baseball Association banquets. I still have a couple of the programs. One year, Jocko Conlan was the master of ceremonies and Mayor Richard J. Daly was the feature speaker. They honored semi-pro ball players from Chicago and Uncle Lefty got an award. Jack Brickhouse gave it to him. I have programs autographed by Gabby Hartnett, Andy Pafko, Ron Santo, Bill Pierce, Moe Drabowsky and others. And every year, dinner was always corned beef and cabbage. I loved it.
My grandfather was a fan and he took me to Cub games. We’d take the ‘L’ from their apartment, get our seats and eat peanuts. He taught me to suck on them for a bit to taste the salt before I’d actually crack the shell. In those days, a retired guy could afford to take his grandson to a game. And the Cubs were pitiful in the 1950’s. Really bad. But I followed them religiously. Ernie was my guy.
One year we got tickets with Uncle Lefty and were sitting down the third base line when a foul ball came our way. It was headed well behind us until somebody stuck out his hand, deflected the ball, and it hit Lefty in the right ear. Knocked him down and split his ear. Someone from the Cub organization took him to the first aid station and bandaged him up. He came back with an ice pack and a big smile. We didn’t get the ball. That didn’t seem quite fair to me.
Anyway, the Cubs did it in style this year. Best record in baseball, two MVP candidates, maybe the Cy Young winner for the second year in a row, and the greatest fans around. As usual, I saw a lot of people climbing on the Cubbies “bandwagon”. People who have no idea what a hit and run, sacrifice, or fielders choice is. You can’t be a baseball fan if you don’t understand the terminology. They’ve never seen a game (until the playoffs), don’t know where the bleachers are, and spend more time drinking than watching. But that’s OK. Chicago needed this so even though they aren’t true “Cub Fans”, we will let them join in the celebration.
So, here’s to all the real Cub fans. You know who you are. We’ve seen a lot over the years. A lot. Thanks to the Chicago Cub organization for putting together a great team. We deserved this.