I admit it, okay? I’m a fair weather fan when it comes to the Cubbies. I haven’t watched them consistently since I met my life partner–A Sox fan–in 1980. In Chicago, marrying a southsider fan when you were a northsider fan was akin to marrying outside your ethnicity or religion. Another reason for my family to be suspicious of my guy.
When we were kids in our tiny town and met someone new the first things we’d ask were: “What church you go to?” It seemed almost everyone went to church in our little town and you were either a Lutheran, Catholic or Congregational. It was such a strong allegiance we had with our churches that you don’t much see nowadays.
The second question was, “You live in town, on a farm or in the country?” Proximity was important when bike riding, walking or running was the mode of transport since everyone was a one car family.
The third question. “You a Cubs fan or a Sox fan?” Honestly, as I sit here, I can scarcely remember a single Sox fan when I was a kid. I’m sure there were some, but, there you have it. Most just loved the ball club from the Northside.
Nearly every single day during summer the game was being called either on televisions or on radios because back in those days there were no lights at Wrigley. You could hear Vince and Lou on WGN radio or Jack Brickhouse on channel 9 wafting through screen doors and windows on hot summer breezes. “HEY HEY!”
And sometimes, which I didn’t quite get, a dad or two and some of the boys would have their transistor radios tuned to Vince and Lou and their television sound turned off. I loved Jack Brickhouse so much, that even now when I pay tribute at his statue outside the WGN building in Chicago, I get teary. In fact, I’m teary NOW! I guess not everyone thought he was the best caller, but for me, he was the voice of the Cubs and my childhood.
I admit also, that I’m a bad baseball watcher. I’m loud and obnoxious, and I’m not normally like this. The truth is, I call the game better anyhow, I do! Turn down the television and let me do it, for goodness sake.
“Take it standing there lookin’ why dontcha?”
“Watch, he’s gonna get picked off at first…”
“Just keep pitching them high and outside, because that ump sees that as a strike.”
“Oh man, he’s due.”
“Make him be a batter.”
“Nice, now straighten it out.”
And the best. “NO WAY, IT’S OUTTA THERE! HOLY CATS! DID YOU SEE THAT?”
And if we win? Silence. I’m struck dumb.
In this the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. My sweet, soft spoken father was a total maniac during sports games. At home, we were watching the ’69 Cubbies playing the Mets (and you know how that ended) and my dad took off his shoe, threw it into the fireplace just as our dog was walking by. The dog lived with a yelp, and the Cubbies lost.
Dad in the bleachers at Wrigley, taking off his glasses and extending them to the Ump at the plate since obviously he needed them more than my dad. Slamming his foot down on the bleacher in front of us and other shows of irritation that will remain a secret. Forever.
Twinsie and I would work on our tans, and pray for an infield homerun from Don Kessinger that would make the world louder than anyone thought possible. In the 70s we’d try to catch Jose Cardinal’s eye. Wink.
And we’d share a foot long weenie with relish. Very un-Chicago, but there you have it. We were from the country anyhow.
And who can forget Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Don Kingman, Glenn Beckert, Greg Maddox, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Rick Sutcliffe, Mark Prior… and all the players through the years whose names everyone is screaming right now because I didn’t put them on here, but I have only so much space, so hollar them out!
Them were the days.
But they are nothing compared to the epicness of tonight and this past week. Winning the division at Wrigley against (my second favorite team) the Cards, with all my moaning and groaning and calling plays, I sat there in complete silence with my hands up in the air. In all the years, with the voices of Vince, Lou, Jack, Harry and Ron in my ears, we’d done it. The curse was over for at least this one day.
My friend wrote to me, “Hey, B-girl, is hell freezing over?” And I wrote: “Sure is, and I hear they’re eating goat.”
Tonight it is the mighty match of 1969 in 2015 (Hey, Marty!) With ballplayers so young, so damned good, and so excited to play ball they don’t care about what happened then, because they have today. And more important? They have each other’s backs. This week we will see if these young Cubbies will end the pain that so many of us have from that series in ’69, and we, who remember, will call the game, and then sit in silence, hands up in the air. “Hey, Hey! HOLY COW!” voices echoing from the past heard inside our heads.
Shhhh. There’s a lot of ball yet to be played. Tamp down the hope, be realistic, but, like every year, hold on to the dream.
I’m a Cubs fan after all, yet still, I can’t stop humming, “Go Cubs Go”…