Chicago will be buzzing this week. Truly buzzing. The Cubs are in the National League Championship Series. I have been a Cubs fan my whole life. If you rate the pro sports teams in Chicago, the Chicago Bears are probably first in everyone’s heart. The Blackhawks obviously are darlings now. That wasn’t always so. Hockey didn’t used to have the broadest appeal like it does now. When I was growing up here the second favorite team for most of Chicago was the Cubs. The Bulls were everyone’s favorite when Jordan was playing, but they were easy to like. The White Sox have extremely rabid fans, but they are in pockets all over the city and suburbs.
When I was very young, we lived next to a couple that had no children. Dorothy and Bill Schultz were their names. They have passed away. Bill was a WW2 vet and would always have the Cubs game on. I used to go to their house because they would leave candy out all over their front room. On weekends, they’d play pinochle in their driveway by the garage with friends. They’d make me a kiddy cocktail and we would listen to the game on the radio. During the week, we would watch road games on television and listen to Jack Brickhouse and Jim West call every game.
As a young whippersnapper in 1969, I was pretty excited about the Cubs all summer. It was the first year I had ever seen a pro game. Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams were awesome. I can still name the Cubs infield exactly how Jack Brickhouse used to do it. Amazingly, when I clerked on the floor of the CME, one of the brokers I worked for was Rich Nye who pitched for that 1969 Cubs team.
My father took me down to Wrigley Field with some friends. It was the first time I had ever seen Wrigley in color since no one in my neighborhood had a color TV. It was also my first time on a train or the L. Nolan Ryan was pitching for the Mets that day and they won 3-2. It was so cold we left early. I was freezing.
Alas, in 1969 the Cubs faded. The Mets won the World Series. At that point in my life I had never heard about the Billy Goat Curse, or even understood the frustration that came with being a Cub fan.
The rivalry in Chicago between Sox and Cubs fans has always been like detente in the 1970’s between the Soviets and US. My whole neighborhood was full of White Sox fans. But, it didn’t matter because the White Sox weren’t any better than the Cubs. At the end of every argument, all the Sox fans could say was “We won and played in a more recent World Series”. Cubs fans smugly would tell them no one knew who Harry Caray was until he left the Sox and began broadcasting for the Cubs. The Chicago political class favored the White Sox. No surprise since they threw the Series in 1919. The White Sox had won the Series in 1917, and played in it in 1959. All before I was born. That was okay until 2005.
I was on Rush and Division watching the Sox play the Astros in Houston when Konerko caught the final out. I was happy for them. Sox fans rushed the street. They were hugging and jumping up and down and screaming “Cubs suck, Cubs suck”.
When you are a Cub fan, you really appreciate the Charlie Brown comic where Lucy continually pulls the football away. As Steve Goodman sings in his song, “A Dying Cubs Fans Last Request”, they get your hopes up, and crush em. In 1984, we only had to win one game. No one had swept 3 in a row after being down 2 games in the history of baseball. In 2003, we were down to 5 outs. That was just to get to the World Series, not win it!
My friend Fred Wilson is a Mets fan. The Mets crushed my childhood dreams. I have to respect Mets fans since in NY it must be pretty easy to be a Yankee fan. I had proposed a bet and being a good fan, he declined prior to the Mets vs Dodgers game last night-awaiting the outcome of the game. As a Cub fan, I can appreciate this sort of pragmatism.
Today, Fred has a post up and we have a bet. It should be a very good series because the Mets have very good pitching. They are hustling and playing very hard right now. I wish I could fly to NY and see the first two games. I will be at Wrigley though when the series comes to Chicago. I am trying very hard not to get my hopes up. Tomorrow night, it’s my wife’s birthday. We will be at the Erie Cafe, in front of a television munching steaks. I hope they digest well. Eamus Catuli.