Cubs Win, Cubs Win!!!
Well, my Cubbies certainly didn’t do it the easy way. But they did it! For the first time in 108 years, the Chicago Cubs are World Series Champions. I can barely believe I just wrote that sentence. I’ve spent my life facing the possibility that this may never happen in my lifetime, as it never happened in the lives of millions of Cubs fans who always had the Cubs in their hearts until the day they died.
I fell in love with the Cubs when my step-dad took me to my first game at Wrigley Field - Cubs v Cincinnati, in July 1960 - I was about to turn 6 years old. That magnificent ballpark, the brick walls and the ivy, the larger-than-life super-heroes on the field, the organ, the late Pat Piper on the P-A, Jack Brickhouse in the TV booth - I was captured for life by the magic. Little did I know it would entail 56 years of personal suffering, as my beloved Cubbies alternately struggled, came close, were miserable basement-dwellers, and ultimately disappointed us all every damn year.
But we soldiered on, we millions of fans and our Cubbies. And we have now reached the mountain. The view from up here is pretty sweet, I must say. Made sweeter by the wallowing in the mire we’ve slogged though for as long as any of us can remember.
I’m a born and raised Chicagoan, but a south-sider who grew up as a Cubs fan (for non-Chicago folks - the Cubs are traditionally the north-siders’ team - I was supposed to be a White Sox fan, and even pretended to be one early on so as not to get beaten up by the kids in the neighborhood.) It was my step-dad who was originally from the north side, and he tutored me early on in the virtues of National League baseball and how I should never fall for that inferior game they play in the American League. Even when the Yankees were in town and I really wanted to go see Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris play, he refused to take me to Comiskey Park to see a Sox game. He wouldn’t even watch them on TV!
If there was a Cubs game being played, it was on TV or on the radio in our house, and by osmosis my mom, never in her life a sports fan of any stripe, fell in love with the Cubbies as well. She may have become one of the biggest fans ever - to her dying day she could quote you RBIs and Batting Averages and ERAs for any Cub in any season - she never missed a game. When she was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer in the Summer of 2005, she told me the only thing she wished for would be to see the Cubs win the World Series in her lifetime. She passed later that year. She never got to see her Cubbies do it, but she at least didn’t have to endure a few more 100-loss seasons on their way to redemption.
All throughout the playoffs and the series this year, I knew this one was for my mom. I am in tears as I write this. I’m thinking of my mom, who I believe is celebrating right now with Ernie Banks and Ron Santo and Harry Caray and all the former Cubs in heaven (Ok, Harry may not have made it up there…)
I received a tear-filled face-time call from my 28 year-old son last night, a hard-core Cubs fan, of course, who was wearing his dead grandfather’s Cubs hat and weeping with joy.
So this is for all the days I skipped school to catch a game at Wrigley, for all those opening-days in April freezing our asses off as the icy winds blew in from the lake, for my first make-out session as a young teen (with a girl I’d just met at the game, under a blanket in box seats on the first-base line), for the great radio team of Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau, for Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace and Rick Sutcliffe and Ferguson Jenkins, for Billy Williams, Glen Beckert and Don Kissinger, for the home-run ball that hit me in the face in the left-field bleachers that day in the spring of 1971, even for foul-mouthed 1980s Cubs manager Dallas Green (who once famously called Cubs fans “a bunch of nickel-dime mother-f’ers who have nothing better to do”), for the Hamm's Bear on the beer commercials between every inning in the 60s, but mostly for the great Ernie Banks - the heart and soul of the Cubs in life and in death.
Thank-you, Cubs. Life, for many of us, now seems complete.