Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The W

I've followed baseball for a long time, nearly all of my life. My father was a Cubs fan. When I was very young, probably 6 or maybe 7, he took the family to Chicago for a weekend. One of the events he had planned for us was to see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. The day of the game, a tremendous line of thunderstorms swept through Chicago and the game was rained out, so instead of going to Wrigley, we ended up sitting in our hotel room. This would have been around 1970 or thereabouts; the Cubs of that era were a good team, with Hall of Famers like Ferguson Jenkins, Billy Williams, and Ron Santo on the roster. I remember Dan being very disappointed about the rainout, especially as the storms broke later that afternoon.

Later on the 1970s, one of the local television stations in Green Bay would broadcast Cubs games on Sunday afternoons during the summer. It was appointment television for my Dad, who would faithfully watch the Bill Madlock-era Cubs get their butts handed to them. Sometimes I would watch the game with him, but most of the time I'd find other things to do. Dad would still watch the games.

In the late 1970s, we got cable television. The games weren't ubiquitous on television then; even when you had ESPN, it was more likely to have Australian Rules football on. But we did have WGN and so we watched the Cubs. You'd get occasional excitement, especially on a day when Dave Kingman was playing and the wind was out of the southwest, but for the most part those Cubs teams weren't very good, either.

By the late 1980s, I had moved to Chicago and the Cubs were up and down, but mostly down. Getting a ticket to Wrigley was now fairly difficult, but I did go maybe a dozen times over the course of the five years I lived there. My dad passed away in 1990, a year that the Cubs were 77-85, a quintessential Cubs season. As it happened, that team had three Hall of Famers on the roster as well -- Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, and Greg Maddux. But they also had Marvell Wynne and Doug Dascenzo. It wasn't enough. It never was.

Cubs Win! A sight seldom seen in many seasons
My dad, like a lot of Cubs fans, was loyal but fatalistic about his allegiance. The Cubs always seemed to be at least a player or two short of really getting there. There were magical seasons along the way, but they never could get it done. Now, in 2016, we see a fully operational juggernaut dressed in bright blue caps with the simple red C. The uniforms say Chicago across the front, but the men wearing them don't look like Larry Biittner or Mike Bielecki. I don't know if the Cubs are going to finally break through, after over 100 years, but I do wish my dad could have seen this team. The Cubs attract a lot of bandwagon fans, but the one Cubs fan I loved wasn't one of them. And as this season progresses, I'm thinking about him.

1 comment:

Bike Bubba said...

Holding my breath.....and remembering fun afternoons watching "King Kong", Rick Reuschel, and Bobby Mercer, among others.