Forty years ago, I was a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. My dad took me to my first baseball game–a doubleheader against the Mets at the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis–in late July of 1975. It was the most exciting thing I had yet experienced in life, and the result was a love for baseball that continues to this day.
My time as a Cardinals fan was brief, however. I found the Cubs and Wrigley Field on a TV broadcast in late September of 1975, and they have been my choice team ever since. I couldn’t watch the Cardinals on TV in those days, and that was enough to shift my loyalties to the team from the north.
Had I remained a Cardinals fan, which there are more of than Cubs fans in the city I grew up in, life would be different, I’m sure. The Cardinals are accustomed to winning, and their success makes them the red yang to the Cubs’ blue yin.
This season could offer more of the same, as the Cardinals have the best record in the game, and the Cubs are trying to chase them down over the last six weeks of the season and into the playoffs. However it turns out, I’ll always look back at that short two-month period in 1975 as an example of how life can bring about changes.
And with that in mind, go Cubs!
With less than two weeks left until Opening Night in Chicago, it’s time to start thinking about the return of baseball. There will be new story lines every day, for the next seven months. And winter will disappear at the same time. How can anybody not love that?
Here’s my 2015 Cubs preview on ThroughTheFenceBaseball, and here’s my White Sox preview for the same website. Yes, I worked both sides of Madison Street this year.
And the NCAA tournament will help get us all through the last full weekend before the season starts. I can’t ask for much more than that.
I recently had an opportunity to take in a beautiful view of the Chicago skyline, Lake Michigan, and Wrigley Field at the same time. I enjoyed them all, but the one shot that I wanted to have with me in it was the Wrigley Field vista. That speaks volumes as to who I am, really.
I started following the Cubs by watching their games on WGN, Channel 9 in Chicago. The first time I tuned in was late in the 1975 season, when I was seven years old. And now, almost forty years later, I realize that it has been a large part of my identity over the years and decades. There aren’t too many things in life that are more deeply-seated than my attachment to the Cubs.
And they’ve disappointed me in so many ways over the years. Losing is the most obvious way, which forces me to watch while baseball’s other teams taste success instead. And even when they win, it’s just a prelude to more losing in the end.
After so many years and so many disappointments, I am, quite frankly, embittered. I have no faith in the rebuilding process that has been going on since 2012. I don’t think it will pay off with the championship that I and other Cubs fans are craving, at least not in my lifetime. And if it happens after I’m gone, what’s the point?
I don’t have any terminal diseases that I know off, and it’s not like I’m expecting to die anytime soon. That’s not the motivation for writing this. It’s just that every season should be treated as though it will be the last because for many fans, that’s exactly what it is.
A Cubs fan just like me will probably die over the next week. I won’t know who it is, but they’ll be a victim of this process of a still unknown duration. The younger men than I am who run this team can afford to take the long view of the process. The rest of us–who just want to see it once before we pass from this earth–don’t have that luxury.
There once was a pitcher named Schlitter
Brought in to face Marlins hitters
After a bunt and a walk
Garret Jones made a big squawk
Another game lost down the sh!tter
On opening day of the 2014 season–at least from the perspective of Wrigley Field–I couldn’t resist driving past the ballpark in the morning, before the gates opened and the crowds arrived.
It was a cold and gray day, the kind that nobody would ask for if ordering up the weather were possible. But that isn’t possible, and a miserable opening day is better than a sunny day in the offseason. That’s what this baseball-deprived fan thinks, anyway.
The brick walls along Sheffield and Waveland Avenues have always been left bare in the past, but this year they have become a canvas for images from the Cubs’ long and mostly fruitless history. It was good to see this done, in the 100th anniversary of the opening of Wrigley Field. May they never again be plain old brick walls.
I pulled out my camera and snapped a quick picture of one historical image. It was a program cover from the 1945 World Series. Every Cubs fan knows that they haven’t been back to the World Series since then, meaning that no one under the age of about seventy has any memory of this. It’s a heavy burden that every Cubs fan has to bear (no pun intended).
1945 was a terribly long time ago. To put this into perspective, consider what a quarter can buy in today’s world. It’s not very much, that’s for certain. Even a pencil to keep score with probably costs more than a quarter. So looking at the program’s cost in the lower right corner is a jarring reminder of just how long ago 1945 is.
This year is the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, since it was opened for the Chicago Federal League team (called the “Chi-Feds” and then the Whales) in 1914. To celebrate this, the Cubs have planned special promotions throughout the season, and have put up the numbers 1914 on the left of the Clark Street marquee, and the numbers 2014 on the right.
I drove down to Wrigley Field today, to see the work that’s being done to get the park ready for next week’s home opener. Other than a couple of large inflatable rats–as the result of a union picket line–there were workers coming and going, getting the old park ready. And as I went to turn left, at the corner of Clark and Addison, I found myself in front of the famed marquee. I took out my cell phone, since I was stopped at a red light, and snapped a few pictures. But I couldn’t take in the entire view with my cheap smartphone camera. Instead, I got the marquee in the middle, the final 4 from the 1914 on the left, and the 20 from the beginning of the 2014 on the right.
I like the way this picture turned out. If somebody just wants a pretty picture of the marquee, there it is. And if someone wants to notice the numbers on either side of the marquee, they can do that, too. And now we’re a few minutes closer to the start of the baseball season, as well. Only a few more days until the season begins, and then winter goes away, once and for all.
Today was a new experience for me. I spent the week brushing up on the rest of the National League’s Central division–since I could already talk about the Cubs in my sleep–and I went on the radio this morning to discuss the division with Steve Bortstein of Fox Sports radio in New Mexico. Thanks to the internet, I was able to listen to the interview after the fact, and can even present it here for anyone who wants to listen.
I enjoyed the experience, and will be happy to do more of it if the opportunity presents itself. Anything to share the game with those who are interested in it. And opening day is now less than a week away. I can’t wait for it to arrive.
I’ve not been writing much in this space lately, as I’m sending off pieces to other websites instead. But I can always link to them here, so here’s a Five Wide piece I wrote, and here’s a TTFB piece. Another piece should run on FiveWide soon, but the Cubs stuff has pretty much come to an end for a while. Or at least I say that now….
The picture above shows a black container and a blue container, sitting side by side in an alley in Chicago. Neither one is any bigger than the other, or newer than the other, and they appear to co-exist with each other pretty well. The Cubs wear blue, and the White Sox wear black (I can’t claim to understand why, but that’s what they do).
But when you consider that their purpose is to collect all of the refuse that builds up inside a house or an apartment, the metaphor of these two receptacles becomes even more fitting.
Both the Cubs and the White Sox were fit for trash collection this year, but nothing more than that. So I’ll put this picture up as my way of saying good riddance to a very trying baseball season on both sides of town.
I wish that I had more productive creative muses than the Chicago Cubs. It’s such a draining and aggravating experience following this team. But baseball is my game and Chicago is my home and I would rather eat my keyboard than become a White Sox fan. So here I am.
I ruminated again about how bad the Cubs have been this year on ThroughTheFenceBaseball. It’s like that old poem about gathering rosebuds: Bash your baseball team while ye may. Winter’s coming soon.