Commentary: How my love affair for the Cubs started


by - Staff Writer -
Wrigley Field is a historic and beautiful ballpark (Patrick Gorski - USAT)
Wrigley Field is a historic and beautiful ballpark (Patrick Gorski - USAT)

The year was 1974, and I remember my dad coming home and telling us we were moving to the Midwest, a place called Chicago. Being raised in the south and growing up watching Hank Aaron break the home run record in my hometown, I wondered if I would ever watch another Braves game. As I played Little League, people referred to me as Rico Carty as I one-handed pop-flys and throws to first with ease. I loved the Braves…or so I thought. We moved to the Windy City in January, and baseball was far from my mind as I encountered snow for the very first time!

As the spring thaw rolled around, it was time for baseball! I desperately searched for any news about the Braves, but all I could find was information Chicago's two teams, the Cubs and the White Sox. I was never really liked any American League teams, so I took an interest in Chicago's National League team, the Cubs. I was in the 7th grade, so I was eager to learn more about this team. It didn't take long to figure out that there were no Hank Aaron's on this team, just guys with names like Mitterwald, Champ, and Cardenal. The cool thing was I could watch every game on TV and soon fell in love with the TV announcer, a guy by the name of Jack "Hey Hey" Brickhouse.

It was good to root for the hometown team, but I found myself continually checking the stats to see how my favorite Braves were doing. You see, I had seen the Braves play in person at Fulton County Stadium, which was so much fun. Early in the 1975 season, my dad surprised me by making plans to go to a Cubs game. It wasn't the Braves, but okay. That's when it happened, the following weekend as my dad, brother and I walked up to Wrigley Field. There was something different about this stadium, a different vibe than the sterile environment in Atlanta. I remember walking through the concourse on the way to our seats, and then the moment when we immerged from the tunnel to see the field for the very first time. I was hooked! I couldn't believe how different the field was from the one in Atlanta, for it seemed like something you only dream about. The colors were vivid, and we were so close to the action.

That day the Cubs beat the Pirates behind the pitching of Cub icon Rick Reuschel. I thought it was cool how his brother Paul came on in relief in the late innings. The left fielder enthralled me with the red afro, Jose Cardenal, and the hitting of the third baseman Bill Matlock. We were so close to the field from our Terrace Reserve seats, and it felt like we were on the field. I became an instant fan. I followed the Cubs that year to a 6th place finish in the Eastern Division, rooting every day from my seat in the living room watching and cheering them on TV. On a side note, As we played streetball in our street in Lombard, our UPS man used to stop and talk with us, and he looked exactly like Jose Cardenal!

I have never stopped watching. If there was a game on, I tried to watch. When I moved to Omaha, Nebraska, I convinced a group of baseball fans to start an annual Cub trip to watch my beloved Cubs. Now, we also went to Kansas City, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee, but we always went to Wrigley to see the Cubs. My wife jokes that half of my wardrobe is Cubs gear (of course, the other half is Nebraska Huskers gear). This is not true as I have plenty of Bears' clothing and hats too! I guess you could say I am a true fan. Yes, I have my Cubs Die Hard Fan Club card, in which I had signed by Ernie Banks at the 1990 All-Star game at Wrigley when I turned 40, my wife sent me to Cubs fantasy camp in Mesa. I lockered right next to Fergie Jenkins and got to share stories about the 1969 season. I went to game three of the World Series and continue my yearly pilgrimage to Wrigley to pay homage to my beloved Cubbies.

All of that to bring me to this week. Living in Florida, I did not get caught up in all the Marquee network stuff because we had to have MLB network down here to see any games at all. Still, now even with the limited access to games, the COVID-19, the coronavirus has taken baseball away for now. I scour the newswires and my MLB app and Cub websites to get my daily fill of Cub news and happenings. There's not much going on now. The anticipation I have felt since the new year began, and we counted down the weeks and days till pitchers and catchers report has passed, and I am missing it. Not that baseball or the Cubs are an idol in my life, but the Cubs and baseball are my normal, especially during baseball season.

I do not know, just like most of you, how long this pandemic will last, I hope quicker than slower. I anticipate the season the Cubs will have coming out of the delay to the season will be a great one. The offense assembled can hang with anybody, but can the pitching staff keep up? Will the defense hold up? Will the new manager be the real deal? I can't wait till the delay is over to find out the answers to these questions and once again fill up my day with all things Cubbies!

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