I am a Cubs fan.
In the early 20th century Dad grew up in Bathgate, North Dakota. By the 1920’s the Foster family farmhouse was electrified, a radio procured and placed in the parlor. Chicago was the most northwesterly major league baseball city and closest geographically to North Dakota. Accordingly, Cubs games were broadcast up North. Hearing the crack of the bat and the smack of ball into glove during games aired (or recreated using a telegraph feed) from Wrigley Field, Chicago, Dad became an avid Cubs fan.
|Route Map, Chicago Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific|
Railroad Line, Pre-1932
|Wrigley Field 1932, Coal Yard in Foreground|
The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad line ran past a triangular coal yard on the third-base (Clark Street) side of Wrigley Field, where Dad jumped off the train and stashed his clothes bag under a pile of coal. Wrigley Field was built adjacent to the rail line and coal yard because seminarians, whose once tranquil campus occupied the ballpark’s land, vacated the premises to escape,
“the smoke, dust, grime, soot, dirt (and) foul gases; railroading by night and day; whistles, ding-donging of bells late and early and in between time, and the ceaselessness of undesirable traffic incidental thereto that is growing more unbearable every week.”
Someone in the coal yard, apparently not a seminarian, stole Dad’s clothes, introducing him to the ways of the big city.
The 1932 World Series is renowned for an incident involving Babe Ruth in the third game. There was merciless trash talking between Babe and the Cubs. Then there was the “called shot,”
|Lou and Babe Smirking After "The Shot"|
The site is Wrigley Field, Chicago; the date is October 1, 1932; and the moment is the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series. Cubs pitcher Charlie Root is ahead of Ruth 0-2 when the Chicago bench playfully needles the Babe. Exactly what follows is where the story gets murky. Witnesses agree on one thing: Before the next pitch, Ruth points out towards center field. Some believe he is gesturing at Root as if to say he still has one more strike. Others believe he is telling everyone in the ballpark where he will hit the next pitch. Either way, the Babe deposits the next pitch into the center field bleachers for a home run.
Did Babe Ruth point and call the shot? Dad said no, the Bambino was just indicating the number of strikes left and sassing his opponents. He said Cub players confirmed that in a local watering hole after the game. That’s Dad’s story and I’m sticking with it. But look for yourself.
The Yankees swept the Series four games to none.
I remember my first Cub game. I had not started school. Mom took me on a Ladies Day. It was April; a frigid wind whipped in off the lake. We sat and shivered, exposed in the upper deck overlooking the third-base line, with Lake Michigan peeking out a mile distant over three flats and midrise apartments. From the time I was 6 until when I turned 10, our family religiously attended Sunday home games, packing in tuna fish and egg salad sandwiches and carrying along a thermos of lemonade, all of which would be inspected by Andy Frain ushers as we entered Wrigley Field to ensure we weren’t smuggling in cans, bottles or alcoholic beverages. Double headers were best.
|Skokie Swift promtional brochure|
Back in the day touted as
"The World's Fastest Rapid Transit"
|The Original Bleacher Bums|
Left Field Bleachers 1969
Randy Hundley at Bat (Confederate Flag)
|Johnny Bench Signed Home Run No. 4|
|Joe Pepitone Signed|
Career 201 Home Run Ball
College pretty much put an end to my days attending Cub games at Wrigley Field, excepting for a time, after graduation, when I attended a game with an old college classmate. We sat in the bleachers where we struck up a conversation with a fellow named Scott Turow, whom I foolishly scoffed when he said he would publish a book about attending law school. That "won’t sell" said I. So it’s fitting I should use Mr. Turow’s words, many best sellers later, to complete this post. He defines what it means to be a Cubs fan as follows:
"There remains a special meaning in being a Cubs fan. It makes sports more profound. It teaches the hardest lesson of all: there is no life that is better than life. Hope dignifies our experience on the planet. But there will be defeat for all of us in the mortuary. With the Cubs, as a writer-friend once said of Hollywood, 'You learn to take the bitter with the bad.' You accept hope as an essential irrational part of the human condition that will never be fully borne out. It's existential. It's tragic. It's the Cubs."
Amen brother Scott.