My Dad, the Cubs and Me
My Dad, the Cubs and Me
October 27, 2004 is a date that is ingrained in my memory, not just because it was the day the Boston Red Sox broke the supposed "curse" by winning the World Series. It was the day my father passed away. Those 2 events are not totally unrelated, though. I became a Cubs fan because of my father. It was the one thing we had in common. We were very different in most ways. He was a bus mechanic and loved working with his hands, while I have always been somewhat mechanically challenged. He preferred hangng out with his bar buddies, while I liked being at home. But baseball provided a common ground for the 2 of us. He always loved the Cubs, perhaps because he was born in 1937 and by the time he was 6, they had won 2 pennants in his lifetime and I think he expected to see more. His favorite player was Andy Pafko, so I imagine he must have been heartbroken when Wid Matthews traded him in one of the worst trades in Cubs history. I was born in 1959 and I have early memories of baseball games on TV, though I was still too young to understand the game. I have distinct memories of the 1968 World Series. Looking back I have to think my dad was rooting the Tigers against the Cardinals. Then I turned 10 and everything changed. The Cubs were in 1st Place and I soon became a fan and it was an opportunity to spend more time with my dad. The first game my dad took me to was in July 1969, the Cubs and the Giants and I remember being disappointed that Willie Mays wasnt playing. Being a bus mechanic for a high school in Palatine, Illinois, my dad also worked part time as a bus driver and it was through this that he was able to take me, my brother and sister to other games, not just Cub games, but also White Sox games. We got to see some great games and watch some of the great stars of the era. But one of the joys was being able to share my passion with my dad and I learned about some of his feelings about the team. Like about Ron Santo. My dad wasnt exactly the biggest fan of the Cubs captain, calling him by the name, "Pizza Gut", which was a derisive reference to the fact tha Santo used to own a company that once provided Wrigley Field with pizza that had his name on it. He used to complain that all Santo ever did was strike out or hit into double plays. Perhaps he was put off by some of Santos actions, like the incident where he gave Don Young a tongue lashing following the dramatic error he made in 1969. My dad wasnt perfect, but I think he wanted to see the Cubs win as badly as anybody. As I got older we continued to go to games together, like in 1977, watching Bruce Sutter strike out 9 in row including 3 on 9 pitches. My parents divorced in 1978 and we went to one more game in 1979 before he moved to Arkansas first, then Arizona.
Then in 1986 I decided I wanted to spend more time with him, so I moved to Arizona too. We would get together occasionally, going to one Cubs game and also going to a Senior League game. The Senior League was one of those ideas that sounded good, but the lack of star power eventually killed. It was fun, though, because ex-Cub Fergie Jenkins was there. I eventually moved back to Illinois because I could not get along with my dads second wife. The next time I saw my dad was in 1998 when he came to town for my sisters graduation. We attended one last Cubs game, me, my brother and my nephew, his grandson. We watched as Sammy Sosa hit 3 homers and Kerry Wood pitched an excellent game. It was a wonderful time. He returned to Arizona as my life went through some changes. My mom passed away just 9 months after she saw my dad for the last time. I began a new relationship that was going through some problems when I got an email from my sister that said she found out that my dad had liver cancer and was going to die soon. So me, my brother, sister and nephew were on a plane to Peoria, Arizona. By the time we got to my dads house, it was stunning how fast the cancer had taken its toll. Almost as soon he was able to acknowledge our presence, he soon fell into a coma. That night as we kept a vigil at his bedside, we had the World Series on with the Red Sox playing the Cardinals. My dad hung on long enough for the Sox to win the game and the Series. About an hour after the game was over, he passed away.
Given that he was a hardcore Cubs fan, I honestly believed that he wanted to see the hated Cardinals lose before letting go. Only a true Cubs fan would do that. In the years since my dad passed away Ive come to appreciate what we had together, in spite of our differences we did have the Cubs in common and sometimes I wonder what he would think about the changes going on now with the Cubs and I wonder if his feelings about Santo might have mellowed and Id like to think that maybe he had a chance to meet Ronnie up in heaven and perhaps Santo might have convinced him that he wasnt so bad after all and maybe they are hanging out along with Harry Caray and having a few beers together.......Thanks for everything, Dad!By cubs_an_appreciation