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Thursday, December 13, 2012

It's not easy being . . . a Cubs fan . . .

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It was spring. I was 9 years old, and was playing catch with my younger brother Jay. I had just finished reading “The Baseball Life of Mickey Mantle”. We went in for supper, and in all excitement of having made a lifetime choice, I announced to my dad: “I am going to be a Yankees fan!” My dad, who was skeptical of all book readers, answered just with a blunt “No.” Okay, I had been prepared – and had my second choice. I had admired the uniforms of the St. Louis Cardinals. So, gathering my courage, I proclaimed: “Well, then I will be a Cardinals fan.” The response of my dad was short and sweet: “You aren't a kid anymore. If you are going to eat at my table, we are Cubs fans in this house.”

In 1969, I thought I had caught good fortune and was onboard for the big win. I remember the old 50's radio that dad got into working order. We would listen to WGN, by August we were sweating out these young upstart New York Mets, who seemed to never lose. I remember the anguish of September as the Cubs couldn't seem to win, and the Mets couldn't lose. It cemented my dad's hate for the New York Mets forever.

The 70's made us skeptics. In the early 70's we always appeared to be contenders… all the time… only to be felled by the June swoon, or July goodbye.

And then in 1977, the Cubs announcer Lou Boudreau declared that “when a team reaches 25 games over .500, they will never see .500 again.”  It was a poignant moment for my dad and me: We both just looked at each other and laughed. We had become skeptics. Never again would we dare to believe the Cubs could win. Leading by 8 ½ games, we finished 20 games out. On the last day of the season, we laughed about the notion we could ever win. After all, we were just the Cubs.

My only outward rebellion against my dad came during the 1977 collapse. Keith Hernandez robbed a Cubs hitter by snagging a line drive. I got up and turned off the television and refused to turn it on again notwithstanding dad’s orders and threats.

By 1979, I had enlisted in the Air Force, and was gone until the summer of 1982. My enlistment was up, and dad told me of this kid Sandberg, who was struggling at the plate, and that he didn't think that the kid would ever make it. My first game I saw him play he had a couple of hits. It became a point that I never let my dad forget.

1984. The Cubs were in post-season for the first time since 1945. We used to joke and pretend to press a magic button whenever we needed a hit or double play. It was a magical time for us. Leading in the playoffs up 2-0, and going to San Diego. The moment that haunted our lives was the ball going between Leon “Bull” Durham's legs. We never blamed Durham but always felt we were screwed by the Major League Baseball for giving San Diego the home field advantage because the Cubs didn't have lights at the time.

After the 1984 season, we both never again dreamed the Cubs would win. We loved, cussed and discussed the Cubs season after season. In 2002, my dad, a heart transplant recipient, was losing his battle. His kidneys were failing, and we spent his final days laughing and discussing the miserable existence of a lifetime Cubs fan.

When pitchers and catchers report, I always think of dad.
It is spring again, and I am 9 years old. The Cubs radio broadcast plays “It's the Beautiful Day for a Ballgame,” concluding with the announcement the Chicago Cubs are on the air. We stretch on the bed to listen to the game, with me acting at times as the human antenna for that old radio. Miss you pops.

In memory of Perry Dale Glasgow, a diehard lifetime Cubs fan
(10/2/1940 – 12/13/2002)