CONFESSIONS OF A NEUROTIC CUB’S FAN

Posted: July 18, 2013 by Sports Time Radio in baseball, basketball, football, hockey, sports
Tags: , , , ,

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Back in 1946, when I was eight years old, I finally started paying attention of professional sports. In the fall of that year, I started following the Chicago Bears via radio. (No TV as yet in those days.) With great interest and excitement, I listened to the radio broadcasts every Sunday afternoon. The Bears had a very good team and won game after game. Finally, they played the New York Giants for the title. I remember very little about that game with the exception of the score. I remember that the Bears had taken a 14-0 lead but the Giants made a comeback and tied the score at 14-14. Then, with Sid Luckman at the helm, the Bears took the lead via touchdown and added a field goal for insurance winning the championship 24-14. How easy is this, I thought to myself. It wasn’t because in 1947 , I became a fan of the Chicago Cubs.

I only remember bits and pieces of listening to those games, but one thing remains quite clear; the Cubs were a bad baseball team! Before I started paying attention to baseball, the Cubs had won the NL pennant in 1945 and played the Detroit Tigers in the world series. Naturally, with the 7th and deciding game in Chicago, the Cubs were smoked 9-3. Even in 1946, they were respectable, finishing in 3rd place. Not so in 1947! It didn’t take me long to discover that this team was horrible. I can still remember some of the players I rooted for. Bill Serena, Handsome Ransom Jackson, Roy Smalley, Wayne Terwilliger, Andy Pafko etc. My personal favorite was the slugging outfielder Bill “Swish” Nicholson. In those days, the radio announcers (Bert Wilson; his catch phrase was “We don’t care who wins as long as it’s the Cubs!”) did the road games via a simulation with ticker tape. I remember one day when I was ill (a frequent occurrence in my youth) and listening to the Cub-Dodgers game from Brooklyn. It was easy to hear the ticker tape spewing out the information. Bert Wilson started to get very tense and dramatic and I had the feeling that something important was about to happen. With the score tied 1-1 in the top of the 9th and a runner on 1st, my hero, Bill Nicholson strolled to the plate and hit a home run with the Cubs winning 3-1.

But good things like that happened very infrequently. In 1948, for example, both the Cubs and White Sox had dismal seasons and they both wound up in the cellar. The newly reformed Chicago Sun-Times (a merger of the tabloid Times and the Sun newspapers) flip-flopped the standings one summer day so it appeared that the Cubs and White Sox were on the top of the National and American leagues.

The memories weave through my mind like fog. Fast forward to the early 50’s. After years of being cellar dwellers, the Cubs surprised the NL when they brought up an outfielder/1st Baseman named Bob Speake. Speake set the NL on fire winning games with his bat and his glove. I remember listening to one road game on the radio. Score tied 2-2 in the 10th; Speake at bat. (“Speake hits a high towering drive to left field. It’s a home run!”) That one even surprised me. Listening to it on radio, I thought it was a routine fly ball. Of course the league quickly caught up to Speake when they discovered he couldn’t hit a high inside fast ball. The Cubs, who wound up the 1st half of the season in 2nd behind Brooklyn did their usual fade towards the end of the season. Speake was soon traded to the Giants and was out of baseball in a couple of years.

In my senior year of high school, 1955, I used to dash home and usually catch the last couple of innings of the Cub’s game. When I tuned into this one, there seemed to be more tension than usual. Sure enough, Sad Sam Jones had a no hitter going. With the Cubs leading 4-0 in the 9th, he walked the 1st three batters but, shockingly, struck out the next three to preserve the no hitter. Harry Creighton, who was usually half in the bag by the end of the game, interviewed Jones on the field after his no hitter. His first question?? “ How’s the family, Sam”! No joke that’s what he said.

In 1960, the Cubs acquired pitcher Don Cardwell in a trade. He made his Cubs debut in the second game of a double header on a Sunday. The Cubs, as usual, lost the 1st game. Cardwell pitched a great 2nd game and had a no hitter going into the 9th inning. Two outs and the batter hits a sinking line drive to left. With Jack Brickhouse yelling “Come on, Moose” Moryn, never regarded as a great fielder makes the catch by his shoe tops. Another no hitter! (And yet another bad team.)

I saw a lot of games at Wrigley in 1963. One I still remember quite well. Cubs vs. Giants; game tied in the 10th inning and the Giants have the bases loaded, one out. In comes Lindy McDaniel in relief; he picks Willy Mays off of 2nd base and then strikes out the batter to end the inning. The fans stand and applaud. McDaniel bats for himself leading off the 10th and hits a walk off homer to win the game!

There were some sad memories also. Ken Hubbs dying in a plane crash. Lou Brock traded to the Cardinals for sore armed pitchers, Ernie Broglio and Bobby Shantz. (both of the pitchers out of baseball in another year or so. (Whatever happened to Lou Brock??)

With things looking bleak at Wrigley, the Cubs pull a shocker and hire Durocher as manager. A famous quote from Durocher after he took over the team. “This is not an 8th place ball club.”. He was correct. They wound up in 10th place because of the addition of 2 expansion teams.

But Durocher turned it around in 1967. Beckert, Banks, Santo, Hundley, Williams, Kessinger, Williams, Hickman etc. In a game I attended at Wrigley Field before a packed house, the Cubs won 4-1. Lee Thomas, subbing for a injured Ernie Banks driving in the key runs. On Sunday, the Cubs won again and moved into 1st place! And the fans actually ran onto the field to celebrate.

But they didn’t win that year or the next. We all know what happened in 1969. A great team with a poor center fielder, Don Young. Despite that, the Cubs had an 8 ½ lead over the Mets in late August. Typically, they collapsed while the Mets played out of their minds winning 41 out of 50 to win the pennant by 8 games. Then the not many years removed from expansion Mets beat the favored Baltimore Orioles to win the world series in 5 games. Durocher stayed around for a couple more years, but that magic was never repeated.

We move to 1984. Cubs get Ric Sutcliffe in a trade and romp to a win in their division. (When they clinched the title, two businessmen who were on the road trip said, with actual tears in their eyes, “so this is what it’s like to win”. Quite correct. When the Cubs are winning and playing exciting ball, the food at Wrigley tastes better, the crowds are more alive and intense and even the sunshine is stronger. So the Cubs win the 1st two against the Padres. Just one more to advance to the world series against Detroit. One loss, the 2nd loss in extra innings when Garvey homers off of Lee Smith. In the deciding game, with the Cubs nursing a 3-0 lead, Leon Durham whiffs on a ground ball and the curse continues! (Rumors abound that Leon was snorting a bit of cocaine that day.)

Wild card teams get into the playoffs a couple of times but are quickly eliminated.

And do I have to go through the Bartman game of 2003 one more time? I can’t even think about it. But remember this; if the Cubs SS didn’t boot a double play ball that would have ended the 8th inning, the Cubs still would have been leading 3-1. Kerry Wood gets hammered in the deciding game at Wrigley and bleeping Florida beats the Yankees to win the world series.

The Cubs win back to back division titles in 2007-2008 and can’t even win one playoff game!

But currently it’s different. I have no more patience to watch the current mediocre product. I’m tired of being patient and time is running out. When I was younger, there was always hope and optimism for next season but no more. The Cubs have become a non-factor in Chicago sports. At least, for now.

Hey, how about those Blackhawks!!

Schaumburg Stu

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Comments
  1. Rich says:

    Bring out the billy goat and lift the damn curse (again)!

    Like

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