Saturday, February 21, 2009

My Mom and the Cubs

People ask me how I became a Cubs fan. I was born in the South suburbs of Chicago and lived there in White Sox territory until the summer before junior high.

My mother took me to my first baseball game near the end of the 1979 season. It was a White Sox game against the Mariners at Comiskey Park. Wayne Nordhagen hit two homeruns and the White Sox won 3-1. The scoreboard exploded after every homerun, and during the 7th inning stretch, there was a crazy old guy in the press box that sang along and danced to Take Me Out to the Ballgame. The night sky lit up with fireworks after the game, and everyone sang the Na-Na-Na song after the victory.

It was a great game for a seven-year old as a first game.

The next year, my mom and my aunt and uncle brought me to my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field. It was a day game (of course) and the soon-to-be World Champion Philadelphia Phillies opened up a can of whup-ass on the hapless Cubs.

Willie Hernandez started for the Cubs and got hammered around. The Cubs trotted out the likes of Lynn McGlothen, Bill Caudill, and Doug Capilla from the bullpen. Mike Schmidt hit two of the roughly 300 homeruns he hit against the Cubs that day, and Steve Carlton could have thrown a shutout against a lineup including Mike Vail, Jerry Martin, Steve Ontiveros, and Tim Blackwell, but was lifted after seven innings. Oh, and Pete Rose also got a couple of hits and the Phillies won the game 7-0.

I learned a few things that day. I learned that day baseball is inherently better than night baseball. I learned that the Cubs could never get Mike Schmidt out. I learned from the guy in front of me that Dave Kingman was "worthless" and that Bill Buckner was "over-rated." I learned that drunk girls can sometimes be enticed to take off their shirts at a baseball game.

I learned that I was a Cub fan.

During the 1984 season, my mom moved us to Jamestown, New York. The first thing I checked upon getting there was whether the local provider included WGN in its cable package. It was on a more premium package, but she agreed to purchase that package so I could still watch the games.

My dad still lived in Chicago, so I got to go to a game each year when I visited during the summer, but it was hard knowing I couldn't go more often. I watched the 1984 playoffs, the first night game, and the 1989 playoffs on our family room TV in Jamestown.

But my mom would often arrange for us to go see a Cub game or two in Pittsburgh. Sometimes my brother would come, and sometimes not, but the trip was always planned for me.

As a teenager, you don't often appreciate the important things at the time. Back then, it seemed like kind of a raw deal that I had to go to see Cub games at the concrete multi-purpose monstrosity at the convergence of the Allegheny and Mononghela rivers instead of at Wrigley Field.

It seemed unfair to have to watch a game with someone like my mom, who enjoys the games, but doesn't know much about it beyond the basics. I couldn't get into a conversation with her about whether Don Zimmer should leave in Mike Bielecki or call for Paul Assenmacher. Meanwhile, I had no interest in her observations that Mark Grace had a nice butt.

Since then, I realized she was trying to find something she could share with me that I enjoyed. She could probably have cared less about the games, and I'm sure she could have used the money we spent on gas, food and lodging in Pittsburgh for other things.

So while she didn't play catch in the backyard or have an opinion on whether the Cubs should have traded Rafael Palmeiro, I definitely have her to thank for contributing heavily to my love of baseball and the Cubs.

I'll leave it up to you to decide if that is a good thing or not, but I think its a good thing.

3 comments:

chester said...

It's a great thing! Think about how much joy baseball has brought you! Sure, there's pain too, but that only makes the highs that much better. I think it's funny that baseball offered Mark Grace's butt for your mom and drunk topless girls for you :)

Anonymous said...

What kind of a terrible person would try to entice naive, impressionable, young otherwise respectable suburban women who have been overserved by vicous unthinking beer vendors, bartenders and the season ticket holders of questionable character to take off their shirts at (near or after) a baseball game! How rude! Some people just can't seem to concentrate on the baseball while they're at the game. From Seat 106.

Anonymous said...

The run on nature of the first sentence in my posting was also offensive to writers everywhere.

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