My first memory of the Cubs being sold when I was nine years old was that I thought it was strange that the Tribune Tower was right across the street from the Wrigley Building. In fact, I remember often not being sure which building was which.
My memories of the Wrigley-owned Cubs are few. I remember that Dave Kingman and Bill Buckner were pretty much the best players on the team and they weren't around long. I remember Mike Schmidt hitting eight million homeruns per game against them. I remember that the bleacher seats were only sold on the day of the game, and they were the cheapest seats in the park. I remember that there were no night games.
I remember some of the players that traipsed through in Cubs uniforms: Mike Vail, Scot Thompson, Steve Ontiveros, Barry Foote, Larry Biittner, Bill Caudill, Dennis Lamp, Dick Tidrow, Mike Tyson, Junior Kennedy, Lynn McGlothlen, Lenny Randle, Jerry Morales, Mick Kelleher, Jerry Martin... it gets depressing to go on.
I remember that the Topps Cubs team baseball cards were the only team cards that had disembodied heads floating in space instead of a normal team picture.
I remember that the Cubs had not won a Championship since 1908 and had not won a NL Pennant since 1945.
When the Tribune took over, many things did change for the better. Waxpaperbeercup has a great walk through the Tribune years as seen through the eyes of CCD and Barry Rozner, which goes into more detail, but I remember watching the Cubs slowly metamorphasize into a real major market ballclub under the guidance of the Tribune. Notice I didn't say they were successful, only that they managed to start playing on the same stage as the big boys.
The Cubs made the playoffs in 1984 and succeeded in making me cry as I realized late in Game 5 of the NLCS that the Cubs would not be going to the World Series after coming so close. I watched a group of overachievers reach the NLCS only to finally put in their place by Will Clark and the Giants.
I saw the rise and decline of my favorite player, Ryne Sandberg. I saw a brief shining portion of the career of the best player I've ever seen in a Cubs uniform, Andre Dawson. I saw the lights go on and night baseball come to Wrigley.
I transitioned from Jack Brickhouse to Harry Caray to Pat Hughes (and a band of untalented pod people broadcasters) calling the games.
I witnessed Gary Scott's singular major league regular season highlight. I saw Mark Grace leading the major leagues in hits and doubles for the decade of the 90s. I saw Greg Maddux begin his Hall of Fame career.
I watched Larry Himes kick Dawson and Maddux out the door in such a fashion that Himes should be glad we will probably never meet, because I swear to you, I will punch him in the face if I do. I watched free agent disasters George Bell, Danny Jackson, and Dave Smith kick us in the collective groin with their baseball ineptitude.
I endured Sammy Sosa's frustrating early years, the euphoric middle years, and the maddening, bat-corking tail-spin final years that spanned 545 homeruns in a Cubs uniform.
My wallet saw the cost of bleachers go from the cheapest in the park, to among the most expensive. I saw my season-ticket package quadruple in price in eleven years. I marveled at the parade of people who came to the game to get their beanie baby, bobble-head, floppy hat, or any other miscellaneous piece of corporately sponsored junk.
I was bewildered by the constantly overhyped rookies from the farm system that never panned out: Kevin Orie, Kevin Roberson, Derrick May, Ozzie Timmons, Rueben Quevedo, Joey Nation, Frank Castillo, Kevin Foster, Doug Dascenzo, Brooks Kieschnick, Lance Dickson, Mike Harkey, Steve Rain, Julio Zuleta, Brant Brown, Roosevelt Brown, Augie Ojeda, Bobby Hill, Hee Seop Choi, Ben Christiansen, Bobby Brownlie... again it gets depressing after awhile.
I envisioned the historic moment as Mark Prior mowed down Marlins and moved the team ever closer to the elusive World Series, and stared blankly as it all disappeared within a span of eight pitches. I fumed as LaTroy Hawkins started the Great Collapse of 2004 in Shea Stadium. I endured two more years of death marches under Dusty.
I followed the resurgence under Lou Piniella and Spendin' Jim Hendry as they joined the Red Sox, Mets, and Yankees in the upper echelons of payroll to bring us Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly, Carlos Zambrano, and the mighty Mark DeRosa. I stood helplessly by as a team with so much talent managed to not win a single playoff game, and then fail to even make the post-season in their third year together.
At the end, the Cubs had still not won a World Series since 1908 and still have not won a NL Pennant since 1945.
I'll continue to watch and hope and pray (and pay) that the end of the Ricketts' tenure (whenever that may be) will be different in that final regard. I just want to tell you good luck, and we're all counting on you.