A recent retrospective article on the 1969 Chicago Cubs in the Chicago Tribune has me waxing nostalgic. I so clearly remember the pennant fever of that magical season that ended in tragedy.
Too melodramatic, you say? Then you’ve never been a Cubs fan. I imbibed Cubs fandom with mother’s milk. It was woven into the very fabric of our daily lives. The sound of my father and uncles arguing and cursing while watching a baseball game formed the background noise of my childhood.
In the summer of 1969, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. But that event paled in comparison to the excitement in our house that surrounded the Cubs’ successes. For most of the ’69 season, the Cubs held onto first place. The heroes of that season – among them Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins, and Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks – became the stuff of legend and wound up in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
My siblings and I memorized the Cubs lineup and fervently collected baseball cards. My sister even made a scrapbook of highlights from the dramatic season, which included an exciting no-hitter pitched by Ken Holtzman.
One of our favorite Sunday afternoon activities was going to O’Hare Airport to greet the team on their return from away games. Once my father, who was always dressed in a suit on Sundays, was asked for his autograph, and we realized that the fan thought he was part of the Cubs organization.
My dad chuckled and said to us later, “I should have signed it ‘Ernie Banks’.”
The Cubs fell out of first place in September, and our hopes were deflated. To this day I hold hatred in my heart for the New York Mets, who, in our words, “stole the pennant” from the Cubs. But as is usually the case with the sluggers of Wrigley Field, the Cubs lost that pennant all by themselves.
I no longer watch baseball. I am not much of a sports fan in general, and baseball in particular moves way too slowly for my taste. Yet I still claim allegiance to that North Side team that captured our hearts years ago.
And as the 2014 season winds down with the Cubs in last place, I echo the sentiment of many a loyal fan: “Wait until next year!”