Tag Archives: Ryne Sandberg

Love & Baseball

vic-banner-1-jpegumpireMy wife is a Cubs fan.

I’m rooting for the Indians.

There can be no greater test of our marital bonds.

Can love overcome battling baseball allegiances?

Alas, there’s no umpire than can make this call.

My darling, treasured wife, Victoria, is a Chicago girl born and raised. Vic’s a South Sider by birth – and should really be a White Sox fan by regional rights – but she headed to the North Side for college, which is where we first met.

vic-post-1-5After her years at Northwestern University in Evanston on Chicago’s northern border, Victoria moved to Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood (also on the North Side), where loyalty to the Cubs was very strong. Shortly after I moved in with her in the mid-1980s, we took an apartment in the Wrigleyville neighborhood. It was a short walk to hallowed, historic Wrigley Field — the very epicenter of Cubs fandom.

vic-post-1-3As I discussed in a previous post, the Cubs became my favorite team in the National League during my years in Chicago, and Victoria and I went to many games at Wrigley Field, snuggling under a blanket during the chill of home openers in the spring and enjoying the thrill of pennant races in late summer.

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Together we experienced the exhilarating highs and inevitable lows endemic to Cubbie love – especially the bittersweet 1989 season in which Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Rick Sutcliffe and Mitch Williams all made the All-Star game and Jerome Walton was the NL Rookie of the Year. Of course, that team broke our hearts again by losing to the hated San Francisco Giants four games to one in the National League Championship Series.

Love of the Cubs has always been something that Victoria and I have shared – from the time we began dating in 1985, to when we were married on the North Side in 1990, and throughout our long sojourn in Southern California. We suffered together through losing seasons and the horrors of The Bartman Game.

vic-post-2-4Meanwhile, my wonderful wife viewed my continued support of the Indians in the America League. She paid scant attention to American League baseball anyway. In fact, she’d never been to Comiskey Park to see the White Sox play until I took her to that venerable South Side ballpark during its final season of existence.

She happily supported my trip to Jacobs Field in Cleveland to watch the Indians win Game 4 of the 1997 World Series. In fact, losing Game 7 of that Series in a particularly heartbreaking fashion only strengthened our baseball bonds of mutual misery.

Now comes this moment. A moment I never imagined could happen in our lifetimes.

The Cubs we have loved together are finally, blessedly, in their first World Series since 1945. Yet, as cruel fate would have it, they are playing against my boyhood team, The Cleveland Indians.

And so, this time I must root for my Tribe.

img_8028I’ve explained why this must be – but especially with the Cubs down 3 games to 1 at this moment – Victoria is looking daggers at me.

I know love conquers all. But, why oh why, must the baseball gods test our marriage by pitting the Indians versus the Cubs? Why not Red Sox versus Cubs — or Tribe versus Dodgers? Those matchups would not have challenged our three-decade love match.

Tonight, we’ll watch Game 5 together. There is a possibility that The Indians will celebrate their first World Series championship since 1948 amid the history and ivy of Wrigley Field. There is also the chance the Cubs will send this Series back to Cleveland for Game 6.

And if the Tribe wins tonight – Vic might just send me back to Cleveland anyway.

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Friends & Family gather for Game 4 at Tinhorn Flats in Burbank. It’s early — and the Cubs are leading 1-0. I’m the only one rooting for the Tribe in the entire building.

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Later in the game. Indians are now leading — and I’ve been exiled from the table.

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A second generation Cubs Fan

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A third generation Cubs fan. It’s all fine in that family now — but let’s see what happens (and what cap the little man’s wearing) when the Cubs face the Red Sox in a World Series.

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A final peace offering.

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Balancing My Baseball Loyalties.

bb-banner-jpegThere’s no doubt that the 2016 World Series is laden with historic significance.

1948-cleveland-indians-world-series-champions-patchThis year’s Fall Classic pits two of baseball’s legendary hard luck franchises: The Cleveland Indians and The Chicago Cubs. When you consider how long it’s been since the Indians and Cubs have won a World Series, it’s 1948 against 1908 – with the Cubs suffering the longest title drought.

The 2016 World Series will put an end to one of baseball’s two most notorious curses: the Curse of Colavito and the Curse of the Billy Goat.

And, for me, it will be an exquisitely personal experience.

cubs-goat-logoI was born and raised on the West Side of Cleveland — but I went to college and lived and worked on Chicago’s North Side for 15 years. I married my wife, a Chicagoan and lifelong Cubs fan, in Chicago. One of our daughters was born there.

For years, I’ve been able to root for my American League heroes, The Indians – while also cheering for my favorite National League team, The Cubs. The likelihood that my dual baseball loyalties would be tested in World Series was remote. Like worrying about getting hit by lightning.

But now, the baseball gods have flung their bolts – and lightning has struck.

images-washingtonpost-comSo, I must make my choice.

Baseball and boyhood are inextricable. Some of my earliest memories involve the Cleveland Indians. I remember when I was 3-5 years old, looking at the front page of The Cleveland Plain Dealer to see if the Tribe had won or lost.

cw2My dad, who was a fine cartoonist himself, enjoyed showing me the small cartoon Indian that appeared on The Plain Dealer’s front page the day after each game.

If the Indians won, that tiny cartoon Indian brave looked upbeat – with a feather in his headdress. (Two feathers for two victories in a doubleheader.)

cw-3If they lost, the little Indian would have a black eye – or, in this case, a sore bottom from getting his butt kicked.

620x686xphoto-8-montage-927x1024-png-pagespeed-ic-sjzucr-yqiAnd in the case of a split doubleheader, he might sport one black eye for the loss – while triumphantly holding a scalp to indicate the win.

Little boys – and The Plain Dealer — had no clue about political correctness in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

95dd7d0bb910ca4fb7b02e83d49fc367I have vivid memories of frequent trips with my father and brother to the cavernous Municipal Stadium to cheer on those 1960’s Indians teams, starring my favorite player, Rocky Colavito. (Who should be in the Hall of Fame.) I was only two years old in 1960 when Rocky was sent to Detroit in a trade that many fans believed cursed the team – but I sure remember Rocky’s glorious return to Cleveland in 1965.

It didn’t hurt that Rocco “Rocky” Colavito was Italian. My mom is Italian – and as a member of St. Rocco’s Church and school – my world was decidedly Italian-centric.

davalilloHeck, I also took pride in the fact that Rocky’s teammate Vic Davalillo was also Italian. (He wasn’t. Vic was Venezuelan.)

In all the seasons that I followed The Indians before I went off to college in Chicago, there were more lowlights than highlights. But I saw young Craig Nettles, Dennis Eckersley, Luis Tiant, Sudden Sam McDowell, Buddy Bell, Gaylord Perry and so many others compete in a Tribe uniform.

bat-dayThe Indians has a Straight A Tickets program – and boy, did I make sure to score those straight A’s. On Bat Day, they gave you a real bat. Can you imagine handing 40,000 kids a real bat in downtown Cleveland – or any city – today?

So, the Indians are in my DNA. They’re my hometown team. My boyhood idols.

big-cubbieBut I love The Cubs, too.

Soon after arriving at Northwestern University in 1976, I started watching Cubs games on WGN – with Jack Brickhouse calling the games. We didn’t get every Indians game on TV in Cleveland, and I got hooked on watching the Cubs every day.

600f51b17cdc6a926d68e07a04b60144In 1984, I started going to Wrigley Field on a regular basis. After all those years of watching baseball in the drafty vastness of Municipal Stadium, I was charmed by the intimacy of The Friendly Confines. And I fell in love with the team, led by the bat and glove of the glorious Ryne Sandberg.

Of course, those 1984 Cubs broke my heart when they blew a two-game lead to lose the NL pennant to Steve Garvey and the San Diego Padres. Having my heart broken by the Cubs only intensified a growing bond with my fellow Cubs fans and the people of the Windy City’s North Side. I knew from birth what it was to support a lovable baseball loser. Now I supported two of them.

Since then, I enjoyed the Indians’ resurgence in the late 1990’s – and endured their losses in the 1995 and ‘97 World Series. (But at least we got there, right?)

And, as a Cubs fan, I anguished along with everybody else in Chicago when Steve Bartman got in the way of that fateful pop foul.

artbble-pos-16tbb2-1154-gold-sThese highs and lows only reinforced the needlessness of worrying about divided loyalties in an Indians vs. Cubs World Series. Such an incredible thing was never going to happen.

But now, it has happened.

And, as I said, baseball and boyhood are inextricable.

So, I’m rooting for my Cleveland Indians in this Series.

kris_bryant-topps-061015As for the Cubbies, they have so much youth, talent, pitching, managerial wisdom and front office brilliance that I expect them to be World Series favorites for the next decade.

I’ll say what we Cubs fans have said since 1908.

Wait ‘til next year.

I’ll be rooting for a Cubs victory then.

Now, let’s play ball!

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