By Betty Stolarek
As the magic of the Cubs’ World Series win actually sank into my consciousness, the voice of Harry Caray reverberated in my brain: “Holy Cow! Cubs win! Cubs Win! Cubs Win!”
My imaginary Harry sounded exactly the same as the real Harry had sounded all those years when I heard his broadcasts coming from my dad’s old black and white TV. Yes, Dad was always faithful to two great institutions: the City of Chicago and the Chicago Cubs.
How, one might ask, could Chicago fans continue to support a team that offered them nothing but defeat and disappointment year after year? But anyone who knew a little bit about my father would understand a lot about Cubs fans and maybe a little more about life.
Dad was born in 1917 and remained a Cubs fan until his death in 2003. Perhaps no fans of any other team in the world have remained so loyal without ever, in their lifetimes, having experienced a championship win. In fact, since most people don’t remember much that happened before they were about six years old, and the Cubs last won the series in 1908, any fan who could remember that win would have to be about 114 years old today.
Yet despite this dismal record, every spring I would ask Dad to speculate about the Cubs’ chances for the coming season.
“Zero to none,” he’d thunder. “The Cubs have NO chance this season. They’ve never, not even in the days of Old Man Wrigley, put any money into that team. They don’t know how to use good players when they have them, and they’ve traded off their best players every time. They haven’t won the series in my whole lifetime and they won’t win it in your lifetime, either!”
But along would come that miraculous period, usually late in the summer, when the Cubs, through Herculean effort or blind luck, would start to win.
“What do you think about the Cubs now?” I would ask.
“You know,” he’d say, somewhat sheepishly, “this just might be the year.”
“But they’re worthless,” I’d respond. “They don’t spend the money. They trade off their best players.”
“But this year is different,” he’d argue. “Their pitching is solid. They’ve never had a better outfield. You know, I think this just might be the year the Cubbies win it all.” (Just as I was “Betty” when I behaved according to family expectations and “Elizabeth Ann” when I did not, in Chicago the Cubs become the “Cubbies” when they make us proud.)
Of course, the inevitable day would come, often heartbreakingly late in the season, when the Cubs would become statistically incapable going on to the series. Dad’s comment would echo the lament of all true Cubs fans as he would say with a cynical but wistful look in his eyes, “Well, wait’ll next year.” Like all good people who experience disappointment yet continue to go on with their lives, making the best of every situation, becoming discouraged but never losing hope, Dad was always able to say, “Wait’ll next year.”
Well, Dad, they finally made it. And they made it big time, with a series that was thrilling up to the very last moment. If Dad were here, I’d ask him if he believed it would be another 108 years before the Cubs would win, and I know what his answer would be: “Are you kidding? Their pitching is solid. They’ve never had a better outfield. I can hardly wait‘ll next year!”
Congratulations, Cubs. Congratulations, Chicago fans. Congratulations, Dad. I hope that somewhere in the great beyond, you and Harry are sharing in the celebration.