I can remember being about nine or ten, sitting in the living room with my mom, summer sunshine pouring through the windows, fans going to beat the heat, and my mom just ranting at the TV because the Cubs put Paul Assenmacher in to pitch.
My mother absolutely despised Paul Assenmacher. You would have thought the man once kicked her grandmother the way she spewed venom.
“Oh, great! I guess we don’t want to win today! Damn, Assenmacher!”
Obviously, this is a clean version of my mother’s ranting.
I grew up thinking that he was a terrible pitcher, but looking back on his stats now, he really wasn’t. I have no idea why she hated him. My guess is that he blew a game and my mom marked him for life.
I preferred to watch the games on TV. Mom listened to a lot of them on the radio because in the afternoon she’d be laying out in the backyard. I once asked Mom where Harry Caray went during the middle of the game. He’d leave for a couple of innings, but always be back by the 7th to sing the stretch. Mom said he was at the bar drinking beer. It turns out that he was working the radio. I wouldn’t have figured that out if Mom hadn’t listened to the games.
I can remember one of the few times I listened to a game as a kid, I took my little portable radio to the park so I could play and listen to the game at the same time. My radio died and I ran home like my pants were on fire so I wouldn’t miss any of the game.
My favorite players growing up were Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, and Shawon Dunston. When I played ball, those were the players I tried to be. I started off in the outfield and I was Andre Dawson. I was even number 8. I worked really hard to have as good of an arm as he had. When I played the left side of the infield, I was Shawon Dunston. He wore my favorite number and I did my best to do him proud.
My last year I played summer ball, I played second base. You know I was rocking like I was Ryne Sandberg. I was never number 23, but worked my butt off to play like him.
I never had a favorite pitcher despite being a pitcher, too. Maybe if I had, I would have liked it better.
My first Cubs game came in August of 1994. My aunt and uncle took me, my sister, and several of my cousins. It was a pretty big deal. It was Ryne Sandberg Day, but he wasn’t there. Shawon Dunston didn’t play either. But I did get to sit on the first baseline, right in line with Mark Grace and watch him play. Sammy Sosa before he was Sammy Sosa and Glenallen Hill were in the outfield. We lost to the Marlins 9-8. It was an exciting game, but the loss was disappointing.
People still go on about the Fish killing our dreams in 2003. I still hadn’t gotten over this upstart team beating my Cubs nine years earlier. I’m just now starting to not resent the Marlins.
Between graduating high school, Kid K, and the home run race, I’ll never forget the ’98 season.
I couldn’t watch the 2003, 2007, and 2008 playoffs too closely because it was just too stressful. My heart broke each time, but my blood pressure returning to normal sort of helped the healing.
The second game I was supposed to go to was rained out. I finally made it back last September and watched my Cubs lose to the Giants 1-0. But I got to watch the game from the famous bleachers, yell at some disrespectful children during the National Anthem, and watch batting practice. Watching the pitchers shag balls in the outfield, particularly Andrew Cashner working with the bat boy, put me in a good mood that the rain delay and loss couldn’t dampen.
I’m going to do my best to make it back to Chicago this year. I don’t want to wait another fifteen years for my next game at Wrigley.
When people ask me why I’m a Cubs fan, there’s this implication that what they really want to know is why I’d torture myself rooting for a perpetually losing team.
For me, it’s not really torture.
And I don’t think they’d get it anyway.