A few weeks back, I put out the word that I needed some help with an ambitious project to compile an anthology of stories. The idea came to me as I stood in my kitchen just kind of zoning out and staring off into nothing. Wouldn’t it be cool, I thought, to have a bunch of people share why they’re Cubs fans? Yeah, it would be cool. So I tweeted out an invitation, wrote a quick blog post about it, and got an immediate response.
I asked that submissions be no longer than 250 words and that they complete the statement that begins: “I’m a Cubs fan because…” My goal as an editor was merely to ensure readability and general spelling and grammar, as I wanted to leave the emotional integrity of each piece fundamentally unchanged. Below you’ll find the results of this little passion project, 48 tales of love and loss spurred by a team that knows enough about both to fill a library.
I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did, but before I turn you loose I need to thank each person who took the time to commit their thoughts and feelings to the page and to let me share them here on this site. As a writer, I feel compelled to toss my opinions and analysis out there for public consumption, but not everyone has that same drive. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that many out there felt a little anxiety at the idea of emailing a stranger and allowing him to provide them a (small) platform and a mic. As such, I’m honored that they saw fit to trust me with their tales.
Some of the stories will no doubt be familiar, as so many of us are bound by the common threads of WGN radio and television. Maybe you, like me, were born and raised into your fandom due to geography or familial connections. Or maybe you fell into the Cubs through serendipitous randomness and just never saw fit to find your way back out. Whatever the reason, we’re all in this together now. Compiling these and reading through them has just been an incredible experience and reaffirms the choice that I never consciously made to follow this team.
Speaking of unconscious decisions, I chose to place these snippets in the exact order in which they came to me. While it’d be disingenuous to say I noticed any kind of emergent pattern making itself known to me as I was putting this together, I think there’s a certain beauty in the way both the similar and disparate themes play off one another. Also, it means that the entries from my blogger/journo friends are generally toward the end, since, you know, they’re slackers. But enough preamble, let’s get to it.
I’m a Cubs fan because…
Evan Altman, 36, Indianapolis
I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere in Northwest Indiana. We got four or five TV stations out of Chicago and South Bend and pretty much the same was true of the radio. It’d be easy to say I got hooked on the Cubs because of WGN’s blowtorch signals and my father’s and grandfathers’ affinity for the team, but I think that’s a bit simplistic. As a kid, Cubs baseball represented a camaraderie with my brother and several of my friends. It was the experience of sitting in front of the TV at my Grandpap’s house, drinking Pepsi and eating whole sleeves of Saltine crackers. It was going to Chicago with my Grandpa Mac and Bubba and riding the train to the game.
The Cubs came to represent summer, an escape from life’s mundanity. Wrigley Field was a fantasyland for adults and kids alike, all taking a break from the stifling confines of the ordinary life still grinding away just beyond the ballpark’s brick walls. I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted be anywhere more than on one of those unadorned rooftops with a crappy folding chair and a cooler filled with what I could only imagine was the illicit beverage Harry Caray hawked relentlessly. The ballpark and the rooftops have changed in the intervening years, but the Cubs and Wrigley will always be my escape.
Steve Roach, 40, Central Indiana
Despite growing up in basketball crazed Indiana, there was no accessible basketball league for me. Baseball was my first sporting love because I started playing at age 5. As most kids do, I loved playing outside, and baseball afforded me the platform to do that and play a game that my family loved. Most people in my family were/are Reds fans, and I still have an appreciation for that franchise, but as fate would have it our family was able to get cable television in 1982. That included Chicago’s WGN. Not only did I get to watch “Bozo” before school, I was almost always assured of getting to watch baseball in the afternoon after school, or during the summer when the Cubs played at home. I’m thankful that the Cubs didn’t have lights at Wrigley until 1988, otherwise I may have followed my family and been a Reds fan ?.
Todd Johnson, 52, Polo, IL
Baseball is everywhere today. It’s on the TV, it’s on the radio, it’s on the Internet, and it’s even on my phone. I can’t seem to escape, nor do I want to. But growing up in a rural Illinois town of 2500 in the 1960’s and 70’s, the immersion into baseball culture was quite different and took a while. While the Cub games were on the radio, baseball only came to TV three days a week. There was the Monday Night Game of the Week, the Saturday Afternoon Game of the Week, and the Cubs on Sunday. We lived a little bit too far from Chicago to get Channel 9, but on Sunday we could get the Cubs off a station in Rockford.
WGN’s Sunday games are what turned me on to the Cubs and baseball. Ernie’s 500th Homer was my initial ticket and my first memory of the Cubs. My total immersion into Cubs baseball started later that fall in first grade when I began collecting baseball cards. I see those old cards today and I still feel just like a kid. Later came the daily reading of the box scores in the Rockford paper and keeping score along with the radio. When I got into high school in 1978, I subscribed to The Sporting News and Baseball Digest, and I played Strat-O-Matic. It was just a different kind of immersion. Now I look at my life and it’s just digital Cubs 24/7, all day, every day.
Matt Hickey, 50, Elmwood Park, IL
I’m a Cubs fan because my earliest memory — not a tale told by my parents or one prompted by a photograph — is of being at Wrigley Field circa the late ’60s (possibly even 1969). I was 3, maybe 4, at a game when something happened. The recollection isn’t clear in this respect, but I’m guessing the Cubs won via walk-off. Everything then crystalizes. I jumped up as adults around me suddenly went crazy. I pleaded with my mom to stand me on my seat so I could see why. “No, you’ll fall down,” she warned, but I persisted. She relented; I was upright for maybe two seconds when I predictably tumbled under the row in front of us, filling my eyes with tears and specking my clothes with beer and peanut shells. Admonishing me with an “I told you,” my mom nonetheless hoisted me back up and steadied me on the chair. It’s the corniest, dumbest thing ever — it sounds made up — but I stopped bawling as I reveled in the surrounding joy. I can still perfectly visualize every happy face, and I’ve often thought of them whenever the Cubs have made me cry since.
Jared Wyllys, 33, Algonquin Park, IL
I’m a Cubs fan because of WGN and because I’ve always liked underdogs. I grew up in rural Michigan and the Cubs always seemed to be in TV in the afternoon during my growing-up summers. I dabbled with the Braves too because they were on TBS, but I loved what I saw of Wrigley when I’d watch them on TV.
I honestly wasn’t really aware of the “curse,” black cats, billy goats or any of that until I was older. Maybe that’s a product of living pretty far from Chicago, but when I was young, I liked where they played and I loved watching Andre Dawson. It was the teams of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s that really hooked me, and I would say I became a lifer when I finally visited Wrigley for the first time when I was 22.
Darth Stout, ageless, a galaxy far, far away
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a Cubs fan, and I imagine I started following the team in the 80’s because they were always on WGN during the day. That’s a lousy story, so here’s something better. I began attending overnight summer camp when I was 11. I was away from mid-June until mid-July that first summer. Camp was an 8-hour bus ride away in Wisconsin’s North Woods, and I’d been awake for at least 24 hours, so I was exhausted when I got home. My parents picked me up, and my dad (who is a Sox fan) told me that he had Cubs tickets for the two of us that afternoon. I couldn’t tell you who won, or even who the Cubs’ opponent was that day. I was drowsy and this was many years ago. What I remember about that game are the feelings I experienced sitting in the stands at a ballgame next to my dad. I struggle to put it into words even now. I think that’s the moment I really fell in love with baseball, and I’ve been a die-hard ever since. These days I take him to ballgames, on both sides of town.
Liz, 39, Arnolds Park, IA
I became a Cubs fan because of a poster my cousin had when I was seven. Back in 1984, he got a poster of Wrigley Field for Christmas and I didn’t know who the Cubs were. He and his parents told me about the team and by the following summer, I was a fan. I even insisted on playing catcher for my softball team because I was in love with Jody Davis. As for that poster my cousin had? It now hangs from the wall of my TV room and has it helped me turn my nephew into a Cubs fan too.
Sagar Sheth, 29, Palatine, IL
I’m a Cubs fan because of Sammy Sosa. What he did in 1998, steroids or not, was so fun to watch. Chicks aren’t the only ones who dig the long ball!
Bryan O’Donnell, 33, Chicago
I’ve been a Cubs fan ever since I can remember, so I’d say I became a Cubs fan because of my dad. He has told the story of taking me to my first game at Wrigley as a very young kid and expecting me to only sit through a portion — maybe just a few innings. But I was enthralled. The game play, the scoreboard, the green grass, the ivy. I was hooked immediately. Over the years, the Cubs have always been something we can relate to together, and we probably always will. That’s probably my favorite part about baseball and the Cubs: the bond that you form with other people because of it.
Elizabeth Nystedt, 35, Woodridge, IL
I’m a Cubs fan because of my college roommates. I was always kind of a fan as a kid because of my dad, but I really got into the Cubs right before my senior year of college. My roommates and I (all women, by the way) would watch games every day. Over the years, I have become a bigger fan than both of them, but we have always shared our love for the Cubs, including going to games and maybe even swooning over some of the players. We watch them for baseball reasons, too, though. We can name the players and their positions and specifics about how they have been batting, pitching, and defending. I have loved Twitter for bringing me to a new level of being a Cubs fan. I still learn so much about baseball and the Cubs every single day from the great people I follow. One of the biggest reasons I love the Cubs, though, is going to Wrigley Field. That is my happy place, and there’s no other atmosphere like it. It builds character to be a Cubs fan, and when they finally win the World Series, we will be the happiest fans ever. It will all be worth it.
Kyle Young, 62, Owen County, IN
My mom tells the story of my dad listening to the Cubs radio broadcast on the ride to the Indianapolis hospital for my birth. I’ve looked it up: August 11, 1954 the Cubs lost 8-1 to the Cincinnati Redlegs (it was the first year of the “red scare” name change). In childhood, during the struggles of adolescence, and to this day, “Cub talk” has always been a fun part of the relationship with my dad. There has been a lot of smiles to go with our “Cub talk” in the last year!
PS: When I was young, I don’t remember knowing anybody else named Kyle. Go Hendricks and Schwarbear!
Kateri Nippert, 47, Naperville
Plain and simple, I’m a Cubs fan because of my mother – not because of my dad or any of my four older brothers. I inherited the Cubbie blue gene from my mother. I just remember being very young and playing outside, and I could hear my mom, in the house, screaming or cheering about something. Whatever it was, it happened every summer, and her excitement and passion began to take hold of me.
When I was nine years old and in third grade, my fandom kicked in full force. It was 1977, and I fell in love with Cubbie blue and Wrigley green. I fell in love with Manny Trillo and the “Hey – hey!” call of Jack Brickhouse. It was an awesome collage of baseball, nature, and passion.
Was there a better way to spend a summer afternoon than turning the dial (yes, the TV dial) to WGN and catching a Cubs game? Was there anything better than cheering along with my mom? Was there anything better than goosebumps blanketing my arms on a Brickhouse home run call? Even with a long string of sub-par seasons, the answer is “no.” There’s nothing better, plain and simple.
John Hermanson, 57
It was a warm drizzling rain. A boy of about 12 years old stood 60′ from a brick wall, the side of an apartment building somewhere in a neighborhood blocks away from Wrigley field. There was no one around but this lanky kid, staring down something imaginary, standing in front of that brick wall with a box painted on it. He was holding a regulation-size rubber ball in his hand, turned sideways, kicking an imaginary rubber that was only cement, mumbling to himself.
“The sixth inning, Joe Morgan is up. Ya know, you can strike this sucker out! He’ll go fishing for my slider when I’m ahead in the count. All you gotta do is get ahead of him with the high stinkin’ cheese and the inside curve!”
He did a pitcher’s windup and he whipped it toward the box with all his might, making sure to hold it just right.
“Uh-oh, too high. Joe, come on! You always were a sucker for that pitch, why not now?!”
The kid then bore down in his concentration to deliver the curve. The curve missed low.
“Now I am in trouble” he mused, rain dripping from his cap. 0-2.
Yeah. That was me. I could identify with the Cubs. Then, there was the ivy, the pretty girls walking to the game down Addison St…Yeah, I was hooked. The feeling is still with me, 45 years later and 2000 miles away. I am a Cub fan, win or lose.
I’m a Cubs fan because of my dad taking me to games in the mid-70’s after parents divorced. Loved it, even though he eventually changed his fandom to the Sox later in life. I also used to come home from school almost daily to my grandmother’s (mom’s mom) enjoying a Schlitz and a Winston while watching the Cubs on WGN.
Oh…and Dave Kingman bombs. Apparently 7-year-olds also like the long ball. Home runs or strikeouts. I loved that guy.
Now that I think about it, after moving to the burbs, a couple teachers had the Magic Number written in the corner of their blackboards in a Catholic grade school in Wheeling in 1984.
David Niall Wilson, 56, Hertford, NC
I became a Cubs fan because baseball and I met on a screened in southern Illinois porch, background vocals provided by screech owls and cicadas, through an ancient AM radio that belonged to the greatest man I ever knew – my grandfather. We spent a lot of hours on that porch, sometimes in sleeping bags on the floor, listening to the bugs and the birds while either the Cardinals or the Cubs played in my mind, narrated by Jack Quinlan and Jack Buck, with color commentary by my grandpa.
He remembered the 1908 Cubs. He pitched in the minor leagues in Texas after World War I and during the Mexican conflict, around 1914. He was invited to spring training with a major league club, but was unable to attend due to military service. He loved the game, and he shared it with me.
Those were magic times. I became a fan around the time Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams made their run to break the curse. That was my first baseball heartbreak. Grandpa was a fan of both teams, something I’ve never quite been able to reconcile in my mind. He liked the Cardinals, and he liked the Cubs. He would listen no matter who was playing, and he explained it all to me – the names, the plays – how to throw a knuckle ball and what a slider and a curve meant. He gave me baseball, and he gave me the Cubs.
It’s a gift I cherish.
Hector Ramirez, 33, Chicago
I am a Cubs fan because from the moment I walked into Wrigley for the first time at the age of 6 years old I knew I was home. The iconic scoreboard, the brick scattered with ivy and the smell of the grass, it all felt so surreal. I remember our seats were way up on the last row and running from under the press box, craning my neck trying to get a glimpse of Harry while he sang the 7th inning stretch. The Cubs played the Dodgers that afternoon, as a Mexican kid I was supposed to be a Dodger fan because of El Toro Valenzuela, but I knew from that moment my heart belonged to the other team with the blue cap and the red C. From that day on I would run as fast as I could from school to home and watch the Cubs on WGN and listen to Harry sing the stretch. That is why I am a Cubs fan.
Eugene Nikolai, 76, Berlin, WI
I became a Cub fan in 1948. l lived in Marshfield, Wisconsin and radio station WDLB in their first year on the air carried the Cub games with Bert Wilson. It was a beautiful day for a ball game. John Schmitz from Wausau, WI (which was about 40 miles away) was their top pitcher and Andy Pafko from Boyceville, WI was one of their best hitters. My 9 year old mind suggested to me they were probably the only Wisconsin natives in the majors. I never wavered, even when the Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953.
Dave Weirich, Bass Lake, IN
I became a Cubs fan because my dad took me on my tenth birthday to see the Cubs play the Atlanta Braves and Ken Holtzman threw a no hitter. I still remember the game like was yesterday. It was a perfect August afternoon, no wind, and not a cloud in the sky. Ron Santo hit a three run homer on to Waveland Avenue in the first inning and they were the only runs the Cubs scored all day. Holtzman almost lost his no-no in the seventh inning when Orlando Cepeda hit a fly ball to deep center field but Don Young casually tracked it down.
The most dramatic moment was when Hank Aaron stepped up the plate with two outs in the ninth. He hit a sharp grounder to Glenn Beckert, who scooped it up and threw it to Ernie Banks for the final out. The crowd went wild, as if the Cubs had won the World Series! Of course this was 1969 and little did I realize that they would break my heart the following month. I’m still waiting for redemption.
John D. Hinkley, 66, Las Vegas
I became a Cub fan because my Grandfather was. He introduced me to baseball when I was 6 years old and would play with me in the back yard. He would have a transistor radio in his pocket with an ear phone in his ear. When I asked him what he was listening to, he told me the Cubs game and then I would listen with him on WGN radio. I am now 66 and have lived and died with the Cubs.
Melisha Sorensen, 42, Quincy, IL
I’m a Cubs fan because, most simply, I was an impressionable 10-year-old watching The Sandberg Game. Between that, WGN, day baseball, that magical ’84 season and a little push from Mom, I was hooked. There was nothing not to love about the cast of characters on that team, and I consumed every tidbit of information I could find about them and baseball in general.
I was born in Joliet and moved to Quincy (decidedly “Cardinal Country”) at age 6. I didn’t know it at 10, but looking back I think the Cubs were like a little piece of home and helped me stay connected with my extended family who lived hours away. Each trip to Wrigley felt like a pilgrimage.
I’ve compared being a Cubs fan to being the parent of a delinquent child. That child is loved unconditionally even through the heartache, and hope stays alive with every rare glimpse of possibility that he’ll do better and be better.
2015 was an unbelievable time of bonding with my niece. She was the impressionable 10-year-old. I may have given her a little push. The Cubs had another magical season. Even in Cardinal Country, without WGN, we were able to watch most games. These current players…once again, there’s nothing not to love. Information is much more readily available for her to consume. Taking her to Wrigley felt like a pilgrimage. We’re both convinced that 2016 is The Year.
I guess the more things change…
Michael Canter, 51, Chicago
Third generation Cubs fan. Grandpa was born the year the Cubs won in ’08 and Dad was born when they lost in ’38. I grew up on the South Side and got beat up a lot for not being a White Sox fan. But Dad worked for many of the Cubs players. After my first game in ’72 we waited in Wrigley Field after the game for Fergie Jenkins. He walked up into the 3rd base box seats, sat with us, and signed insurance papers for my Dad. I was hooked. Having players like Glenn Beckert, Don Kessinger, Jim Hickman, Ron Santo, Milt Pappas and Ken Holtzman at summer barbecues ultimately made me acceptable in the neighborhood. When free agency started, my dad was out of a job. But those 1970’s teams will always remain special to me.
John Wawczak, 32, Chicago
I’m a Cubs fan because of family. I was 8 years old and saw a White Sox game on television. Intrigued, I asked my parents to go to a game and, since they had no real allegiance, they obliged. My grandmother didn’t talk to them for weeks as a result. That summer my grandmother and I hopped on an Addison bus, walked into Wrigley, and watched a game. That’s where it started. We did it many times throughout the years. While I have many big Cubs friends and family, none was as big as my grandmother (she passed a few years back). And when they win it all, us die-hards will appreciate it more than anyone can know and she’ll be on my mind immediately after the last out is made.
Brad Robinson, 36, Chicago
The only real answer is that I was born into this club. Just as I can’t choose my family, the choice to bleed blue is one that was decided long before I arrived and is one that I wouldn’t change for the world.
My parents took me to my first game in 1979 when I was just a few months old. My mom is a Cubs fan, taught to her by her father, as I was taught by mine. My grandfather grew up in the shadows of Wrigley Field after emigrating from Germany at the age of 9. I remember sitting at Grandpa’s feet watching the Cubs and listening to his stories of racing to Wrigley Field with his friends after school. They would wait until the game was over and the team would allow the boys in to help clean up, rewarding their work a ticket to the next day’s game.
Grandpa regaled me with stories of Dizzy Dean and also his school days with Phil Cavarreta at Lane Tech. The one thing he wanted to see before his 92 years on earth came to an end was a Cubs World Series win. Every time the Cubs get close I can feel him sitting above me on the edge of his recliner hoping to God that I don’t have to wait as long as he did.
I was born into it as my father before and my son after me, because it’s not just about baseball, it’s about family.
Bob Paine, 64, Goodyear, AZ
I am a Cubs fan today because of my late son, Gerard.
In 1984, when Gerard was 6 years old, he discovered WGN and became a great Cubs fan. Gerard got completely caught up in the excitement of the pennant race. I’ll never forget him standing in front of the TV crying when Steve Garvey homered to win Game 4 of the NCLS.
From that point forward, Gerard wanted to do everything Cubs. He had Cubs wallpaper in his room. We first went to Wrigley in 1988 and two years later, he and I attended the All-Star Game. While our family moved from Atlanta to Philadelphia to Los Angeles, Gerard and I always made time to be together when the Cubs were in town. When we moved to LA, spring training trips to Mesa became an annual ritual. Our house had it all; Cubs neon, a Cubs logo flag that flew over Wrigley and much more. He made us pay attention to his beloved team. And they became our team too.
Sadly, Gerard was stricken with cancer and died at the all too young age of 26.
Now my wife and I live vicariously through our late son’s memory and cheer for the Cubs championship he so wanted to see. I can see him beaming with pride at the success of fellow IU alum Kyle Schwarber. And I smile and blink back a tear because I know he is watching from the best seat in the house.
Mike Head, 48, London, England
First I must confess that I was late to the baseball party, which I came to regret once I discovered the beauty and excitement of the game. I was a huge Chicago Bulls fan, in love with Chicago punk bands like Screeching Weasel, and picked the Cubs as my Baseball team. This was when Sammy Sosa was hitting it out the park regularly. I followed scores from here in England but in those days I had no internet access so I did not follow that closely. In 2007 I visited friends on the West Coast and saw an Oakland Athletics game and a San Francisco Giants game and was hooked on all things baseball. I vowed to make it to Wrigley ASAP and in July of 2008 I saw Cubs lose 2-3 to the Marlins. Despite the loss, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The Cubs had replaced the Bulls as my American sports obsession and I have seen them win 3 of 4 at the Giants and sweep the Reds at Wrigley. My next games should be this September. Go Cubs Go.
Andy Strohm, 31, Lakeland, FL
When I was 3 years old living in Connecticut, my father and his friend made a bet. Dad, a Mets fan, and his friend, a Cubs fan, each thought they could sway me to their team. Well the Cubs fan had a strategy, Pops didn’t. Each time his friend came over, I couldn’t say hi until I said “go Cubbies.” Then he bought me every item a 3-year-old cubs fan needed. To be honest, I think Dad forgot about all that until I was in second grade and we moved within 30 minutes of Chicago. When I heard the news about the move, I told him I was a fan of the Cubs so that was great. Turns out he lost the bet. It’s been 28 years and I have been a faithful fan since.
Michael Garvey, 71, San Carlos, CA
Like many fans I still remember the sensation when I first saw that verdant Wrigley grass and ivy. And the game was a treat, with Frank Robinson, a youngster on the Redlegs (don’t correct me kids; that is a real thing) hit a tremendous home run. 1957. The next year I saw a Cub steal a base! His name was Chuck Tanner and he was my favorite, until he was traded during the winter (turned out he only had 2 in his career). And I was hooked. That year saw 5 Cubs hit 20 homers: Banks, Moryn, Long, Walls and Thompson. With brilliant young pitchers like Drott, Drabowski, Anderson and Hobbie and relievers like Henry and Elston; I thought the team would be world beaters.
I now am 71 and still waiting for that World Series. And while it has been painful watching Prior and Wood follow Drott and Drabowski’s fate, dumb trades, hyped rookies, the hiring of Green and his firing, I never have lost my feelings for the team. I loved Mark Grace but his frequent threats to sign with the Cardinals ended that and I was glad to see him go; the team came first.
I have spent my career working on organizational improvement and I cannot overstate my joy at the way this owner and administration have approached the resurrection of the Cubs. One reason to stick with exercise and health foods is the chance to see a World Series at Wrigley. I’ll see you there!
Larry Duke, ageless, Hanover, IN
I am a Cub Fan as I grew up attending Friday home games with my mother on Ladies Day. I just enjoyed everything about it. The players, the ballpark, the sunshine. I still follow them and root for them now living in Southeastern Indiana (GO HANOVER PANTHERS). I have raised my two daughters and two grandsons to be Cubs fans. Don’t get up much to Wrigley but watch on TV and when I can get to Cincinnati to see them. This Is The Year.
Dave Hoekstra, 39, Ft. Worth, TX
I became a Cubs fan because every day when I came home from school, there was my Dad, watching WGN and dying with every out, strike and loss. In between those losses, he lived with every hit, home run, and win. That joy transferred down rather easily to an impressionable boy living in Texas. None of this would have been possible without WGN and their reach. I shudder to think if my dad was a Dodgers fan living in Texas. I may have never watched baseball in my entire life. I truly owe my love of the great game of baseball to WGN and Wrigley day games.
Elizabeth Hayes, 41, IN
By the age of five, my grandfather began taking me to MLB games. I remember watching Cubs games with him and learning about the leagues, divisions, and standings. He taught me about the tools of the game and about the legends of his time. It wasn’t long before I was consumed with “the game.” I wanted to play and watch the game as much as possible. I was a shortstop and third baseman so I idolized players like Shawon Dunston and yes, even Luis Salazar. I watched all the games on WGN and soon the Cubs were “my team.” I wasn’t a fan because they were perpetual winners, I was a fan because they fed my love for the game of baseball. I became a Cubs fan because my grandfather shared his passion for the game with me!
Scott Bagley, 57, Westerville, OH
My great-grandfather was a Cubs fan, as well as my grandfather and my dad; it’s in the blood. My earliest memory is my dad and great-grandfather and I heading to Chicago to see the Cubs play the Pirates (they lost). I was around 7 or 8, I’m guessing. We would stop and get some White Castles, so to this day a trip to get some sliders is always special for me.
Ronnie was my guy, [so I] always wore number 10, had his Wilson signature model glove (still have it), all his cards, 8 x 10 from his pizza box. I lived in Mesa for some time, attended as many Spring games as I could. Walking out of the park one day, lo and behold, there was Ron getting into his rental. We chatted for several minutes.What a memory for me!
Mike McElwee, 45, Evanston, IL
I was born in 1970 and thus spared the agony of the Miracle Mets. Through the majesty of WGN and a father who always watched the games, however, I was drawn into the fold. It was part of life. Cheer for the Cubs. Hope for the best. Know deep down that the knife to the ribs was coming. I was taught of the curse, and got to see it work its voodoo magic in 84, when even the superhuman Rick Sutcliffe could not stop it. In the 2003 NLCS, when a co-worker of mine was served up on a platter to provide a shield for a booted double play and the collapse of a ballclub. Always the analyst, I spotted the true curse: a bad, broken product that gave the Cubs an actual chance at the playoffs only once a decade, and when it happened the pressure was high and the team unsustainable. This was life.
Then, the team was sold and the new owner hired a man who had broken a similar ‘curse’ in Boston. He let the Cubs be bad, used resources to massively overhaul scouting and international presence. He signed players to flip them for prospects, and took many steps he knew would be unpopular with fans and the media. I embraced it and continue to because nothing in my life has worked with them. This feels different. Who knows. It might actually work.
Joel Cummins, 41, Venice, CA
I became a Cubs fan because my dad took me to many games as a very young kid while he simultaneously coached my Little League teams. Dad taught me about the intricacies of the game, including how to keep score, what to watch for and how to play by the rules. He made sure that I knew how magical a ballpark Wrigley Field was. My fandom was solidified in 1984 at the age of 9 years old when I saw my Cubs make the playoffs for the first time. Ryne Sandberg was one of the main reasons I loved the Cubs – he was a consummate professional on both offense & defense, often coming through in the clutch. Since the arrival of Theo Epstein & crew my love for the Cubs has only grown, and thanks to much of the great beat writing & online conversation surrounding the team, my understanding of nearly every facet of the game is even deeper. The most fun of all of this is that I feel like I’m still becoming an even bigger Cubs fan with every day.
Ryan Davis, 30, Springfield, USA
How do I even begin to explain my interest in the Cubs? I grew up in Central Illinois, which is heavily populated by Cardinals fans. My parents, while Cubs fans, weren’t diehards while I was growing up. Generally, there wasn’t a Cubs game on our television. When I tried to play youth baseball, I can vividly remember telling my mom to write down that I was a Cardinals fan to be printed on my “baseball card,” because all my friends were Cardinals fans and I had no idea what the difference was. One wore red and one wore blue, I guess.
Fast forward to 1998, and baseball started to become a more regular thing in my house. I was now 12 years old and starting to build an interest. It was an interesting place to be, in that my choice of baseball team aligned with the home run race of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The Cubs were good that year, winning the Wild Card play-in game and being swept by the Braves in the playoffs. It was Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game and rookie year, it was Sosa’s 62 and 63 against the Brewers, it was emulating Mark Grace’s batting stance at school. That’s right, I was faced with an “all things even” decision, and chose the Cubs over the Cardinals. Everything about the Cubs was so alluring. How could I not be a Cubs fan?
Of course, the Cubs broke my heart in 1999. They broke my heart in September of 2001. They broke my heart in October of 2003. They broke my heart in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2009. They’ll break my heart again. But I couldn’t imagine rooting for any other team.
Beth Brandt, 55, parts unknown
I grew up near Joliet IL in an extended family of rabid Cubs fans. However, baseball didn’t interest me, despite the social pressure. In high school I followed the White Sox just for attention from my family, which worked great! Teasing them was fun, but watching games wasn’t, so that lasted just one season. I got even more attention when I didn’t switch to the Cubs, but baseball bored me. I became very interested in NFL football & still love my Chicago Bears.
Fast forward to 2005: I’m in St Louis (!) with a graduate degree in psychology, divorced with kids, and I meet a guy who’s a Bears fan and we enjoyed discussing them. He also talked a lot about the Cubs/”The Curse.” I don’t believe in curses, but I was polite and listened without much interest.
Then, The Revolution started: Theo Epstein hired! Reverse the Curse! 5 year plan! Cubs becoming perennial contenders! I thought, “If this works, it’ll be the greatest psychological experiment in sports history! I gotta watch this!!!!”
So I followed Theo, I followed The Plan, organizational changes, trades and draft picks. I followed those “kids” and their minor league progress. I enjoyed people’s reactions, positive and negative, to The Plan’s progress.
2015: those “kids” started appearing and I cheered them. They did GREAT! Even went deep into the playoffs! Amazingly I won the lottery for NLCS tickets, and saw them at Wrigley…
Rian Watt, 23, Washington, DC
I became a fan midair, little feet pitter-pattering across dark lawns and through latched fences, flying through the suburban nights of October, 2003, to the neighbor’s house where they were watching the Cubs, and would let me watch with them. My family didn’t have a TV back then—we wouldn’t, in fact, until I left for college some years later—and when it came to the playoffs, I felt then that radio just wouldn’t cut it.
I’d found the team through the pages of the Tribune’s sports section that spring, when the bright colors and loud headlines first caught my eye across the breakfast table, and pulled me to box scores I didn’t understand and descriptions of a game I’d never played. As my fascination grew with the summer, I found WGN Radio—I don’t remember how, now—and I spent hours that June, July, and August locked in my room, bouncing a tennis ball off my wall to the speakers’ static beat.
Radio forces you to think at the speed of the game. There’s no banner to tell you the score, no cutaway shots to remind you who’s on base or where the fielders are positioning themselves. You have to work it all out yourself. I’m glad I found the game that way. Every time I use words to describe a game in my writing, I’m building on its legacy. So even though I flew through the night air that October in search of a television, I’ll never forget that the game found me in the air, too, in the soft crackle of radio waves.
Sahadev Sharma, 35, Chicago
Covering the Cubs and Sox has made me much less of a fan. I wouldn’t call myself a fan anymore because even when I’m at a game with friends and not working, I no longer cheer, I don’t yell at my TV at home and the way I watch the game has changed. It had to otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do my job properly. I still love the game with a passion, so I’m certainly a huge fan of the game, but I struggle to say the same about a particular team. But to get to the point, I was a fan at one time and I took a sort of circuitous route. I grew up in the north suburbs of Chicago in a decently sized town called Libertyville. Originally I rooted for the New York Mets because I had more Keith Hernandez baseball cards than any other player — seven-year-old logic, right? So for a few years I casually followed the game, but was never really a true fan. In 1990 I watched baseball on a daily basis for the first time (the previous World Series — the Bay Area Series interrupted by the earthquake — caught my attention) and I fell in love with the Cubs. In particular, I fell in love with Ryne Sandberg, who in my adolescent mind was hitting a home run on what seemed like a daily basis. He’d end the season with a league-leading 40, which just seemed mind-blowing to me at the time. I’d make plenty more memories with the North Siders along the way, but it was Sandberg and the summer of 1990 that got me hooked.
Sam Black, 30, Jacksonville, IL
As a child growing up in west-central Illinois I was deep in “Cardinal Nation.” We only had 3 channels on the TV, so I didn’t watch much baseball unless I was at my grandma’s in northern Illinois, where WGN was always on. My fascination with the Cubs had begun. For my 7th birthday my family packed the van for a trip to grandma’s house. After a 4 hour ride Dad asked, “Sam, what do you see out there?” The Chicago skyline was waiting for me, calling me home to a place I had never known. “Chicago?!” I said with confusion and excitement. My dad reached to the back seat to hand me an envelope that contained 4 tickets. We were going to see the Cubs! We drove around Wrigley as my hands and face were glued to the window. The people. The sounds. The smells. The marquee. The excitement of waiting to get my ticket ripped and handed back to me. It was all a thrill. I remember thinking how big Wrigley was. My child’s mind couldn’t fathom it seeming any larger. Silly child. The Chicago Cubs and Wrigley field will always be growing with me. New memories and experiences will pile on top of the previous. I am Sam Black, a 30 year old kid who became a Cubs fan because my parents spent their extra money on 4 pieces of perforated cardstock that changed my life forever.
Missy Baer, 35, Columbus, OH
My parents were married in a church on Addison and I was born only a few miles from Wrigley so my fandom was pretty inevitable. But my love for the team wasn’t truly cemented until I left Chicago.
We moved to Ohio when I was 8. Unlike my accent, which I worked desperately to erase (2nd graders are super understanding about regional accents), my love for our team grew stronger. The Cubs were home. They were my grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles; they were family. And it was important to me to stay close, to be able to talk about the season with my grandma when we visited and a game was inevitably playing on her small kitchen TV. I wanted to know who was on the field when my uncle took us to Wrigley. We were the only family to leave Illinois and it made me feel like I still belonged.
Back in Ohio, my Cubs obsession remains long after the accent has (mostly) disappeared, and I love sharing it with those close to me. Taking my best friends to Wrigley after high school graduation felt like bringing a boyfriend home to meet the parents. My husband proved his understanding of my Cubs love when he surprised me with a trip to Chicago, proposing after we left Wrigley.
I’ve lived here most of my life but Chicago still feels like home and Opening Day brings, along with lots of shouty excitement, the comfort of being with family.
Jimmy Shumar, 42, Indianapolis, IN
I became a Cubs fan because of cable television and Harry Caray.
When I say I became a Cubs fan in 1984, some folks assume I was a bandwagon jumper. But that’s not really the case. First of all, I was ten years old and knew nothing of the Cubs’ losing history prior to that season. Besides, this was early in the ’84 season, before any of the magic happened.
Cable television was in its relative infancy in those days, and we were among the first in our neighborhood to get it. As my dad and I sat one day exploring this strange new world of 40-something channels, we came across a baseball game. To this day, I can still remember my dad saying, “That sounds like Harry Caray.” My dad had listened to Harry do St. Louis Browns games back in the mid-40s. So, we started watching, first because of Harry, and then because we fell in love with the team. And we fell hard and fast.
That year’s NLCS is still one of my most painful sports memories, and we’d only been fans for a few months. We skipped Sunday school to watch game five. To this day, my dad says if we had taped the game and gone to Sunday school, the Cubs would have won. That winter we went on the Cubs Cruise, where I played paddle tennis with Tim Stoddard and chess with Gary Matthews, and I was hooked.
Jeff Burton, 40, Springfield, IL
While it seems like I have been a Cubs fan my whole life, I can pinpoint the first time I realized the Cubs were going to be a major part of my life: the Sandberg game. I was 7, going on 8, and while my family had always been Cub fans, before June 23, 1984 it was more of an ‘if they’re on, I’ll watch’ kind of thing for me. But lying on my grandparents’ family room floor, watching Ryno hit the tying home run off Bruce Sutter in the 9th, and then hit ANOTHER tying home run in the 10th, I was hooked. Soon, I was one of the initial members of The Die-Hard Cubs Fan Club, begging for trips to Wrigley, and glued to the TV after school to watch that 1984 team take it all the way to the NLCS. I’ll never forgive Steve Garvey and those Padres for making an 8-year-old cry. Ryno’s .314/19/84 is still burned into my brain. Cut to 6 years later, and I’ll never forget my opportunity to throw out the first pitch at Wrigley, thanks to my uncle (RIP Uncle Dean). High and outside, but still. And now, 32 years after that ’84 team won my heart, I am just as excited for the coming season as I ever have been. The Cubs have meant the world to me for as long as I can remember, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So let’s #FlyTheW, because #WeAreGood. It’s our time. Go Cubs!
Ryan Mathew, 30, Springfield, IL
I feel like I’ve always been a fan of the Cubs, at least as far back as I can remember. It’s a family thing. My dad and both granddads were and are die-hards, and that’s been passed on to me. One of my earliest memories is coming home from grade school and plopping down on my grandpa’s couch to watch a Cubs game with him. It’s something I really hope to pass on to my new son.
Jeff Falk, 43, Omaha, NE
I became a Cubs fan because of Harry Caray.
Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, I didn’t have a local team to root for. Until that day. I don’t remember the exact date but I’ll never forget the moment. It was in the summer of 1982 when my family got cable TV for the first time. As luck would have it, WGN was on channel 2. When our cable was turned on that afternoon, the Cubs were playing. I had only been watching for a few minutes when this white-haired man with thick glasses leaned out of the booth and sang “Take me out to the ballgame…” I was instantly hooked.
Baseball was oftentimes boring for a young kid but Harry changed that. It was like watching the game with your grandpa (if your grandpa was overly excited and liked to spell people’s names backwards and then try to pronounce them).
I lost my dad 10 years ago but I’ll never forget the countless hours we spent watching Cubs games together. My mom doesn’t like sports but she loves the Cubs and I’ve been able to watch many games with her as well. And my little brother also became a huge fan and we’ve attended several games at Wrigley Field through the years (including games 3 and 4 of the NLDS last year).
And I owe it all to Harry Caray. Even now, whenever something exciting happens with the Cubs, I find myself imagining how Harry would have made the call.
Zach Bernard, 24, Fort Wayne
When I was four years old in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, I spent an awful lot of time with my grandfather. I asked a lot of him at that age, whether it involved food, play, or watching Aladdin for the hundredth time. And he always entertained these things, under one condition: we had to get through the next inning — or the end — of the Cubs game.
Sports skipped a generation in my family, so I never had direct access through my parents. Instead of begging for instant gratification I sat with Grandpa, watched and asked questions about the game and players. And I learned. Soon, this evolved into him giving me his oversized mitts and going out to the backyard on summer evenings, learning how to play catch. He taught me how to hit. He once told me he played professionally for a few years — I never looked into that, because some stories are best left in place.
It became an obsession, and by 1998 — when Sammy Sosa shocked the world with 66 home runs and the Cubs went to the playoffs — I was fully invested. Even though I lived on the White Sox side of town, I loved my Cubs.
Until Grandpa died in 2005, the Cubs were our thing, and to this day not a Cubs game goes by without him in mind. That’s the mark he left.
Tom Selleck, 31, Hawaii
I’m a Cubs fan for a couple different reasons. Growing up, WGN and TBS were the only “superstations” that were playing baseball in Iowa. The Cubs were closer and seemed like the cool team to go with. The other main reason was because of my grandfather. Being raised by my grandparents, I was always around him and his dreaded Cardinals. Because we couldn’t get too many games in Iowa, he and I would watch the Cubs on WGN after school when I was little. Even though he clearly hated Ryne Sandberg, he also respected him. And because Grandpa respected him, that made me like him even more. Grandpa always said the Cubs would never amount to anything as long as “that drunk is in the booth,” because Harry did so much to influence what happened on the field.
I remember my first visit to Wrigley. Grandpa had passed away that fall, but as I walked into Wrigley for a night game against the Cardinals I could feel him with me. There was a sense of being “home” in that stadium that made me pull even harder for my Cubs. I will never forget that feeling of walking up the concourse and seeing the field for the first time. Nothing like it in the world. That’s why the Cubs and Wrigley are so special, that even sad memories can be made happy again.
Sam Bailey, Chicago
It’s a Cubs city. Even Sox fans can’t argue. But why? What is it that drives people not only in Chicago but all over the country to blindly follow an organization that is the model of futility and heartbreak? I have asked myself these questions too many times to even count. So many losses, so much disappointment, so much bad luck and still we follow. Hope. That is what it comes down to. A hope that one day the Cubs will win it all and we can all celebrate in our own way. I myself will be at that final game and soak it in with the other faithful. Through all of the good teams and bad, there was always hope and a belief that one day the Cubs would be champs. “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” We have to believe in something and I choose to believe that this is our year.
My mom loves to tell the story of a 2-year-old, fiercely tomboy-ish me building a bat out of Legos and then swinging it in the front yard. That day, I was wearing my Cubbie Bear shirt with blue pinstripes. I’ve never not been a Cubs fan.
Catherine Sobilo, 20, Evanston, IL
I became a Cubs fan because my dad was a fair-weather fan. He loved to read the newspaper and he came from a sports family. We would listen to Ron and Pat on the radio when he drove me to gymnastics. He would gently rib me for loving the Cubs as much as I did on the years that they were mediocre. I would defend them every time.
When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, the Cubs became our ritual. Every day when I got home from school, we would watch or listen. He was put on hospice when I was 13 in 2008, and he died in early June. When the Cubs were swept in the postseason, it was weightier than ever before.
The Cubs beat the Cardinals to clinch their spot in the NLCS on his birthday this year, and to me, what the Cubs stand for — loyalty, determination, and a whole lotta fun — is alive and well. I’ll be cheering the Cubs on Opening Day wearing my dad’s old Cubs hat, and loving every minute of it.
Ron Sklansky, 65, Madison, WI
This is from 1956 when I was five years old:
During that time I sometimes met my father outside our front door on the second floor landing as he came home from work. He would come up the stairs and I would jump into his arms about three or four steps from the top. One day I didn’t jump. As he approached, I stood with my hand on the end of the banister and asked him which baseball team was his favorite. He put his hand on mine and said that his favorite team was the Cubs. I said that the Cubs were my team, too. That is not some sugar-coated memory. It happened just like that. As I look back, I seriously wonder what my life would have been like if I had decided to back some other baseball team. What if I hadn’t loved my father so much? What if I had looked up to my brother and asked him? He was a White Sox fan. Would I have become a different person? Probably.
There are many other Cub references in my life story, including my first game at Wrigley in 1961; then when my parents left town, brother and I “steal” car (parents never find out) and drive to Wrigley in 1967 for 6-3 win v. the Reds and see Rose spike Ernie at first.
And on and on and on. Like any other Cub fan, I’ve seen a lot, enjoyed a lot, and suffered a lot.
Chace Bryson, 37, Antioch, CA
I became a Cubs fan because they kidnapped Optimus Prime.
Sometime in late 1986, my family got cable television for the first time. Somehow, our basic cable package in rural Northern California featured WGN among its 25+ channels. As a second-grader who would get home from school at 2 p.m. (4 p.m. CST) it didn’t take long for me to figure out that WGN was home to G.I. Joe and Transformers, which would air back-to-back right around the time I got home.
Then spring came. And suddenly my hour of action toons were often replaced by Cubs baseball. We lived too far north of the Bay Area for regular A’s or Giants telecasts, so the 1987 Cubs were the first team I really dug into and followed.
My affections stuck — fully engrained during the 1989 season (eff Will Clark). After several mowed lawns to pay my own airfare, my dad took me to see my first two games at Wrigley in the Summer of 1992.
Ten years later, working at a newspaper in the Bay Area, I asked a co-worker out for a drink. During our conversation, her eyes lit up when I mention I’m a Cubs fan. Her grandfather had coached Jeff Pico in Little League and her mom’s side of the family was full of Cubs fans.
We got married in 2007. Our wedding day gifts to each other — without having discussed it at all — were personalized bricks from the Wrigley Field paving project.
That…was…awesome. I just want to once again thank everyone who provided me with a story and then trusted me to share it. I am at a loss to really describe how cool it was to comb through my emails and hear from people on Twitter over the course of this little project. One thing that really jumped out at me, and I’m sure you too, was the sense of family. Not just that our relatives helped draw us to the team, but that the Cubs actually feel like family, like home. As I read through some of these, I found myself dusting off little aspects of my own fandom and at times even polishing them off with the tears I dabbed from the corners of my eyes. I am truly honored to be a part of this community of fans, crazy though we may sometimes be, and it continues to amaze me that you allow me to narrate a portion of the action for you.
So we got close to 8,000 words here, and it’s still not done. The plan is to keep adding to it, so if you found yourself reading this and thinking you should have submitted your own, fear not. My email will remain open to anyone who would like to share, so feel free to send me your story at email@example.com.