Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Tribute to Chicago Baseball

In honor of the Jewish New Year and the Cubs epic collapse, my father's best friend from his childhood decided to write a little letter to my brothers and I explaining the 1969 season how he and my father had experienced it. It is eloquently written, funny, and insightful. It gives a look into the changing landscape of the city during the late 1960's as well as a look at how while certain things change, some will always stay the same. This is a must-read for every Chicago baseball fan:

Dear [Brothers],

As we begin the Jewish year of "69" I wish to take you back to the secular year of "69".

In the spring of 1969 two young boys on the SouthSide of Chicago were counting the days before they were forced to leave their beloved neighborhood. They had for some time been unable to attend the neighborhood movie theaters and playing sports at one of the local parks had became dangerous to ones health. Their friends had been steadily streaming out of the the neighborhood and they knew that the shuls, community centers and stores that they knew so well would soon be gone.

In April of 1969 they decided that if there was one thing that could keep them attached to the Southside it was their loyal devotion to "their" baseball team, the White Sox. So they asked one of their mothers to drive them down 47th street to see the Sox play the Seattle Pilots and strengthen their "connection". As they entered the old Comiskey Park they were shocked to find, that also here things were changing for the worse. In this cavernous stadium there were less than 3,000 fans in attendance. Eventually, the Sox would lose the game 5-1, but in the bottom of the 9th with the score 5-0 and less then 1,000 people left in the ballpark the Sox managed to load the bases with no outs. Unfortunately, the rally failed and the boys were reprimanded by the Andy Frain ushers for pounding the empty seats next to them. Of course the young boys were your father and I, and we realized that this was our farewell to Comiskey Park as well for the time being.

By the end of June we were firmly ensconced in West Rogers Park and Lincolnwood; the Sox were 8 games out of the 1st and the "other" Chicago team the Cubs were in 1st by 8 games. Generally our eyes only turned to Wrigley field when the Bear's season started or if we were fortunate enough to get a ticket from my father to one of the games ($7 per ticket). Nonetheless, perhaps it was time for us to take advantage of our new surroundings and see what it was like to see a baseball game at Wrigley.

Your father said we could take the bus down Devon and catch the "L" at Loyola and get off at Addison. Living on the Southside did not lend itself to taking the "L" so we concurred if nothing else would experience a ride on the subway and see a baseball game. As we entered Wrigley Field we were immediately impressed how intimate the park was compared to Comiskey and that for $3.50 we could get unreserved grandstand seats (just above the 3rd base box seats) and follow the action behind the Cubs dugout.

In short, on that day (I don't remember the date) we fell head over heals for the Cubbies and Wrigley Field. Banks, Beckert, Kessinger, Santo, Hundley, Williams, Hickman, Abernathy and Jenkins became our heroes. We must have attended a dozen games between June and the end of the summer, sometimes trying out the bleachers for a buck but mostly sitting in our seat in Section K on the 3rd base line. We followed the box scores, and were thrilled when the entire Cub infield started the 1969 All-Star game. We watched Jack Brickhouse, and listened to Vince Lloyd on the radio to follow late games from the west coast. Our summer of sadness had turned 180 degrees.

Unforunately, we were not educated abpout the Cub legacy and our happiness was about to disappear in a big way. We trully suffered as the Cubs started to melt away in August and how on September 10th of that year the Mets moved into 1st place. We refused to give up hope and were educated for the first time about the "loss" column and the "magic" number....whoa to us. By the 3rd week of September it was over and our hearts were broken. We had been spurned, our hopes shattered, and we said to ourselves that we would never get emotionally involved with this team again. Yes, we continued to go through the motions, getting up at 4AM for Opening Day in 1970 and standing in line in the rain for Billy Williams Day, but by the time we left for Champaign we had returned to our true love, the Sox with Dick Allen.

In any case all of this was written as a prelude in order to say to you guys, " I know how you feel" and I am sorry that the Cubs did not make it to the World Series. However since nearly 40 years has passed since the debacle of 1969; I would like to offer this advice from one who has following baseball for 50 years....find another team as soon as possible! Why subject yourself to the pain and suffering? There are many good alternatives such at the Yankees or Cardinals (you have to admit they have great uniforms) or Angels. Over time you will stop looking at the standings in the NL Central and after that you won't even be aware of the Cubs starting roster. Thinks about it; it will definitely improve your quality of life.

Of course it goes without saying that you are always welcome to join us on the Southside; we would greet you with open arms.

G'mar Hatima Tova

[My Father's Friend]


StevieY19 said...

Yeah, because outside of one playoff run, the life of a Sox fan has been so much more rewarding.

But honestly, this was a great read.

Daniel said...

he shoulda told you guys to root for the dodgers, the only team in the NL with true history and prestige and honor (a team that also doesnt the choke every time they have a speck of a chance of doing anything in the playoffs). good luck in 2108.

StevieY19 said...

Yeah, the Dodgers were good when that Tiger was hitting clutch home runs.

Stormin' Norman Disciple said...

Yeah I'd be a Dodger fan I guess, the only problem is I know about baseball, I don't leave games early, and 99% of my history isn't in another city on the other side of the country. Other than that though...

real stadiums have roofs said...

i was on the 152 addison westbound passing wrigley field today when a well-dressed jewish man in his fifties started yelling and screaming, cursing both wrigley and the cubs. this sad display lasted for an entire red light before the poor man had exhausted himself, and he fell to his knees in tears. at first, i thought he was drunk or maybe schizophrenic, but after a couple blocks, he picked himself up, dried his tears, and proceeded to carry on an intelligent and entirely coherent conversation with a nearby cta passenger about last night's debate and the impact of the future president on his job as a tax attorney. it was then that i realized that the man was not drunk or mentally disturbed - at least in the traditional sense - he had just been worn down, and disappointed once too often, by many years of being a cubs fan, to the point where he could hardly stand the sight of what i'm sure he once considered the friendly confines. so please, short of becoming a brewers fan, i implore you to heed your father's friend's advice, before it's too late.

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