Family and the National Pastime

Baseball is a game unique among other sports. The clock doesn’t matter. It’s one guy playing offense against the entire other team that are trying their best to stop him. And baseball, it’s about family.

Start a conversation with someone about baseball, as many of us have been doing since last night’s classic Game 7, and you will soon mention your family connection to the mom
sport. People will share about a parent that took them to their first game or Uncle Joe that was a diehard Yankees fan. The relationship with family is something very special about baseball.

So I am going to bore you with mine.

My folks were not big sports fans so it was rather unusual when, at the age of ten, my Mom sat me down and explained the National Pastime to me. It was October 1965 and I was home with the chicken pox. There I was, propped up on the couch, face and chest dotted with calamine lotion. Mom turned on the old black & white television and we watched the Dodgers and the Twins in the World Series.

As we watched the game Mom would explain things to me and I watched in awe as Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale mowed down the Twins. It was so exciting! There were guys named Podres, Brewer, Mudcat and Killbrew. She told me about visiting Ebbets Field and watching the Bums play in Brooklyn. I learned about Jackie Robinson and how a simple sport can change the world.  I’ll never forget that week at home with my Mom and the Dodgers.

So I grew up an LA Dodger fan. Not and easy life here in a town full of San Francisco Giant’s fans. But then a funny thing happened. I moved and my cable TV provider changed. They offered new channels including WGN. Cubs games. It didn’t take long before the Wrigley magic had me. The ivy. The old scoreboard. The fans on the neighboring rooftops. The W or L flags hoisted for the riders on the L Tracks to know if the Cubbies had won or lost that day. Freaking Harry Caray! Phrases like “Holy cow” and “Cubs win!” Always sounding like he’s half in the bag when he leads the crowd in Take Me out to the Ballgame. “The Friendly Confines” had me forever.

So I began to share my allegiance between the Cubs and the Dodgers. And I knew my Mom would love all the little details that made Wrigley and the Cubs so special. I set hescanr up with a year of cable TV with, you guessed it, WGN. I’d call her every day to tell her what time the Cubs were playing and she was hooked pretty quickly. She loved Sammy Sosa. My Dad would rib her by calling him Sammy So-So and they would quibble. Mom and I even took a quick trip to Wrigley in the 90s just to say we had stood in the 7th inning stretch and sang with Harry. We had a sandwich at the Billy Goat Inn and saw that cursed goats head over the bar. Great memories.

Now my mom also passed along a love of baseball to my daughter Natasha. She fed her granddaughter cookies and they watched the Cubbies play on TV. I am certain she received all the education about the game that I did so many years earlier. And another Cubs fan was born.

My daughter is one of the most dedicated Chicago Cubs fans I know. She knows the game better than most and lives and dies with her “boys.” She has been sporting her Harry Caray inspired license plates for years proclaiming “Cubs Win” She is an amazing young woman and I am so proud of her.

So the last couple weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions. The playoffs. The Dodgers and the Cubs head to head for the pennant! Talk about conflicted! The tension. The drama. The Cubs pushed through it all. To playing in a Game 7 in the World Series. Doesn’t get more dramatic than that. But the Cubs take it higher. Get the lead then lose the lead. Going into overtime! God I can’t stand it! And then it rains.

And the Cubs come back out focused as can be and put it away. Cubs win…

And through it all there are the thoughts of family. My daughter crying with joy. My Mom looking down and smiling like she just saw Sammy hitting a “hot grounder.”

So there was a moment today in a green grass covered place, much like a place they might play ball. At the corner of Oak and Sequoia in a quiet cemetery. I spent a moment with my Mom. “We did it Mom. Finally. Your Cubbies are champions of the world!”


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