Reasons to be Cubs fan- For Dan Durak

Last week, my cousin sent a Snapchat while drinking a Goose Island beer. I returned a Snapchat also drinking a Goose Island beer (we’re so hip to the social media) I commented to him “good choice because Chicago whether in the form of beer or baseball is always a good decision.” No one in my family is a baseball fan, they all prefer Hockey and football, which is totally acceptable as I too am a fan of hockey and football, but to me, nothing matters more than my Cubs. After snapchatting our beers back and forth for a few minutes my cousin noted that he would like to go to Chicago as he wants to start traveling more, he also said “hey maybe I can be a Cubs fan” to which I replied in full caps lock, spilling my beer in excitement “YOU SHOULD” then I proceeded to give him several reasons why he should, before deciding to make him an official list of why he should be a Cubs fan. While there are hundreds of reasons to be a Cubs fan I submit for your reading pleasure 10 reasons that being a Cubs fan is the best thing in the world, in no particular order, below.

WRIGLEY FIELD: In 1914 the holy temple that is Wrigley was built as Weegham Park and that corner of Addison and Clark has never been the same. Renamed Wrigley Field in 1927 when the team was purchased by the chewing gum (formerly soap) magnate William Wrigley Jr. In 1937 the Ivy was planted and the scoreboard erected and up until 1988 when the lights were installed Wrigley stood fairly unchanged for half a century. Even now in 2016 with the 1060 Project in full swing the club is working to keep the integrity of the most historic ball park in the country. The friendly confines harkens back to the old days of baseball, the hand-operated scoreboard, the flags indicating if Lake Michigan has decided it will be a pitchers or hitters day, the smell of hot dogs and frosty malts; it’s all nostalgia and Wrigley Field is king.

MYTHOLOGY: One of my usual pilgrimages when I arrive in Chicago is to head to the Billy Goat Tavern for a Cheezborger Cheezeborger and an Old Style (because nothing tastes quite like a century of losing as does crappy beer.) In 1945 the owner of the Billy Goat was asked to leave game 4 of the World Series vs the Tigers because he brought his pet goat (Murphy) with him. Billy Sianis (the owner) then yelled out that the Cubs would no longer win, they went on to lose in the 1945 World Series and they haven’t won a World Series since 1908, thus instilling the old adage that Crazy old Greek dudes with pet goats should not be trifled with.

THE BLEACHER BUMS: True bleachers, an unassigned bench seat with no cover from the direct sunlight during those summer day games, the bleacher bums are historically rowdy. In the 80’s the Cubs played a lot more mid-week day games and the “bleacher bum” crowd was cantankerous, once even pouring a beer on poor Keith Moreland’s head. They often sat in various degrees of undress, throwing back the opposing team’s home run balls and drinking beer. Former Cubs manager, Lee Elia, said in 1983 after the incident involving Keith Moreland “85 percent of the f***ing world is working, the other 15 come out here.”  The bleacher bums are a bit calmer now, but their zeal for the team hasn’t died down one bit, and yes opposing team’s home run balls, still get thrown back onto the field.

JOE MADDON: A recent upgrade to life as a Cubs fan is skipper Joe Maddon. He is smart, he is feisty, he invites zoo animals and mimes to spring training and he loves being part of this team. Maybe I’m prejudiced because the team has been doing well under his direction but I must say he is my favorite manager in recent memory, and the Cubs have had some doozies.

FLY THE W: I’ve had to explain this concept to countless friends and family members over the years, especially last season when the Cubs rally towel during playoffs was in fact the white flag with a “W” on it. My Met fans friends kept asking if we were surrendering. Atop the scoreboard at Wrigley is a series of flags on a mast. At the very top flies Old Glory, the lowest level holds the pennants of each team in the National league in order of their current standings in their division. At mid staff there is a crossbar, at the end of all Cubs games a flag is raised to either the left or right field side of the cross bar. If the Cubs lose, a blue flag with an “L” is raised to the right field side. Should the Cubs win the left field side of the bar is adorned by a white flag with a “W.” The win and loss flags were originally put in place so that commuters traveling home on the EL would know the result of the game, another great Wrigley tradition. Basically being a regular at Wrigley Field should make any maritime signal flag test you may take in the future really simple.

GO CUBS GO: This goes hand in hand with the flying of the W. If the Cubs win at home, the crowd sings “Go Cubs Go” a Steve Goodman original. Last season a friend who had never been to Wrigley asked me if they sing after every win, or just if it’s extraordinary, like the walk-off homerun win he had witnessed. Nope, every win at home, we Cubs fans have had so little to celebrate over the years that even small victories get celebrated with song.

THE SEVENTH INNING STRETCH: Does it exist in nearly every ball park in America? Yes. Does any other ballpark do it nearly as well as Wrigley Field? No. This is another one I’ve had to explain to people, the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley is not a time for a pee break and to grab another beer, it’s a time to stand, sing and find out who is leading us in song. Since Harry Caray’s death in 1998 a guest “conductor” leads the visiting masses in song each game.  The last game I attended last year saw Pearl Jam front man and renowned Cubs fan Eddie Vedder leading “Take me out the ball game.” Bill Murray, actor/comedian and die hard Cubs fan has been known to drop by and lead us in song. Other notable names, Gary Sinise, Mike Ditka, former Cubs great’s like Ryne Sandberg and Ron Santo, Jeff Gordon and even Ozzy Osbourne, who left something to be desired, non the less the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field is a bigger deal than anywhere else.

THE YOUNG GUNS: More recent additions, which we, Cubbie nation are eternally grateful for- Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and the old man and our king at 26 years old Anthony Rizzo. These guys have breathed new life into the team. Last season the Cubs had the youngest infield in the MLB with Rizzo, Castro, Russell and Bryant, now with the loss of Starlin Castro and the addition of 34 year old Ben Zorbist, they have mostly the youngest infield in the MLB. These guys have meshed so well with the management, they’ve fallen in love with the ball club and the fans have fallen in love with them.

THE HISTORY MAKERS: Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, made famous the nickname of the Friendly Confines. His catchphrase was “let’s play two” because he so loved playing at Wrigley field over the course of his 19 seasons with the team. Ryne Sandberg, this game has a game named after him. In 1984 he hit two game- tying home runs of the St Louis Cardinals closer one in the 9th and one in the 10th inning. Fergie Jenkins, he won 20 games for six seasons straight. Ron Santo, legendary 3rd baseman, played 14 seasons with the Cubs and later went on to be the Cubs color commentator from 1990-2010 when he passed away.  Sweet Swingin’ Billy Williams, 16 years and 392 homeruns.  These guys and many others have been legends at Wrigley for years, some have statues some have banners, but all are legends. Don’t forget kids “heroes get remembered but legends never die.”

HARRY CARAY: Talk about a legend, and a guy with a statue erected in his honor outside the entrance to the bleachers, Harry Caray was as much a part of the Chicago Cubs as any player or manager. He really made “Take me out to the ballgame” what it is today. He would catch foul balls using a net from the broadcast booth, he openly rooted for the Cubs on air, he trained himself to use his catchphrase “Holy Cow” to avoid cursing on air, after a stroke in 1987 he confused players names and sometimes slurred them together, but that didn’t stop him from putting his heart and soul into a team. Caray was a man of the fans, he could’ve been a Bleacher Bum himself and we loved him and continue to love his legacy for everything he brought to that broadcast booth.

That’s it, that’s 10 reasons why being a Cubs fan is the best, and why you should consider becoming one if you aren’t already. The first Cubs game is 10 days away at Angel’s Stadium and the home opener is April 11th, this is your chance become a Cubs fan now!

Go Cubs Go!!

 

The Old and the Young

I finally joined Instagram this week. I’ve been avoiding it for some time because there are only so many forms of social media I can be expected to navigate at one time. That being said, I joined Instagram for the greatest of reasons, the amazing account created by none other than Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant to honor their aged teammate David Ross. The account @grandparossy_3 is meant to document Ross’s 15th and final season in the MLB. David Ross, the 38 year old catcher, seems to be having a great deal of fun with his young teammates, hanging out with Clark, using a walker in the clubhouse at Sloan. Since joining the Cubs in December 2014 Ross has served not only as the personal catcher for Jon Lester but as a mentor to the many young guns on the team. Ross started 72 games last season as catcher, and two occasions served as a relief pitcher, both times pitching perfect innings. Ross became the first position player since 1991 to make multiple pitching appearances as a Cub. On the same day as his second day on the mound, July 26th, he also managed to crush a home run, his first of the season last year.

Grandpa Ross is living up to his name, only when he fools around with the fellas it seems. As far as his in game abilities he is no grandpa. Just yesterday he turned an incredible double play during the Cubs Spring Training home opener. Not only did he make a fantastic diving catch, in which his 38 year old body did a full tumble, he immediately popped up and fired away to get the out at second. If you haven’t seen the play yet, go watch it on the Cubs website, it’s fantastic and will be one of the best catching plays you see all year. Here’s hoping Grandpa Ross keeps it up and makes a memorable go of his final season, we’d love to see as much of his prowess this season as possible, and I hope he continues to be a guidepost for the young guys who seem to love him so much.

Speaking of the young fellas he is helping mentor, today is Kyle Schwarber’s 23rd birthday. Yes I said 23, dear lord what am I doing with my life, the Cubs very own incredible Hulk will start his first full season in the big leagues come April. He is not in the lineup for today’s spring training game, but that isn’t unusual for spring games, especially considering today marks game three for the Cubs cactus league 2016 appearances. Though it still seems uncertain where Schwarber will be put in for the majority of the season, reports are that he showed up to Spring training early to work with the catchers (his primary position in the minors) and continued to work his butt off everywhere Joe Maddon asked him to go. He spent a good amount of time in left field last season, and occasionally made some stellar plays, but it was obvious that he had not been bred as an outfielder so there were a few mishaps that would’ve been routine plays had someone else been at the post, that said, there was no way any of the other fielders could have matched him offensively, hence why Maddon played him there so often.  Earlier this week CSN Chicago noted that Schwarber had been working so hard at both catching, and fielding during spring training that Maddon commented the only problem with Schwarber was that he wants to work too much. There are those that will say Schwarber is destined to move to the American League to be a true Designated Hitter but Schwarber seems happy where he is, playing real baseball in the national league where pitchers have to hit and hitters have to field. With any luck the 23 year old will prove them all wrong. He caught 21 games last year, mostly while Miggy Montero was out on the DL, but he was very clearly a work horse and by all accounts still is. So Happy Birthday to one of the many young Cub heroes and here’s to many more seasons with the Cubs you great big beautiful home run hitter you.

By the way my shameless plug again, let me know if you need tickets and hey since I’m on Instagram now give me a follow @emkiza13 especially if you’re at all interested in seeing pictures of my swell dog Winchester J