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Trials, tribulations, and, yes, joys of being a Cubs fan
(or Reflections of a longtime Cub fan)

by Jack Cullen

Text prepared by Donna Rae Eilts

In the light of the conclusion of the most recent Cubs season, which has renewed familiar pangs, I am moved to write the following piece.

It is a personal catharsis of my feelings, so please indulge me; some of you may even empathize.

I became a Chicago Cubs fan shortly after moving to Minonk in the early summer of 1947. I was eight years old, my brother Gail seven. Our neighbors were the Dishinger family, loyal Cubs fans all, and they had soon recruited my brother and me into the unique and loyal fraternity/sorority of CUBDOM. I remained a loyal Cubs fan all my life although my brother during the late forties and through the fifties, being more practical and understanding that it is healthy to avoid agony and distress become enamored of Joe D'Maggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Tommy Heinrich, Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds and company and evolved to a Yankees fan. Later, after moving to a Chicago suburb, he became a good Cubs fan and his wife and daughter and her family are loyal Cubs fans today.


I saw my first Cubs game during the summer of 1949. My Aunt Gladys took my brother and me on the annual trek by the Minonk Summer Recreational League to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play.

The New York Giants defeated the Cubs 11-3. Johnny Mize, Sid Gordon, Bobby Thomson, and Whitey Lockman were some of the Giants players. For the Cubs that day, we saw Phil Cavaretta, Andy Pafko, Roy Smalley, and Hank Sauer play. Hank hit a homerun. I remember that most fly balls looked like a homerun at first.

I was in awe of Wrigley Field. The sound of the vendors hawking their wares, the roar of the crowd, the huge centerfield scoreboard, not to mention the ivy covered walls. The impeccably manicured infield was also impressive.

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I was hooked! I was a Cubs Fan for life.

Even though they had losing seasons from when I first followed them through the fifties and into the sixties, I recall that in 1952 they finished at exactly .500, 77-77 and it seemed like they won everyday. Bob Rush, Warren Hacker and Paul Minner had winning records as pitchers. Dutch Leonard, a knuckler, was the main guy in the bullpen. Frankie Baumholtz finished second to Stan Musial batting crown. Hank Sauer hit 37 homers, drove in 121 runs and was NL MVP.

It wasn't easy being a Cub fan, but many of my friends were so it was ok.

We all suffered together.

Some Cardinal fans were a bane and a pain. The Cardinals were usually in the race and competitive. They also beat the Cubs more than the Cubs beat them. Stan Musial, Marty Marion, Red Schoedienst and Enos (Country) Slaughter played smart, hustling baseball. And, of course, they had a certain gravelly voiced announcer who always heralded how great the Cardinals were.

Sox fans seemed to be more low-key and mild mannered (in the late 40's and through the 50's)-perhaps a reflection of their announcer, Bob Elson. I was listening to his (Elson's) radio broadcast when the Sox clinched the pennant against Cleveland in late September of 1959. Bob Elson's voice cracked as he called out, "The Sox have won the pennant! The Sox have won the pennant!" Jim Rivera, Nellie Fox, Louie Aparicio, Jim Landis, Billy Pierce and Early Wynn were among the fine players on that 1959 Sox team that brought a pennant to the Southside.

I remember listening to Cubs games on the front porch of the Dishinger home. Mary Lou taught me how to keep score.

There was (and is) a certain mystique to being a Cubs fan.

You didn't exactly know why you were a Cubs fan, but you knew you had to stick with them. Like hope springs eternal in the human breast. You were a family and you do not forsake your family.

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During and after college I attended anywhere from 4 to 6 Cubs games a year with friends and family.

Then in the mid-sixties, several young players, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert along with MR. CUB, Ernie Banks began to become more competitive. Ferguson Jenkins and Ken Holtzman became fine pitchers. The Cubs posted winning records in 1967 and 1968-two consecutive winning seasons! WOW! Cub fans became rabid-the "Bleacher Bums" evolved. Cub fans wore caps, T-shirts, and jackets with unbridled pride. Then came the bittersweet (or sweet-bitter) season of 1969. The Cubs led the league for most of the season-had an 8 game lead in mid-August. But the Mets came on at a fantastic pace and by-passed the Cubs in mid-September-the Cubs finished 8 games back. A sad end to a great season. During the Mets surge and the Cubs decline, on September 10, 1969, my daughter, Stacey, was born. That event may have prevented me from jumping off the McClugage Bridge into the Illinois River. I was given a good dose of perspective in life.

They had winning seasons the next three years, but by 1973 they were back to where they had been in the 1950's-consistent losing records.

Fast forward to 1984-another grand season that ended unhappily. Ryne Sandberg, Jody Davis, Leon Durham, Keith Moreland and company won the division. Won the first two games against San Diego at a five game series and headed to California needing to win one game to go to the World Series! We're all thinking of a repeat of the 1945 World Series - CUBS Vs TIGERS! WOW! Such Anticipation! But-But the Cubs are swept all three games. Again, the holy grail of baseball, a trip to the World Series is denied. Fans and others wonder about "THE BILLY GOAT CURSE."

Then we all know of the move recent disappointments of 1989 and 1998. And now, again, the Cubs lead their fans to the edge of ecstasy only to fail to take the last step. We are again left waiting for next year. But we are grateful for the unexpected success which the Cubs did achieve this year. Dusty Baker did a fine job. Prior and Wood, Patterson, Ramirez, Choi and others give hope for the future.

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Being a Cub fan is just like experiencing life. Most of us experience many little joys, a few big ones, and we have more than a few disappointments-some even tragic-but we cannot quit-for then, hope is lost.

You don't have to be a Cub fan to cope with life, but it helps.

One was once said, "Being a Cubs fan is like having an unfaithful lover, they keep disappointing you, but you keep going back to them."

Cub fans will be backing their team stronger than ever in 2004. CUB FANS DON'T QUIT!! P.S. I saw a statement on a church marquee that stated, "GOD LOVES THE CUBS!"