Like many Cubs fans, I do not live in Chicago. Although born and raised on the North Side, I currently cheer and blog from Charlotte, NC. We have an active fan base here in the Queen City (sorry, Cincy, we’re the real one), at the center of which is a group called the Charlotte Area Cubs Fans. We meet to watch about one Cubs game a month, plus all playoff games, and take road trips to minor league affiliate games in the Southeast.
Earlier this month, we gathered to watch Cole Hamels’ debut. It was a pleasant game, with the Cubs jumping out to an early four-run lead and never being threatened thereafter. This meetup was also designated “Old School Cubs Night,” with all members encouraged to wear their oldest gear and share old stories and memorabilia. Four brave fans joined me on a stormy Wednesday night and did just that. I thought y’all might enjoy hearing our tales.
The president of our group is Nebraska native Tim Emery, who inherited his fandom from a grandfather in his childhood. Though he may not be a Chicagoan by birth, no one who has ever seen him cheer on the Cubs would ever doubt his loyalty. I have some rather amusing video of him shouting almost incoherently to a packed bar after Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.
Tim is a fellow 40-year-old, although he proudly proclaims himself a child of the Gerald Ford transition rather than the Carter era, as I am. We discovered that we both share the 1984 Cubs as our first significant baseball memories. Tim’s contribution to our show-and-tell was his light-up bobble head commemorating the first night game at Wrigley. He also professed his devotion to the ancient trio of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance as his favorite former Cubs.
Our elder stateswoman, Debbie, shared stories of the Cubs from her childhood in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Despite living through the collapse of the ‘69 Cubs, Debbie cited the Bartman Game as her worst Cubs’ memory. Her favorite player was Bill Madlock, whose MVP performance in the 1975 All-Star Game was her favorite old memory. Debbie also proclaimed Hamels quite the dreamboat.
That sentiment was also endorsed by Kristen, an Indiana native who ruefully admitted she has only been to Wrigley Field once, at age 4 (which she does not even remember). Kristen was the baby of this group and grew up watching Mark Grace, who she proclaimed her favorite player. She is also a Notre Dame fan and enjoyed the news scroll during the game announcing Urban Meyer’s administrative leave from Ohio State. The schadenfreude was strong.
My final fellow fan, Paul, did not share much in the way of stories. As an introvert myself, I can respect a person who just wants to enjoy the game and a beer in peace.
As for me, I brought my childhood Cubs hat signed by Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks himself. Unfortunately, my ticket stub from the Bartman Game was back at my folks’ house in Chicago. But I described the electric atmosphere that day, which remains one of my fondest Cubs memories even if the outcome was heartbreaking.
Yet my favorite memory remains the 2016 World Series run, though for different reasons than most. My memories of October 2016 are about new family. One advantage of cheering on the Cubs from afar is that the local fan group becomes a small family. Watching a game in a Wrigleyville bar is a wonderful experience, but you are unlikely to see the same people the next game. Here in Charlotte, we see the same faces game after game and get to know each other. I attended virtually every playoff-game meetup during the 2016 run and made a lot of new friends doing it.
Those friends came in handy during Game 7. Prior to Game 3 of the World Series, my first child decided to arrive six weeks early. True Cubs nerds out there will understand when I say I consider my daughter’s birthday to be Thursday, AC 0000108. I watched what I could of games 3-6 from my wife’s hospital room as she slept through pain meds. But come Game 7, my wife insisted I rejoin our group. Our bar was packed that night as three hundred people attended, taking every seat in the house and overwhelming the wait staff, resulting in hour-long waits for food and drinks.
I arrived late, mid-1st inning. In any other bar, I would have watched the game standing and hungry. But not among my new friends. One man I had not known a month earlier squeezed himself into a booth to clear a chair for an exhausted new father. Another new friend, Nebras, made sure I did not go hungry by sharing half of her food. It was a special night during a special week.
So if all y’all ever find yourself in Charlotte, join us for a game (info on dates, times, etc). We’ll save a seat for you.
Bonus Feature – Daydream Cubs: 1995
In a parallel universe where Moshe was transported back as GM of the 1981 Cubs, we rejoin the Daydream Cubs. For a full explanation of what is going on here, this original post explains it all. Click here for 1994, or here for a summary all drafts & rosters to date.
Here are the 1995 Daydream Cubs.
For those wondering, Grudz’ is short for Mark Grudzielanek; best known in Chicago for being part of the 2003 Cubs and best known elsewhere for having a name that never properly fit on a jersey (or in a spreadsheet). I am forced to use Grudzielanek as our shortstop because, even with hindsight, almost no MLB shortstops exist outside of the first round or the international market.
Those paying close attention will notice the 1995 Daydream Cubs have a payroll that exceeds the real-life Cubs. This deficit exists not because the Daydream Cubs are running an expensive roster. To the contrary, the mid-90’s Braves, playing in a smaller market, were running $60 million payrolls. Rather, the real-life Cubs were incredibly stingy during the mid-90’s. Thankfully the Daydream Cubs ran a combined $19 million in surplus from 1993 and 1994. Rule 3 allows me to use this surplus to fund the Daydream Cubs through their real-life counterparts’ cheapness.
1995 Draft: (#) Player’s real-life selection round; AS= All-Star; GG = Gold Glove.
- Round 1: Carlos Beltran (2) – CF: AS (x9), GG (x3)
- Round 2: Ryan Dempster (22) – SP: AS (x2)