By: Alex Patt
The 2021 Chicago Cubs season will begin in less than two weeks, and for the first time a key member of my family won’t be around to watch it. My grandmother, one of the biggest Cubs fans ever, passed away on January 2nd after battling many health issues. For the first time in my life, I will watch a Cubs season without being able to talk about it with my grandma.
To give an idea of my grandmother’s Cubs fandom, she considered herself an “Original Bleacher Bum” as she would enjoy watching her team from the centerfield bleachers at Wrigley Field in her youth. As a teen/young adult in the 1950s, she would keep score and save the scorecards. She also collected team yearbooks to treasure the memories of each season. Those 1950s Cubs teams were beyond awful outside of Ernie Banks, but that did not matter to her. All that mattered to my grandma was being at the ballgame.
In adulthood, she and my grandpa would take my dad and his siblings to games every summer. My dad loves to talk about all the games he went to as a kid with my grandma, and how they got to watch Ken Holtzman throw a no-hitter in 1969. They would pack picnic lunches (you could do that back then) to bring to the game; fried bologna sandwiches were the go-to lunch. After games they would sometimes go to the player autograph line in the lower concourse area.
In addition to the scorecards and yearbooks, my grandma collected so much Cubs memorabilia over the years. Baseballs, shirts, hats, mugs, posters, bobbleheads, commemorative coins, and of course…the yearly Christmas tree ornaments. She loved gifting her kids and grandkids the official team ornament the Cubs would sell every year. She probably had 20+ years worth of ornaments in her possession before she passed.
One of her best Cubs-related purchases was a brick with our family name on. The brick was placed on the sidewalk around Wrigley Field, with many other bricks bearing the names of fellow Cubs fans. Our brick has been relocated several times since it was purchased in 2007 and is currently located behind the leftfield bleachers on the Waveland Avenue sidewalk. The day grandma died I drove to visit the brick and left a small flower on it.
Of course, I cannot fail to mention my grandma’s happiness in 2016 when the Cubs won it all. She waited 80 years to see that elusive World Series championship. I am just so glad she got to experience a championship in her lifetime. While she was not able to leave the house much by that point and could not firsthand experience the festivities in Chicago around that championship, she watched them on TV and we were able to share our experiences with her. Seeing her happiness that year made the 2016 World Series victory even more special.
Every time I went to a Cubs game I would share the photos/videos I took with my grandma. We would always talk about how the Cubs were doing together no matter how good/bad they were playing. God knows how many times I sat with her on the back porch and watched a Cubs game on that old grainy TV my grandparents had.
For the first time in my 26 years of life, I am going to watch a Cubs season without her being part of it. As Opening Day approaches it has begun to hit me.
The Cubs are more than a baseball team, they are a big part of my life. I owe so much of that to my grandma. This is one of the reasons why I take things about the Cubs so personally. 2021 might not shape up to be a spectacular year for the Cubs but I want to think they have a shot to go far in honor of one of the biggest fans they ever had. I like to think grandma is up in Heaven with a fried bologna sandwich and Cubs hat, waiting for the season to begin. She has the best seat in the house now.
Thank you for making me the Cubs fan I am today, Grandma. I will miss you always.