The '69 Cubs
A memorable summer
Despite the result
Ask Cubs fans which team they love to hate, and chances are good that the answer will be the St. Louis Cardinals. But the team for which I have a particular animosity is the New York Mets. The reason is very simple. The summer of 1969.
I became a serious Cubs fan in the late 1960's. After several summers which included just a few afternoons at Wrigley, my best friend David convinced me that we needed to spend much more time at the Friendly Confines during our last summer before high school. We ended up at about 30 or 40 games, sometimes bringing friends with us so they could share the excitement.
We were only 14 years old but at some point decided to buy yellow hard hats and make our own Bleacher Bum helmets. Looking back on it, the Bums could have given us a hard time - a pair of young wannabees. But I don't remember anything like that, and we always felt welcome as part of the group in left field. There was no basket, there were no "triangle" barriers atop the wall. So drunken fans would dance on the wall, although I don't remember any falling.
There are lots of memories from that summer, the highlight of which had to be Kenny Holtzman's no-hitter on August 19th. We were ready to jump onto the field but my friend's little brother was with us that afternoon, thwarting our desire to step foot on the outfield grass and celebrate. Another was being there on the day that the bleacher chants were being recorded for the "Cubs Power" album that was released that summer. Yes, I tell my children, I am on that album!
But the greatest memory from that summer - one that still influences how I get to Wrigley Field - was the ritual journey from our homes in Highland Park to Clark and Addison.
We were too young to drive, so our days began early. We joined commuters traveling downtown from Highland Park on the Chicago & Northwestern train - switching to the Evanston Express at Davis Street so that we could catch the "B" train at Howard. We'd arrive at Addison around 7:30, as I recall, and got in line along Waveland until the gates opened.
We got into the park much earlier in those days, before the fans in the rest of the ballpark. We'd see the Andy Frain ushers gathered in the box seat area to get their instructions for the day. I don't believe bleacher tickets were sold in advance. We put down our dollar and got a "carnival style" ticket, different colors each day. I still remember that the day of Holtzman's no-hitter the tickets were white. Yes, I know it's disturbing that I'm wasting space in my head with that detail.
The train ride ritual survives to this day. We don't take the Metra, but we pick up the train in either Skokie or Evanston and switch to the Red Line at Howard for our journey to one of America's great ballparks. My daughter notices that I like to peek out the windows as we make the turn at the Sheridan station so that I can see the scoreboard (and, since 1988, the lights) come into view as we approach Addison.
I attend games most often now with my youngest daughter, and I think she appreciates the tradition of the train ride ritual. A memory of my childhood, recalled almost every time I attend a Cubs game as I approach the end of my 6th decade.
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