I barely knew my grandfather.
Grandpa Ben passed away shortly after I turned nine. Yes, a long time ago.
His legacy, however, despite being a wonderfully warm man, is accentuated by the respect he had from people who knew him.
I do, for whatever reason, remember my dad calling him “senator”, ala the way folks were greeted at the old Barney’s Market Club (Yes sir, Senator!), as a jovial sign of respect.
But after my grandfather died in 1960, both my grandmother and mother remembered Ben for one thing -- His love of the Cubs.
My mother says it was his influence that instilled in me the passion for the north siders. She used to tell me stories about his love the Cubs.
Her favorite focused on an ill-fated visit by a sales rep to my grandfather while he was secluded in his office of his 71st Street business.
Secluded for a very good reason. He followed every broadcast of every Cubs game.
As the story goes, the sales rep came in and just wanted to say hi to my grandfather. He was advised not to. He said it would just be a minute as he surged passed my grandmother who ran the business with my grandfather.
As he opened the door the Cubs pitcher either lost his bid for a no hitter, or the Cubs lost the game – I don’t remember.
What I do recall from the story is my grandfather ran him – literally – out of the store and on to 71st Street.
I have one fond memory of my grandfather. It’s the day I went to visit him wearing my first Cubs jacket. I must have been seven at the most because it was before we fled the city for the suburbs.
My grandfather, who had been hit with a stroke a few months before, was sitting on the far end of a sofa in the family room of their Hyde Park apartment. To this day, I can still picture the smile that came over his face when I walked in wearing my Cubbie blue.
Grandfathers, I’m guessing, take pride in what their grandchildren do. His other grandsons had allegiance to the White Sox, a team my grandfather detested after the 1919 World Series.
My grandmother kept his Cubs legacy alive with me by taking me to games whenever she could get tickets. Do I remember them all? Of course not. But I do remember getting Cuno Barragan’s autograph while he was warming up Dick Ellsworth. I also recall meeting Cubs broadcaster Jack Quinlan.
But the one series that is etched in my memory was one against the Houston Colt 45s Sept. 1 and Sept. 2, 1962. My grandmother was able to get tickets for games probably not aware that Cubs second baseman, the late Kenny Hubbs, would set major-league history. It was during that series that Hubbs tied and set the records for consecutive errorless games (78) and chances (418) at second base. Hubbs was killed in a plane crash a few months later.
Do I have other memories? Sure, like telling my grandmother in 1969 how grandpa would have loved the way the Cubs were playing – but that was before the late-season collapse.
Most of my other memories come from the more “recent” past (like when I was in my 30s). I’ve taken my own sons to Cub games, and when I have I can’t help but think of my grandfather.
In addition to the Cubs, I’ve been told that my grandfather had a finite appreciation of good Scotch. By gosh, so do I. That, however, is a coincidence because you just don’t introduce seven-year-olds to Scotch.
But what a great coincidence -- a love of the Cubs and appreciation of Scotch.
So as the Cubs move closer to a National League championship and, do I dare say it – a trip to the World Series -- the few memories I have of my grandfather will continue to resonate with me.
And no matter how far the Cubs go, I’ll raise a glass and toast them as if my grandfather was right next to me.
Oh, and grandpa, don’t worry, it will be good Scotch.