Way back in Ernie Banks’ final season, I was born in Chicago and driven home from the hospital in a Cubs onesie, most definitely without a carseat.
Like any passionate Cubs fan I talk to, I have a timeline of Cubs moments that stretches across my life, preserving specific memories and consistently summoning a nostalgia that is both heartwarming and heart wrenching.
In my earliest Cubs memories, I’m watching on a 13-inch black and white television in the sitting area of my grandfathers’ barbershop. I don’t know how many times I actually sat there or how much I actually paid attention to the game, but I know I can’t shake the memory. And I don’t want to.
The barbershop was closed on Mondays, and I remember my grandfather taking me to Wrigley Field for a game. He had polio as a kid and walked with a unique gait, stepping with the left leg, then swinging the right around. I used to walk next to him and try to find the same rhythm, so that our feet would hit the ground at the same time.
That day, we parked as close as we could get, but it was the farthest I ever saw him walk. We stopped to rest after every block. I remember being struck with gratitude then and I can’t walk into Wrigley Field today without tearing up because of that singular moment. I don’t even remember if the Cubs won that day, but we were so early that I got Ryne Sandberg’s autograph before the game, and I peeked at the paper once every few minutes throughout the game to make sure I hadn’t dreamed it.
My grandfather died in 1988, and was buried the same day the Cubs turned on the lights at Wrigley to play the first night game in their history.
My cousin got married on a rooftop before a game in ’98. Sammy Sosa hit two home runs, including his 50th that day. The Cubs lost so my cousin joked that it was a “traditional” wedding.
I think of tailgating with my wife and my brothers before Game 5 of the 2003 NLCS in Florida. The Cubs had a chance to go to the series, and we were there.
We played “Lose Yourself” by Eminem in the parking lot before the game, on repeat. That one hurt, and so did the next night, when Steve Bartman was wrongfully accused of making the Cubs lose. But when I think of that night, I think of my grandmother “jinxing it” all by sending me a World Series T-shirt in the mail, just as she had in 1984, before the Cubs blew a series lead to the Padres.
And now, I’m a dad to two boys, ages 10 and 7.
I’ve watched them start to collect memories as their appreciation for baseball grows. They know the players on the Big Red Machine and the 1984 Cubs. When the Reds and Cubs play, they pack jerseys and hats for both teams and switch them out each half inning.
This postseason has slowly pulled them in deeper. They’re investing in it. They’re asking questions about the DH rule, and pitch count and Kyle Hendricks’ fastball.
I don’t know if Wednesday night is the exciting conclusion to the Cubs quest for a World Series or if we’re still somewhere in the second act.
It is excruciating and emotional and that’s what it should be.
Wednesday morning before we even got out of bed, my wife and I had “the talk.” We discussed it and decided we need to let the kids stay up for Game 7, with all apologies to their teachers.
This is a moment, win or lose, that we will never forget. And someday, for them and for me, it will be a memory that is both heartwarming and heart wrenching.
Dave Peterson is VP/General Manager of WCPO-Digital and is one of those people who yells "CUBB-IES" during the seventh inning stretch at Great American Ball Park.