“Have your pencils and scorecards ready for today’s line-up.”
That was Pat Piper’s alert to the few hardcore Cubs fans gathered on a breezy afternoon for a not-so-promising game, yet a curiously satisfying experience, at the now celebrated Wrigley Field.
Those were the days of my early experience as a Cubs fan, approximately 70 years worth of the string of 100. As I recall the beginning as a circa 1945 first-grader on Grandpa Jim Arteberry’s porch on East Main Street, the Cubs were in the World Series and things were not looking too promising.
It was not clear how he got interested in the Cubs. He had come to St. Charles to follow a career of molding/manufacturing locomotive wheels for the railroad. He was born in the deep South yet – to me – always spoke as if he was a native of Kane County. I knew him as a worker for the city of St. Charles – a city engineer who had represented the city on the construction of the Municipal Building – and as an alderman – I loved to show my friends the “J. Arteberry” on the bronze plaque on the Main Street Bridge.
He and Carl Asplund were almost always in downtown parades in a convertible designated for Spanish-American War veterans.
That October he had already harvested his victory garden and Grandma Grace was probably out to a Woman’s Relief Corps meeting or at her desk reading “Table Chatter” by Lina Paschal, her favorite Chronicle columnist.
As we chatted about the Cubs, we could look to the west and view the railroad crossing and an actual train, freight or passengers. In the other direction, filling a city lot, was Lappy Hunt’s private tennis court and, across the street, the milk plant and the thriving manufacturers Roto-Color, U.S. Printing and Reasor’s and The Alps.
I suspect he actually preferred the local softball leagues, which played at night at the stone-seated diamond at Pottawatomie Park. We went to games all summer and then stopped at the Colonial ice cream plant for a pineapple sundae. But that season was over.
My dad was more openly committed to the Cubs for the same reasons we appear to adopt the church and the politics of our family. It was the Cubs for me.
Lots of trips to Wrigley in those days. Drive in to the city all the way on North Avenue; park at the Sinclair Station on Addison; no line at the ticket office for box seats.
Generally, we sat behind the home-plate screen. (A line drive foul on the baselines could be dangerous?)
The view was panoramic from there and usually provided a close-up view of batters such as Stan Musial, Ralph Kiner, Jackie Robinson or Pee Wee Reese, who seldom acknowledged us, preferring to focus on the Bob Rush fast ball or the infield shift, which Charlie Grimm had signaled from the dugout.
When I was at home from Shelby sixth grade my family tavern’s connection to the Meister Brau people brought about the gift of an autographed baseball.
All the guys – Hank Sauer, Andy Pafko and even Jack Brickhouse and Harry Creighton – covering every inch of that NL ball sealed my loyalty.
A buddy, Carol Heinz, and I would hurry home from school to catch the last few innings broadcast by Bert Wilson. Orthodontist appointments in Oak Park were arranged in the morning to straighten teeth, and afternoons arranged to check out Wrigley. Perhaps a stop in Elmhurst for a Hamburger Heaven treat on the way home.
Many fine visits and a few special ones accumulated through the years, for example, the Willie Smith walk-off homer on Opening Day; the Lindy McDaniel’s no-hitter (missed the train back to Madison that Sunday); the first night game; and, now and then, a nice win.
Not sure when the glow went off on the family traditions.
Perhaps it was crossing the border and meeting Packer-backers, some Democrats, and the lifestyles of the ’60s.
We had never expected to have a winning team at St. Charles High School. We appreciated the assembly cheer session during which the battle cry had something to do with practicing hard.
SC would shine, as the song goes, but not necessarily win.
Sooner or later, looking around with a wider perspective, there were teams that had the capacity to win a lot!
Teams that did not simply glorify the experience or the homage to the stadium. Maybe it had something to do with the high prices or having to search to find a broadcast on every channel from 9 to 800.
Happy hundred, Wrigley. I’m looking for an enterprise (not a building) that has a winning record, appreciates the loyalty of the constituents and has good disability access.
• Joan Arteberry is a longtime resident of St. Charles. Her columns are featured in the Kane County Chronicle’s Neighbors section every other Friday. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.