Chiacago Cubs Essays
The Chicago Cubs were already the best fans in baseball before winning their first World Series since 1908 last year, but the triumph has only added to the number of Cubs fans across the globe and introduced a new wave of bandwagon fans who were captivated by the team’s run to the title last fall.
There is almost a new breed of Cubs fans who are used to things going their way. Winning is now customary and the expectation in the Friendly Confines. Gone are the days of impending doom and waiting for the other shoe to drop. The sky is no longer falling and it’s a Cubby Blue sky above Wrigley Field now.
Comment Now: Did the Cubs get snubbed?
Cubs fans were always the most optimistic of any sports team and the “Wait til next year” mantra repeated for decades is what Cubs fans had to use as a crutch when the team was languishing in last place in mid-May with no hope in sight. Nevertheless, during those rough times, the crowds at Wrigley Field were packed, the bars in Wrigleyville were full of patrons in their jerseys and Cubs hats cheering on the team from outside 1060 W. Addison where the park resides.
Cubs fans new and old know how important it is to represent this great baseball team and all the history attached. It means something to pass down a love of Cubs baseball and everything it represents down through the generations. Grandparents were Cubs fans and they passed it down to their children and they pass that love down to their kids. It’s a cycle of Cubs that will never end and with each generation, the fandom only grows stronger. It’s the best fandom in baseball and it still manages to get better with each year.
“They talk about the great [expletive] support that the players get around here. I haven’t seen it this [expletive] year.”
That speech, delivered in Elia’s cramped office, was recorded by a reporter for WLS-AM radio, Les Grobstein, and immediately made available in both censored and uncensored form. It is preserved forever on YouTube, yet it tells only part of the story about a ball club at civil war with its fan base.
Elia filled in the details, which included fans harassing two of his players.
“We had lost to the Dodgers on Lee Smith’s wild pitch,” Elia said. “In those days, we had to walk all the way down the left-field line to get into the locker room. As I’m walking with my paperwork after a tough loss, some fan gets all over Keith Moreland. Moreland goes toward the stands a foot or two, and security guards break it off.
“Then we walk another six or seven yards, where the tarp is,” Elia continued, “and someone says something to Larry Bowa. He jumps in there. There’s a lot of shoving. Then that’s finally broken up. I’ve got all this on my mind.”
Elia, who was in his second year as manager, reached the clubhouse, but found his path blocked by members of the Los Angeles news media. When reporters started asking questions that Elia perceived as provocative, he lost it.
Recalling what happened next, and blaming his “managerial immaturity at that moment,” Elia profanely challenged Cubs fans to meet him on Michigan Avenue.
“All my life I’ve loved Chicago,” he said, looking back, “and there were a lot of pluses because of day baseball. But that’s the thing I lived with.”
The Cubs these days are remarkably popular in Chicago, having drawn 3.23 million fans during the 2016 season, which means they averaged 39,906 fans in a revered bandbox that seats 41,268. In 1983, however, the Cubs averaged 18,268 and ranked 16th out of 26 teams in attendance. (Cleveland, that other baseball city in vogue, was last in attendance that season.) Other years were even worse in Chicago. The Cubs drew 7,727 fans a game in 1965.
“Unfortunately, we would have games where we’d have only 6,000 or 7,000 fans, and probably rightfully so,” said Elia, who is a senior adviser for the Atlanta Braves and looks forward to wearing a baseball uniform at 80. “We did feel we were on the right track, and we got back to just five games behind at one point that season.”
Late that season, Elia was fired, like so many other Cubs managers before and after him. The Cubs came within a game of the World Series the next year, 1984, after a trade by General Manager Dallas Green that secured the ace pitcher Rick Sutcliffe from Cleveland.
Wrigley Field was simply the wrong place at the wrong time for Elia, who has worked with a lot of the coaches and managers who are currently in the World Series. He will cheer for the Cubs on Friday, like so many other native and adopted Chicagoans.
But Elia will also remember the times when nobody was cheering for him.Continue reading the main story