By JOHN KIENER
It took the Chicago Cubs 108 years to win another World Series Championship after claiming the title in 1908. On Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016 the Cubs won the baseball Series with a wild, 8-7, triumph over the Cleveland Indians. It took me 14 months to read about it in the Chicago Tribune.
I am a long-time Cub fan. Through the years, I have listened to Cubs’ games on the radio, watched television beginning when the games were broadcast in black and white and most days during the baseball season I look in the sports section of a newspaper for written reports of their contests. Several of my personal “best days watching sports” have been the couple of occasions when I have been at Wrigley Field attending a Cubs game.
I watched the 2016 Series in “living color” on television. In a burst of late-night enthusiasm, minutes after the game was over, I took a $5.00 bill out of my wallet, wrote a note on the back of a scrap of paper, and the next day mailed a letter to the Chicago Tribune asking for a copy of their paper dated Thursday, November 3rd containing sports coverage of the game.
I waited 10 days and no paper arrived. I used the Herald & Tribune as the mailing address thinking perhaps that would get the attention of someone in the paper’s circulation department. Thinking about what I had done, I realized I sent cash in the mail and had no way of proving I had paid for a copy of the newspaper.
I decided to forget trying to get a copy of the Chicago Tribune’s account of the Championship. I assumed whoever opened my letter had pocketed the cash.
To my surprise, when I arrived at the H & T on Monday, March 5, 2018, there was a plastic wrapping containing the Tribune issue I had requested. The issue I requested was delivered to me in care of the Herald Tribune, Jonesborough by the United States Postal Service shipped from “TROC, 560 W Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60654.”
A check of the location indicated that the address was the Freedom Center, the massive plant where the Chicago Tribune—and many other newspapers—are printed and assembled. Until it opened in 1981, the newspaper was produced in the basement of Tribune Tower.
It did not take me long to start reading the paper. The headline on the front of the paper had a banner that read” “WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS” placed over a picture followed by a full page headline stating “At last!” The first three sentences of the sports story on the front page provided:
“CLEVELAND – Finally. The most epic drought in sports history is over, and the Cubs are world champions After 108 years of waiting, the Cubs won the 2016 World Series with a wild 8-7, 10-inning Game 7 victory over the Indians on Wednesday night at Progressive Field.”
A photograph of the front of the sports page of Anthony Rizzo celebrating the final out of the game followed by articles on pages 2 to 11 continued the coverage. I felt an emotion of pride upon turning to the editorial page where a bear “Cub” with a tear in his eye wore a logo that said “WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS.” After the half-page cartoon the editorial’s headline in large type screamed: “Holy cow! The Cubs are World Series champs!”
To put the accomplishment in perspective, the text read in part after stating once again the Cubs’ last championship had been in 1908 – “How long ago was that? Henry Ford began selling Model T’s at $850 a pop, Taft beat Bryan to become president, women couldn’t vote and men lived an average of 49 years.”
I found a phrase on page 3 of the sports section that tells how as underdogs the Cubs captured the hearts of fans everywhere.
A headline reading the “Greatest story we’ll ever see” contained these final three sentences: “The Cubs reach extends beyond baseball, across countries and continents, and into the hearts of millions worldwide who were overjoyed the loveable losers finally won it all.
Next year was here. It really did happen.”
I had cheered for the “lovable losers” early in life. My mother was the daughter of a Santa Fe Railroad employee and was reared in Ft. Madison, Iowa. In those days, the major providers of long-distant public transportation were passenger trains. As part of a railroad family with a railroad pass entitling them to free passage, she would take the train to Chicago with her family to shop and watch the Cubs games, played in the afternoon. Sleeping was done on the passenger train both to and from the trip to the Windy City.
While my mother Lucille’s brother, Uncle Bud Golden, was in the U.S. Marines during World War II, my Grandmother Priscilla Golden listened to either the Cubs or St. Louis Cardinals games with a VJ mail sheet in front of her on which she had drawn a score card. She kept score and would send her son the VJ mail after the game ended. She was devoted to the sport of baseball and for years subscribed to The Sporting News in order to keep up with standings and statistics in the Major Leagues.
Her knowledge was important because she taught me to keep score. With that skill, I first became the manager and scorekeeper of my high school baseball team and later a part-time sports reporter for my hometown newspaper, the Marshalltown Times-Republican. In college at Dubuque, Iowa I once got an A in a speech assignment talking about the Cubs. Many of my fellow students were from Chicago. The Illinois city was located closer to Loras College than my hometown.
In law school, I worked for a time in the sports department of the Des Moines Register. There I met and later became a roommate of Michael Bryson. He worked at the Register where both his parents were employed. His father, Bill Bryson, was a sports columnist whose book “THE BABE DIDN’T POINT and Other Stories about Iowans and Sports” contained an article about the man for whom the Marshalltown Semi-Pro Baseball Team was named: “Cap Anson: The Honest Man Who Saved the National League.”
His story begins: “MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA, has never produced the athletic equal of its very first native son. For that matter, what Iowa city, town, or rural retreat has come up with an athlete to match Adrian Constantine Anson? ‘Cap’ they called him in the gloaming of his 22-year career with the Chicago White Stockings (1876-97)…” The White Stockings were ancestors to the Cubs.
Anson is credited with staying with Chicago when a revolt of a majority of the National League players struck and tried to form a league of their own. His actions kept the players from establishing the rival league. He was also in 1886 the first manager to take a club south for spring training.
His record is marred by the fact that “Ironically, it also was Anson, perhaps more than any other man, who was responsible for keeping blacks out of the major leagues in the 1890s.”
My roommate Mike also wrote a book titled “THE TWENTY-FOUR-INCH HOME RUN AND OTHER OUTLANDISH, INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE EVENTS IN BASEBALL HISTORY.” The Babe Ruth homer mentioned in the title of his father’s book also involved the Cubs and is described by Mike with these words, “There is no legend in baseball more enduring nor more beloved than the story that Babe Ruth ‘called’ his famous home run against the Chicago Cubs in the 1932 World Series. In historic defiance to the terrible taunting he was receiving from the Cubs, so the story goes, the mighty Babe majestically pointed to the center-field stands at Wrigley Field — and on the next pitch smashed a towering home run to the exact spot! It is a magnificent story. But it’s also a fairy tale.”
If the Bryson name sounds familiar Mike’s brother, who is also named Bill after his father, is a famous author whose extensive list of published books includes “A Walk in the Woods – Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail.”
Another Iowa connection to the Cubs involves Ronald Reagan, who became the 40th President of the United States. As reported in the Register, he became the chief sports announcer in Des Moines for Radio Station WHO in the spring of 1933, partly because he had covered the Drake Relays so skillfully. I am a 1965 graduate of the Drake Law School.
Reagan became especially adept at vividly broadcasting football and baseball games from the radio station’s studio by reading telegraphed bulletins. In 1936, Reagan interviewed Des Moines singer Joy Hodges, who had signed a movie contract with RKO. She encouraged him to give Hollywood a try.
He did just that a few months later, when he accompanied the Chicago Cubs to their spring training session in California. When he visited Hodges, she sent him to her agent, who picked up the telephone and called Warner Brothers.
The studio rushed Reagan into a screen test, and the future film star was back in Des Moines only two days when he received a telegram from the studio offering him a seven-year contract. Reagan piled his belongings into his automobile and headed west, ending his life as an Iowan in May 1937.
Today’s AAA baseball club in Des Moines is one of the Cubs’ farm teams, named the Iowa Cubs.
As this article was written, spring training in the Major Leagues is underway. Hopefully, the Cubs are again headed for a season that will take them to the playoffs in 2018 and possibly another World Series appearance.
If the Cubs are successful, I hope this time it won’t take me 14 months after the games are over to read what occurred by reading the sports section of the Chicago Tribune.