I was 15 that hot summer. It was the kind of hot Chicago summer that makes its residents start wishing for the Fall and wondering why they ever complained about winter. Stepping outside for just a few minutes could leave you drenched in a pool of sweat. Staying inside was usually a punishment, the results of a worried Mom who worked full-time, but that summer it suited me just fine as the thought of sweat was more important than rebelling. But acceptance of being inside also meant a search for alternative entertainment. Cable TV didn’t exist in my world, we survived on about five channels and it was inevitable that at some point we’d run into Chicago baseball.
I don’t remember exactly how or when it happened. That entire summer is one long baseball game where I got to know Rick Sutcliffe; Shawon Dunston; Ryne Sandberg; Rafael Palmeiro; a very young Greg Maddox, and of course the great Harry Caray. For some reason I also had a lot of love for the NY Mets’ Darryl Strawberry and Lenny Dykstra.
My new team didn’t fare well that year: a 70-90 season just barely above the last place Pirates in the Eastern Division. A fact I had to look up because it wasn’t part of my memory. My memory of that summer simply represented new-found love, one that would remain just as strong so many years later. The love of a fan for a team.
It would be many years before I had the opportunity to enter the friendly confines of Wrigley Field to see my team play, but it didn’t disappoint. My love for the Cubs was a love for baseball. I’ve sat in the old Comiskey Park and the new U.S. Cellular. I’ve also sat in Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mile High Stadium in Denver, and Miller Park in Milwaukee, and each game, each memory created solidifies the fact that summer and baseball will always be one.