In this time of giving thanks, Id like to give a hearty great outdoor thanks to baseball, the Chicago Cubs to be exact. This year, the Cubs kept me on the edge of my wheelchair seat from the beginning of September to that fateful mid-October night. Its only been a few weeks since I have been able to talk about the Cubs playoff elimination.
Their playoff rejection sent me into a diehard depression that only a Cubs fan could know. We are used to losing; thats what a Cubs loveship is all about. Like many, Ive been a Cubs fan since childhood. However, I was a Milwaukee Braves fan until the mid-60s. I even got to watch Bob Uecker catch fly balls with a tuba during batting practice at Milwaukee County Stadium. But I converted to being a Cubs and White Sox fan while attending Camp Peacock for disabled children located at Lake Villa, Ill., in the summer of 65. John Allen, the camps owner and sugar daddy, also owned the Chicago White Sox. Once each year during camp, he took us kids on a school bus to a White Sox game at Comiskey Park. Interestingly, the White Sox were an almost all-white ball club whose players ran slowly. We campers were all white, but we couldnt run at all.
By 1967, the White Sox were hiring more African-American ball players, and coincidentally, we had three African-American campers that year. The Chicago Cubs and the National League, on the other hand, had been integrating for many years. All those years of integration resulted in the National League being better than the American League in player performance. We kids liked the speedier, better hitting National League teams, and most of us in Rockford were Cubs fans by 1967.
Those happened to be the heydays of the Cubs 60s dynasty. These were the days of Cub stars like Billy Williams, Randy Huntley, Fergie Jenkins, Glenn Beckert, Don Kessinger, Ernie Banks and Ron Santo. Would you believe Ron Santo had a pizzeria on 15th Avenue near Beyer Stadium that opened in the late 60s!
In 69, passionate Cubs fans watched the Cubs hold onto first place until September that year. Then we watched the Cubs in horror as the Mets passed the Cubs and won the 69 World Series. 1969 was the first time in many years that the Cubs were serious contenders. It was also the first time for many young Cubs fans to feel the real pain of being a Cubs fan. It was like losing your girlfriend, baseball glove, baseball card collection, and your pet screech owl all at once.
Thirty-some years later, Im still a Cubs fan, and Ive learned to do a hell of a Harry Caray impersonation. Ive even had the honor of singing the 7th inning stretch as Harry at two Rockford Cubbies games at Marinelli Field. I feel connected to the Cubs in another strange way, and let me explain this.
In the 90s, three ball players who played for the Rockford Expos minor league baseball team all had the same name as me. Well, almost. One player was Rodney Myers, and the other two were Roderick Myers, which is my name. One of the Rodericks went on to play for the Kansas City Royals, and Rodney became a fine relief pitcher for the Cubs for about four seasons before moving on to the San Diego Padres.
Rodney is from Rockford, and I knew his brother, Rocky, for many years. One year after Rodney started playing for the Cubs, I started getting some of his fan mail, and to this day, I get at least one letter every two months. One day I gotta track Rodney down and give him his mail. When this day comes, it will truly be a holy day.
As I live each baseball season, I die each season as a Cubs fan. I give thanks for many things on this holiday, especially the Cubs. As my Harry Caray would say, Hey, you cant beat the confinement of your own wheelchair at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.
Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associates degree in science and a bachelors in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.