I was an only child and I was Daddy’s girl. My father was the youngest of nine. I grew up with loads of uncles and lots of cousins, male (mostly). So my bonding experiences with Dad and the relatives were spent in Wrigley Field, Soldiers Field and the Chicago Stadium.
For a Chicago sports fan, memories of playoffs and championships are more often bitter than sweet, with the exception of “da” Bulls. Growing up in Chi-town it wasn’t a matter of whether you followed sports or not, you just chose your alliance to the north or south side as is the case with baseball. And, if like me, you recall seasons as a Cubs fan, those were years of frustrations.
FOR ME, NOTHING COULD COMPARE TO THE EXCITEMENT OF TAKING THE BUS AND HEADING TO WRIGLEY FIELD SEEING APARTMENTS RISE UP FROM THE PAVEMENT ON SHEFFIELD AVENUE WHILE SITTING IN THE BLEACHERS. THERE WERE VINES THAT WERE PLANTED IN THE ‘30S AND THEN THERE WAS — THE WALL… AND PEANUTS, HOT DOGS AND COKES. OH, AND THAT “TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME” ORGAN. IT WAS SIMPLE AND SO SWEET. I GREW UP KNOWING THE NAME OF RON SANTO, BILLY WILLIAMS, JOE PEPITONE AND ERNIE BANKS AS WELL AS I KNEW THOSE OF MY NEIGHBORS. BASEBALL WAS PRETTY MUCH ABOUT ITALIANS AND “BLACKS”. EVEN THOUGH THERE WAS NEVER A POST SEASON APPEARANCE BY MY CUBBIES IN THE 50S, OR 60S OR 70S… THEY WERE A FANS TEAM.
AND THEN THERE WAS THE ONLY TRUE SPORT, THE GAME OF HOCKEY. HOW LUCKY I WAS TO BE ABLE TO TAG ALONG WITH DAD AND HIS BAND OF BROTHERS TO THE CHICAGO STADIUM. THIS PLACE WAS HUGE. (YOU KNOW HOW SOMETIMES YOUR MEMORY PLAYS TRICKS ON YOU AND THINGS AREN’T REALLY ARE BIG AS YOU REMEMBER?) ACTUALLY IT WAS THE LARGEST INDOOR SPORTING ARENA IN THE WORLD. AND IF YOU THOUGHT THE ORGAN AT WRIGLEY FIELD WAS SOMETHING… AS I REMEMBER THE STORY MY DAD TOLD, THIS ORGAN WAS BUILT IN THE LATE ‘20S IN WISCONSIN AND WAS SO BIG, IT TOOK 24 RAILROAD CARS TO TRANSPORT IT TO THE STADIUM. WHEN MY DAD SAID WE WERE GOING TO THE “MADHOUSE ON MADISON AVENUE” MY FACE WOULD LIGHT UP LIKE THE STARS IN THE HEAVENS! THE BLACKHAWK’S WERE KNOWN TO HAVE KEPT THE FANS ON THEIR FEET WITH FIGHTS ON THE ICE AND IN THE STANDS.
When we moved to the left coast I realized all too soon my biggest loss would be sports. California had far too many baseball and basketball teams and what could the land of fruit and nuts know about the only real sport, hockey? Now it’s true there was this team called the Kings, but imagine what a silly name for a team in a land where hockey would never rule.
1960 was a turning point in my life. The family relocated to Florida and the Blackhawk’s would win the Stanley Cup without me. I never recovered from that season.
Until Wednesday, June 6, 2007 when the Anaheim Ducks (first known as MIGHTY) would become the first team in west coast history to raise the Stanley Cup across the ice at the Honda (once upon an Anaheim) Pond.
It’s fall, that season of sports is in the air and I will be watching my favorite teams on the sidelines while my dad will be looking down from that big arena in the sky.