March 29, 2011—
I’m approaching my 39th consecutive Cubs opener.
Opening Day is a chance to forget about the apathy of Lou Piniella and the narcolepsy of Bobby Murcer—-the last Cub I booed mercilessly.
On Opening Day I can still smell the fervid bleacher cigars of the early 1970s and touch the gritty newspapers people brought to the game. On Opening Day I see my father’s healthy legs leading me through the grandstands to see Hank Aaron. On Opening Day I see my unborn children. In Cubs hats.
Opening Day is the real chance to turn the page.
Buy new sheets. Send someone yellow flowers on a chance. It’s a grand day to renew distant friendships like Charley Krebs.
Charley is a Chicago area artist who sent me this Opening Day message a couple of days ago. We’ve bumped into each other listening to roadhouse music at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn.
Charley’s first paying job was drawing for a Cook County police union magazine. Soon, afterwards, and right out of Morton College, he was hired as editorial cartoonist for the Cicero-Berwyn LIFE Newspaper and The Suburban LIFE Newspaers. (Check out his work at www.chicagojazz.com/charleykrebs.
Opening Day is time to ponder negative forces, Charlie Sheen rants and weird
Facebook dudes who post their topless pictures. Outta here, just like when my friend Steve Lord and I had our “FIRE FRANKS!” bed sheet banner confiscated from the bleachers in protest of Cubs manager Herman Franks. We were on to something. Franks was replaced in late 1979 by the not-so-immortal Joe Amalfianto, a third base coach lifer who was sort of the Mike Quade of his era.
Opening Day is a hearty handshake with Sec. 242 usher Simon the Magnificent for making it through another winter. Opening Day is a moment of personal silence for Stephanie Leathers, Ron Santo and the other beloved members of Cubdom who have left this mortal coil since the last Opening Day.
White Sox fans are beautiful on Opening Day.
Opening Day is seeing Mike & Hope walk down the aisle of Section 242, where the sun always shines. Is there any better name for a Cubs fan than Hope? Opening Day is teaching your girl friend how to score.
There are many Opening Day memories, mostly revolving the said Steve Lord; the time when Opening Day turned into Opening Night with last call dancing to the Ramones at the punk club O’Banion’s, 661 N. Clark St.
Or when I bet Steve an Old Style ($1.00 for a large) for every inning past three the then-washed up Cubs-former Montreal Expo Woodie Fryman would throw on Opening Day 1978. He had a no-hitter for 5 2/3 innings until the Pirates’ Dave Parker broke it up with a double. (The Cubs won 5-4 on a walk off homer run by Bill Buckner). I’m looking at my scorecard now and thinking that might have been the year we ended up at O’Banion’s,
Woodie died over the winter. He was 70 years old.
Spring moves faster than the other seasons.
Opening Day is about the return of Vienna franks, missing from Wrigley Field since 1982. Opening Day is about Bob Beck, seeing things we all have missed. I think Bob (the owner and founder of Beck’s Books) turns 90 this year. Bob saw his first Cubs game in 1929.
Every Opening Day you see some of the most memorable opening day pitches of the past; from a frail Walter Payton to the beloved Bill Murray chucking the ball into the grandstands. Opening Day is about following a smiling Bill Veeck from Murphy’s Bleachers into the center field bleachers.
Opening Day is brown ivy and blue skies. Green parkas and leather gloves.
Opening Day reminds me that retired Bleacher Bum Mike Murphy should be on Chicago radio—somewhere. And Mike the Cop’s unbridled Cubs optimism only matches the dreams for his family.
This Opening Day marks Freddie Speck’s 20th annual Opening Day brunch n’ beer n’ brats at Guthrie’s, just west of the ballpark. Freddie’s Hawaiian shirt is another sign of Opening Day as is his delirious smile. Speaking of that, its good to see Ronnie Wickers on Opening Day.
Opening Day 1969 is remembering “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” through a tinny gray transistor radio. Opening Day is about accepting the warmth of possiblity.
Anything can happen.