Local Cubs fans finally taste success
It’s a generational thing for many, this love affair with the Chicago Cubs.
Children have been known to rebel against their parents for many reasons, but devotion to a team that rarely achieves success isn’t one of them.
“I wasn’t raised to be a quitter,” said Steve Link Tuesday night at the Fort Madison Elks Club as he and his parents Bill and Bev Link and aunt Karen Peters watched the Cubs play in their first World Series since 1945.
Cleveland, which hasn’t won a Series since 1948, won Game 1 convincingly 6-0 at home, but the Cubs evened the series Wednesday 5-1.
But the Indians still shouldn’t expect much sympathy outside of Ohio as the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908.
So for the Cubs just to have another chance – their last National League pennant came in 1984 – is remarkable; but, Link said, “It’s not unbelievable; not with this team.”
Or as another longtime Cubs fan, Carl Saunders, said, “I told my wife Deb there are four words I don’t want to have to say this year: ‘Wait ‘til next year.’”
A way of life
Bill and Bev Link, and Bev’s sister Karen Peters are all die-hard Cubs fans. Bill “inherited” the love from his parents, Ray and Lida Link, and Bev and Karen from Harold and Twila Groene.
“It’s a way of life,” Steve said as to why he never gives up.
It’s a time of father-son bonding, and Bill and Steve attended the pennant-winning victory last Saturday against the Dodgers. Bill said, “There were a lot of smiles and a few tears” of joy.
“You can’t give up on the Cubs,” Peters said. “Everybody loves the Cubs.”
Solidifying her devotion were players, whose names were invoked throughout the National League Championship Series: Ernie “Mr. Cub” Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo.
“Watching those three while growing up, they were awesome, classy players,” Peters said.
Don Gill was raised a Cubs fan in Chilicothe, Ill., by Homer and Martha Gill, and his wife Connie likewise by Ray and Doris Borens.
“All four were huge Cubs fans,” said the Gill’s son, Greg Gill, who inherited the devotion along with his siblings Jennifer Mohrfeld and Jarrod Gill.
Greg lives in St. Charles, Ill., and makes it to 5-10 games a year. But his most memorable game was back in 1984, when he his father went to see the Cubs’ National League playoff opener – there were no division contests back then – at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs routed San Diego 13-0, and that was the one time the Daily Democrat was able to secure a press pass for one of the regular seats. This reporter took a photo of the Gills in the stands, and it made the paper the following day.
Greg was still in high school then, and he remembered that Fort Madison High School football coach Tom Walljasper “wasn’t happy because I left school and missed practice.”
Don is now 73 and has no memory of the ’45 series but does have a favorite player from that era: Hank Sauer, from the 1950s. “I listened on the radio, and he was my hero,” Don said.
Among his friends whom he made road trips with to many of the regular-season games were Gordon Liles, Carl Saunders and Gene Enke.
Saunders, 76, has been a fan for 69 years now, starting two years after the Series victory.
“I lived on a farm in Manilla,” Saunders said of the small Iowa town. “Burt Wilson was the announcer calling the Cubs game. I had listened by mistake.” Turning the dials, “I just happened to pick the game.” It was love at first sound for Saunders.
This World Series appearance “is something I’ve been waiting for all my life,” Saunders said.
He had told his wife, “There’s four words I don’t want to stay this year: ‘Wait ‘til next year,’” the sad refrain of all Cubs fans throughout the past 71 years.
One of Carl’s sons, Steve, died in 1989, and an anonymous person had put a grotto in his memory at the former St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on the east end of town. Carl draped the grotto with the Cubs banner.
Liles has been in Las Vegas the last few days, but he’ll come home Thursday and then he and Gene Enke will attend Game 3 of the Series at Wrigley.
The neighborhood next to the stadium is known as Wrigleyville, with shops and taverns and sports bars offering opportunities for those who don’t have tickets to watch the game. That’s where the wives, Cheryl Liles and Sherri Enke, will be.
Liles’ devotion to the Cubs can be seen in the Opening Day party he has held at his house...for the past 40 years.
He may celebrate with an end-of-season party this year. Although beer is usually the adult beverage of choice, it was suggested he might break open a bottle of champion, as the players do.
Liles said that will likely happen as he still has a bottle of champagne that was given to him by longtime friend and Cardinals fan, Tom Skewes, in 1984.
Saunders wasn’t the only fan who formed his allegiance through radio.
Then 12-year-old Dick Schrader of Denmark had chosen the Brooklyn Dodgers as his team because they always seemed to make the World Series along with the New York Yankees.
But this year marks the 60th “anniversary” of when a neighbor man, Gene Stottler, invited Schrader and one of his buddies to listen to a Cubs game on a radio.
“The only radio that could pick up the Cubs games was in his 1951 Chevy,” Schrader said.
It soon became a regular visit. “I remember that so much,” Schrader said. “He made a Cubs fan of me.”
Later, his wife Cheryl would become a Cubs fan, and then the three daughters: Deanna, Dawn and Denise. The grandchildren followed suit, and Schrader said one of the grandsons, Brandon Brown, 14, “can name all the players. He really got into it.”
Although Schrader has always been faithful, sometimes the frustration of losing got the best of him. “In 1969, when the Mets won that year, I burned a hat or a shirt in frustration,” Schrader said.
So he has kept the paraphernalia to a minimum.
“I have three or four T-shirts, and that’s about it any more,” he said.
Derek, Dylan and Sarah Neuweg are Cubs fans because of their parents, Jean and Leroy, and Jean inherited it from her parents, Polly and Don Hutson. Polly of Dallas City is still alive and at 87 is witnessing her second Cubs World Series.
Derek will watch the Series, but his thoughts are for Polly. “I want to see her get to see the Cubs in the Series,” Derek said.
Lon Spurgin, 66, has been a Cubs fan since he was 8. Growing up you could only watch the Game of the Week on television, but he got to see Ernie Banks play and that turned his heart to the Cubs. His other favorite player is Ted Williams – and it doesn’t that they share the same birthday.
One of the first thoughts many Cubs fans had last Saturday night was all the Cubs fans who were born, grew up and died without ever seeing the Cubs be in a world series, let alone win.
But not just the older generation. There are those like Steve Saunders who died too young.
“I think it’s great that generation is getting to see them get to the World Series,” said Greg Gill, FMHS Class of 1985.
But one of his high school friends, Angelo Lozano, died just four years ago. Sometimes, even when Greg wasn’t home, “He would come over by himself and watch games with my mom.”
Greg said Connie told him, “I just wish Angelo could be here.”