I keep telling everyone here at KHOU—this is the year.
Actually, I’ve been telling my co-workers that every year.
And of course, they laugh at me.
But really folks, THIS IS THE YEAR.
Saturday night in Chicago, more than 40,000 will be on hand to witness history at Wrigley Field—the first time the Cubs clinch a pennant in more than 70 years.
I will be there with my ten-year-old son Nicholas Wrigley Rogalski. Yes, that really is his middle name. And no, to this day I cannot believe my lovely wife let me get away with that.
Perhaps it’s my story.
I grew up at Wrigley. Before the jumbotron, before the luxury suites, before the rooftop decks across the street, even before the park had lights, I was there. Every chance I could get, I was there.
It started in the late 70’s. My parents would drop us off two hours before game time to stand in line for bleacher tickets. At the time, bleachers were sold only on game day and there was no reserved seating—first come first served. So in order to get the whole family good seats, my brother, sister and I would buy tickets for our folks and race up the ramp as soon as the gates opened. With a towel and bungee cord in hand, we’d claim our spot on the last row of bleachers in left field. Later, when my parents returned closer to game time, (we lived less than a mile away), we shoved the tickets in a bag of peanuts and tossed it over the fence, to my folks waiting on Waveland Avenue below.
I was in third grade. And I had Cubs fever.
It wasn’t long after that when my best friend Mikey and I began riding bikes to the game alone. We became part of the original group of “ball hawks,” shagging down homers both in the bleachers and outside the park depending on which way the wind was blowing that day.
And we learned how to get in for free. Back in those days, the grandstand seats were wooden without spring hinges to pop them back up. They were a total pain for cleaning crews needing to sweep up all the beer cups and peanut shells. So after every game, all the neighborhood kids would line up along the left field line one to each row. On the count of three, we lifted all the seats in our row until we reached the end in right field. Waiting for us was an “employees’ ticket,” a free pass. I had my first job.
From there, Mikey and I got to know many of the ushers and guards. Turns out, they needed us just as much as we needed them. They weren’t allowed to leave the park for lunch during their shift. And the park food at the time was simply awful. So we would go on lunch runs during the game. Beef sandwiches or Italian sausage for the guards, and a ‘hey kid, get yourself a hot dog and keep the change.’
It became our daily routine. Leave the house around 10 a.m. with no money. Go to Wrigley, get in free, catch a batting practice ball or two, sell a ball or two to some guy trying to impress his gal, get lunch paid for, watch the game, and come home around 5 p.m. with five bucks or so in our pockets.
Not a bad way to grow up.
I don’t have an exact count, but I’ve seen more than 300 Cubs games altogether. Now the bleachers are calling me back. Forget the curses, forget the nay-sayers, forget the non-believers.
I’m telling you, this is the year.
(© 2016 KHOU)