Crew, Sox, and Cubs – OH MY!

In honor of the Brewers, Sox, and Cubs making the playoffs for the first time in the history of the planet, I thought I would share a little of my baseball journey with my proximity with these teams over the years.  It’s slighly nostalgic, so don’t choke too hard.

Baseball was a very formative influence in my life.

There seems to be a time in many (not all) young boys’ lives where a switch gets flipped and we care significantly about sports.  Not just playing it ourselves – but watching them on television, reading about them in the sports page, checking the league leaders, wearing their jerseys, collecting their cards – it becomes an obsession.

That happened for me when I was about 7 and my cousins and I could do nothing but talk and play baseball.

I changed my favorite color from red to blue because blue was the color of my beloved Milwaukee Brewers.

I can still tell you where I was when listening to the Brewers win the opening 13 games of the 1987 season.  I can still remember the 1988 starting lineup of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Yes that is 20 years ago; it makes me feel ridiculously old.  But that is the intensity of love that boys are able to develop with their baseball teams.  Combine boys, baseball, and dogs…and yes, that is a recipe for happiness.

My affection was for the Milwaukee Brewers, and their two premier players that later found themselves in the Hall of Fame: Paul Molitor and Robin Yount.  The Ignitor and The Kid. They were great ballplayers and great men.  They started the golden era of Milwaukee baseball in 1978, and drove it to it’s peak in 1982.  I was all of a wee four year old, but it is still my first baseball memory – watching the Brewers against the Cardinals.  After Molly left for greener pastures to Toronto in 92, and Yount retired in 1993.  Bud Selig, the owner became commissioner in 1992 and the little-Milwaukee-that-could had some clout in the world of Major League Baseball.

As any young boy learns their affection for their home team, I also learned to detest their rivals – most notably, the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins.  The Twins were just plain better than the Brewers – a World Series Title in 1987 and another 1991 proved that.  But the White Sox – well, they were close enough to the Brew Crew to compete.  So I began to loathe them and their ugly uniforms from Bill Veeck. Since the Brewers were in the American League, most kids find a way to enjoy a team in the National League since interleague play didn’t exactly exist yet.

So, because I could, I enjoyed keeping up with the lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs.  They were harmless, and they loved their baseball.  And there was something about their fans that was just…well, you couldn’t help but respect them because of their faithfulness to their team.  And an angry Cubs fan is still a lot nicer than a happy Sox fan.

But tragedy struck in 1994 when the strike hit (poorly navigated by Bud) and the World Series was canceled.  But at least the Sox lost the chance to win the World Series.

But by the time I left Wisconsin in 1996, the Brewers had become a sorry team and I was moving to…you guessed it, right next to Comiskey Park at Illinois Institute of Technology.  We heard the fireworks every night in the fall, and it was great to run over and catch a cheap game since the place never sold out, and IIT students were welcome.

And I got to watch my Brewers when they came to town.  Even though they were awful.

But then, in 1998, something of cosmic importance happened: the Brewers switched to the National League.  You know, where they don’t have the DH and they ask the pitchers to hit?  What kind of blasphemy was that?

I didn’t understand.  Now I understand the ways of the National League, and I think it’s better.

Worse yet, the team I had a growing interest in, the Chicago Cubs, was now our division rival.  And the Cubs were great in 98!  I mean, Sosa was running in the home run chase against McGuire (even though both were juicing like oranges), and it was just exciting.

But my Brewers still sucked.

And Selig was still comissioner.

And I lived next to Comiskey Park.  Which, i suppose in all honesty, now I’m supposed to have a general affection towards because the Brewers switched leagues.

But one does not undo rivalries ingrained in childhood in a day…no, oh no.

I was confused.  Everytime the fireworks went off in Comiskey, I felt this weird sense of, “No, that’s bad.  I mean, it’s kinda good, right?  The don’t play the Brewers anymore, you can like them now.”

It was this sense of trying to like the cute ex-girlfriend who dumped your best friend who was now kind of interested in you and lives next door.  You know it’s bad news, but it’s so easy…and convenient…

But I had my principles; and I would not like the Sox.  I left Bridgeport and the South Side in 2003, and I think a part of me died when I left the South side.  Maybe I should have reconsidered the Sox for a few years…

But all of that changed in 2003 when the Cubs made a run at the Series.  I was new to the North side where all the pretty people lived, and all of the sudden the Cubs who were now division rivals but once affectionate bumblebutts were just a few outs from the World Series.

Enter Bartman…you know the rest.

Then in 2005, I watched the Sox win the series after Boston had their run in 2004.  You should have been on the North Side when the White Sox won.


I called my friends on the south side, longing to be in Bridgeport for the most crazy celebration ever.  It was awesome.

I was more confused, because now for some reason the distance had grown my affection for the White Sox…but I still couldn’t really bring myself to root for them in the series.

Did I mention that my Brewers still sucked?

And I was still confused.

So I resolved I had to make a decision – one of the three teams.  Cubs, Crew, or Sox.  No Sox – couldn’t bring myself to it.  The Crew?  Well, they were just ugly at this point in time.

I had a long affair with the Cubs that offseason.  My roommate tried to convert me.  I thought about it – long and hard.  I had a conversation with one Cub fan who I particularly respected.  There was always something about the real Cub fans – not the Wrigley experience bandwagon – that I truly respected.  My grandpa has waited his entire life – 83 years – to watch the Cubs win the World Series.  It’s not a small thing to him.  He needs to see it before he dies.  It’s not just with him either – there is this unfailing, undying loyalty that I respected so much in the Cub fans I knew.

And that’s when I realized that I could never be a Cub fan.  Because I would betray my first love of my youth if I did – how could I give up on you, Milwaukee?  How could I forget you, oh Brewers.  My heart was moved within me, and I decided that in all the life of integrity of the game, I couldn’t leave my Crew.  The very reason I wanted to be a Cub fan was why I could not leave my Brewers.

So for the first time in the history of the world, the Brewers, the Cubs, and the Sox are all in the playoffs.  And if you are reading this far, you now know what a strange man I am…but baseball does this to us sometimes.  And this year, who knows?  Maybe a stranger thing will happen and the Crew or Cubbies will win the series.

2 Responses to “Crew, Sox, and Cubs – OH MY!”

  1. 1 Robert October 28, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    I know that I am really late on this. And most of what you were writing about is in the past now. But I simply had to weigh in.

    1. We don’t like to talk about the 94 un-season. I bet Joe twice that the Sox would end the season with a better record than the Cubs. One year was the year Harry Caray died (I was sure they were going all the way that year). The other was 94. So I lost both times and needless to say learned my lesson and never bet Joe again. But they would have won that year if it weren’t for that debactle.

    2. How can you say anything bad about those uniforms or anything Veeck did?

  2. 2 andybilhorn October 28, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Well, technically we’re .3333 games away from the end of season, so you aren’t too late.

    That 94 un-season was sad. It was sad that Bud was behind it.

    How can I say anything bad about Veeck? People don’t play baseball in shorts. Sorry – that just isn’t right. He was an ingenious promoter and entertainer but a poor fashion designer.

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October 2008

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