I was browsing in a Chicago Public Library branch when this new book jumped off the shelf at me. It is titled “Northsiders – Essays on the History and Culture of the Chicago Cubs”. The editors are Gerald C Wood and Andrew Hazucha.
It is a collection of 19 essays. Topics include, but are not limited to, superstation WGN, Cub players as icons, Wrigley field, media coverage and a historical perspective.
I especially enjoyed the essays on the history of Lake View and Wrigleyville; on Ernie Banks; on scorecards and scorekeeping in the bleachers; and the views and opinions of Mike Royko.
The essays turn out to be extremely prescient. Here are some excerpts from the book:
- “I’d always thought of Wrigley Field’s bleachers as the place where real baseball fans go when they close their eyes and click their heels three times.” Lonnie Wheeler
- “Being a Cubs fan is like getting married for the second time – hope wins out over experience.” One Devout Cubs Fan
- “In a very real sense, Wrigley field is a ‘hand-me-down ballpark’, intimate and passed on from one generation to another.”
- “Without ivy and sunshine and apartment buildings on every side, people had just thought of Comiskey as an old ballpark rather than a sacred institution.” Wheeler
- “(P.K. Wrigley) was not a baseball person. His approach to the Cubs was like being the main sponsor of a Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It was a Chicago resource to be maintained, but you don’t waste a lot of money on it. It’s entertainment, you keep it in business. That was his approach.” Chuck Shriver
- “It seemed like when Wrigley owned the Cubs, the feeling was it would be super if you won the pennant, but if not, no big deal.” Glen Hobbie
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- “Ed Prell of the Chicago Tribune wryly remarked that Vedie Himsl, the man Wrigley designated to start the 1961 season as head coach, would be long remembered as the first baseball coach who was appointed and given two-weeks’ notice at the same time.” Discussion of PK Wrigley’s rotating coaches concept
- “Character is more important, Banks gently reminds us, if you are a Cubs fan. Winning, whether on the field or in the accountant’s office, is secondary.” Ernie Banks
- “In Royko’s world there are two constants: the Cubs will flounder and their fans will suffer.“ Mike Royko
- “In 1945, with World War II still raging, the Cubs won a pennant with a team made up of some 4-Fs. When the war ended, P.K. Wrigley, the Cub owner, apparently reasoned that the way to win a championship was with 4-Fs. So while other teams began putting healthy athletes on the field, Wrigley continued hiring players who walked funny and had strange physical infirmities.” Mike Royko
- “Yes, it is a new era. The only thing that remains the same is that the team stunk then and the team stinks now. And the biggest difference isn’t the lights. It’s that in those bygone days, nobody was stupid enough to pay a grand to watch a bunch of losers.” Mike Royko
- “Many Cubs fans today are from the suburbs, brought in by busses. It’s like going to an air show or ‘Cats’ – something tourists do. After the game, you ask them: Who did the Cubs play? What was the score? They shake their heads. It’s not about baseball, it’s about having been to a place to be.”
- “The Yankees aren’t real. Nobody goes around triumphing over everything (…) most people don’t triumph over anything. The Cubs help teach us that life is rough.” Mike Royko
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“Northsiders” is a must read for anyone who knows about or who wants to know about the Chicago Cubs. I recommend it highly.