During the summers of the late 1970s, I would hop on a school bus in front of City Hall in downtown Woodstock, IL and take the long hour plus ride to Wrigley Field to watch a Cubs game.
Strangely, I don’t think I ever attended a Cubs game with my parents. Back in the day, home Cubs games were played in the afternoon, my parents worked, and the bus and the seats were cheap. I recall making this trip down to Wrigley several times with my friends in those years.
As a kid, I liked baseball. I especially liked the Cubs and the magical feeling of Wrigley Field. My personal passion for sports was swimming, but I got hooked on baseball because I could watch it on television in the afternoons before swimming meets. You see, on swimming meet days, we weren’t supposed to hang out at the pool, and the best air conditioned location to veg was in front of the TV.
Cubs games were broadcast on WGN. The game would start with Jack Brickhouse moderating The Leadoff Man, and then the game would start at 1:15. By the time the game was over, it was time to start thinking about packing up to go to a meet.
I had another passion back then, statistics. Ask anyone and they’d tell you I was a walking Guinness Book of World Records. Baseball was good for someone like me because there were ERAs, batting averages, and all sorts of statistics to memorize. Plus, almost all the kids my age in the neighbourhood were boys, and baseball helped me to fit in with them.
And then there were the players. I knew them all, or at least all their stats. Manny Trillo, Ivan De Jesus, Bill Buckner, Bobby Murcer, Larry Biitner and the legendary home run king, Dave Kingman. At the beginning of one season I acquired a roster with all their pictures on it, and by the end of the season I had most of their autographs. It wasn’t hard to get autographs if you were a kid. You just took your roster to the top of the dugout and the mascot or a representative would hand it over the top to the players, who would sign and hand back.
I loved those guys.
I moved away from Chicagoland in the early 1990s, but I never lost my passion for the Cubs. And I never will.
I’m certainly not alone. This week there have been crazy stories going around about people listening to the winning game with the long departed (including one person who spent the whole Game 7 in a cemetery next to his father’s headstone). What makes a team so wonderful that people take that warm feeling with them to the grave?
In the context of work, how do we earn this sort of loyalty in workplaces? You know, staying the course even when things aren’t perfect. I’ve thought about this a lot recently.
Really, it is about the type of people you hire. The ones who care about their co-workers, who have a passion for having fun even when the work is hard. The ones who value comradery. It is about the mutual commitment the company has toward its people.
The Chicago Cubs organization has faced a lot of significant challenges over the years. Sure, there are all the superstitions involving goats and cats, but the one that sticks out for me is Wrigley Field itself. While I think Wrigley is the coolest thing with the ivy, the old scoreboard, and the homes and apartment buildings across the street with their rooftop seats, it is a less than optimal ballpark for a business that needs to make money to meet a very expensive modern payroll. In my lifetime, Wrigley has gone from a day game stadium to one that can manage night games, despite a bitter “no lights” campaign in the 1980s. But to date, they’ve managed to keep the Cubs out of the suburbs, maintaining an icon that draws people back like the Pied Piper.
There’s something to be said about consistency. Certainly for the Cubs, that has helped to breed its fans’ loyalty.