CHICAGO – Diane Sotsky and her two older sisters would get home from school after 3 p.m. in the 1950s and take a listen. If they heard the sounds of an ongoing Cubs game, they would take a short walk down the street to Wrigley Field.
“The usher at the gate would let them in and they would watch the last innings,” Melissa Levy said. “Sometimes, they still would be at the ballpark and one of the players would give them a ride home.”
Diane is Melissa’s mother. Melissa is a former Star Tribune reporter, as is her husband, Jeff Shelman. They were spotted walking on Sheffield Avenue. outside Wrigley Field. Melissa, with her Cubs wear, was accused of being a post-World Series, front-running Cubs fan.
She told the tale of her family’s background in the Wrigley neighborhood to disprove empathically this accusation. She also had evidence of genuine Cub-dom on her cellphone with an exchange of texts from Nov. 2, 2016, that started with Diane’s message at 11:51 p.m.:
Mom: Are you still up?
Melissa: No, I went to sleep in the 8th. What happened?
Mom: The Cubs just Won.
Melissa had the same laugh at her mother’s politeness this weekend as she did on that glorious night that the Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years.
“I called and said, ‘Mom, of course I’m up, with the Cubs playing to win the World Series,’ ” Melissa said. “I was happy for me, but I was so happy for Mom. She has loved the Cubs her whole life.”
The ballpark was as jammed as jam-packed can get again on Saturday before the second game of the Twins-Cubs series. The huge plaza added on the west side of Wrigley has brought an element of milling about that makes the atmosphere for a summer Saturday similar to a fall Saturday for a popular college football team.
Bottom line: People are happy as heck to be here.
The question being asked of Cubs backers was this: Has winning a World Series changed the fans?
“There are a lot more of them,” Levy said. “As for the loyalists, I think at first came a lot of disbelief. And after a while came, ‘Great. How about next year?’ ”
Larry Friedman and his daughter Jamie were sitting in the upper deck and taking in the pregame sights. There was also music from an organist, a throwback that remains at Wrigley as so much around it has changed.
Friedman, 91, lives in the Cubs hotbed of Dubuque, Iowa. He saw his first game at Wrigley Field as a Boy Scout in the mid-1930s.
“Our scout master knew someone with the Cubs, and our troop got in for free,” he said. “That was a real good Cubs team. Phil Cavarretta was the young guy that had everyone excited.”
The Cubs thrilled Friedman by reaching the World Series in 1938, and then were swept by the Yankees. The next World Series was 1945, and Larry missed that one.
“I was in the Philippines,” he said. “I was in a convoy headed for Japan when we dropped the bombs and ended the war. We wound up in the Philippines. I wasn’t hearing much about the Cubs.”
Friedman came home in 1946 and waited seven decades to watch the Cubs in another World Series.
“It was tremendous to have them win it,” he said. “Eighty percent of the TVs in Dubuque were turned to the game, rooting for the Cubs.
“I’ve always felt Cubs fans were the most loyal of any fans. I don’t think that’s changed.”
Daughter Jamie lives in Chicago and has owned 27 games’ worth of Cubs season tickets for five years. She disagreed with her father.
“The fans have changed,” she said. “When they lose a game now, there a lot of critics. They even have been getting on Joe Maddon, the manager who won the first Cubs’ World Series in 108 years.”
Larry was not willing to concede the loyalty point on the Maddon issue, saying: “We like Joe, but he blew a couple of games keeping his pitcher in too long.”
Matt and Charlotte Kutsch have had season tickets since 2008. What has winning a World Series done?
“There are more bandwagon fans,” Matt said. “I don’t think the expectations are too high, though. I think we have an ownership now that’s dedicated to putting the Cubs in position to contend for the World Series every year.
“As fans, you can’t ask for more than that.”
Yeah, I guess that beats dreaming the now-impossible dream of a wild-card playoff game.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. • firstname.lastname@example.org