Through Both Lenses: Generation to Generation

Posted: July 27, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Columns, Sports, Through Both Lenses
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by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

This is Part IV of IV. Here are parts I, II, and III.

An Oral Tradition

The Misadventures of Paulie

Moe, I get so much from reading these stories, thank you.

But I still can’t forgive you for being a CUBS fan. Reading over your stories, I was reminded of some of my earliest memories, both at Comiskey Park. The first one was that I was being held in my Tio Chava’s arms and I started to cry when the fireworks show started. Comiskey Park’s power was shut off with only the emergency lighting for the entrances to guide the way. Then giant BOOMS and CRASHES and holy hell came raining down. I held on to Tio so tight and wanted to go home, this was the summer of 1970 or 71.

The other memory involves your abuelo, he came home from work one day and told me that he was going to the game and I could go with him if I got ready ASAP. While he sat down to wolf down his dinner, I scrambled to no success to find my shoes. Crafty that I was I decided I wasn’t going to miss out on Sox game, so I walked down to the garage and opened the back passenger door to his Ford Station Wagon, light blue in color, and sat down in the backseat and just waited for him to take me. Next thing I remember I’m awaken by the same thunderous explosions that made me cry a couple years earlier, but this time I knew exactly what it was. Someone from the Sox hit a homer and the scoreboard went off, I didn’t know who hit it or what inning it was. All I knew was that I had missed my opportunity to go to the game. Between the time I sat down in the back of the Ford and the fireworks, I had fallen asleep, landed on the back floorboard, driven to the ballpark and your grandfather didn’t even know he had a stowaway. There I was stuck inside the family sedan, that was now parked deep inside a sea of cars (now lot C), trying to make sense of it all. Here I was no shoes, missing the ballgame and I was 3 years old.

Couple of innings came and went, I saw people laughing as they walk through the parking lot, I would immediately duck so no one would see me. Then finally I saw a figure coming toward me, from a distance I recognized his walk, his body shape, even his clothes, it was a-Pa, he had left the game early to get a jump on the crowd and leaving before the game ended. I sprang from the back seat to the front driver’s seat waiting for him the open up the door. When he did open the door he started asking me questions about what was I doing in the car? Was anyone with me? How did I get here, etc…. I don’t remember answering any of his questions, all I knew was that my little adventure to sneak off to the game didn’t quite work out as well as I hope for.

Many years later I’m in my mid 20′s and I was curious to my father’s take on the story. He recounted that he indeed left early and walking up to the Ford, and to his surprised he saw me jumping up and down on the seat. He was so surprised to see me and puzzled that he did a complete loop around the car looking for one of my tio’s to pop-up. He was convinced that one of the Tio’s was playing a practical joke on him, using me as a prop to mess with him. He said I did answer his question and I recounted everything that happened. On the way back home I sat in the front seat all the way to 25-O-5 house, he carried me all the way back up the stairs, again no shoes. At the time all I wanted to know from him was when was the next Sox game and if we planned on going?

-Tio Paulie

Uncle Ruben clears his name

Moe – Love the article and I appreciate the shout out to my kids. I too remember those times I got to go to games at Comiskey with your Abuelo. I’m glad to say that I have managed to take Maya to games (when she was 3 months old) and again when she was 6 years old. Nael hasn’t made it yet, but will.

As you know, your aunt Hina doesn’t get the whole Chicago White Sox and Cub (Yeah I wrote it in that order) ‘divide’ and more importantly she doesn’t like baseball (at all). But she did read (and enjoy) your article as well.

To all others I feel I must clear up some things:
1. We live in Austin, Texas not Houston. If you know both places, you know why that’s important. I expect an official correction.
2. I NEVER threw at you in wiffle ball. They are wiffle balls and you cannot control them. But you still needed to learn about who owns the inside part of the plate…

I’ve read part II already and now I understand why you strayed. Unfortunately, in 1998 I was then living in Houston and could not keep you from the ‘dark side.’

Oh yeah, and remember, ‘Karko is pretty fast for a catcher….’

-Tio Ruben

Family ties

Sitting in our office are two photographs from my youth. One is of Frank Thomas swinging off his front foot at a pitch low in the zone, the other is an autographed picture of Black Jack McDowell whose P’s look oddly familiar. I am indeed a Cubs fan, and an ardent supporter. I get teased about it in the family, but that comes with the territory. There are many things that I left out of this series, in the interest of time. Paulie, I do remember sitting underneath blankets in the upper deck of Comiskey as the temperature dropped to below 40. Ruben, after messing around with wiffle balls as an adult (and hitting a few friends), I can confirm, yeah those things are hard as hell to control. You’ll live on as a legend, however, in the same vein as Gibson and Pedro, a notorious head hunter willing to plunk his own young nephew to win the game. Them’s the breaks.

2003 and ever after

I was in a bar during game 4 of the 2005 World Series, taking pictures of the reactions that were sure to come. When Konerko raised his hands in celebration, I took a few pictures, then I went to a quiet place to call my uncle Pablo and congratulate him. I knew that somewhere, uncle Ruben was celebrating as well, and that fact was confirmed when he sent us a picture of him, in his White Sox uniform, posing for a company portrait. The engineering firm he worked/works for had a hand in building the Houston Astro’s Minute Maid Park. My uncle Ruben is a confirmed White Sox meatball.

2004 came and went, I was pretty numb to everything about that year. I had minor joy over the Maddux signing, the Garciaparra trade, but I couldn’t help but fight the feeling that the Cubs had missed catching lightning in a bottle.

I was right.

I won’t lie, I thought they would win in 2008, especially after an epic 5 day stretch against the Brewers late in the year. They had the best team in Major League baseball, and they had a World Series tested manager at the helm. It was the 100 year anniversary, I thought it would all fall into place.

I was wrong.

2009 was soul-sucking for a variety of reasons, most of them had to do with Milton Bradley. 2010 was forgettable and by 2011 I was settled in to a mindset that I would never see the Cubs win a World Series crown. I was on a plan to see my then girlfriend when Jim Hendry was fired, and then a few months later the Cubs hired Theo Epstein in the least Cub move of all time. Suddenly, there’s a plan in place.

I have hope.

Synopsis

Writing this has been therapeutic, and difficult. There’s a lot of buried emotion in those years, and there are a lot of things that I thought I forgot that, as it turns out, I’ll always remember. Walking the line on both sides of town has taught me two very important things: Stereotypes might begin with a nugget of truth, but they don’t always end up being true, and Chicago sports fans are the “most” of any fan I’ve run across. The most ardent, the most craven, the most defensive, the most intelligent, the most meatballish, and on and on. The smartest baseball mind I’ve run across in my very young journey belongs to a Cubs fan, our own Tony Leva (we would destroy trivia). Cubs fans aren’t associated with being knowledgeable about baseball for various reasons, I like to think our circle of Cub fan friends breaks that stereotype.

Cubs culture is bothersome, I hate “Go Cubs Win,” I dislike the cute bullshit that they do sometimes, but I fell in love with a team because of the product on the field, not the culture in the seats. The North Side is a completely different city than the South Side. White Sox fandom is passed down generation to generation. Old prejudices die hard with White Sox fans. The Cubs attract fans from everywhere, and that is due to both the neighborhood they inhabit, the WGN contract they have, and the ballpark. Wrigley gets a bad rep from us here at CAD T. WASP. I wouldn’t become despondent if the park was torn down to better the club, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be sad about it. It is a great place to watch a game, the simplicity of the park is what makes it for me, the baseball fan. If I had a family with young kids, I would go to Comiskey more often than not, there’s a lot for kids to do there. When I just want to watch a game, however, I love going to Wrigley. It’s not bombarding you with crap quite yet. It is a baseball monument, and there is a lot of history in that park, even if most of it is bad history.

White Sox culture is different than Cubs culture seems so obvious, but really the major difference is that we as fans worship different gods. We like to make out like one fandom is better than the other, but that doesn’t get to the heart of it. We are Chicagoans, and when Chicago roots for baseball, we do so in a language all our own. To talk baseball with a Chicagoan is to talk about the past, present, and the future. A true Chicago baseball fan honors the ghosts of the past with equal parts fear and respect. The White Sox honor the dead, the Cubs fear them. The White Sox god can be seen as cruel, but the Cubs god is a wrathful bitch loaded with all the right ammunition to take out the hopes and dreams of a fandom. In the end the baseball gods of Chicago are a fickle lot, sometimes you’re on your way to surpassing Rajah as the best right handed hitter of all time, only to have it taken from you mysteriously in the years that should be your prime, other times you’re a young pitcher under the tutelage of a sadistic manager who loves seeing triple digit pitch counts, snuffing out your flame twice as fast for it burned twice as bright. 

In 2005 a major portion of my family ended their wait. I saw the parade downtown, I saw the mass of people coming out to celebrate a Sox World Series. I saw the weight lifted from people as the trophy came around. I saw pure, unadulterated, baseball joy.

I’m still waiting for that moment.

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