The Chicago Cubs are trying to do something that hasn’t happened in the lifetime of anyone born in the last 108 years: Win a World Series.
So naturally, the chance to be part of that history has prompted people who live in Chicago, once lived in Chicago or just rooted for the Cubs from miles away to descend on Wrigley Field or tune in on television.
If you didn’t know Chicago was once home to scores of celebrities, you do after tuning into the game. Broadcasts have shown actor Bill Murray, delirious with joy, in the middle of a throng of fans that included John Cusack, an actor who has long rooted for the Cubs, and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, who turned his love for the Cubs into a song, “Someday We’ll Go All The Way.”
Here, then, are some Cubs fans who are better known for what they do for a living than who they root for.
Chicago native Bob Newhart has been posing with the team’s signature “W” for win flag in pictures on his Twitter account during the playoffs.
The 87-year-old comedian said his first memory of going to a Cubs game was with his mother at age 6 or 7. He was 16 when he went to Chicago’s LaSalle Street to cheer the Cubs as they were welcomed home after winning the National League pennant in 1945. The Cubs went on to lose the World Series to the Detroit Lions and haven’t been back since.
So why remain a Cubs fan?
“I guess I’m not easily dissuaded,” Newhart said. “I used to say I’m a Cub fan in my stand up because it kind of prepared you for life, you knew you were ahead and you knew you were going to blow it somehow. That’s a lesson all Cub fans shared until this year.”
Newhart went to Game 3 of the NLCS with his grandson on Tuesday. He said he hopes his Cubs fandom continues in his family.
“I’m deathly afraid that it’s going to die with me because my grandchildren are Dodger fans,” he said. “I’ve got to leave it to somebody to continue the fight.”
Political commentator George Will can’t explain why he started rooting for the Cubs as a little boy.
“I grew up in Champaign, midway between Chicago and St. Louis,” he said. “My friends became Cardinals fans and grew up cheerful and liberal and I, for reasons I don’t understand, became a Cubs fan.”
Today, Will is certainly in a little better mood than Cardinals fans, whose team didn’t even make the playoffs. But not by much.
“I was at the Bartman game,” he said of the 2003 playoff game where a fan named Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball that seemed destined for Cubs’ outfielder Moises Alou’s glove just before the team — and its chances to reach the World Series for the first time since 1945 — disintegrated. “So I am always nervous.”
Will is known best for writing about politics. But he has also written extensively about baseball, including a book about the home of the Cubs, “A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley at One Hundred,” which is a long way of saying he’s seen a lot of baseball and a lot of Cubs baseball.
All of which is to say he knows two things: That the Cubs are the best team in baseball and that the best team in baseball does not always win in the playoffs.
He also knows that even if the Cubs do survive this series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and reach the World Series, it might just delay the agony of the fans of a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1908.
“If the baseball gods are as diabolical as I think they are, they’ve set it up for the Cubs to lose to Cleveland,” he said. “How vicious can they be?”
Actor Joe Mantegna, 68, is hoping his 101-year-old mother can see a Cubs win this year.
“It would be nice to see her celebrate a victory,” he said. “She was born in 1915 so the Cubs hadn’t won for six years when she was born.”
Mantegna, known for roles in “The Godfather: Part III” and on the TV series “Criminal Minds,” grew up in Chicago going to Cubs games. There’s even a black-and-white picture of him sitting in front of a television watching a Cubs game, he said.
“One summer I went to 10 games and they lost all 10,” he said. “I really thought I was the reason they were losing. That’s what Cub fever will do to you.”
NICK OFFERMAN and STEPHEN COLBERT
“Parks and Recreation” star Nick Offerman , a Cubs fan born in Joliet, Illinois, appeared on “The Late Show” on Tuesday with host Stephen Colbert — also a Cubs fan.
Colbert: “I’m a Cubs fan, you’re a Cubs fan … how are you handling the stress?”
Offerman: ‘I have a compartmentalization system. When I auditioned for the role of ‘Ron Swanson’ (on Parks and Recreation) it took five months to get the job so for that five months I had to put that information in this drawer that’s not attached to emotion. So I know that something might happen in the coming weeks that would be very good for my baseball team, but I’m not attaching emotion to it.”
Colbert: “When do you attach the emotion to it? You’ve loved and lost is what you’re saying and now you’re afraid to feel?”
Offerman: “I suppose so. I’ve become inured to feeling.”
Novelist Sara Paretsky traces her devotion to the Cubs to the day she heard about a young man who had shoveled the sidewalk in front of the home of a woman and her mother — a man who turned out to be the Cubs first baseman at the time, Bill Buckner. The way Paretsky, a casual Cubs fan at the time, figured it, any team that had a player who helped a couple of women for no other reason than to be neighborly deserved her devotion.
Now as the team that won more games than any other in the majors is in a position to reach the World Series for the first time since Harry Truman was president, Paretsky is, of course, distraught.
“I thought I had protected myself emotionally, but I realized this morning I am already in mourning,” she said Wednesday, the day after the Cubs were shut out for the second straight game in the NL Championship Series.