Do you mind that I call you Tom? I feel like we should be on a first-name basis. Mr. Ricketts is so formal, and, well, it just doesn’t seem like it suits you.
You probably don’t remember me. Not long after you bought the Cubs, I saw you walking the streets outside the ballpark and you shook my hand. I’ve seen you many times since then, both inside and around the ballpark, but you’ve always walked right by. I imagine you shake a lot of hands every day. That’s one of the things that I like most about you. You don’t seem like an owner; you seem like one of us. You seem like a fan.
I’ve heard the stories about how you and your brother Pete lived in an apartment over the Sports Corner, at Addison and Sheffield, across the street from Wrigley Field, and how you met your wife in the bleachers. I lived just a couple of blocks from you. Perhaps we bumped into one another at some time, either at Murphy’s or Hi-Tops, or in the bleachers. I wish we’d met back then; I think we would have been friends.
Ever since Kris Bryant scooped up that slow grounder and tossed the ball to first base, where Anthony Rizzo reached above his head to snare it in his glove and then nonchalantly removed it and stuffed it in his back pocket, I’ve been trying to process all my emotions. Maybe you’re feeling some of the same things I am.
I know I’m not alone in trying to put together what it all meant to me. Like many fans, I made my own personal pilgrimage back to Wrigley Field after all the excitement of the Series and the parade had settled. There were a handful of others like me, walking around it from a distance, taking it all in – breathing it all in. Most were congregated at the corner of Clark and Addison, taking selfies of the iconic red marquee, which now reads “WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS.” No exclamation mark needed.
But the one thing that I really came to see was the Lakeview Baseball Club building, located across the street at 3633 North Sheffield Avenue, where for years I’ve seen those historic “EAMUS CATULI!” and “AC” signs, posted in large, white capital letters on a blue background on the upper facade of the building, just beyond the ballpark’s right field bleachers. I know you are familiar with it since you lived next to it. The signs are Latin-based and loosely translate, respectively, to “Let’s Go Cubs!” and “Anno Catulorum,” meaning “In the Year of the Cubs.” The numbers that follow refer to three different date markers – counting the years since the team’s seasonal and playoff success, from the divisional title, to the league title, to the World Series. When I looked up at it that day, for the first time I saw all zeroes after the AC. That’s when it truly sank in.
When I came home, I read “You Go, We Go,” Dexter Fowler’s beautifully told behind-the-scenes account of Game 7. A few weeks later, I watched MLB’s 110-minute documentary, “The 2016 World Series,” which perfectly captures the emotional roller-coaster ride of those seven games.
I shed a lot of tears through all of that. Tears of joy, not of sadness. I know you understand.
And then, finally, I waited two hours in a line outside the Evanston Civic Center just to get a glimpse of the trophy I’d been waiting a lifetime to see. It was encased in glass but as beautiful as I had always imagined it would be.
After all of that I thought I’d be done. But I wasn’t. There was still one thing left to do.
I needed to thank you. That is the reason for this letter. It is to show my gratitude for what you gave me.
You don’t know this, but you gave me a gift that I’d waited 45 years to receive. It is one for which I will forever be grateful and will keep locked away with my most treasured memories.
Many have thanked Theo and Joe and Kris and Anthony and Addison and Ben and all the others. And there’s no doubt that they deserve all the kudos and accolades they’ve gotten. But without you none of them would have been here to do the things that they did. It all started with you. Because of you we never have to be called lovable losers again.
So this is my thank you to you, the one who made it all happen. I know I’m not alone in these sentiments – there are thousands if not millions out there just like me – but you’ve brought me so much pure and unbridled joy. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t say it enough times.
It was a long wait, but it was worth it.
Randy Richardson (Cubs fan since 1969)
P.S.: I know you’re very busy, but next time I see you in or around the ballpark, please stop and let me thank you in person. I’ll even buy you an ice-cold Budweiser so that we can toast to Harry and Ernie and Ron and Jack. I think it will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Randy Richardson is the author of the Wrigleyville murder mystery, Lost in the Ivy, and a regular contributor to Wrigleyville Nation