When I Knew I Was a Cubs Fan: A Lesson Learned in 1979

Dan HoehneContributor ISeptember 1, 2008

It was May 17, 1979. I was 11 years old, and by now it was routine.

Having been a follower of the Cubs for three years by that point, I knew how it went.

I'd get home from grade school, turn on Ch. 9, and catch the Cubs game in about the third or fourth inning.

Consider, in the mid- to late-'70s, the Cubs were a hard-working, hustling, though for the most part overly matched club. They'd have their streaks, or moments of brilliance, only to be soured by the overall ineptitude.

Before the era of big market, small market...before revenue sharing, each club was left to its owners devices and whims.

Just before I was able to become a fan, before I came of age enough to be a fan, the Cubs had a repeat batting champion in Bill Madlock.

Of course, he asked for a raise after getting that second straight hitting title, and, of course, the Wrigley ownership promptly shipped him off.

That was the sort of organization I came to be a fan of, and they would not disappoint.

And yet, even in my early years, as horrid as things could be, I was hooked.

The big chaw of Red Man in Steve Ontiveros' cheek. The eye black and thrown-bat base hits of Bill Buckner (more on him in another article), the portly-yet-surprisingly-agile Rick Reuschel.

They were my guys, the baseball team of my early childhood.

But by age 11, I was already jaded. So much so that on that fateful afternoon, arriving home from school, I went through the routine, and for the first time...cut it short.

Like I said, I would get home and catch the game in the third or fourth inning.

On this day, however, in a matchup with the hated Phillies (back in the days of just the NL East and West, with the Atlanta Braves being in the West), I got home and the top of the first inning was just ending.

Jack Brickhouse said, as the picture came on..."Going into the bottom half of the first, it's Phillies 7, Cubs nothing."

I'd had it.

As bad as they might have been most of the time, I would stick it through, thinking Ivan DeJesus will start things up, Kingman and Buckner and Jerry Martin will club a homer or two each and they'll make a game of this.

But here it was, early in my third season of fandom, and I'd given up on my guys.

Already 7-0? Against the powerhouse Phillies? Just after their first inning at bat?

I turned the TV off and headed out.

I have no idea what I did with my afternoon, probably just went outside and became a relative part of 11-year-old suburban society of the late '70s.

But I found out later, that the Cubs went on to score six in their half of the first, making it 7-6, on the way to one of the most epic battles in baseball lore.

Kingman, in fact, hit three homers that day. Buckner and Martin, along with Steve Ontiveros, added one blast apiece. Many other players finished with multiple hits or multiple runs scored.

The Cubs, obviously, ended up losing, 23-22, on a Mike Schmidt homer, his second of the game.

But I never forgave myself for not at least seeing them through to the bottom of the first.

Which is why, even now, even today, as I saw them fall behind 2-0, then 3-0...even while I had other things to do, I couldn't turn the TV off.

I came on here and wrote my first article for Bleacher Report, then kept checking back to see any response.

But in the other room, in the background, forever in the background, were my Cubs.

All because I missed the bottom of the first inning in 1979.