The names of the departed Cub faithful are being written on the brick wall beneath the left field bleachers on Waveland. Feeling love and loss, I’m called to add the name of our family’s #1 Cubs fan. This is a photograph I took of my brother in law, John Whiteford, enjoying a ball game at his favorite place in the world. Barbara’s younger brother was a wonderful person. We will forever miss his intelligence, generous nature and fun-loving personality. He was a devoted uncle to our kids and Michele and Matthew absolutely adored him. He was also a dedicated and knowledgeable baseball fan, but despite his encyclopedic baseball knowledge and thorough understanding of how the game should be played, John never wavered in his devotion to the Cubs. When some hapless Cub would sail a routine throw to first into the stands, commit an especially egregious baserunning error, miss the cut-off man, fail to lay down a bunt or be out by a mile in a hopeless attempt at a stolen base, John’s aggravation would soon be replaced with bemused resignation. He would soldier on, spending season after season in the always-next-year purgatory where die-hard Cubs fans dwelt for 108 years. Their long awaited ascension from the cellar finally occurred on November 2, 2016. How John would have loved this brilliant Cubs team and the season they gave us. How he would have savored every moment of a quintessential World Series with the Cubs coming back from a 3 games to 1 deficit to finally prevail over a tenacious Cleveland team in an epic Game 7.
In this moment of Cubs glory, I look at this photograph of our dear brother, uncle and friend and I long to return to that ordinary summer day 24 years ago, to sit with him in the half empty upper deck, on a golden afternoon with the wind blowing out. With hopes for a season above .500 a fading spring memory, I long to hear our family’s #1 Cubs fan share his belief that baseball and Wrigley Field are beautiful and sufficient unto themselves and more than enough to sustain us as we keep the faith and dream of Champions.