—Editor’s Note: I offered former Vandalia Leader owner Gary Sosniecki this space to talk about his Chicago Cubs, who are playing the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs for the first time ever.
One Friday afternoon late in the 2007 baseball season, an hour before the first pitch of a Cubs-Cardinals series, a guy I didn’t know came into The Vandalia Leader office and said, “I know you’re a Cub fan. I have to take you to see my mother’s kitchen.”
So I got in the car with this stranger, who drove me to the north side of town to see his mom’s kitchen, which was decorated with St. Louis Cardinals memorabilia, from pictures of Albert Pujols – remember him? – to a framed autograph of Red Schoendienst.
Do a Google search on my name and “Cubs fan” and you can read that story in a chapter about me in Rich Wolfe’s book, “For Cubs Fans Only!!! Volume II.” The chapter is titled, “There Are Some That Say You Can Live among Cardinal Fans Yet Still Go On to Lead a Normal and Productive Life.”
I’m not sure being a Cubs fan in Cardinals territory most of my adulthood qualifies as leading a “normal” life, but it gave me plenty of material for newspaper columns. And Ron Schott, who runs The Leader these days, thought the Cubs and Cardinals playing each other in the National League Division Series was a good reason for another one.
Actually, it was fun being the token Cubs fan in the towns where Helen and I owned newspapers. As any Cardinals fan will tell you, the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and a National League pennant since 1945, so I’m accustomed to being teased about the Cubs’ ineptness.
Such as on a Wednesday early in the 2007 season when I dropped off newspapers at the Farber Post Office. The Tribune Co. had just announced plans to sell the Cubs, and Postmaster Chris Hull, who was expecting me, had a big plastic jug on the front counter labeled, “Buy The Cubs Fund.” The jug was empty except for two Canadian pennies.
“Gary, that’s all I’ve been able to collect,” Chris said with mock concern. “People just aren’t interested in that.”
Thanks to Facebook, the teasing from Cardinals fans has continued since we left Vandalia. (Thank you, Tony Teague, I think!)
But, you can’t live in Missouri as long as I did without being impressed by the St. Louis National League Ball Club. I’ve probably seen more games in Busch Stadium as an adult – mostly Cubs-Cardinals battles – than in Wrigley Field. I hated to see old Busch Stadium go, because as it aged it gained character that it lacked in its early years.
Once, Helen and I scored second-row box seats in old Busch. I don’t remember who the Cardinals were playing, but it wasn’t the Cubs. One of the Cardinals hit a home run, and I started applauding. Then I realized what I was doing and, embarrassed, sat on my hands the rest of the game.
Living in the Quad Cities the past eight seasons puts me among Cubs fans for the first time since summers home from college. Co-workers wear Cubs jerseys to work when there’s a big game. I love that I can listen to every game on radio, watch every game on TV.
But I miss Mike Shannon.
Our niece’s family moved from tiny Lowry City, Missouri, to St. Louis a few weeks ago. We visited the next week and gave great-nephew Jordan his birthday present. After five years of showering him with Cubs stuff, we gave him a Cardinals T-shirt.
In a normal year, I cheer for the Cardinals after the Cubs have been eliminated. But this year, the Cubs may be the team that eliminates the Cardinals.
May the best team win. I will cheer for whichever team that is.
And I hope you’ll return the favor.
Gary Sosniecki and wife Helen owned “The Vandalia Leader” from 2003 to 2007. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org