by Drew Bingham
My Grandpa Herman moved in with us when I was 3 or 4 years old. I don’t remember a lot from that life stage, but I do remember arguing with him about what we watched on TV. I wanted to watch Sesame Street or cartoons, but Grandpa wanted to watch the ballgame. And since this was the early 80s, I was the remote control. I don’t remember how many of those arguments I won or lost, but I do remember those were my first views of Wrigley Field and the Cubs.
The summer of 1990 was my first trip to Wrigley Field when my family went on vacation to Chicago. We all went to the first game, and then just my Dad and I went to the rest of the series. It was so cool seeing my favorite player, Ryne Sandberg, at second base, Shawon Dunston at shortstop, and I vividly remember sitting in the bleachers for one game and watching Andre Dawson patrol the outfield. By then I was hooked, doodling Cubs logos and Sandberg’s 23 in the margins of my schoolwork and collecting every Sandberg card I got my hands on. I was devastated when the Giants beat us in the NLCS in 1989. We went back to Chicago and back to Wrigley at least once more in the early 90s, but as I fell away from playing Little League, I kept baseball at arm’s length. I checked on the game in 1998 to watch Sosa and McGwire chase history and to see the Cubs sneak into the playoffs for the first time in forever, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that I was completely back in as a Cubs fanatic. I watched or listened to every game I could as they captured the NL Central in 2003. I was laser-focused on every pitch of the playoffs that October as me and the rest of Cubs Nation were sure that our pitching sensations Mark Prior and Kerry Wood were finally going to lead us to the promised land. Game 6 of the ‘03 NLCS still stings when I think about the fallout after the Moises Alou rant in left field, but winning it all in 2016 helps alleviate that “what might have been” quite a bit.
From 2003 on, I was plugged into everything from the farm system up. Trading for Nomar, every Prior and Wood injury and rehab, Jim Hendry signing Ted Lilly from a hospital bed. Even in some of the down years to come, it was not as hopeless as it was in past years as it felt like the Cubs had a fighting chance. After getting so close a few times, it felt like the Cubs and Cubs fans would not be satisfied until they finally won it all.
In late 2004, my friends arranged for me to meet this girl Natalie. We were all going to be at a wedding reception together, so they had given me some information ahead of time. I knew that she was beautiful and I think they mentioned that she like sports, but I wasn’t fully prepared for what happened. It wasn’t just that she was a sports fan, but a baseball fan, and a Cubs fan. Or rather a rare combination of both a Cubs and a Cardinals fan. My mouth hit the floor when she mentioned she had been at Game 4 of the 2004 World Series in St. Louis just a few days before. Even though she witnessed her Cardinals getting swept, she had witnessed baseball history when the Red Sox broke the curse. Later that night when I asked for her phone number, it was easy to remember since I noticed that the the last 4 digits spelled C-U-B-S.
It wasn’t long after that day that Natalie and I were planning a wedding of our own with a and honeymoon to follow. We got married in Franklin, Tennessee, but it “just so happened” that the date the church was available for our wedding, coincidentally also lined up with a Cubs home stand. So we got married in June of 2005 and yes, we then went on our honeymoon to Chicago and spent it going to Wrigley Field.
The years since have been an amazing journey together. Her Cardinals won the World Series in 2006 and 2011, then our Cubs and Sweet Lou’s division titles in 2007 and 2008. Throughout those years of being a young married couple, we would journey to Wrigley every summer between 2005 and 2009, when our son Luke was born.
Since the Cubs hired Theo Epstein in 2011, it has been quite a ride for us Cub fans, of course culminating with the Game 7 victory in the 2016 World Series. It was remarkable to watch how he methodically remade the franchise. Through the lean years early in his tenure it was exciting to watch the farm system, the trades, and the drafts that yielded us Rizzo, Arrieta, Bryant, Schwarber, Russell, Baez and all the legends who would finally end 108 years of angst. The corner turned in 2015 and produced one of the funnest teams to watch I have ever seen. In 2016 they turned into a juggernaut on a mission and you could tell you were watching something special. Then came Game 7 and all of the emotional highs and lows that came with it, culminating when Bryant fielded the grounder to third base, threw across the diamond to Anthony Rizzo for the final out. It was an indescribable feeling that I still haven’t gotten used to.
Natalie and I made our latest pilgrimage to Wrigley last year when on a cold, brisk Wednesday night in April, we got to witness history as my Chicago Cubs received their World Series rings, presented to them by ring-bearers who are simply fans like us. As I watched the festivities unfold during Ring Ceremony Night, I found myself standing there at Wrigley Field in awe of what was unfolding right before me. It was like I was hitting rewind on that same remote I used to argue with Grandpa Herman over 30 years earlier when he unknowingly introduced me to baseball, and each replay in my mind led to what I was witnessing that night. After the game that evening, what was an already epic baseball moment, ended in a dream-come-true moment when Natalie surprised me by arranging for us to briefly Mr. Pat Hughes, the radio voice of the Cubs. Pat has been the soundtrack of my life each spring, summer and fall for all of my adult life. To top it off, thanks to Pat we got to see one of those rings up close!
Now as a family of four, we find ourselves as a rowdy baseball family as we’ve introduced the game to our son Luke and our daughter Emily, just like Grandpa Herman did to me many years ago. The biggest difference is, Natalie and I have indoctrinated them on the game enough that we don’t have to wrestle the remote away from them. If anything, it’s the opposite when they want to stay up to late to watch or listen to a game!
Although with a Cardinals fan as the mom and a Cubs fan as the dad, some might say we are a house divided. Nothing could be farther from the truth! In the Bingham household there are only two seasons – it’s either baseball season or we are counting down to Opening Day. We even invested in the renovation of Wrigley and have a family brick to call our own!
Drew Bingham is an IT professional who listens to every Cubs game from Franklin, TN. He enjoys gadgets and 2016 World Series memorabilia. He and his wife Natalie are raising Luke and Emily to love the game, they even get to pick their own favorite team. Drew hopes that in writing his baseball story, that in some small part, helps repair the thirty years worth of ridicule caused from opening Mark Jent’s rare 1988 Nolan Ryan Starting Lineup due to a childhood Christmas gift mix-up.