Sunday, September 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

For Cubs fans, World Series championship is 'for all the generations before'

When it happened, when the final out was recorded and century-long World Series championship drought ended and the Cubs – yes the Cubs! – were celebrating the big one, Roger Kurz thought about his twin sister, Susan, who passed away four years ago.

"She would have loved this," Kurz said.

And Ed and Kelly Rubin thought of their dads. Ed's dad, Marvin, died when Ed was 8. Kelly's dad, Sherwin, passed away 22 years ago.

Both sat inside their Tampa home and held pictures of their fathers as the Cubs rejoiced in Cleveland after Wednesday's dramatic Game 7 win against the Indians. They hugged. They cried.

"It feels good," Kelly Rubin said. "For Cubs fans it's more than just a game. It's for all the generations before."

Being a Cubs fan is about loyalty and an unwavering belief. It is also about family, especially those you miss.

"Something that you didn't think would happen in your lifetime and it does, and you think about all the people who are gone," Kurz, 72, said.

Kurz, who lived in West Tampa, and the Rubins, who live in Tampa, are three of a handful of bay area Cubs fans who shared their hopes and dreams and, because they are Cubs fans, fears with the Tampa Bay Times during the postseason. The idea was to get a view of the playoffs through their eyes.

No fan base has suffered like the Cubs, which until Wednesday, had not won a World Series since 1908. Heck, before this year, the Cubs' last trip to the Fall Classic was in 1945.

Since then it has been one heartbreak after another from a Billy goat denied entrance to Wrigley Field in the 1945 World Series to a black cat at Shea Stadium in 1969 to the ground ball through the legs of Leon Durham in 1984 to Will Clark's grand slam in 1989 to Steve Bartman in 2003.

How much heartache can a fan take?

"You live in Chicago, you're a Cubs fan, you learn to be a good loser," Kelly Rubin said.

No more.

"It still feels like a dream, like it hasn't sunk in yet," Mike Zichmiller, 42, said Thursday.

"I'm on cloud 9," Jacob Linsky, 27, said.

"I just can't believe it," Maggie Mitchell, 37, said.

Believe it!

"Every day is a good day to be a Cub fan," Ed Rubin said. "But today is even better."

The Rubins returned to their native Chicago last weekend for Games 4 and 5. They had their picture taken in front of the statue for Cubs hall of famer Billy Williams before Saturday's game. The Cubs lost that night. On Sunday, they returned with tickets for the bleachers.

Ed changed his attire, trading his blue Cubs jersey for his Billy Williams jersey. The Cubs never lost with Ed wearing the jersey of his favorite Cub.

He even wore it to work Thursday.

Linsky, a decedent of Chicago-bred Cubs fans but born and raised in Tampa, moved to Atlanta last month. He met his dad, Donald, in Chicago last weekend. He paid $2,500 for a ticket to Game 4.

"Section 209, Row 13, Seat 3. I'll never forget where it was," he said. "It was a dream come true. Seeing them win was worth every penny I spent."

The Cubs lost that night, their third loss in four games. One more loss and it would be 'wait 'til next year' again.

"I was in panic mode, like everybody else," Linsky said. "But I never gave up. I still kept believing."

Linsky flew back to his new home Sunday. He bought chicken fingers from Publix on his way home from the airport for his pre-Game 5 dinner.

The Cubs won.

Linsky ate chicken fingers for dinner the next three nights. He wore the same clothes he was wearing during Game 5 during Games 6 and 7.

He watched Game 7, standing on one side of his apartment when the Cubs were batting and the other side when the Cubs were in the field.

He felt good as the Cubs built 5-1 and 6-3 leads. Then Rajai Davis delivered a two-run, two-out home run in the eighth and suddenly the score was tied at 6.

"I can't even explain the feelings I had when he hit that home run," Linsky said. "I got sick."

Physically?

"I threw up."

He texted his dad, "I don't know what to do."

His dad texted back, "Well, we need a run."

That run came in the 10-inning on an opposite field double by former Rays and series MVP Ben Zobrist. The Cubs tacked on one more then held on for an 8-7 victory.

"Of course it has to be this way for the Cubs," Zichmiller said. "It has to be agonizing."

Zichmiller spent last weekend in Chicago. He never made it inside Wrigley. Scalpers were asking too much. But he did pay a $100 cover to watch Game 3 from the Irish Oak, a pub in Wrigleyville. He spent nearly 12 hours inside the bar, arriving well before first pitch.

On Saturday, he watched the game with the man who turned him onto the Cubs – his dad, Bob, and his Uncle Nick. He watched Game 5 from a bar near his dad's house, a few miles from Wrigley.

"It was electric," Zichmiller said.

Stephen Neldner, 30, who lives in Brandon, made it inside Wrigley for Game 3. He waited until the second inning then paid a scalper $700 for a ticket. The guy sitting next to him paid $2,500.

Neldner said he didn't panic when the Cubs went down 3-1 in games. All they had to do was win Game 5.

"Get it back to Cleveland, who knows," he said. "This is the best team in baseball. If any team can win three in a row, it's the Cubs."

Mitchell, who lives in Carrollwood and tends bar at Prime Time Sports Grill in Tampa, paid $1,700 for a ticket to Game 5.

Was it worth it? Heck yeah. She got to see her beloved Cubs win a World Series game at Wrigley. How many people can say that?

"I don't even have words for it," she said of the experience. "It's the best thing ever."

Kurz is wondering how long he should continue to fly the white "W" flag outside his home. It is a replica of the one that flies outside of Wrigley after a Cubs win. Thanksgiving? Christmas?

Kurz had his wife, Elizabeth, take his picture with the flag in the wee hours of Thursday. He wanted something for the grand kids.

Before heading outside, he told Elizabeth, "Thank you God for allowing me to be alive to watch the Cubs win the World Series."

Family.

In college, Kelly Rubin was assigned an essay on three items she would leave for her children. She included a ticket stub from a Cubs game. It symbolizes loyalty.

Sherwin taught Kelly how to keep score, pulled her and her sister, Randie, from school on Opening Day so they could watch the Cubs play at Wrigley.

Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam wrote a tribute to the Cubs. The song is "All the Way." The video shows clips of the old Cubs. In one of them, first baseman Bill Buckner dives into the stands. Standing nearby was Sherwin.

"My sister told me, it's fate," Kelly said.

And now that that fate finally smiled on the Cubs and they won it all, can they win it again?

"I don't see us slowing down," Neldner said. "How young we are, I don't expect a big drop off. Obviously, as a Cubs fan you can't expect to win a World Series every year – or ever – but I can't see a reason why we can't be a favorite next year."

Said Mitchell, "everybody said this is once in a lifetime, but I don't think so. They're going to be around a while."

How about it, Zichmiller?

"I'm still in shock," he said, "and it's a great feeling. Finally."

 
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