Mark Richardson —
I came to baseball, or baseball came to me, as a very young boy. My dad was never much of a baseball fan, at least until he was in his 60s and he discovered the entertainment that was Harry Caray’s broadcasting, but my mom was an avid Chicago Cubs fan all her life. Her grandpa (my Great-grandpa Cashore), her dad (my Grandpa Clarence Glynn), and her five brothers were all very devoted Cubs fans, so it was only natural that she would also be caught up in the game. My grandpa and all five of my uncles were quite prominent men, mostly in the Janesville community. Grandpa Glynn was a vice president at the Parker Pen Company, and was regarded as George S. Parker’s right-hand man. In fact, when grandpa passed away in 1965, The Janesville Gazette (then The Janesville Daily Gazette) devoted its front page to an article regarding his life and career. His oldest son, my Uncle Art, was dispatched by Mr. Parker in 1962 to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to oversee the opening of the first Parker Pen plant in South America. Uncle Art suffered a heart attack while there and died just prior to the plant’s opening. My Uncles Elmer and Donald both enjoyed long and successful careers as Parker execs, and my Uncle Kenny moved to Fridley, Minnesota, where he spent many years in charge of the entire state of Minnesota’s prison system. My Uncle Jerry, the only child in the family younger than my mom, was a well respected attorney in Prairie du Chien. All remained Cubs fans throughout their lives, and as a result, I and a vast array of cousins were brought into the family tradition (read: curse) of Cub fandom.
As a little boy aged six and seven, I would typically spend my summer afternoons outside playing. My mom would inevitably have the Cubs game on the radio. The Cubs did not have lights at their home ballpark, Wrigley Field, until late in the 1988 season, so in the 1960s, all 81 home games were played in the afternoon. The other teams also played many, many more day games than they do now, so it was very common for the Cubs to be playing in the daytime. I would take time out from my play every now and then to run inside and ask my mom the score of the game. In those days, the Cubs were not very good, so neither was the news mom delivered when I would ask, and I would return to the yard to take up my play again. On Sundays, we would visit my Grandpa and Grandma Glynn, and my Great-Grandpa Cashore, who lived with them. He spent most of his time in a room toward the back of the house, where he had his reclining chair, his pipe stand and his radio. I would go back there and climb up on his lap and listen to an inning or two of the game before deciding that it was time to go outside and play with grandpa’s dog Joey. This was usually the most listening I did in a week. Then, one day in 1965, when I was eight years old, just a month or so shy of turning nine, I decided to listen to a game in its entirety. The Cubs broadcasters were Vince Lloyd and former Cleveland Indians shortstop and Hall-of-Famer Lou Boudreau. The Cubs were playing the St. Louis Cardinals that day. I was unaware of the intense rivalry between these two teams (a rivalry that continues unabated to this day), but there was something about that broadcast that was captivating to me. The Cubs lost on a home run by Lou Brock, which threw me for a real loop. I remembered that just the year before, Lou Brock had been a Cub. I asked my mom how he could be playing for the Cardinals since he was a Cubs player. She told me that he was no longer a Cub, that they had traded him to the Cardinals. “Huh? What?? Traded?? A guy can get traded to another team?” She assured me that it could happen, did happen, and in fact, quite often. Oh, my gosh. TRAUMA! Could I be traded? Could my family get tired of having me around and decide to trade me for, say, Roger Noble, my friend down the street? After all, Roger and I both played ball. And if ball players could be traded…
Once mom explained that the players on teams like the Cubs and Cardinals were professionals, bound to teams by contracts, and that it was the contract that was traded, that it was a job to the players, and that they were really just going to work for another team when they were traded, it made a little more sense. But I must confess, there was still a little unease until I got a year older and it all came clear to me.
Well, after that first full game, I was hooked. I couldn’t wait for the next day’s game so I could listen again. That set me on a path that saw me listen every day, until school started up again. Then, I would hurry home from school as fast as I could so I could catch the last two or three innings. When they played night games, I would listen until 9:00, which was my bedtime, and then I would sneak my transistor radio under my pillow and listen through an earphone. (In those days, there was a single earphone, not one for each ear, as we have now.) Mom and dad knew full well that I had my radio on while I was supposed to be sleeping, but they pretended not to know, and it was a very peaceful coexistence.
In 1966, the Cubs hired Leo Durocher, a legendary manager, to run the team. They had finished the ’65 season eighth in a ten team league. When Durocher held his press conference upon being hired, he said, “This is not an eighth place team.” Right he was. The 1966 Cubs finished a dead-last tenth. But in 1967, he turned their fortunes around, and they climbed to third place, contending for the pennant right up until the last two weeks of the season. That year, my mom returned to work. She was a highly sought-after cook, and several restaurant owners had been asking her to come to work for them for a long time. She decided that I was old enough now, at age 11, to be alone during the day, so she went to work from 7:00 A.M. until 1:00 P.M. The Cubs games began at 1:00 P.M., so she would just be leaving work as the games began. By the time she got home, about two innings had normally been played. She would walk in the door, and I would begin the rundown of all that had happened in the game up to that point. It never occurred to me that she had a radio in the car and had heard all of the same things I had. She would just smile and listen to my descriptions, and never let on that she already knew all this. She let me go on thinking that I was very important to her knowledge of the events.
As I got older, my mom and I always shared the Cubs, shared baseball. During those early years, I had asked her a whole battery of questions about the game, and she was always able to explain it to me. She could answer even the most complex questions, ones that involved more than just the technical execution of the plays, but all of the nuances of the game as well. She stressed both the scientific and the artistic. She could see through the “what just happened” to the “why and how it happened” and even hazard a very good, and almost always accurate “what’s going to happen next.” She had a deep understanding of the game, one born of her growing-up years, learning from her dad and grandpa just as she was now teaching me. Baseball made us closer, and when she was an old lady, well into her eighties and ravaged by diabetes—she had undergone a triple heart bypass and three amputation surgeries, had no legs anymore, and was just as self-sufficient and determined to care for herself and cook supper one night a week for her sons—she still would not miss a Cubs game. She also loved to watch the Bears, the Blackhawks and golf (her favorite golfer was Tiger Woods), but baseball remained her truest passion right up until the day she died in 2008.
There is no way I could ever repay all of the gifts my mom gave to me, but my love of sports, and for baseball,in particular, is an ongoing gift that I appreciate more and more all the time. Her beloved Cubs just won the World Series—something they never did during her lifetime—and I like to think that somewhere in the ephemeral world she is laughing and celebrating, and smiling down at me as I do the same.