Saturday, April 01, 2006

Guest Blogger: Myrtle Nasengruber

Myrle Nasengruber is 103 years old. She lives in a nursing home on the North Side of Chicago. This is a picture taken of her in 1908.

But They Promised!
By Myrtle Nasengruber

“I’ll take you next time, honey”

I was five years old when my father said that to me in 1908. The Cubs were playing Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. My father had tickets to Game 6 at West Side Park, but the Cubs won game 5 in Detroit, winning the series. I was so upset I didn't get to see it that I cried. My father was sure they would win it again soon, and he promised me we would be there for their next championship.

“Do you promise Daddy?” I asked.

“Yes, dear,” he said. “Next time they win it all, I’ll make sure that you and I will be there on the outfield grass of West Side Park cheering our boys.”

“What if they don’t win it again, Daddy?” I asked.

“Nonsense,” he said, “with Three Fingers Brown and that keen double play combination, by golly, they’ll win it again as sure as Teddy Roosevelt is President. Why, I’d bet my nicest spittoon that they’ll win it all again next year, sweetheart.”

He took me on the horse-drawn streetcar to the drug store to buy a piece of rock candy. After we got out of the streetcar, and while I was avoiding the ‘water’ being tossed out the second story windows from chamber pots, he asked me to recite his favorite poem for him one more time. I did it gladly.

“These are the saddest of possible words,
Tinker to Evers to Chance,
Trio of Bear Cubs fleeter than birds,
Tinker to Evers to Chance,
Thoughtlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double,
Words that are weighty with nothing but trouble,
Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

“That’s my girl,” he said. “Now cover your ankles or they’ll think you’re a working girl from the levee.”

The next year the Cubs finished in third place, and I started working sixteen hour days at the factory. They went back to World Series in 1910, the year the Model T rolled off the assembly line in Detroit, but they lost this time. I’m sure Ronald Reagan’s father told him all about it when he was born in nearby Dixon the following year. He was a Cubs fan too.

They didn’t build Wrigley Field, then known as Weegham Park, until eight years after they won it all. I was thirteen at the time. I’ll never forget it—that was also the year our neighborhood got indoor plumbing and Buffalo Bill Cody died. The Cubs made it the World Series again (and lost to Babe Ruth’s Boston Red Sox) in 1918. I heard Daddy use some real bad words that time. Two years later women got the right to vote, and I voted for the Cubs to win the damn (a word I heard Daddy say) series like my Daddy promised they would.

Daddy passed away the year the first talkie movie came out. (I couldn’t believe it—it was only twenty one years after the Cubs won it all—and look at this progress society was making. They were talking on the moving pictures!) The last thing he said to me was...”Myrtle, honey, I promise I’ll put in a word with God to get you that World Series victory.”

By then I was married to a nice Italian boy who worked in the “trucking business.” He and his boss Alphonse used to do a lot of work at night, trucking his “product,” but he also had some connections with the Cubs. My Frankie’s boss got us tickets through his pal Hack Wilson, and we watched them lose in ’29.

We watched them lose again in ’32, when Babe Ruth called his shot. As far as I’m concerned that fatso was no gentleman. Not like my Frankie, who got me tickets to see them lose again in the ’35, ’38, and ’45 series, even though he couldn’t go with me because he was sent up the river thanks to his terrible defense lawyer Clarence Darrow.

When I went to visit my Frankie in prison later that year, he told me that he would grant me any wish in the world when he got out. I said; “Frankie, honey, just take me to see the Cubs win it all. That’s all I want.”

He smiled and said “Myrtle, baby, you’re swell—and if that’s what you want, then it’s a promise, baby.”

Frankie died in prison the next year. He didn’t keep his promise. Neither did my dad.

Scientists have managed to split the atom. Astronauts have managed to walk on the moon. The Cubs have managed to stay out of the World Series.

My kids were born, lived full fruitful lives, and died without ever seeing the Cubs win the World Series. My grandchildren are in their fifties, and they haven’t seen the Cubs make it to the World Series. My grandson Billy had tickets for the World Series in 2003, and even though I was one hundred years old at the time, I said I would go. Steve Bartman decided I wouldn't.

Last year, after the Cubs were eliminated from the playoff hunt again, the attendant at the nursing home said; “Oh well, Myrtle, looks like ‘Wait til next year.”

I kicked the bastard in the groin.

I have one thing to say to the Chicago Cubs: If you don’t win it this year, I’m going to roll my wheelchair down there and bust some heads.

And that’s a promise I intend to keep.

*Myrtle Nasengruber doesn’t actually exist, but the anger she expresses in this “April Fools” guest blog is very real. She has been created by the author to point out how long 98 years really is. It’s a long damn time. Enough, already.