Below is a short story from last week’s Freedoms Disciple podcast. You can listen by clicking directly on the links for SoundCloud, ITunes or Google Play. This podcast is free, available anytime and a new show is released every Saturday @ Noon Eastern.
This is a fictional story based around the life of a man, and when the story is complete I have some serious questions for you to ask yourself.
The year is 1899 and America is on the road to becoming the nation we all know today. In Chicago, Illinois a lady gives birth to her first child and she calls him Abe after the 16th President of the United States. His father was a local news reporter who covered the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox. His mother was raised on a farm and loved staying at home. She was a wonderful cook and loved to bake the most delicious crusty brown soda bread and share it with the whole community. She would also spend her days minding Abe and later his two younger sisters.
As young Abe grew up, he was like any other young boy of the times. He was super adventurous and was always outside playing, getting dirty, and naturally climbing trees. However Abe favorite times were the times when the whole family would gather around the piano and sing songs as a family.
Like most young boys, Abe had a very special bond with his father and he truly idolized everything his father did and was fascinated by his work. Each day would start the same with young Abe running into his parent’s bedroom, jumping on the bed and with a hopeful smile and ask, “Daddy, can I come to work with you today?” And the answer was always the same, “When you’re a little older son, I promise”. Deep down Abe had no idea what his father did, nor did he care. He just loved the sense of adventure and wanted quality time alone with his father with no girls around.
Well on a warm summer day in 1906, a week before Abe’s seventh birthday, he got the wish he always asked for. Today was going to change his life forever, but not in any way young Abe could understand. Today was the day, a boy became a man as he got to join his dad and go to his work. He travelled by horse and cart to West Side Park to watch the Chicago Cubs play the New York Giants. All Abe knew about his father’s job was that he wrote words, but he had no idea what baseball was. As he clenched his father’s hand tightly, they both walked into this massive stadium and into the stand where some reporters sat. Abe’s father sat and looked over some notes and Abe sat quietly beside him, with his eyes glazing on everything from the stands, to the bases, to the field, to the concession stands. He was seeing a world that was impossible for a young six year old to understand.
Then the people started filling the ground, one by one by one, until ten become twenty and thirty and then into their hundreds. Young Abe was surrounded by more people in this stadium than he had ever met in his life. He held his father’s hand even tighter. Then the game started. He was enthralled by every second of the game. He was amazed at how quiet the stadium was as the pitcher looked into the catcher for the signal and then delivered the pitch, at the sound of a fastball flying past the bat and hitting the catcher’s mitt, that distinct cracking sound as the wooden bat head made contact with the leather of the baseball and flew to the outfield and all the cheers that followed. He was amazed at everything that was happening and although he did not understand most of what was going on, he loved every minute of it.
But as great as the baseball game was, there was something better. Around the fifth inning, he got hungry and his dad bought him a Weiner on a bun which we call a hot dog today. This was easily the best day of his young life. The Cubbies won that game, but more importantly the game of Baseball had a new fan. That season was one of the best in history as the Cubbies won 116 games which is still a record that stands to this day.
Young Abe was now a baseball fan and each morning started out the exact same way. He would wake up, run into his parent’s bedroom, get onto the bed and under the covers and ask his dad about the game the night before. Oh and of course ask when he would get to go back to another game.
For his seventh birthday, he was given a baseball and it would never leave his hands. He was always pretending to be the pitcher, he would spent all his day pretending to stand on the mound for the Cubbies, with his father in the stadium cheering him on, and giving the “death” stare to the batter and look for the sign from the catcher.
That year baseball was popular in Chicago as the new World Series was between the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox and he was desperate to join his father. Sadly the Cubbies lost the series 4 – 2 but that gave Abe all winter to come up with a plan on how he could see more baseball. It took a while but he finally came up with a plan. He would go to his father’s newspaper and ask for his own paper route.
Each morning young Abe, would be the first to get up and go out on his paper route before school. He was extremely popular in the local neighbourhood but also easy to identify as he was always throwing and messing with a now heavily scuffed up and torn baseball.
He became friendly with an older lady on his paper route who had no children or family of her own, but shared his love of Baseball and Weiner’s on a bun. So she decided to help Abe. Each day he would deliver the daily paper to her, and she would give him the sports part of the paper from the day before to bring home.
He would spend hours carefully reading each and every report about the night’s baseball games. He would read about teams that had very funny names like the Brooklyn SuperBas, the Pittsburg Pirates and the Boston Doves. But he enjoyed reading about the Cubbies the most and reading about how many hits manager and first baseman Frank Chance had or how many innings pitchers like Orval Overall or Mordecai Brown threw that night.
He always worked hard, was never late and never missed a day despite some bad weather in the winter. His payment always went to his father, but when he saved enough he brought his mother and two younger sisters to share his love of Baseball and Weiner’s in a bun. Abe was very fortunate as a young boy to be in a position to attend a baseball game but he was even more fortunate to watch a great Cubbies team. They went to the World Series again in both 1907 and 1908 and won both and he loved reading about their victories – they were papers worth saving to read during the long cold winters and to remind him of baseball next season. This was Abe’s life all the way thru school.
Abe’s life would take another pivotal change on August 5th 1921. He was twenty one, finished school and working full time in the newspaper company he father worked for. On that day, history was going to be made as he spent the night with his father listening to the first ever baseball game broadcast on radio between the Pirates and the Phillies. This was going to change his world. He would now be able to listen to his team play live, rather than have to wait for the newspaper report the following day. However radios were not cheap, so he applied for additional shifts in the factory to save up for that radio.
It was now 1925 and it was nearly twenty years since the Cubbies had won the World Series. He loved the game and the team as much as his father and was desperate to create a memory of winning the World Series. Yes he had memories and still had the newspapers reports from his childhood, but he wanted more… he wanted and needed to experience it for himself. Each new-year started the count-down to spring and the start of the baseball season. Each season started out with the same hope and optimism for every fan regardless of how good or bad your team really was. Each year he convinced himself, his father and anyone who would listen that this year was going to be different and he was going to witness it with his father.
While the Cubbies made the World Series in 1929, 1932, 1935 and 1938 – they lost each one and he deeply mourned each loss with his father. Little did he know, his life was going to deeply change once again. It was on August 26th 1939 that the Brooklyn Dodgers played the Cincinnati Reds in the first ever televised game. He like so many, looked on in awe at how real and life-like the players were on the TV.
By 1947, Abe life had changed a lot. Firstly his father had passed away and he mourned the loss badly especially since he still longed for that moment of sharing their Cubbies winning the World Series. They bought were convinced 1945 was going to be their year as they made the World Series, but alas they lost four games to three.
America had just won a bloody and tough war and the people shared both the joy and relief of it being over, but also the sadness and pain of loss. TV’s were common place and played a part in entertaining America and returning life back to normal but all Abe wanted to do was watch the Cubbies play. As he watched the first game in 1947, he cried and sobbed as he remembered his father. He wondered what his father would do if he were still alive – afterall who would need people to report the game thru the newspapers now that everyone could watch for themselves. Heck he even wondered if newspapers would become a thing of the past as TV would put them out of business.
However the biggest feeling he had as he watched that amazing TV box was his own two boys as they sat on the floor half playing with each other and half watching the Cubbies. He wondered if they would share the love of the Cubbies with him as he grew older, but also what opportunities would be available to them. Afterall he started reading old news reports, then listening on radio and now watching on TV in the space of forty years. What would the next forty bring?
The Next Generation
The image of Ab sitting on his sofa watching the Cubbies with his kids was a common theme year after year. His kids were so much more knowledge about the game, the stats involved and also the toys including player cards. It was accurate to say he lived thru his kids eyes. However that underlying pain was still there and never went away. He was desperate to now create a memory with his own kids where the Cubbies won the World Series. As each spring rolled around, they would get excited and be filled with hope that this was their year, but as summer turned to fall, the Cubbies would fall short. The years turned now into decades and Abe now had grandkids to convert.
By now, it was 1984 and Abe was eighty five years old and was dying. He had been a fan of the Cubbies for nearly eighty years, he still loved the game and was still desperate for that memory of seeing the Cubbies win the World Series with his kids and grandkids. During that year, he spent so much time talking about history with his grandkids and telling them everything he had seen in his lifetime and how much America had changed.
He would share stories with his grandkids of how all he had was paper cut outs and a baseball for his seventh birthday. They had everything from going to the games on a regular basis, to watching on TV, to jerseys to baseball games on the computer. He had witnessed first-hand so many trials for America – he lived thru two World Wars, Vietnam, Pearl Harbor, survived the Great Depression and was left speechless by the Hippie / Free Love Movement of the 1960’s. He saw a man walk on the moon and to his dying day can remember where he was the day Kennedy was shot.
He saw and marvelled at the individual genius of his fellow man as we all made so many advancements in technology with the Model T and the production line, Aeroplanes with the Wright Brothers, Traffic lights, the Juke Box, ATM’s, deodorant, the microwave, teleprompters, video games and personal computers.
He also marvelled at the advancements in the glorious food we all take for granted and he enjoyed the selection of junk food created. He especially enjoyed the cheese burger, chocoloate chip cookies, corn dogs and soft serve ice-cream.
Death & A New Beginning
Despite all these wonderful advancements in his life time, he never got to see the Cubbies win the World Series despite coming close in 1984. That year they made the playoffs but lost three games to two against the Padres.
After Abe’s death his kids continued the legacy of being Cubs fans and had the same luck as Abe had. Each spring they would be optimistic and filled with the hope that this year would be different, but each time it ended up the same heart break of the Cubs not winning the World Series.
This of course was until 2016 as that was the year the Cubs finally overcame the curse and fulfilled a family dream. They defeated the Indians four games to three and the 108 year wait was over. However baseball in 2016 was different to the days when Abe would follow it. His son listened on radio at Abe’s grave as they made a pact to listen to the Cubs win the World Series together. One of his younger great – grandkids stayed up late to watch on the TV. Others watched on their IPAD’s as they were away at college and those who were working kept up to date via the internet and social media. However the whole family came together that Friday with over five million people for a parade to celebrate history.
When you read this story I would like you to ask yourself some questions:
1 – What do you think would have happened had the 2016 Cubs team felt the battle was over and that they could never overcome it?
2 – How do you think their fans would have reacted had all the teams thru the years given up and not believed they could do it?
3 – Do you think it would be acceptable for the team or the fans to give up? If your answer is no, why is it okay or acceptable to give up on America?
4 – Lastly read this story and think of the advancements in technology since 1899. Now think of all the advancements and opportunities that will present themselves over the next 10, 20, 50 and 100 years.
Thomas Paine once said, we have it in our power to begin the world again. With technology that may be true, so now is the time to get involved, start speaking out and making America exceptional again. But remember it might not happen today or tomorrow. It might just take 108 years, but if it’s not okay for a baseball player to give up, why is it okay for you to?