Close Encounters With Mr. Cub
Happy 77th Birthday Mr. Cub.
My close encounter with Ernie was well after his hall of fame career was over. Take the "wayback machine" with me to May 19th, 1979. A group of my University of Chicago Med School classmates went with me to see a Cubs game that crisp May afternoon. Some of you might remember that unmemorable team...Buckner, Kingman, DeJesus, Ontiveros and Foote.
We sat behind home plate but about half way up the grandstands and the group had an entire row. About the 2nd inning one of my friends gets up and has this weird grin on his face as he moved down the row. Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed, coming up the aisle...Mr. Cub. That was cool enough, but he procedes to sit down next to me in the recently vacated seat from my friend. My classmates knew I was getting married in June and so I have to tell you that this was IMHO the worlds greatest batchelor party geeky me could have ever hoped for (although the Palomino Club in North Vegas would have been my 2nd choice). Ernie stayed there with me talking baseball for about 7 innings. Honest. I have a picture (that's me in the Cub hat) on my office wall to prove it. What does one talk about to his childhood hero? I don't remember much other than it was a very surreal experience. I do remember hearing him tell me his favorite number was 9 (not 14), as in 9 innings and 9 players on the field. Ernie philosophising Baseball Kaballah?
Ernie was still under the Cubs employ for PR functions in that era and my med school pals had set this up, hence the goofy grins when the group knew he was on the way up to us.
The Cubs were 3-hit and lost 3-0 that day to the Pirates. Jim Rooker over Mike Krukow. So much for surrealism.
To throw in my orthopedic two cents worth, Mr. Cub has had two total knee replacements (not by me, but I do know his orthopod) and they are working just fine. When the Ortho Academy meeting was in Chicago March 2006, Ernie was guest appearing in a promotion called "Champions for Patient Education" and was as bubbly as ever.
Drumroll...and You Tube tributes to good ol' #14. May you have many more very happy birthdays.