By Donna Rogers
CUBA CITY—The year was 1908, Thomas Edison was still alive, there was no radio or television, and the Chicago Cubs had won the World Series. No one would venture to guess that it would be 108 years before the team would accomplish the feat again. No one predicted the emotional roller coaster the next century would bring for die-hards around the nation. What is it that makes Cubs fans die-hards and Wrigley Field so special?
Dean Rogers, 93 of Cuba City, was the youngest of five children born into the Rogers midwest farm family. Listening to the radio in 1930s to hear the sound of baseball was his joy. Dean Rogers loved how broadcasters had to paint you the picture of the game. Raised with a love of the Chicago Cubs from his father Orville, he quickly became a die-hard Cubs fan, remaining loyal through so many losing years. The start to many Chicago visits was in 1946, when Dean Rogers attended his first game with Bill Hauser at the age of 23. Travelling to Chicago backthen was quite the trip, but, along with his wife LaVon and Joe and Darlene Busch, they made the trip again in 1952. Spreading their Cubs fandom in the 1984 Cuba City parade were the Webers, Petitgoues, Steinhoffs, Banfields, Ken Ware, Dave Kirk, Tom Ryan, Phil Karrmann, Pat and Donna Rogers with their kids and Dean Rogers dressed as Harry Caray on a Cubs float with the back looking like the green Ivy wall in Wrigley Field. For 70 years, Dean Rogers would travel to more games, watch on TV and log daily stats about his beloved Cubs.
Dean Rogers and so many others suffered through the 1984 loss to the Padres, where the Cubs took the first two games but were swept in the next three. Following that heartbreak came 2003 when the Cubs, being five outs away from a World Series, painfully lost to the Marlins. Grandson Matt Rogers, a junior in high school at the time, sat on the living room floor holding the radio antennae up so he could pick up WGN in Wisconsin only to hear Ron Santo murmur moans of despair as the Cubs let history slip through their fingers once again. It seemed like the Cubs would never find victory, only defeat.
Never giving up hope, 2016 seemed to be the Cubs’ year. Theo Epstein had put together an all-star roster of young talent like Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell along with impressive pitchers like Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arietta. Their outstanding season swept the nation and awakened the hopeful spirits in Cub fans once again.
On Oct. 9, Dean Rogers welcomed his newest Cubs fan member, Aria Rogers, whose name was derived from pitcher Arietta. He was scheduled to pitch on her due date, game 3 of the National League Championship Series. How appropriate when the Cubs slogan was “Take October.”
Arietta ended up hitting a three-run home run that game. All signs and superstitions were pointing to a World Series. On Oct. 29, the youngest Rogers joined her great-grandfather, along with six of Dean Roger’s eight children, many grandchildren and his Chicago family, Mercedes and Theresa Rooney, to cheer on the Cubs in game four of the World Series. At the age of 93, it seemed too surreal to be surrounded by the four generations Dean Rogers had passed his cubby love onto watching the Cubs try to clench a World Series title, something he had been waiting for his entire life.
Peeling back layers of emotion, Dean Roger’s grandson, Erin, watched with anticipation, praying for his family, grandfather and Cubs fans everywhere to see a championship. It wouldn’t come easy. Losing that night meant the Cubs had to win the next three games to be World Series Champions. They had won three in a row 18 times this year, could they do it one more time? The Rogers family, along with all the other Cubs die-hards remained hopeful. This was their year.
On Nov. 2, every Cubs fan joined in Dean Rogers’ celebration as the Chicago Cubs finally clenched its first World Series title in 108 years. Betty Dellabella, Dean Rogers’ caring angel and fellow Cubs fan, stopped over to make sure he was okay.
The World Series had to end exactly as it did, with one last trip back to despair. How dare we try to rush through these nine innings leading from start to finish? The eighth inning was one last memory of pain, one last feeling of heartbreak. The baseball universe gave us one last trip through history, to feel every emotion felt for the last 100 years one final time. With an opportunity to say goodbye to the demons that have haunted the Cubs for more than a century, fans everywhere watched in anticipation as Kris Bryant threw the ball to Anthony Rizzo for the final out to win the World Series. This let Cubs fans everywhere say their final good byes to a feeling that has always been so much bigger than them.
Maybe it’s the history behind it all—the seventh inning stretch with Harry Caray, or the past great players like Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg and Ron Santo—that drew fans to Wrigley Field, but being a Cubs fan is more than watching your team play a ball game. It’s giving your child or grandchild their first Cubs hat and telling them how your great-grandfather gave you your first Cubs hat. It’s being thankful that grandpa, your father and your children and friends could finally share this moment.
Because, when the Cubs won the World Series after over a century of disappointment, every part of your life is touched and every past die-hard fan is somewhere joining in the celebration. Every Cubs fan has their story, their own piece of sorrow that has brought them so much joy as well. This team captured the essence of being a Cubs fan. This team is a family and they made every Cubs fan proud to be a part of that family.
The Chicago Cubs and their fans have a triumph to cherish for a lifetime.