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Book Review: Cubsessions

Cubsessions. Becky Sarwate and Randy Richardson. Eckhartz Press, March 31, 2018, Trade Paperback and E-book, 178 pages.

Reviewed by Dennis Hetzel.

Famous people fascinate all of us. Don’t try to deny it. And there’s no shortage of famous people among the millions who follow the Chicago Cubs. That’s the premise of Cubsessions, a series of interviews with passionate fans who have achieved various levels of fame.

The anthology is an obvious labor of love for the co-authors, Becky Sarwate and Randy Richardson. The result is a start-of-the-season gift for every diehard Cubs fan. Here are a few of the nuggets the authors unearthed:

  • Author Sara Peteskey described how Cubs first baseman Bill Buckner was her role model for playing through pain. To everyone but Chicago fans, Buckner is best known for a tragic error that cost the Boston Red Sox a potential World Series title, overshadowing a great career in which he played through injuries that might have debilitated others.
  • Michael Strautmanis, who has worked with Barack Obama for many years, reflected that it was a lot cooler for a black man in 1990s Chicago to root for the White Sox—the team his mentor supported. Reflecting on the trials and tribulations of rooting for the Cubs, he once wrote “there’s nothing blacker than being a Cubs fan.” 
  • Scott Turow, master of the courtroom fiction thriller, recalled the agony of being a young fan as the Cubbies collapsed in 1969 and how he tried to hold his bat like Ernie Banks—right elbow parallel to the ground with fingers wriggling, waiting for the pitch.
  • Actor Joe Mantegna shared the back stories behind the famous play “Bleacher Bums,” about the memorable characters who occupied Wrigley Field’s bleachers during the team’s down years.

That’s a small sample of those interviewed, and Chicagoans will recognize many of the names, including Bob Newhart, Nick Offerman, Bob Sirott, Bill Kurtis, and Pat Brickhouse, widow of Jack, the late, iconic broadcaster.

For this reviewer—I’m such a diehard Cubs fan that I wrote two novels about them—my bond felt strongest with the performer Adrian Zmed, whose favorite Cub of the late 1960s was also mine—underappreciated second baseman Glenn Beckert. “I never lost that sense of magic,” Zmed remarked, no matter the tribulations the Cubs inflicted upon him (and the rest of us) until the magical rain delay of 2016 and the seeming miracle that followed. Scott Turow recalled how he screamed as loudly as he could at that moment: “It finally happened!”

The best part of the book might be the photos, many of them donated by those interviewed. My favorite was little Joe Mantegna sitting on his parents’ living-room floor, watching a Cubs game on a blurry 1950s black-and-white television. Second place goes to Pat Brickhouse, standing in front of a portrait of Jack with a proud, intoxicating smile.

Sarwate and Richardson wear their Cub credentials proudly. Both contribute to the Wrigleyville Nation website. Sarwate is a freelance writer for numerous publications and an adjunct faculty member at Northeastern Illinois University. Richardson is an attorney and award-winning writer of articles and two novels. He’s also a founding member of the Chicago Writers Association.

You’ll also be doing a good deed with your purchase. The authors are donating 100 percent of their proceeds from book sales to a collection of three charities: Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities (CBCC), Scoreboard Charities (SC), and the Chicago Baseball Museum (CBM).

The book’s main limitation is some inevitable repetition because, after all, no matter your station in life, Cub fans share similar memories. You don’t have to be NPR’s Scott Simon, actor Dennis Franz, broadcaster Len Kasper, or any of the other celebs to have purchased a ticket on the emotional roller-coaster that all Cub fans ride, to celebrate in the Cubs’ October 2016 success.

“We are a special society,” Mantegna told the authors. “That’s what being a Cubs fan is all about.” 

And that’s the point of Cubsessions. Cub blue is Cub glue in a time when we all need positive passions that bring us together.


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