My grandfather, Earl Bush, was the press secretary for Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley for more than two decades. Grandpa was a man who loved Chicago, and he really loved the Chicago Cubs. He was 91 when he died in 2006.
Before he died, Grandpa gave our family firm rules about scattering his ashes. My mom, Diane Karp, his daughter, said those rules included that “his ashes need to be spread over Wrigley Field if they win the World Series at that moment when everybody is jumping in the air.”
My Uncle Larry has the job of fulfilling Grandpa’s wishes. He’s worried about getting the ashes to Wrigley at just the right moment. And he doesn’t have tickets to the games in Chicago.
He does have tickets for the last games in Cleveland, but for sure Grandpa wouldn’t want to be in Cleveland.
Chicago was his place, just like the Cubs were his team.
Grandpa’s love for the Cubs probably was fostered by the mayor himself. Richard J. Daley was a White Sox fan. That meant Grandpa could get the mayor’s pass for Wrigley Field pretty much anytime he wanted. For years and years, Grandpa and his six children spent summer days at the ballpark.
By the time I came along, my grandpa was spending a lot of his summer following the games on TV. I have a permanent picture of him sitting in his basement on a black leather sofa, a cigarette hanging from his mouth, the ash growing longer and longer.
Sometimes his eyes would be shut. But he wasn’t asleep, he was listening.
Grandpa’s love of the Cubs was intertwined with his love of the city. My aunt says she remembers him saying he wasn’t a basketball fan, he was a Bulls fan, he wasn’t a football fan, he was a Bears fan, and he wasn’t a baseball fan, he was a Cubs fan.
All through those years the Cubs—more than any team—embodied Chicago, this hard working, long suffering, underdog of a city.
Uncle Larry tells me about a day my grandpa was happier than he’d ever seen him. As was often the case through the years, the Cubs stunk. On this day, the Cubs were losing badly, but Grandpa refused to leave.
“I remember sitting as a little kid with the rain pouring,” Uncle Larry recalled, “and he would not leave until the rain out was official. We would be there with like 200 people and it… never stopped raining and the game was called. So many times we would stay three runs behind, four runs behind, five runs. He was so happy that night because it was vindication for all the time we had waited. Finally they came back and won the game. I think that was the last game he ever went to…”
I asked my uncle why Grandpa would never leave.
“That was like a point of honor, I mean, Cubs fans don’t give up,” he told me.
My mom takes it further: “The big thing that I remember that has stayed with me all my life is that he said ‘stick with the underdog … always be for the underdog.’”
But now, I think my grandpa would see the time is right for the Cubbies to go from perpetual losers to winners. Chicago has gone through a rough time over the past couple of years. I often think about how sad and frustrated Grandpa would be.
In 2005, I taped him for an interview. “How did you come to have such ownership of the city and feel like it was your city?” I asked him.
Simple, he responded: “Because it was… I was always keeping track of what the city did. I was always wounded when the city was wounded…”
And he was always exhilarated when the city was exhilarated. He would have loved to be here.
Sarah Karp is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at @SSKedreporter.