We hear so often the story of a father’s love of baseball being passed down to his children, but life doesn’t always follow that arc. This is the case in many Latino households, where it was the mami or abuelita who shared a passion for béisbol and taught the lessons of how to catch, throw, and hit a ball — and it was she who decided which team you were rooting for. To celebrate Mother’s Day, we have the story of one Latina who pays tribute to her single mom, Gladys Rosario, who shaped her fandom, and shows us how baseball is family, loyalty and — for the two of them — all about the Cubs.
By Ramona Arce
You can speculate all you want about why the Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series in 2016: team president Theo Epstein’s successful rebuilding of the organization; the incredibly good (and fun to watch) Javier “Javy” Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo; the triumph of fate over the various curses blamed for preventing a World Series victory for a century or so.
But I know the real reason. At exactly 11:47 p.m. on Nov. 2, 2016, my mami and I were watching Game 7 in our living room. You’re welcome.
It’s our tradition. We have tried to watch every Cubs playoff game together. Granted, that hasn’t been very hard to do, since there have been few, if any, Cubs playoff games to watch in the first place. But I have evidence that bad things happen when I’m not with my mother in October.
On Oct. 14, 2003, the Cubs were one win away from winning the pennant, and I was away at college. My mom and I had been in communication all day in anticipation of the game, but we weren’t in the same room at the crucial moment.
We should have known the Cubs were doomed.
With the team five outs away from victory in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins, my uncle called, already celebrating. Soon after, Cubs superfan Steve Bartman reached out for a fly ball that Moisés Aloú was tracking in left field and the Cubs experienced one of their biggest collapses ever.
It was gut-wrenching. My mother called and said, “You never count outs.” She was right. And deep down, I knew that the moment when the Cubs did finally win it all had to be one I’d share with my mom.
Win or lose, always the fan
My mother has lived in Chicago her whole life. Her parents migrated from Puerto Rico in their early 20s, and as a girl, she had a strong affinity for sports, especially baseball. As a child, she would play ball with the neighborhood kids and, according to her, she was always one of the better players.
After school, she would rush home to catch the Cubs on WGN. Her two younger brothers usually wanted to watch something else on television, but the big sister was insistent. They basically had no choice but to become lifelong fans, too.
Her love of the Cubs was eventually passed on to me. But, as with my uncles, it’s not like I really had a choice. I remember my mother saying when I was little, “En esta casa, we only root for the Cubs.”
Back then, the team was just bad. We’d tune in to watch the games, win or lose, but they lost way more often than they won. It was only after Epstein orchestrated his amazing rebuild that it began to feel like maybe, just maybe, the Cubs finally had what it took to win it all.
My mom and I were especially excited when the Cubs drafted Báez, born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, ninth overall in the 2011 draft. A flashy, skilled infielder, he reminds me of what she has told me about her all-time favorite player, Iván de Jesús, another Puerto Rican, who played from 1974 to 1988 and who, until Francisco Lindor showed up, might have been the best shortstop from the island to make it to the major leagues.
When my mother talks about the passion de Jesús brought to the game, I’m reminded of the way Javy always seems to be having such a good time. Some see him as arrogant and too flashy, but he plays with a fervor and obvious enjoyment that I find admirable. And just like us, he is Puerto Rican. Imagine the Cubs winning the World Series and having a key player being ¡boricua!
Beware of breaking tradition
On October 22, 2016, the Cubs were one win away from making it to the World Series. One of my uncles hosted a viewing party and, this time, there was no curse or collapse. The Cubs took charge from start to finish and easily defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-0. And Báez was named co-MVP of the NLCS.
It felt so good sharing that win with my family that my mom and I decided to watch the World Series games with other people, too, breaking our tradition of being the only two in the living room. What were we thinking? The Cubs quickly fell behind the Cleveland Indians, three games to one.
Once we corrected our error, the Cubs came back to win Games 5 and 6. So, everything would come down to Game 7.
I was a ball of nerves that day. My mother might have also been nervous, but she sure didn’t act like it, saying, “They have to win one before I die.”
As the game went into extra innings and the Cubs took the lead, my mother and I instinctively reached for one another. This could be the moment we were waiting for.
When Anthony Rizzo caught the final out and the Cubs — our Cubs! — actually won the World Series, it was like time froze. Or maybe collapsed. All those hours of watching games in the living room seemed almost as important as the miracle taking place in the present.
And it was worth the wait. I learned the game of baseball sitting with my mother, watching the Chicago Cubs. I picked up all the rules of the game, every single play — whether it be a walk, strikeout, or double play. I learned that it’s hard to stay loyal, especially when all jokes lead to “there’s always next year.” My mom was, and is, a die-hard fan. No matter how many times they broke her heart, she never stopped believing that “they had to win before I die.” She never wavered.
And if she did not, how could I? I might have spent countless hours in front of a television watching the Cubs, but they were not wasted hours. Loving the Cubs means learning everything you need to know about patience and faith, joy and disappointment, pride in your city and your culture, and about family. I’m glad I got to spend the team’s greatest moment with the woman who taught me that.
Featured Image: Ramona Arce
Inset Image: Ramona Arce