Celebrity fans like Newhart, Mantegna, Cusack share Cubs memories

  • John Cusack posted this on his Instagram account with the caption, "How bout this blast from the past -- one of my early cubby playoff lovefests."

    John Cusack posted this on his Instagram account with the caption, "How bout this blast from the past -- one of my early cubby playoff lovefests."

  • Actor Jim Belushi, left, comedian Tom Dreesen, actor Joe Mantegna and comedy legend Bob Newhart pack the Wrigley Field press box at a 2014 game.

    Actor Jim Belushi, left, comedian Tom Dreesen, actor Joe Mantegna and comedy legend Bob Newhart pack the Wrigley Field press box at a 2014 game. Photo courtesy of Joe Mantegna

  • Actor and Cubs fan John Cusack posted this photo on his Instagram account last month and was in the crowd to watch pitcher Jake Arrieta win his 21st game.

    Actor and Cubs fan John Cusack posted this photo on his Instagram account last month and was in the crowd to watch pitcher Jake Arrieta win his 21st game.

  • Actor and lifelong Cubs fan Joe Mantegna poses with the Ernie Banks statue in front of Wrigley Field.

    Actor and lifelong Cubs fan Joe Mantegna poses with the Ernie Banks statue in front of Wrigley Field. Photo courtesy of Joe Mantegna

  • Actor and lifelong Cubs fan Joe Mantegna throws out the first pitch during a recent Cubs game.

    Actor and lifelong Cubs fan Joe Mantegna throws out the first pitch during a recent Cubs game. Photo courtesy of Joe Mantegna

  • The Wrigley Field billboard shows actor and lifelong Cubs fan Joe Mantegna throwing out the first pitch during a recent Cubs game.

    The Wrigley Field billboard shows actor and lifelong Cubs fan Joe Mantegna throwing out the first pitch during a recent Cubs game. Photo courtesy of Joe Mantegna

  • Actor and lifelong Cubs fan Joe Mantegna has sung "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at Wrigley Field during the 7th-inning stretch on multiple occasions.

    Actor and lifelong Cubs fan Joe Mantegna has sung "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at Wrigley Field during the 7th-inning stretch on multiple occasions. Photo courtesy of Joe Mantegna

 
 
Updated 10/9/2015 11:13 AM

John Cusack is posting Cubs photos on Instagram. Joe Mantegna is hosting a big Cubs playoffs party. Former WWE wrestler CM Punk is selling custom designed Cubs T-shirts. And Bob Newhart is refusing to do anything Wednesday night except watch the Cubs wild card playoff game on his living room TV.

"I think they're going to go all the way. That's how you gotta feel, if you're a Cubs fan," Newhart said. "But what do I know? I cheered for the 1945 Cubs."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Celebrities with Chicago roots are as swept up in Cubs playoff mania as the rest of the city, and like everyone else, it's got them reminiscing about past seasons, fond memories and dashed hopes.

Mantegna, who grew up on Chicago's West Side, is one of the team's biggest and most loyal celebrity fans but also one of the most pessimistic. Still, he can't deny he's excited about this year's Cubs.

"I have guarded optimism," said Mantegna, 67, star of "Criminal Minds" on CBS and co-writer of the 1977 hit play "Bleacher Bums," about characters in the Wrigley Field bleachers. "I'd like nothing better than to see them go all the way. But I refuse to wear my heart on my sleeve after all these years. I have to guard my heart ... but if they win, it will be incredible."

Last month, Mantegna's mother celebrated her 100th birthday and he realized she's never seen the Cubs win the World Series.

"She's not the hugest fan, but maybe that's why she's 100," he said. "There are people out there as old as my mother. I'd love to see the Cubs win for them. But who's to say? They could go another 100 years."

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Mantegna's Los Angeles office includes a cabinet full of Cubs memorabilia, including one of his most prized possessions -- a baseball signed and dated by pitcher Kerry Wood before he threw a 20-strikeout, 1-hit game in 1998.

In Hollywood, Mantegna has worked with Ron Santo's son, Jeff, who's a filmmaker, and Ernie Banks' son, Joey, who's a Teamsters driver. He even opened a restaurant in Burbank, Calif., called Taste Chicago, which has become a gathering spot for Chicago transplants who want to gather to watch Chicago sports teams. A big viewing party is planned there for Wednesday night's playoff game.

Mantegna estimates he's been to hundreds of games in his lifetime, and along with comedian Tom Dreesen (who grew up in suburban Harvey), holds the record for the most times singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th-inning stretch at Wrigley Field.

"Talk about the goat, maybe it's me?" he said, referencing one of the team's alleged curses.

John Cusack, 49, who grew up in Evanston, has been cheering the Cubs via social media. "They coming to Pittsburg -- get ready," he said Monday on Instagram, misspelling the city's name and adding a picture of Cubs players Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber in the on-deck circle. He recently posted an Instagram photo of himself decades ago in the Cubs dugout with the late manager Don Zimmer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Actor Bob Newhart, 86, who grew up in Chicago's Austin neighborhood, can still recite the starting lineups from the Cubs teams of his youth in the late 1930s and early 1940s, including third baseman Stan Hack, shortstop Billy Jergus and right fielder Bill Nicholson.

In 1945, at age 16, Newhart remembers cheering as he watched the Cubs parade down LaSalle Street to celebrate winning the National League pennant.

"All the able-bodied men were off to war. That was the last time the Cubs won the pennant," he said.

He also remembers seeing the Cubs' one-armed outfielder, Pete Gray, catch the ball with his one hand, tuck his mitt under his bad arm, and then throw the ball to the infield.

After he became famous, Newhart still frequently went to Cubs games and often signed autographs for kids who recognized him at Wrigley Field. One night years later, while he was waiting to do "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," actor John Belushi came into the green room and introduced himself.

"He said, 'Do you remember, at a Cubs ballgame, when you signed some baseballs for kids? I was one of those kids,'" Newhart said.

Celebrity love of the Cubs has inspired music, too, including classic songs by the late singer/songwriter Steve Goodman and a more recent tune by Evanston native Eddie Vedder, lead singer of the band Pearl Jam. His song, "All the Way," expressed his love for the Cubs:

There's magic in the ivy and the old scoreboard

The same one I stared at as a kid keeping score

Don't let anyone say that it's just a game

For I've seen other teams and it's never the same

When you're born in Chicago you're blessed and you're healed

The first time you walk into Wrigley Field

In a world full of greed, I could never want more

Than someday we'll go all the way.

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