Chicago Cubs give their longest-suffering fans a bit of hope

  • Longtime Chicago Cubs baseball fan Joseph Spreitzer, 72, sits in a coach at Little Sisters of the Poor, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Chicago. Winning it all has been a goal of the Cubs for a long, long time, of course. Their World Series drought dates to 1908, one of the longest in sports history, and there has been more heartbreak along the way than Heath or any other Cubs fan would care to remember.

    Longtime Chicago Cubs baseball fan Joseph Spreitzer, 72, sits in a coach at Little Sisters of the Poor, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Chicago. Winning it all has been a goal of the Cubs for a long, long time, of course. Their World Series drought dates to 1908, one of the longest in sports history, and there has been more heartbreak along the way than Heath or any other Cubs fan would care to remember. Associated Press

  • Longtime Chicago Cubs baseball fan Joseph Spreitzer, 72, talks with friends at Little Sisters of the Poor, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Chicago. Winning it all has been a goal of the Cubs for a long, long time, of course. Their World Series drought dates to 1908, one of the longest in sports history, and there has been more heartbreak along the way than Heath or any other Cubs fan would care to remember.

    Longtime Chicago Cubs baseball fan Joseph Spreitzer, 72, talks with friends at Little Sisters of the Poor, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Chicago. Winning it all has been a goal of the Cubs for a long, long time, of course. Their World Series drought dates to 1908, one of the longest in sports history, and there has been more heartbreak along the way than Heath or any other Cubs fan would care to remember. Associated Press

  • Longtime Chicago Cubs baseball fan Joseph Spreitzer, 72, sits in his wheelchair at Little Sisters of the Poor, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Chicago. Winning it all has been a goal of the Cubs for a long, long time, of course. Their World Series drought dates to 1908, one of the longest in sports history, and there has been more heartbreak along the way than Heath or any other Cubs fan would care to remember.

    Longtime Chicago Cubs baseball fan Joseph Spreitzer, 72, sits in his wheelchair at Little Sisters of the Poor, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Chicago. Winning it all has been a goal of the Cubs for a long, long time, of course. Their World Series drought dates to 1908, one of the longest in sports history, and there has been more heartbreak along the way than Heath or any other Cubs fan would care to remember. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2003, file photo, Sam Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, sits with his billy goat in the tavern. The fans packing Wrigley Field on Oct. 6, 1945 couldn't have known what they were getting into. The Cubs were in the middle of their last World Series appearance when local restauranteur William Sianis, Sam's uncle, and his pet goat, a stray who wandered into his bar, were taking in the game from $7.20 box seats when it began to rain. Nearby fans began to complain about the odor until then-Cubs boss P.K. Wrigley took it upon himself to step in and banish both from the park. "The Cubs ain't gonna win no more!" Sianis howled as he and "Billy" were escorted out and despite being up two games to one against the Detroit Tigers at that moment, he turned out to be right.

    FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2003, file photo, Sam Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, sits with his billy goat in the tavern. The fans packing Wrigley Field on Oct. 6, 1945 couldn't have known what they were getting into. The Cubs were in the middle of their last World Series appearance when local restauranteur William Sianis, Sam's uncle, and his pet goat, a stray who wandered into his bar, were taking in the game from $7.20 box seats when it began to rain. Nearby fans began to complain about the odor until then-Cubs boss P.K. Wrigley took it upon himself to step in and banish both from the park. "The Cubs ain't gonna win no more!" Sianis howled as he and "Billy" were escorted out and despite being up two games to one against the Detroit Tigers at that moment, he turned out to be right. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2003, file photo, Chicago Cubs left fielder Moises Alou reaches into the stands unsuccessfully for a foul ball, as Cubs fan Steve Bartman also reaches for the ball, during the eighth inning during Game 6 of the National League championship series against the Florida Marlins at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Cubs manager Joe Maddon's young team has the chance to chart a new course for the Cubs when they play the Pirates at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, in the wild-card game.

    FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2003, file photo, Chicago Cubs left fielder Moises Alou reaches into the stands unsuccessfully for a foul ball, as Cubs fan Steve Bartman also reaches for the ball, during the eighth inning during Game 6 of the National League championship series against the Florida Marlins at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Cubs manager Joe Maddon's young team has the chance to chart a new course for the Cubs when they play the Pirates at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, in the wild-card game. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this July 26, 2006, file photo, Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster hoses down a St. Louis Cardinals fan holding a "The Curse Lives' sign in the bleachers at Wrigley Field before a baseball game between the Cubs and Cardinals in Chicago. The curse refers to the a hex put on the Cubs by Bill Sianis the late owner of Chicago's Billy Goat Tavern in 1945 that the Cubs would never again win a world championship.

    FILE - In this July 26, 2006, file photo, Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster hoses down a St. Louis Cardinals fan holding a "The Curse Lives' sign in the bleachers at Wrigley Field before a baseball game between the Cubs and Cardinals in Chicago. The curse refers to the a hex put on the Cubs by Bill Sianis the late owner of Chicago's Billy Goat Tavern in 1945 that the Cubs would never again win a world championship. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/8/2015 6:52 PM

CHICAGO -- Living in a nursing home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, 82-year-old Edith Heath knows something about faith.

As a fan of the Chicago Cubs who was born 25 years after her favorite team last won the World Series, she knows there are only so many times she can get her hopes up only to be disappointed. So this year is it.

 

"I'll give up if they don't win this year," Heath said Thursday in the lobby of the nursing home about a mile from Wrigley Field. "If they don't do it, I wouldn't want to even hear their name. I would just say I've had it."

Winning it all has been a goal of the Cubs for a long, long time, of course. Their World Series drought dates to 1908 and there has been more heartbreak along the way than Heath or any other Cubs fan would care to remember.

But this year has a different feel to it. There's a new owner and new front office personnel calling the shots for Chicago and more young talent in the Friendly Confines than there has been in a long time. There is a bona fide Cy Young candidate in ace Jake Arrieta, a possible rookie of the year in Kris Bryant and maybe the league's best manager in Joe Maddon.

So when the Cubs beat Pittsburgh in the wild-card game Wednesday night, there were celebrations - but also a sense of more to come. Next up is the National League Division Series against the hated St. Louis Cardinals.

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Over the next several days, plenty of twentysomething fans will proudly say they have waited their whole lives for the Cubs to win it all. But for those whose love affair with the Cubs started well before Steve Bartman was born, this playoff run brings with it feelings that fans who don't remember Wrigley without lights or recall days when ladies got in free can't possibly understand.

"It's time for our hopes to come true," 81-year-old Margaret Bailey said at a community pool near Wrigley, just before her older friend - she won't say how much older - Loretta Czyzewski added: "While we can still enjoy it."

Outside, 52-year-old construction worker Louie Caffero does not trace his fandom as far back as Bailey, who recalls fondly moving to Chicago in 1955 and knowing players like Moe Drabowsky and Dave Hillman as both Cubs and neighbors in her apartment building. But he is old enough to know he doesn't want to be one of those people in his family - or the Cubs family, like Ron Santo and Ernie Banks - who lived and died without ever seeing the Cubs win a World Series.

"I want to see it in my lifetime," Caffero said. "My grandfather talked about back when the Cubs were in the World Series (in 1945) but he never saw them win the World Series. "

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Caffero said he is a lot more willing to show his excitement than his 78-year-old father, from whom he inherited his love for the Cubs.

"He's keeping his cool but maybe that's because he's had a lot more disappointment along the way than I have," he said.

Back at the Little Sisters of the Poor, Heath is tempering her hope, saying she's not quite ready to let go of that sneaking suspicion that the Cubs won't win it all, that something will happen, as it always does, to prevent it. And she is sure not ready to put a World Series in the one-thing-before-I-go category, either.

Others at the nursing home say the heck with that.

"I'm in all the way," said Rosann Volpe, who is 74. "I want to see them win before I close my eyes."

And fellow resident Joseph G. Spreitzer, 72, said he fully expects that his long wait for a World Series is just about over.

"Miracles do happen," he said.

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