Pitchers and catchers report to spring training next week, and you know what that means:
No, Cubs suck!
It doesn’t take a particular date on the calendar to stir up tribal baseball hostilities in Chicago, but the start of spring training seems like a convenient excuse for Cubs and White Sox fans to throw darts at each other. And just because there is hope for good seasons on both sides of town doesn’t mean the warring factions will give peace a chance.
Jeff Velatini won’t be around for the fun, and that sucks as much as he thought the Cubs did. But his spirit lives on. It certainly lives on in his obituary.
“Jeffrey Carlo Velatini, 54, of Cary, died Tuesday, December 2, 2014, at home surrounded by family.
“Jeff was proud of his Italian heritage but even more proud of the fact that he had two distinct eyebrows and no back hair. A lifelong Chicago White Sox apologist, he was eager to point out the number of years the Cubs had gone without a World Series win. It’s been one hundred and six years. This remains the longest championship drought in North American professional sports. The longest.
“Jeff loved Grey Goose, good whiskey and a fine cigar while complaining about the odors emanating from the kitchen of his wife of nearly fourteen years.
“… Burial will be held privately. Ashes to be scattered at the place where the White Sox play (Jeff refused to acknowledge the name ‘U.S. Cellular Field’), Soldier Field and in Ponte Vecchio, Italy.’’
Pitch perfect. It was written by his wife, Beth, and her brother, Charlie, a few days after Jeff had succumbed to hepatorenal syndrome, the development of kidney failure in people with chronic liver disease.
“The obituary captured his sense of humor,’’ Beth said. “I didn’t want it to be like ‘married 14 years, had two kids, yada yada yada.’ It wouldn’t have been him.’’
What was? For one thing, serving up some trash talk to unsuspecting Cubs fans. If you didn’t know that the Sox won the World Series in 2005, it wasn’t due to a lack of effort on Jeff’s part.
“Oh, my God, he’d say things at every opportunity,’’ Beth said. “If we walked in a bar and somebody had a Cubs shirt on, he’d be like, ‘Hey, dude. How many years has it been since you guys won a World Series? Just wondering.’ It was always in good fun.’’
He couldn’t bring himself to refer to the Sox’ ballpark as U.S. Cellular Field or even The Cell. He grew up with Comiskey Park, and he was going to die with it.
“It was nostalgic for him,’’ his wife said. “Comiskey Park was the park. When you put a corporate name on it, it takes away from it. I think that having that corporate name, it just took away from the nostalgia of when he went to games with his parents when he was younger.’’
Jeff, an electrical engineer, sometimes had to attend Cubs games at Wrigley Field with clients. It was his cross to bear, and he would bear it in his best White Sox gear.
“He was very proud that, of the 12 to 15 games he went to there, the Cubs lost every time,’’ Beth said. “He’d say, ‘Maybe I should go more often.’ ’’
He was a meat-and-potatoes guy. A food blogger, she liked trying new things. One time, when red quinoa was starting to become popular, she mixed the grain with a little ground beef and made “meatballs.’’ Instead of cooking pasta, she used spaghetti squash. When he asked Beth what was for dinner and she answered, “Spaghetti and meatballs,’’ would a jury have convicted her of perjury? Depends on how many men were on the jury.
Jeff found something else to eat that night.
Last summer, when he was struggling with a multitude of health problems, he discussed the future with his wife, including where he wanted his ashes strewn. He decided on the ballpark, Soldier Field and a bridge in Florence, Italy, the city where his dad grew up. Beth says she’ll fulfill all those wishes — somehow, some way.
If you’ve spent any time reading Chicago obituaries (you haven’t?), then you’re aware of how many include the deceased’s baseball allegiances — “John was a die-hard Cubs fan’’ or “Bill was a lifelong supporter of the Sox.’’ This one went beyond.
This one went long and deep, over the outfield seats at the place where the White Sox play.