Pearl Danos, a lifelong Cubs fan and New Orleans native, held back tears on Friday outside Wrigley Field, as she talked about what it felt like to be in Chicago for start of the team’s first playoff game.
“This is so emotional, so exciting, it’s a dream come true,” Danos said. “Our mom always wanted to make this trip and she passed away before she could. She’s the one who named my son, Ryne, after Ryne Sandberg.”
Several generations could be seen nearly everywhere among the families wandering in Wrigleyville Friday afternoon: kids carrying baseball gloves much too big for their hands, teenagers taking selfies in front of the iconic red Wrigley marquee and grandparents sporting their favorite Cubs jackets.
Danos traveled to Chicago with her son, grandson, brother-in-law and sister Sandra DiPascal.
“My son surprised us about a week or two ago,” DiPascal said. “He bought us airplane tickets, hotel and game tickets. He gave it to us and said ‘You’re going to Chicago.’”
DiPascal said she and her sister have been lifelong Cubs fans, watching games since the days of Harry Caray, whose statue they were admiring before making their way to the front gate.
Danos said Caray was one of their mother’s favorite parts of watching the games on television.
“She’d get up from the recliner and do the seventh-inning stretch with him,” she said.
The sisters said they have had this visit to Wrigley on their bucket list for years.
“Most people think we’re crazy because we’re Cubs fans but WGN played in New Orleans and so we used to watch it all the time,” she said. “When we spell ‘Go Cubs,’ we spell it “G-E-A-U-X Cubs” because we’re Cajun so that’s how we do it.”
Nancy Holbrook, of Sterling, Ill., is a lifelong Cubs fan who has passed down her love for the team to her daughter and two granddaughters.
“There’s no place like Wrigley and you gotta be here to feel it,” Holbrook said. “We are blessed to be here and the Cubs are blessed, so it’ll work out. We’ll get that ‘W.’”
Holbrook, who will turn 70 this year, said she will get a tattoo of the Cubs logo on her hip when the team makes it to the World Series.
“I hope that in my lifetime the Cubs will break the curse,” she said. “They just need to get there, I want them to win so bad but I said I would get a tattoo if they just get to the World Series.”
Traci Payne, Holbrook’s daughter, said her grandmother was also a devoted fan — and Payne wears her grandmother’s jersey when she attends the games.
“She’s with us today,” Payne said. “She’s in heaven but she’s with us too.”
Hours before the gates to Wrigley opened, the sidewalks around the field already were packed. Dozens of cameras and phones pointed toward Wrigley and the statues of Cubs greats located around the outside.
Fans without tickets flooded into surrounding bars and rooftop viewing areas. As the game began, sounds from the field were heard loud and clear outside.
Brad Knaub, co-owner of Carnivore Inc. in Oak Park, handed out free pieces of goat sausage to those walking by and repeatedly said, “eat the curse, beat the curse.” The butcher had issued a news release earlier in the week saying it had slaughtered a goat to make the fresh sausage and break the curse.
Patricia Pessman and her son and two granddaughters took some time for a photo in front of the statue of Ernie Banks.
Pessman, of Fullerton, Ill., turned 70 this year and said she caught “Cub-itis” from her parents’ obsession with the team. The only cure? A World Series title.
“My father never saw the Cubs win the World Series. He lived to be 89 and never saw them win,” she said. “When (my mother) was pregnant with me back in 1945, she would jump up and scream ‘Cubs win, Cubs win’ and my dad would say, ‘Mother, sit down, you got a baby in there.’ So I caught Cub-itis in utero.”
Pessman has passed on her condition on to her son and now her granddaughters. Both girls have their favorite player on the team; Kris Bryant for Katie, and Anthony Rizzo for Maddie.
Their dad, Jason Pessman, carried around his daughters’ handmade “Let’s go Cubbies” banner, as Patricia reached into her bag to pull out a plush goat with the words “break the curse” embroidered on its side.
The toy had Velcro keeping its front and back ends together, which is how Patricia was able to pull it apart as she excitedly shouted, “We’re gonna break the curse.”
“There’s a lot of pressure on the guys to win,” Patricia Pessman said. “They gotta feel it but they need to relax, and just play their game. If they do that they’ll win.”
Friday night, they did. The Cubs were on their way.