MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Several years ago while on the bucket-list visit to Wrigley Field, a seemingly neutral fan told me what the difference was between Cubs fans on the North Side and White Sox fans on the South Side in the wonderful city of Chicago, a city that takes its baseball, and all of its professional sports, quite seriously.

White Sox fans, the man said, go to what was then known as the “new” Comiskey Park, but is now called Guaranteed Rate Field, to drink, get drunk, boo, heckle and then rob you on the way out of the ballpark. He added that if I ever attended a White Sox home game to carry my wallet in my front pocket and to not play tourist in what was left of the surrounding neighborhood of the South Side.

(In fairness, this conversation took place several years ago; I have since been told things have changed for the better in the ballpark neighborhood.)

Cubs fans, the man said, go to Cubs games, keep score and root for the Cubs. Cubs fans absolutely adore their Cubbies. Cubs fans have long lived but mostly died with the Cubs, so they’re not interested in being confrontational, the man said, although Steve Bartman would be incredibly hard pressed to sign off on that.

If a Cubs fan realizes you’re from out of town, he or she will ask you how you are enjoying your visit to the Friendly Confines; they might lift an Old Style with you and they’ll give you their recommendations for the best pubs and bars to visit after the game in the neighborhood of pubs and bars known as Wrigleyville that surrounds Wrigley Field in the grand old North Side.

I always remembered that, but frankly hadn’t thought about it in some time until last Thursday during the Cubs-Orioles afternoon game at Camden Yards. My friend Hawk has some choice season tickets in the front row just beyond the visitors’ third-base dugout, and during the game we found ourselves surrounded by about a dozen Cubs fans, who had been in Washington for the Cubs’ three-game series with the Nationals, then made their way up the Parkway for what was a Thursday-afternoon make-up game with the Orioles, which was a pretty neat thing for them.

They were Cubs fans of all ages, from kids to middle age, man, woman and child; and they were very vocal and very enthusiastic in their support for their favorite team.

But what I noticed is they were simply cheering for the Cubs and not against the Orioles. Cubs fans truly are different from the fans of most big-league teams.

Late in the game, the Cubs went ahead 3-0 on Wilson Contreras’ second home run of the day and the Cubs fans behind us let out with a roar, as they should have. And it was at this point I heard the lady sitting behind me, who had been yelling, “Wheeewwwhhhhh!” into my ear all day, say, “This probably isn’t the place to be cheering for the Cubs.”

Of course, it took her until the 8th inning to come to this conclusion, but I had to turn around on it and I saw a woman who was likely in her ‘70s, which made the whole thing even more enjoyable, and I said, “Please don’t feel that way. We’re used to putting up with the crap from the Yankees and Red Sox fans. Being in the ballpark with Cubs fans is a pleasure.”

“Well, thank you,” she said. “I know what you mean. We sometimes have to deal with them, too.”

“Actually,” I said, “I have more problems with Red Sox fans than I do with Yankees fans.”

“Not me,” she said. “I have the problem with Yankee fans.”

(Maybe she’s still bothered by Babe Ruth’s called shot in the 1932 World Series, I don’t know.)

Meanwhile, the Orioles, as they have in nearly every game this season, did mount a late-inning rally to cut the Cubs’ lead to 3-2 and had at least two opportunities to tie or take the lead. And while our visitors from Wrigleyville became noticeably subdued during that time, the Cubs did hold on to win the game, 3-2.

As we began to leave the ballpark, several of the Cubs fans we had spent the afternoon with thanked us for our hospitality (?), with the lady I had been talking to saying, “We love your ballpark. You’re very fortunate to have it, but then we’re pretty lucky, too. Camden Yards is my second favorite place, and the O’s are my second favorite team. Good luck.”

The man I met in Chicago several years ago was right. It was a pleasure to spend a day at the ballpark with Cubs fans. They are very loyal and true. They are so friendly.

They are what “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is all about.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT