Is this the year for the Chicago Cubs? As the all-star break wraps up, one of the big questions in baseball is whether the Cubs can end their 100-year drought and win the World Series.
To add atmosphere to the frenzied speculation, I present a relic from a quarter century ago.
I bought this mesh-back cap in 1984 on my first (and so far, only) visit to Wrigley Field. A couple of Chicago-area buddies and I bought standing-room tickets for the privilege of watching from the back of the lower deck seats, behind home plate.
It was the full Wrigley experience that Saturday afternoon as the Cubs played the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the first National League ballgame I ever attended. Mike Schmidt, the Phils’ slugging third baseman, belted a home run into the bleachers. Cubs fans scornfully rejected it by throwing the ball back onto the field. At the seventh-inning stretch, a tottering Harry Caray — “Cub fan, Bud man” — led the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
I lived just over a year in Illinois, long enough to absorb the intensity of the Cubs’ rivalry with the St. Louis Cardinals. My first Cubs hat was a wool one, but it was just a bit too tight and I eventually tossed it or lost it. So when I had the chance to buy a new cap at Wrigley a few years later, I jumped at it.
Mesh-backed caps flourished in the late 1970s and early 1980s, ultimately fading away. The first mesh hat I had was almost certainly intended as a fishing cap, but I wore it daily to the pick-up baseball league I played in as a kid in the mid-1960s. The red cap had a crown made entirely of mesh. My teammates called it (and occasionally me) “fly trap” because I learned how to trap flies with it on the bench and on batting helmets.
This Cubs cap is my only remaining mesh-backed cap, although there may be a few stashed somewhere that I’m forgetting. The cap brings back good memories of the Ryne Sandberg/Lee Smith/Rick Sutcliffe era. If the Cubs make it to the series — and I’m not trying to jinx them — I’ll definitely be rooting for them.