Cubs Mania in Senior Living: Lifelong Fans Cheer, Reflect

Many Chicago Cubs fans feel like they’ve been waiting a lifetime for their team to win the World Series. Some fans in Chicago-area senior living communities have been.

Take Alice Segal, a resident at The Breakers at Edgewater Beach, a Senior Lifestyle community in Chicago.

“I’m 85 years old, but I’ve been a Cubs fan for 86 years,” Segal says. “I was a Cubs fan in the womb.”


Segal’s longtime dedication to the Cubs began when her mother took her to Wrigley Field for Ladies Day, a date on which women could attend the game for free.

For 83-year-old Belmont Village Oak Park resident Vernon Barg, the Cubs fandom began when he attended a game during the 1945 World Series—the last time the Cubs vied for the pennant. The last time they won was in 1908. On Tuesday night, the Cubs will return to the Fall Classic, taking on the Cleveland Indians for Game 1, in Cleveland.

“I listened to the Cubs on the radio when I was 7 or 8 years old—something like that,” Barg says. “But when I was 12, my brother—who was 6 years older than I am—took me to Wrigley Field for the 1945 World Series.”

Vernon Barg
Vernon Barg

The Cubs lost the game, Barg says. They also lost the World Series. They didn’t, however, lose Barg as a fan.

“After that, I became an even stronger Cubs fan,” he says.

That sort of family connection is a common thread among many longtime Cubs fans, it seems. Ninety-year-old Sydell Reeves, who lives at Belmont Village Glenview in Glenview, Illinois, inherited her love for the Cubs from her grandfather, whom she lived with as a child.

“Grandpa was a Cubs fan, so I became a Cubs fan,” Reeves says. She’s waited years for a season like this one.

“There’s a very good possibility that they’ll go all the way,” she says. “Wouldn’t that be something.”

Fans for a Lifetime

All of these senior living residents have dedicated plenty of time, somehow or another, to the Cubs franchise.

Segal is a former season ticket holder. Barg is a self-described ‘Bleacher Bum’ (“…There’s plenty of room out there, you can yell, make all the noise you want,” he says. “And tickets used to cost maybe a dollar, a dollar and a quarter.”) Reeves’ husband became an usher at Wrigley Field after he retired, and Reeves herself once had a large collection of baseball cards signed by Cubs players.

Mary Dunn, the daughter of 91-year-old Belmont Village Glenview resident Rudy Saliwanchik, says her father would take the L train to games at Wrigley Field until he was in his mid 80s, always stopping at local sports bar Murphy’s Bleachers beforehand for a hot dog and listening to his own transistor radio in the stands.

Rudy Saliwanchik
Rudy Saliwanchik

Additionally, most of these Cubs fans have had their share of favorite Cubs players—some of whom had heydays that ended several years, or even decades, ago. Segal fondly remembers a beloved Cubs third baseman from the 1960s and early 1970s in particular.

“Of course, I love Ron Santo, and I feel he is clicking his heels up in the sky,” Segal says.

Stan Hack, a third baseman who played for the Cubs from 1932 to 1944, still has a piece of Reeves’ heart.

“He was good looking, he was young, he was a good player, and I just thought he was the greatest,” Reeves says. She and her husband have an engraved brick paver outside of Wrigley Field that’s placed, appropriately, near a larger paving stone dedicated to Hack.

Barg’s favorite Cubs players include Andy Pafko, Phil Cavarretta and Bill Nicholson.

“They were all in the World Series back in 1945,” he explains.

Even though he attended a game during the ill-fated 1945 World Series when the “Curse of the Billy Goat” supposedly began, Barg remains unfazed by any talk of curses.

“It never changed my mind about anything. I never believed it,” Barg says. “I remained a Cubs fan no matter how they were playing or anything.”

Reeves says she never believed in a curse, either. But Segal definitely did.

“I have a shirt that says something like, ‘We blew up the ball, now let’s blow up the goat!’” she says.

Still, a curse can’t be blamed for any Cub misfortunes, Barg insists.

“They had many a bad year, I’ll say that,” Barg says. “This year is the best year ever.”

This is ‘The Year’

Retirement has served many Cubs fans well, Barg reckons.

“Recently, I listen to the Cubs every single day, every night, just about every game now,” he says. “That’s because I’ve been retired for 16 years.”

At The Breakers at Edgewater Beach, several retired residents have been getting together to watch games this season.

“At 7:00, we have around 30 people, but people leave throughout the game to go to bed,” Segal says. “One time, a gentleman and I were the only ones left at 11:30 at night.”

There’s plenty to stay up late for and be excited about, the residents agree. Especially this week, when the Cubs will play for their first World Series championship title since 1908.

Sydell Reeves
Sydell Reeves

“The Cubs are going to win the World Series. I don’t know if it’s going to take seven games or not,” Reeves says. Barg feels similarly.

“I think the Cubs are gonna win it, but I don’t think they’re gonna win it in four straight,” Barg says. “They’re gonna win in five or six games.”

Dunn says her father, who now has dementia, has been a Cubs fan all his life, which means he’s been hurt many times. “He told me today, ‘It’s great they’re in the World Series, but we’ll see,’” Dunn says.

For her part, Segal’s not sure how the series will play out, but she’s pretty sure about how it will impact her personal life.

“I think my anxiety level will be raised, and my blood pressure will be raised,” Segal says. She’s also pretty sure the series will affect her book club.

“The problem is my book club meets next Friday, and I’ve only read maybe a quarter of a book,” Segal says. “This week there’s a lot of games—I probably won’t even open the book anymore.”

But it’s all good, she says.

“You’ve got to have priorities, and the Cubs are one of them.”

Written by Mary Kate Nelson

Photo credit: “Chicago 2011” by karlnorling, CC BY 2.0

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