Do you still believe in heroes? A kid’s hero is usually an athlete and maybe a movie or television performer. I spent most of my youth in the 1960’s and was always a Chicago Cubs fan. My number one hero was Billy Leo Williams. He batted left handed although he threw with his right hand. Being a lefty myself, I hitched myself to his wagon. For sure, there was also Ernie Banks, who batted righty and was Ma’s hero, so I didn’t want to steal her thunder. The number on the back of Ernie’s uniform was 14 and that became Ma’s lucky number.
Although Ron Santo made up the third part of the fan’s favorite trio during the 60’s decade, I never did cotton to him. He tended to be a hot dog and did not endear himself to the opposition when he would click his heels all the way to the clubhouse after Cubbie victories. Despite compiling enviable statistics, it always seemed as if he hit his home runs late in the game when the score was already lopsided against the Cubs and the cause was hopeless.
Santo also got into a famous fight with the Cubs skipper, Leo â€œThe Lipâ€ Durocher. I felt that he caused friction and division in the dugout and it was a significant reason that the team never made it over the hump despite being loaded with talent.
There were other local sports heroes. On WGN Channel 9, I watched Bobby Hull, good old number 9, skate the length of the hockey rink and stop just past the blue line to take that famous slap shot. With several seasons of over 50 goals a year, more often than not it went into the net. Of course, in those days, very few goalies wore masks, so I’m sure more than one stepped aside to avoid permanent injury. Slap shots are a lost art in today’s NHL which seems passing-happy. Hull seemed to carry the team on his shoulders and on a night he was hot, could single-handily turn a so-so team performance into victory. I never cared much for his other great all-star teammate- Stan Makita. Stosh, as they used to call him, was not flamboyant but methodical and steady. I’m not sure if it helped or hurt his performance in that he was hardly on the ice at the same time with Hull unless it was for penalty killing and power plays. Years later, I changed my attitude about Hull when I read disturbing news on how he treated people as well as his politics.
Basketball was hardly a professional sport in Chicago in the latter 1960’s. It would take several years for the Chicago Bulls to put together a decent team. Bob Love was the closest they came to putting out a true star who could take over a game. But the Bulls were clearly outclassed by opponents whenever the playoffs came about.
It wasn’t until MJ showed up and showed the world what it meant for a local team to dominate a sport.
The city had a great run in the 1990’s. But MJ was not my hero. A hero was someone who I would look up to and want to be like on and off the playing arena. Maybe I had outgrown the need for a hero.
I also had heroes in the movies. As a youngster, I watched any Errol Flynn movie that was playing on television reruns. When I got older, I learned about all the shenanigans that went on in his personal life including questionable actions during World War II. It cooled off the hero worshiping but never diminished my interest in the great string of movies he made from 1935 through 1945.
John Wayne was another taller than life folk hero to me. I still can watch the same one of his westerns over and over again despite knowing how it all comes out in the end. There were those who didn’t like his gung ho American political stance. Maybe that’s another reason I still look up to him so many years later.
I’m looking for a new stash of heroes but find that I’ve become too jaded. I’m prepared to bow to whomever finally gets rid of the 100 year curse of a baseball championship banner flying over Wrigley Field. That is, if the ball park is still around or I am. (gulp!)