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Local fans of Chicago Cubs bask in 2016 World Series championship

Retired New Richmond teacher Dick O’Gara, 78 (right) was taken to the first Chicago Cubs home World Series game since 1908 by his son, Jerry. 1 / 2
Ryan and Janelle Stephens celebrated in front of the Wrigley Field sign in their family room after the Cubs won Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.2 / 2

Chicago Cubs fans need suffer no more.

Cubs fans all over the world were rejoicing last week after the Cubs pulled out a thrilling victory in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series over the Cleveland Indians. It is the first World Series championship for the Cubs since 1908.

There are Cubs fans everywhere who have lived through the yearly anguish of seeing their favorite team say “maybe next year” for every year of their lives. We checked in with three local Cubs fans to get their responses.

Dick O’Gara, 78, is a retired New Richmond school teacher. He’s been a Cubs fan all his life, recalling listening to the radio with his family to the 1945 World Series, which the Cubs lost to the Detroit Tigers. It was the last time the Cubs were in a World Series. He talked of being a fan of Andy Pafko, the Boyceville native who was a Cubs standout from 1943-1951.

“I cried when he was traded to Brooklyn,” O’Gara recalled, the memories clearly refreshed by the current success of the team.

Pastor Mike Evans of Faith Community Church in New Richmond had a memorable tale on where he listened to Game 7. He was on a plane flight to Uganda as part of a ministry group starting churches in northern parts of the country. Evans had to rely on in-flight wifi to stay updated on the game.

“There were a couple dead spots but that just heightened the anxiety,” Evans said.

Evans has been a Cubs fan since the early 1980s and he’s been known to reference the Cubs in a sermon occasionally. Cubs fans are known for their eternal optimism and Evans certainly falls into that category.

“This may seem strange but it has been wonderful to be a Cubs fan. Many focus on the years without a championship. But my memory is filled with wonderful days at Wrigley Field with my son,” he said.

Evans said all Cubs fans should be thankful that the Ricketts family purchased the Cubs from the Tribune Company.

“Under The Tribune, it appeared ownership was satisfied turning a profit. I was encouraged when the Ricketts family bought the team because they are fans. It became obvious they were also intent on competing. There were key front office hires, a comprehensive but challenging plan to rebuild the farm teams,” Evans said.

Ryan Stephens, manager of the New Richmond Millers adult baseball team, is another of the local lifelong Cubs fans. He’s such a fan that he and his wife, Janelle, named their dog “Wrigley.” Their family room is largely a shrine to the Cubs. They made their first pilgrimage to Wrigley Field in 2003 and they’ve been back numerous times since, along with seeing the Cubs at a number of other venues. Stephens said attending the Ryne Sandberg retirement ranks as his favorite moment at Wrigley Field, though seeing Barry Bonds hit his 728th career homer from seats behind home plate would be a close second. Another favorite Cubs memory was catching a foul ball off the bat of new Cubs star Kris Bryant during the Cubs’ last visit to the Twin Cities.

Faith and hope are emotions that Cubs fans rely on to get through each off season.

“They get you on the edge of your seat, fail, and then build you back up. That’s what the Cubs do for me,” Stephens said. “To keep the faith behind something that strong is worth celebrating.”

Stephens said he’s not surprised that the Cubs-Indians series had great ratings, not only because of the history of the two teams but because of what the Cubs now represent.

“I think the Cubs brought people back to baseball. It’s a healthy lineup, these players are clean. They’re good people to look up to,” Stephens said.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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