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Kenmare family personifies Cubs fans

GooseFest wasn’t the only celebration going on in Kenmare last week.

11/01/16 (Tue)

Family of Cubbies . . . From left; Ron, Jaden, Abigail and Tami McNeiley surround themselves in Chicago Cubs memoribilia. The McNeileys, rare Cubs fans in this part of the country, had reason to celebrate as the Chicago baseball team made it to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

By Marvin Baker

GooseFest wasn’t the only celebration going on in Kenmare last week.

There’s a house on Central Avenue that was abuzz with excitement ever since it was learned the Chicago Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers to earn a trip to the World Series.

The McNeiley family is all about the Cubs and has been for a long time, but not as long as it’s been since the Cubs last punched their ticket to the fall classic in 1945.

Ron McNeiley grew up approximately 30 miles from Wrigley Field in Chicago where the Cubs play their home games. His grandfather took him to games when he was a kid and the enthusiasm has never evaporated.

When he met his wife Tami, he was wearing a Cubs jacket and today, their two children, Jaden and Abigail, have become big Cubs fans and follow the team all season long.

“Back then they were all day games and I remember when they got lights in the 1980s,” Ron McNeiley said. “We just wanted them in the World Series, now we want them to win.”

But it’s been a long time since the Cubs have won the World Series. It was 108 years ago in 1908 when the Cubs defeated the Detroit Tigers. The last time the Cubs were in the World Series was 1945 when the Tigers turned the tide and defeated the Cubs.

These dates and coincidences have made the McNeiley family very superstitious regarding their second favorite sports team behind the Kenmare Honkers.

Tami McNeiley described some of that family folk lore.

“We sit in the same seats, in the same spot and we wear the same clothes,” she said. “So we are very superstitious. There’s a baseball sitting on top the TV, right in the center.”

When guests drop by the house, there’s a candy dish that’s full of bubble gum, colored Chicago Cubs blue.

“Guests get them if something goes bad,” Tami said. “They get the bubble gum to help the team.”

Jaden added, “Good things happen when you chew that gum. I don’t know if it’s magic or what?”

If that isn’t enough to convince you, the McNeileys have a black cat named PZ, who “broke the curse” of the Cubs staying out of the World Series.

When the Cubs are playing, according to Tami, the McNeiley family is greedy and there is no sympathy for their opponents, whether it’s a regular-season game against a rival like the St. Louis Cardinals, or it’s in the World Series against the Cleveland Indians, a team that has waited 52 years to be in the World Series.

Jaden agreed. He said they’ve become superstitious after realizing the Cubs have been the subject of curses, gifts of goats and yes, the Bartman incident.

That’s when Steve Bartman, a fan, reached out and deflected a ball a Cub outfielder would have otherwise caught in the 2003 National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins.

It would have been as good as an automatic out and it most likely would have sent the Cubs to the World Series that year.

“Nobody sits in that seat,” Jaden said.

Tami added, “They have security guards watching so nobody can sit there.”

Jaden said his friends sometimes give him a hard time about his superstitious nature, but then there were tens of thousands of fans in Boston who had the same feeling when it took the Red Sox from 1918 to 2004 to win the World Series.

“My friends rib me a lot so this will take the edge off,” he said of the Cubs reaching the World Series. “Game 1 didn’t go so good. It was disappointing, but Dad was saying it’s in the bag.”

Ron was more cautious, and admittedly, a little nervous after the Cubs lost the opener, 6-0, but came back to return the following night with a 5-1 win.

“We’re not quite there yet,” he said. “But, the (Cubs) bats can beat the (Indians) pitchers.”

Jaden’s faith was in Joe Maddon, the Cubs manager, who took the Tampa Bay Rays to the World Series in 2008 and has been Cubs manager the past two seasons.

“He’s very intelligent and knows how to use the versatility of his players,” he said. “There are so many ways to utilize the players and he does a great job of it.”

Abigail, wearing a Cubs T-shirt, didn’t say much, but said her favorite player is first baseman Anthony Rizzo who has picked up some clutch hits in the series.

So there are four Cubs fanatics in Kenmare, five if you count PZ the cat, who are as much a part of this team as if they were going to games in Wrigley Field.

Ron subscribes to Major League Baseball TV to make sure games are available at home, and on mobile devices.

Tami says he talks baseball all summer. “If the Cubs only knew,” she said.

For Jaden, the Cubs are the top priority during the summer. The team come first, then chores.

For Tami this baseball excitement takes on a completely different meaning. For her, it’s something the family does together. It’s a blessing the McNeileys can have so much fun together. That makes her most happy.

About two years ago, Tami was in a hospital in Rochester, Minn., fighting cancer. Her doctors said she had 2-4 months to live so they suggested she do what she needed to do.

“I called a travel agency in Minot and said ‘you’ve got six hours to get my husband to Minneapolis, and she did,’” Tami said. “I wanted my family to go there (Wrigley Field). The kids got to run the bases and we saw batting practice. Really, it’s a family thing and we all have the same passion. People think we’re crazy, but I think it’s fun.”

At press time, the Cubs were still in the fight, having won 3-1 Sunday night to send the series back to Cleveland for Game 6 Tuesday night.

Thus if the Cubs win, “We will probably be dancing in the streets and Kenmare will wonder,” Tami said. “Ron will be screaming on the porch.”

If the Indians win, “They’ll have more chances, but this is our time,” Jaden said.

Ron has been a loyal Cubs fan all his life and this isn’t just jumping on a bandwagon. It’s real and it’s fun, win or lose. He even has his co-workers talking Cubs.

“The best thing that could have happened, is we sweep at home for the fans to see that,” he said. “Otherwise, we’ll be doing this again next summer.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!