August 9, 1998

...And That's My Opinion

Someone to Watch Over Them

By Sandy Goldman

The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon

Some say that the fortunes of the Chicago Cubs are being watched after in the Great Ball Diamond in the sky, by two of Chicago's best-known baseball fans - Harry Caray & Mike Royko.

Some say that!! I say the fortunes of the Chicago Cubs are also being watched over by Mrs. Sol (Nina) Elia. She was in her 90's when she died this year.

Who, you might ask, is Mrs. Elia?

Mrs. Elia was born an Assyrian, in Georgia - not as in Atlanta Georgia, but as in the former USSR's Republic of Georgia, birthplace of Josef Stalin.

She traveled on foot across the countrysides of Europe during WWI, to board a ship which would take her to the U.S.A. and freedom from oppression and, she later had us believing, to see the Cubs win a World Series. She accomplished the former, alas never the latter.

I met Mrs. Elia when I was in eighth grade. She was the mother of a friend who, 54 years later is still a friend. She lived, breathed and died, first a Cub fan and then came everything else. She lived only a few blocks from Wrigley Field.

At her house we had pepperonchini, dolma and yogurt sauce (grape leaves stuffed with lamb and rice), cigars (Mr. Elia smoked them) and the Cubs - always the Cubs. First on the radio and then the television; Whispering Joe, Burt Wilson, Jack Quinlin, Jack Brickhouse, Vince Lloyd, Lou Boudreau, Ron Santo, Harry Caray.

As we grew up, we thought Hack Wilson and Gabby Hartnett were relatives and Charley Grimm was surely an uncle along with Bill Jurges, Stan Hack, Phil Cavaretta and Andy Pafko. Mrs. Elia, however, always saved her best for Bill Nicholson.

Mrs. E's composure was an indicator of how "Old Swish" had played that day. When I went to Tom's house, if "Bill" did well there was happy talk and plenty of pepperoncini. If Nicholson did poorly she was pretty glum and silent, but fed us anyway.

She endured the College of Coaches regime. She was not at all reluctant to express her opinion about that "experiment". Her opinion was neither positive nor polite.

Through the '60s, '70s and '80s, her moods would swing with the fortunes of the Cubs. With Ashburn, Waitkus, Sauer, Santo, Hubbs.

In her mind, she was the field manager along with the best: Charley Grimm, Leo Durocher, Lou Boudreau, and Bob Sheffing. When each of them left, she always said things would be all right; things would get better.

When age crept up on her, she moved to Wilmette to be near her family. Her heart stayed at Wrigley Field. I'd sometimes see her in Wilmette when I owned a video store in that Village. "How's it going?", I would ask, inquiring of her health. "Oh, they'll get better", she would reply, talking about her favorite subject.

Then came Zimmer and they did get better. Then he left and things got bad.

"But, not to worry," she said, "it'll be all right - the Cubs will be OK!"

When she left the church on her last day on earth, they played her favorite song, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game".

Somewhere up there, as Sol smokes a cigar and Royko listens, she and Harry are singing a duet. And I'm sure there are plenty of pepperoncini and plates full of dolma. The three best Cub fans in the world....

Please feel free to duplicate and distribute this or any of my previous columns from past editions of RP2000, published by the Rogers Park community Council at 1722 W. Lunt Avenue, Chicago, IL 60626 where I was a columnist and founding editor.

...And that's my opinion.

And I'm Sandy Goldman

Send me your e-mail address or those of others who would be interested and I'll add them to my rapidly growing distribution list.


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