Wayne Williams Jr. promised his father they would be together when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. He made good on the pact Wednesday, driving more than 650 miles to his father’s gravesite in Indiana to listen to their beloved team make history.
Williams, 68, a lifelong Cubs fan, grew up in the Chicago area but moved to Fuquay-Varina about five years ago to be near his daughter.
He left early Wednesday for Greenwood, Ind., where his father, Wayne Williams Sr., is buried. Once he arrived at the cemetery’s open gates, Williams pulled up the game on his smartphone and sat in a chair next to his father’s grave.
“My dad and I had kind of made a pact that when – not if – the Cubs made the World Series, we would watch the games together,” Williams said.
Williams was accompanied by a television crew from nearby Indianapolis that had been tipped off by a relative. They sat with him in the dark cemetery, listening to the Cubs win an 8-7 thriller in 10 innings to end a 108-year streak without a World Series championship.
Williams said his father, who died of cancer in 1980 at age 53, would have been overjoyed but not surprised by the victory.
“He would have said, ‘I told ya, I told you they woulda won,’ ” he said.
The elder Williams was always confident his team would be champions once again. Even when the Cubs were terrible, he always looked on the bright side.
He was known to say, “This is going to be our year, we’re going to be .500,” Williams said of his father’s predictions of a break-even season. “Just being .500 was something for him.”
A World War II veteran who served in the Navy, Williams Sr. believed anything was possible. He joined the Navy instead of the Army because he figured he could simply swim to shore if his boat sank, even if he was in the middle of the ocean, his son said.
“He was always unrealistic in some of his thinking,” Williams said. “Hence a Cub fan.”
While visiting years ago, Williams noticed his father had lost weight. Doctors later found advanced kidney cancer.
“They gave him three months,” Williams said. “He got six, but he spent the last month in a hospital bed.”
Williams said he planned to call his mother, who is 91 and lives in northern Minnesota, to tell her about his baseball adventure. He figured she would be underwhelmed.
“She’s very unsentimental, and she’ll say something like, ‘You’re an idiot,’ ” he said.
Love for the game
The family’s affinity for baseball stretches back to Williams’ grandfather, who was a huge fan of the Giants baseball team when it played in New York.
Williams and his father share the middle name Christie – an homage to Giants pitcher Christopher “Christy” Mathewson, who played in the early 1900s. Somehow the hospital messed up the spelling, Williams said.
When he was young, he attended many Cubs games, recording box scores and paying close attention to each play. The team struggled to win games back then, and tickets were easy to come by. Visitors could walk up to the box office at Wrigley Field on game day and buy a seat anywhere in the stadium.
“They would say, ‘Pick any seat you want, they’re all open,’ ” Williams said.
Williams doesn’t make it to many games these days, mostly because of the distance. But also, he said, tickets are much harder to get.
Williams said he believes this year’s crown will be the first of many World Series wins for the team, which is stacked with young talent.
“I really believe – of course now I’m channeling my dad – I think it’s going to be a dynasty,” he said.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi