By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BRIDGMAN — It’s the beginning of Game 1 between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, and everyone inside The Getaway Grille & Cubbie Bar is standing at attention.
Like the thousands at Progressive Field in Cleveland, attendees at the Bridgman bar took off their hats with the white “W” embroidered on them and put their hands over their hearts as the national anthem played through the dozens of televisions.
It’s silent until patrons begin to sing the anthem.
The moment was surreal as many weren’t alive the last time the team from the North side of Chicago was in the World Series.
John Willming admitted to there being a lot of anxiety for the 2016 Cubs compared to last year’s team. Last year, they weren’t expected to win it all. Last year’s Cubs weren’t supposed to make it to the National League Championship Series.
But this year was different for not only the heavily favored Cubs, but for the Coloma resident who made the 30-minute trip to his favorite sports bar.
“I’ve been coming here since 2002, just before that meltdown in ‘03,” Willming said. “We’re past that now and the Cubs are almost to the promised land.”
Willming, 45, remembers 1984 when the Cubs were on the verge of clinching the NLCS and lost. He remembers 1989 when they lost to the San Francisco Giants and Will Clark. And he remembers the team being swept in 1998 by the Atlanta Braves.
“There’s just a lot of history of futility as a Cubs fan,” Willming said. “We just need four more wins, but I think the Cubs will only need five games to do it.”
Willming sat at the bar during Game 1 and was one of dozens Tuesday night who sang “Go Cubs Go” when it came on over the sound system.
Tom Ackerman, The Getaway owner since 1983, worked the music leading up to the first pitch at 8:07 p.m.
On Ackerman’s playlist was “Sweet Caroline” to lighten the mood, as well as some sound bites of Mike Ditka’s and Harry Caray’s iterations of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Among the crowd favorite’s on Ackerman’s musical lineup was the Cubs-inspired parody called “We Don’t Suck Anymore.”
Ackerman was excited to see the crowd, which seemed to match that of Saturday’s attendance when the Cubs won the NL Pennant. Since it was a weekday, Ackerman said they didn’t have as many people driving in from Chicago and Kalamazoo.
“During the games it gets really good around here. We try to make it as close to Wrigley (Field) as we can,” Ackerman said.
A solace for Cubs
Other than it’s name, it’s easy to see why The Getaway caters to Cubs fans.
Cardboard cutouts of Cubs stars Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo stood guard outside The Getaway’s entrance, next to the replica goat Ackerman bought a few years ago.
Baseball cards are sprawled across the tables with a laminate cover. In addition to the decorations, the menu’s items are dedicated to the game and its players which includes the “Kyle Schwarburger” and the “Addison Rustle (Russell) Burger.”
As the bar along Red Arrow highway continued to fill up a half hour before the game, the regulars would tap the cowbell hanging above the entrance. Each time the bell rang, Ackerman and other patrons give an energetic welcome, “Holy Cow! What’s up Cubs fans?”
Attendees went all out with their clothing Tuesday night. Some wore their favorite jerseys, while others took a more comical route and wore shirts with the words “I Ain’t Afraid of No Goats” sprawled across the back.
Henry Miltibarger has been coming to The Getaway for 25 years and has been a fan of the Lovable Losers since 1967.
At 54, Miltibarger has learned to take a Cubs win or lose with a grain of salt. He fell in love with the team because their games were always on WGN-TV. While he didn’t want to fight the crowd on Saturday, he couldn’t pass up watching Game 1 inside the Bridgman bar.
Miltibarger admitted that seeing this World Series berth was almost as good as the birth of his children.
“Other than having my children and being married to a good woman, it’s the most fabulous thing in my life,” Miltibarger said. “I’m actually kind of worried about dying if they win it. I didn’t think God would take me until they won it all. It’s coming close.”
The crowd was frenetic with each foul ball and over the top with the first single of the game for the Cubs.
Of course there were some negative reactions as well. When Bryant struck out looking on a pitch just outside the plate, a few obscenities were uttered. Then came the bottom of the first when the Indians drew first blood with two quick runs.
The Cubs lost, 6 to 0.
Miltibarger, of all people, knows when to worry and when to get excited. He doesn’t believe in curses, but he does believe in momentum.
“I won’t be worried until they lose three (games),” Miltibarger said. “I only worry about two losses in a five-game series, not a seven-game series. I’m just trying to enjoy where we’re at right now.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 26, 2016)