The remarkable story of 100-year-old Cubs fan, Mary Cook
A century ago, Wrigley Field was known as Cubs Park, Pete Alexander was the Cubs’ ace, and Cubs fan Mary Cook was born in Harvey, Ill.
From day one, she’s bled Cubbie blue.
“To describe someone at 100 with these words is kind of odd, but: energetic, agile and fun,” Kathleen Lyons, Cook’s daughter, said.
“I think I just take after my mother, watching my mother watch baseball all the time,” Cook said. “My younger sister could care less about baseball. Only me and my brothers. That was the thing. We talked baseball.”
“When the Cubs started selling the bricks [outside Wrigley], I suggested to Mom to get one,” Lyons said. “Well we had to figure out what to put on it. It was before the World Series win. What she wanted on her brick was ‘Mary Cook wants a World Series, not a brick!’”
Andrea Valois, Cook’s daughter, said, “It doesn’t matter how late in the evening the game goes, Mom will call and we will be excited with her. She just wants to share the joy with all of us.”
While raising her family in Harvey, Cook also played a part in babysitting comedian and diehard Cubs fan, Tom Dreesen.
Cook said, “My husband and I would stop at their [family] tavern. When he was a baby, [if his mother] had to do something else, she would say, ‘Mary, go change his diaper for me.’
“[At about 10-11], he shined shoes at the bar. He was a shoeshine boy. He would go from one tavern to another to polish the shoes. My shoeshine boy, Tom Dreesen.”
“She’d knock you off a barstool if you weren’t rooting for the Cubs,” Dreesen said.
“She’s a wonderful woman and she’s typical of the neighborhood I grew up in. They were blue collar people. They were good women, good wives and didn’t take a whole lot of crap from anybody.”
In 2008, Lyons entered a Walgreens contest where the prize was a private workout with Cubs players and coaches on Wrigley Field.
Lyons said, “All I know is that when they told me I won, I was like I can’t do that, cause I’m not good at sports but I begged them to let my mother do it.
“My mom was there and ready with her mitt. I don’t even own a mitt, but my mother has one. So there were 23 men at this workout, one other woman and my mom. At 86, [my mom was] catching fly balls, fielding grounders and running around the bases. There were coaches. They were Cubs pitcher Sean Marshall, bench coach Alan Trammell and bullpen coach Lester Strode.”
Cook said, “The ballplayers would hit the ball, and I would chase after it. I would catch a few and miss a few. I wanted to hit the ball, and Strode threw it. I would strike out every time. I found out from my son-in-law that it was the bifocals on my glasses. Marshall and I were playing catch. We ran around the bases and the outfield. I caught a few. I threw many back, and they looked at me when I would throw them. They’d just look at me, because I was a good thrower.”
“The day progressed and a lot of attention went to my mom,” Lyons said. “Everybody wanted to sit by her. Everybody wanted to get to know her. They kept asking her questions about why [was she] so good.
“I think we walked into there not realizing this was going to be the special day that it’s going to be. That day in 2008, I didn’t realize it was going to be as important to her as it has become. It turned out to be one of the greatest days of her life. It really did. It was a lifelong memory that she didn’t expect, I didn’t expect.”
For a 100-year-old Cubs fan, the 2016 World Series is another core memory. Cook was down in her winter home in Florida with her sister, watching Game 7.
“It was mind boggling for me,” Cook said. “I was on pins and needles. We were playing with them, putting the ball in the right place. We were screeching. We were biting our nails. We were jumping around like jumping jacks. It was an amazing game.”
Her family, well aware of the Cubs fandom within Mary Cook, turned that following Christmas Eve into a Cubs-themed Christmas and World Series celebration.
“Mom was upset that we weren’t all with her, “ Lyons said. “So we promised her that Christmas Eve would be our Cubs World Series celebration.
“Everyone wore Cubs shirts, there were Cubs things all over the house, and Mom was in heaven. She was able to celebrate the World Series with us. My brother-in-law and son-in-law are White Sox fans, and they actually wore Cubs shirts that day whether they liked it or not.”
As the Cubs put the finishing touches on their 2016 championship, Dreesen thought of Cook.
“When the Cubs won the World Series, finally after 108 years, I could hardly speak,” Dreesen said.
“I was so choked up and all I was thinking of was all those people in my lifetime that loved the Cubs that never lived to see this day. I’m so glad that Mary lived to see this day. Mary is a classic example of what Cubs fans are all about, lifetime.”