The touching journey of the Cubs’ No.11

@Connor Hall
SI Photo

Chicago, IL- The Cubs had just took down the best pitcher in baseball to advance to their first World Series in over 70 years, dating back to 1945. Every single member of the Cubs’ organization at Wrigley Field was in the clubhouse, drenched in champagne.

Every member that is, except for one.

Standing in the outfield of Wrigley Field, Cubs hitting coach John Mallee’s uniform was 100% dry as he chatted with his family after the Cubs’ historic win.

Mallee never celebrated the Cubs win with the team. Instead he remained at his locker in the coaches office at Wrigley Field, talking with his late Dad.

“I went and sat with him for a little while, sat with him and had a little chat,” Mallee told Fox Sports. “It was kind of cool. I was looking up at him, talking to him a little bit.”

A moment that can not be put into words, as described by Mallee. 

“I thanked him. And I told him, ‘We’re not done yet. Don’t be over there partying in heaven’s night club. We’ve still got work to do.’”

John Sr, a retired Chicago police officer and lifelong Cubs fan, passed away on February 13th at the age of 82. The last time he talked to his son, came a couple of days before spring training started, and his last ever words to his son were some to remember:

“You and the Cubs are going to win the city a World Series this year.”

Four days later, John Sr. was gone, and it made this season worth a lot more for the Cubs hitting coach.

John Jr. and his sister Kathy had no idea that their father served in the Korean War. Little did they know that he was also part of the Army’s 11th Airborne Division during the second World War.

It wasn’t until after the passing of their father when John Jr. and Kathy realized why their father was so set on the number 11. Their father had made them wear it their entire sports careers after he served in the 11th Airborne Division.

“We never knew,” Kathy told Ken Rosenthal. “My dad would change my brother’s uniform, make people give him that number, even pulled him off a team one time so he could have it. He was his coach in Little League because he wanted to make sure he had that number. It has been on his back since he was 3 years old.”

While planning their father’s funeral, Kathy and John Jr. had searched through their father’s belongings and discovered some papers and patches indicating that their father was much more than just a dad. 

That is the very moment when Kathy realized the meaning behind No.11.

“I was sitting on my bedroom floor in tears. I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s why,’”

She quickly sent her brother a text with the information. His response…Priceless.

“My father’s a bad-ass”

Their mother had given Kathy the patches and flag from the army, and even got it framed. When Fathers day rolled around mid-June, the Cubs were getting ready to face of against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kathy, just as her father would have wanted, delivered the flag and plaques to her brother right before game time. 

“I had it. But it just didn’t feel right,” Kathy said of the flag. “To me, that should be passed on to a son, knowing how important it was for my brother, how close they were. He was meant to have that. And I wanted my dad to be with him.”

John hung the flag right above his locker in Wrigley Field, where it still sits to this day, through all the ups and downs of the season. He touches both frames before every single home game, telling his father each time, “Help me get through today, Pops.”

That’s not the only time when John asks for his father’s help within the confines of baseball. During Game 5 of the National League Championship series against the Dodgers, John called to his father for some help. 

“If I ever needed you, I need you now – I’ve got to have it,” John recalls saying to his father.

With the Cubs being four games away from ending their World Series drought, John Sr. is jumping with joy watching the young Cubs make a run at the title.

Let’s do it for No. 11 this year, Chicago.

– Connor Hall (@518SportsChall)

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