FUQUAY-VARINA, N.C. (WNCN) — A Raleigh-area man spent Wednesday night in Indiana at his father’s grave, listening to the radio as their beloved Cubs won the World Series.
Wayne Williams, Jr., drove 600 miles from his home in Fuquay-Varina to Edgewood Cemetery near Indianapolis. The Williams family buried Wayne Sr. there in 1980, after he died of kidney cancer.
“We had always said when the Cubs get in the World Series, we’ll make sure we listen to the games together. Actually we said watch, because we thought we’d be in front of a TV,” Williams said Friday.
“Before game six started of the Series (on Tuesday), I told my wife, you know, if they win this one, I’ve got to head out of here first thing tomorrow morning and get to the cemetery. She knew exactly what I was talking about.”
They visit the cemetery almost every year, during road trips to visit relatives in Chicago. Williams grew up not far from Wrigley Field. It was close enough that he rode his bicycle to the ballpark as a grade school student.
This week’s trip took about 10 hours each way. When he arrived in Indianapolis on Wednesday, a news crew was waiting for him at the cemetery, invited by a relative. Williams said it was cool to have company join him for the evening, especially since they brought lights. A reporter and photographer stayed with him through the end of the ninth inning. They left when a rain delay began at the start of extra innings.
“I actually went into my car to warm up, because it was actually raining in Indy too and I was getting a little bit of a chill,” Williams said.
He went back to a camping chair by his father’s grave when the game started again, listening to a local Chicago broadcast through an app on his iPhone.
“It was just me and the dead people,” he said with a big laugh.
Williams said it was nice being alone for the final outs of the game, just him and his father. He admits there was a moment of nervousness as he heard the play-by-play announcer describe the ground ball to Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. He had some concern Bryant or first baseman Anthony Rizzo might make an error to extend the inning.
“When you can’t watch it and you’re just listening you have to wait for the call, and you hear the call. Out,” Williams shouted while making the fist pumping motion of an umpire.
“I just looked down at the headstone and said ‘We did it,’ and packed it up because there was nothing else to say.”
Williams said he and his father didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but the one thing that always brought them together was baseball. He said the same thing is true with his sons, Kevin and Jonathan.
He coached his children, who both ended up pitchers despite his desire for them to play catcher as he had. Williams said watching this year’s Cubs team took him back to his days in the dugout with his sons. He has a great admiration for manager Joe Maddon, whom Williams says manages like he did with Little League teams.
“I tell them to have fun, it’s only a baseball game,” he said. “We had a championship game in the Pony League, and the team that we were playing against had beaten us twice during the regular season.”
“It’s the fourth inning, and their star player has already hit two home runs off my son. So he comes up to bat again, and I call time out. I told my shortstop to go out in left field and I told my other outfielders to just stand by the fence. It just broke the tension,” he said.
“I told my kids we’ve got it in the bag. Nobody loses three in a row.”
Except for the Chicago Cubs’ opponents in the last two rounds of the 2016 playoffs, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians. His son proceeded to walk the next batter in that Little League game, but the team came back to win their championship game.
He admits he never thought he’d see his team win the Major League Baseball championship, but he fulfilled a pact with his father to be together if the team ever got close. For a team whose followers carry the motto ‘Wait ’til next year’, Williams is eager
“Dynasty time. I want to see them put together a five year run. Back to back to back to back to back, we deserve it, after 108 years,” Williams said.
On his porch hangs a white flag with a big blue letter on it, the same flown by fans in Chicago and around the world after a victory. It will stay up until April 3, when the Cubs open the 2017 season against the rival St. Louis Cardinals.
The letter? W. For win, Wrigley, and Wayne Williams, Jr., and Sr.