Back in 2016, work offered to send me to Los Angeles to cover the Cubs and Dodgers in the NLCS. The radio station secured my press credentials for Dodger Stadium access. But it was last minute, so all the hotels were booked or ridiculously expensive. Radio doesn’t do pricey. I placed a call to my dear friend, fellow Cubs fan and current Los Angeles resident, Illini Cass. The entire Cass family welcomed me for the better part of a week…which ended up being one of the best of my life. They offered up the guest room and made me feel like a part of the Cass clan. Cass even made me his signature breakfast dish, green eggs. (Egg whites with greens snuck in there to wedge some veggies into the kids’ diet.)
The Cubs lost Game 3, but Cass and his wife Lauren had tickets so I got to hang with them and watch instead of sitting on my hands alone in the quiet press area. Cass lives near legendary L.A. burger place Apple Pan. We stopped in postgame to console ourselves with burgers and pie.
Cass brought his 4-year-old son Connor to Game 4 and the Cubs demolished L.A. McBro flew out with his dad, so I sat with them behind home plate until the late-arriving crowd showed in the 3rd. In the 4th, Cass put Conor on his lap so I could sit next to him and we could drink beer while cheering on the Cubs. The Dodgers fans we sat near were extremely cool. Game 5 Addison Russell hit a big homer, then the Cubs broke it open to head home up 3 games to 2. Cass’ brother as well as Liftoff and the Beagle all came to that game and we went out partying in L.A. to celebrate the victory. Cass introduced us to a late night legend, Johnnie’s French Dip. Look how the sign boasts about carrying Vienna Beef. Respect.
The rest you know…the Cubs won Game 6 and went on to win the greatest Game 7 in World Series history.
I owed a debt to all those that made my NLCS experience possible.
I recalled asking Cass about the availability of Italian Beefs in his area. I know Portillo’s expanded out west and Joe Mantegna has some knockoff place somewhere near L.A.
“There’s a Portillo’s, but it’s at least 2 hours away,” Cass reported, somberly. “But I’ve made the drive.” Cass is guy that likes beefs.
Thinking back on Cass’ 2-thousand mile stare, I knew what I had to do. I went to Tastes of Chicago and sent my friend some frozen Portillo’s Beef. His kids tried it and loved it. And the smile on Cass’ face warms my soul.
The moral of the story? Open your home to friends; appreciate the life-affirming times that you can spend with the people you care about; appreciate baseball for bringing you together; pounce on opportunities to see your team in the playoffs; and, whenever possible, send cross-country beef.