A longtime Chicago Cubs fan, Lin Brehmer was honored to be asked to moderate a panel discussion at the 2015 Cubs Convention.
It was Joe Maddon’s official introduction to Cubs fans, and Brehmer wanted the new skipper to know exactly what he was in for in Chicago.
“Joe, a lot of high-priced managers have come through the Cubs organization over the years,” Brehmer said. “Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella and many others have come in, and most left Chicago in straitjackets…”
Maddon interrupted before Brehmer could pose his question.
“Forty-two regular,” he said, offering up his jacket size.
Brehmer, the veteran disc jockey for WXRT-FM 93.1 who died Sunday at 68, loved telling that story. He was the quintessential Cubs fan, the kind who followed them as closely when they were hopeless failures as when they became World Series champions. He could cheer them on one minute and throw up his hands in disgust the next.
And though his career path led him to our city and our favorite progressive rock station, we were fortunate his bosses at WXRT had the good sense to let Lin opine on air about whatever crossed his mind, including his thoughts on his beloved Cubs.
Lin’s essay on “Saturday Morning Flashback” on the 1998 Cubs perfectly captured the essence of the wild season of Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the “Oh, no!” moment in Milwaukee. The joy, the pain, the resurrection and the heartbreak — all encapsulated by the voice of sanity in his lyrical fashion. His memorable tribute to Ernie Banks for WGN-Ch. 9 was a classic ode to Mr. Cub.
One of my favorite “Lin’s Bin” essays centered on the strange feeling of optimism at the start of the 2016 season, when the Cubs were favored to win it all after the 2015 run to the National League Championship Series.
Someone had asked Brehmer, “Do we really want the Cubs to win the World Series?” It was a valid question. The Cubs were special because all those years of losing didn’t deter one’s fandom. Would that change with a championship?
Lin remarked that Cubs fans “mark our generations by the abject failures that defined our youth: 1945 and the goat, 1969 and the black cat, 1984 and the Bull.
“Will my son or my wife or you ever forget the details of Inning 8, Game 6 of the National League Championship Series of 2003? With all due respect to the science of psychology, there is not enough winning in the world to take those crucial moments away. They are a part of who we are.
“These Cub plunges into the abyss are as permanent as the mark left by a branding iron. Cub fans have passed through a narrowing chute where we have been marked for life.”
In the end, Lin decided a World Series victory would not spoil the essence of being a Cubs fan: “And if we end the season with the Cubs in seven, I promise we will breathe again because we will no longer be holding our breath.”
The Cubs won in seven, of course, and Lin rejoiced like the rest of their fans. That didn’t change Lin’s approach to the team or make him any less apprehensive about its ability to let him down in crucial moments down the road.
I met Lin at one of his opening-day shows at Yak-Zies a couple of decades ago, and he often texted me from his seat at Wrigley Field, sometimes with blunt messages regarding the state of the Cubs that afternoon, like the one that said: “Got any morphine?”
One day in 2020 he told me he had bet on the Cubs to lose that day. I chided him for being so anti-Cub for a Cubs fan.
“No, I’m fine losing money if the Cubs win,” he texted back.
Sometimes I’d wander down from the Wrigley press box for an inning and watch the game with Lin and his family and friends, including one fateful September day in 2019.
Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel served up back-to-back home runs in the ninth inning in a stunning loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Lin just sat there in his Cubs cap and black Engine No. 78 T-shirt, scorecard in hand, shaking his head with a knowing grin.
Another scar from the Cubs branding iron. But he’d get through it like always. It was all part of being a Cubs fan.
Lin always seemed invincible, even after missing time last summer while undergoing chemotherapy. His motto, “It’s great to be alive,” made us feel as though he always would be there for us, picking the perfect soundtrack for our morning drive or a run by the lake or just lounging on the couch while trying to get over a hangover.
We’ll never forget his voice or his way with words or his ability to find the right song for the right moment and put you in a better mood.
Lin wasn’t from Chicago, but he was all about Chicago.