‘This is the year’—Cubs fans use art to capture historic season


Photo Courtesy David Michael Beck

Artist David Michael Beck created his painting,”Opening Day” (above) for the Chicago Tribune depicting the opening of Wrigley Field.  

By Arts & Culture Reporter

Before the Chicago Cubs secured its long-awaited spot at the World Series after its Oct. 22 victory, fans were already anticipating a great season. For Brett Whitacre, a full-time artist, whispered superstitions about speaking too soon was not a concern.

In March, Whitacre set out to make a birthday gift for his father, a decades long Cubs fan and his childhood baseball coach. 

“A big part of my growing up was baseball and the Cubs,” Whitacre said. “I know some people are a little superstitious about saying this is their year [to win the World Series], but we’re just happy they are where they are.” 

Using mixed media such as editorial illustrations and portraits of the players, fans have used their creativity to keep the momentum of the season going until the final out on the field.

“If you grew up in the Chicago area you know in your bones what this historic moment means,” said Rick Morrissey, Cubs columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times in an Oct. 26 emailed statement. 

The excitement of a new season is obvious in Whitacre’s reverse glass painting he created for his father. Bright, bold blues and reds are neatly placed against the black of the Chicago skyline. As though written in the sky, the words “This is the year” take up a large portion of the canvas at the top. It is also a nod to former Cubs player Ron Santo, who often used the famous phrase on the radio. 

Whitacre said he finished the glasswork painting before the season even started to create something special for his father. 

“[The Cubs season] is an important and exciting time in all of our lives right now,” Whitacre said, adding that the painting is hanging where his dad can see it as he watches a game. 

After a long career painting portraits for the Chicago team, John Hanley, another artist, may finally have his chance to capture a moment the city has been waiting for since 1908 when the Cubs reach its final game against the Cleveland Indians on Oct. 30. 

“[Painting the Cubs] doesn’t seem like a job most of the time,” Hanley said. 

Hanley’s history with the Cubs goes back to his teenage years when he dreamed of being a Major League Baseball player. Hanley said he went as far as he could, until he realized he should pursue other interests and attended art school in Chicago, where he fell in love with commercial art.

After freelancing for several studios, Hanley solidified a career in sports art by persistently cold calling the Cubs. He eventually landed a few jobs working for publications affiliated with the Cubs before being commissioned to create two paintings of Ferguson “Fergie” Jenkins, Jr., and Greg Maddux when the club retired their numbers. 

Hanley said the tension almost broke his heart when he watched the Oct. 18 Cubs game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The final score was 6–0 Dodgers.

“I thought, ‘It is happening again,’” Hanley said, referring to the Cubs’ loss in 1945 against the American League Detroit Tigers. “But the flip switched, and it is pretty amazing.” 

When the Cubs won their National League Pennant Oct. 22, fans packed the streets of Wrigleyville to celebrate.  

To commemorate, David Michael Beck, an artist and illustrator who lived in Chicago for 23 years but now resides in in Cincinnati, uploaded two of his pieces to Instagram on Oct. 23, including a Budweiser montage and a piece depicting Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg won nine consecutive golden gloves with the Cubs before retiring in June 1994.

“People in the world love sports,” Beck said. “They embrace it on every level and in every capacity. To have some of my career be part of the sports community has been very rewarding.” 

As for Hanley, he told The Chronicle Oct. 25 that he is hoping to capture the perfect moment when the Cubs win the World Series. The city will be right with Hanley, eagerly waiting to see the Cubs finish the season.

“A national championship painting would be cool,” Hanley said.  “But a world championship would be unbelievable.”