- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

HIGHLAND, Ind. (AP) - Bob Zondor grew up on 120th Street in Whiting during the 1930s and ‘40s. The blue-collar roots taught the boy to be tough, work hard and to never give up.

Zondor, a 78-year-old now living in Highland, has another memory from those days that burns like an ember in his mind: the image of his father, John, listening to his favorite baseball team every afternoon.

“I can still see him sitting on the back porch, every day, listening to the Cubs on the radio,” Bob Zondor said. “The radio was a big, wooden counsel, you could see the stations across the top. He loved the Cubs. I can still see him sitting there. He’s the one who got me started.

“I’ve been a Cubs from Day One, the day I was born.”

After a working career as a cost accountant at Allied Structural Steel in Hammond, he then opened Crown Point Cleaners and Crown Tuxedo. These businesses ended in 2010.

“I started working at Wrigley Field in 2011,” Zondor said.

He had been a Cubs season ticket holder for 30-plus years. He and his wife, Janet, were at most of the big Cubs games of the last generation, looking on from Aisle 430, Row 4. Now, over the last five years, he’s seen the rebirth of the Cubs that crescendoed on Saturday night when they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 to clinch the National League pennant. Zondor, a Cubs Ambassador inside Wrigley, watched the history from behind home plate.

This weekend, as the Cleveland Indians come to town for the World Series, Zondor will be punching the clock inside the ivy-covered bricks, again.

“It brought tears to my eyes,” Zondor said of Saturday night’s win. “To be a part of something this great, I was overcome with emotion. I kept bringing up my dad in my mind.”

When he and his wife go to their favorite restaurant, he’ll hand “Let’s Go Cubs” stickers to others seated there. If he sees a Cubs fan at a store, he’ll shake their hand and thank them for supporting the team.

Zondor has also been fighting leukemia for almost as long as he’s been working for the Cubs. He has scheduled his chemo treatments in the morning so he wouldn’t miss a night at the ballpark. The nursing staff actually had a Cubs’ calendar, known as “Bob’s schedule,” for making his appointments.

This summer, Zondor’s health took a turn downward. His white blood cell and platelet counts were getting too low. But one of the first questions he asked his oncologist was simple: “Can I still go to work at Wrigley?”

The doctors, Bob and Janet learned quickly that it was good for Zondor to keep going to the Friendly Confines. There is a healing hand that lifts Zondor’s spirits as he is a part of this great season.

“I love going there,” Zondor said. “What am I going to do, sit around the house and worry about things?”

“I’ve seen him look better and feel better,” Janet said. “He looks forward to going to the games. I think it’s been great for him to keep working there.”

The staff at Wrigley has also helped Zondor deal with this health issue. They’ll make sure he gets an early lunch break so he doesn’t get too weak. They’ll move him to the third-base side on hot days so he doesn’t get baked by the sun.

His daughter, Ann Hentschel, wrote a paper about her father’s love affair with the Cubs. She wrote about how black and blue his arms are after being poked and prodded for years.

She said his response is cheery when he’s in the hospital with his sleeves rolled up. “Now be careful. Save enough blood so I can get to Wrigley tonight.”

Zondor loves meeting people at Wrigley Field and has met people from all over the world. He said a conversation he had with fans from Australia brought joy to him. This team, this season, has brought a lot of light to Zondor.

He and Janet attend St. James in Highland. On Sunday they went to church and he saw several parishioners wearing Cubs paraphernalia. That also brought a lot of joy to Zondor.

“He ran right over and gave them some Cubs stickers,” Janet said, “and he thanked them for supporting the team.”

Bob’s health has stabilized and Janet believes the Cubs have played a part in this.

“I’m so happy and proud of the life he’s lived,” Janet said. “The Cubs have made him so happy.”

On Tuesday, Zondor went to his father’s grave. He wanted to say a few prayers, talk about the Cubs and leave a “Let’s Go Cubs” sticker on the stone.

Not much has changed from the start of his story than the end, except for the success of the Cubs.

“For some reason I keep thinking about my dad,” Zondor said. “I wish he was here to experience all of this. This Cubs team has brought so much joy to so many people. My dream has come true.

“I’m just so happy I’m able to be a part of it.”

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Source: The (Northwest Indiana) Times, https://bit.ly/2dJpEZD

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Information from: The Times, https://www.nwitimes.com

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