For a long time, being a Cubs fan wasn't easy.
The Chicago franchise famously went on a 108-year World Series championship drought, with some serious down years. In the 1980 season, the Cubs finished 64-98, placing sixth (last) in the NL East. The down year was enough for one fan, Don Costello, to consider switching teams, and so he wrote other MLB franchises to see whether they'd accept an upset fan.
These letters were brought to light recently by that fan's son, Don Kostelec, who told Block Club Chicago he found the letters while going through his father's belongings. His father died April 21, and he wanted to share what he found on Twitter.
When my dad became upset at the Cubs’ performance he would write other teams, offering to sign a contract as a free agent fan. Some teams wrote back to him. Here are some of their replies. pic.twitter.com/vNDbbBzMS9
— Don Kostelec (@KostelecPlan) April 30, 2020
Here's what the teams said.
On behalf of the Mariners, I would like to thank you for writing to us, and for offering your valued abilities as a baseball fan.
In regards to your letter, I must say that we have the highest regard for the management of the Chicago Cubs. However, I also understand your frustration in following them closely over these many seasons.
In trying to remain consistent with the Mariner philosophy, we are not in the market for free agent fans at this stage of our development. We are trying to develop fans through our system, which we feel in the proper direction for a club just four years old.
When we reach the point that we are on the verge of going all the way, a fan with your experience may be what we need to put us over the top. At that time, you can be sure that we would be interested in acquiring your services.
Until then, we wish you the best in your career. We always appreciate top fans.
Dear Mr. [Redacted]:
I think I understand your frustration. Mainly because as a Cub reserve catcher off and on from 1954 thru 1957, I partially lived thru a few of those years with you. And, to my chagrin, I did not exactly establish myself as a Hall of Famer. I wish I could say that I really contributed to the cause for which all you loyal Cub fans support.
However, if I also know anything about a long time and loyal Cub fan — you will not only REMAIN one — you will WITHDRAW from your Free Agency threat and re-dedicate yourself to the Chicago Cubs.
The trauma you would suffer trying to pull — which you really could not do — for another club would imperil your sporting health seriously. Imagine yourself cheering for the Montreal Expos on the last day of the 1981 National League season as the Cubs and Expos go into the final day tied for first place.
Sorry Donald, I can't accept your free agency offer.
It is a pleasure to make an offer to a free agent that does not have to include a five year guaranteed contract.
While I am sorry to see you take your affections away from the Cubs where some of my good friends work, we would be happy to have you adopt the Brewers as your favorite club. Actually, I'd be happy if you rooted for us in the American League and stayed with the Cubs in the National League since it seems only fair that after all your suffering for two decades you should still be rooting for the Cubs when they turn it around and start to have some success.
In any event, the best offer I can make you is that the management here will make a concerted effort to make this club a championship one very soon. While there are no guarantees in this business I think I can tell you that the '81 season will be an exciting one in Milwaukee and that you will have a chance to follow a lot of players with outstanding talents.
This offer is open-ended and you may accept when you choose to do so. There is only one condition tied to the offer. If by any chance some of the Cubs' misfortunes the past few years are because of your association with them, then we really would rather you adopt the Yankees!
None of the teams felt comfortable accepting him as a fan, which is just hilarious. The Brewers were the most comfortable, but still suggested he root for the Cubs in the NL (funny enough, the Brewers would later join the Cubs' division in 1998).
The best part is that Don took their advice and remained with the Cubs. He even got a job with the franchise several years later.
He stuck with the Cubs, working in stadium operations at Wrigley for 7 years after he retired. pic.twitter.com/UyumbL8wWT
— Don Kostelec (@KostelecPlan) April 30, 2020
He even got a World Series ring from the team because the Cubs gave one to every employee.
"I’ve had Cubs front office folks reach out to me. It’s been pretty special and unexpected. He meant a lot to that organization based on everything I’ve heard and very few fans ever get to do that, so that’s pretty amazing," Kostelec told Block Club Chicago. "We’ll celebrate his life by going to a game and then to a bar afterwards. That’s what he would have wanted."