Thursday is a very special day for White Sox fans on the South Side of Chicago. It marks the official return of baseball at Guaranteed Rate Field for the 2018 season. However, for one man, this day means just a little bit more.
Jim McKeever, a fan since he was born, will be attending his 37th straight White Sox home opener. The tradition first started with his father, James W. McKeever, who attended 52-straight home openers himself. And just in case Jim’s father does not seem like a big enough fan, he was also a season ticket holder and hosted baseball movie nights with special guests such as Minnie Miñoso, Ron Kittle, and good friend, Billy Pierce.
Even though he would attend some of the home openers with his dad, Jim did not officially start his own streak until 1983. “I rented a school bus, bought a keg, 50 tickets, and left from the parking lot of my grammar school.” Ever since, the tradition has only gotten bigger and bigger. “Today, I take three coach buses and 150 people. I have even had as many as 220 in the past,” Jim said.
This year, however, Jim’s impressive streak was almost put in jeopardy. Earlier this March, he found out that the Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma he previously fought and beat had made a return. He first battled this form of cancer in July of 2016, and after undergoing the necessary treatment, Jim went into remission in 2017. Unfortunately, with the cancer reappearing, he will have to begin chemotherapy once again but on one condition. He will start it a day early on Wednesday so that he can attend the White Sox home opener on Thursday. Jim is determined to be in attendance to watch his team and will not let something like cancer stop him. “I am proud to be a Sox fan first but the streak is great. I want it to end when I decide it to, not cancer. I do wish I can share the same number as my father some day.”
Jim is currently scheduled to be admitted to the hospital a day after the game for additional chemotherapy drugs, and then will require a stem-cell transplant sometime this summer. The process will result in a month long hospital stay at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Despite all of this, Jim is confident that he will be able to beat this cancer again, and he has all of the support in the world to do so.
“I need to mention my wife, Peggy, who is thankfully a nurse as well. She is an amazing, supportive, loving wife whom has my back and can explain all the medical terms I cannot even pronounce.” Jim’s four adult children, Jimmy, Patrick, Connor, and Molly have also played a special role in his fight. “They do not let their guard down around me, but I know it hurts them. I am lucky, I can beat this! I have family and friends galore whom are supporting my family and I.”
Throughout this journey, Jim has also embraced a special motto, thanks to a new song by David Lee Murphy & Kenny Chesney. The motto is short, sweet, and to the point.
“Everything’s going to be alright.”