ELKHART -- There are three things to count on every spring.
Flowers bloom. Taxes come due. And Bob "Babo" Havlish attends the home opener for his beloved baseball team, the Chicago Cubs.
On Monday, the 84-year-old lifelong Elkhartan is scheduled to attend his 50th straight Opening Day at Wrigley Field. The Cubs play the Houston Astros at 2:20 p.m. Elkhart time.
"I'm just a Cubs fan," says Havlish, a season ticket holder since 1984. "I've lived and died with them."
Havlish began listening to games with his grandfather in the house on Edwardsburg Avenue where he was born. Havlish got his first glimpse of Wrigley Field in 1932 as the Cubs swept a doubleheader from the New York Giants. That was the year the Cubs, managed by future Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, played the New York Yankees in the World Series and Babe Ruth was rumored to have called his shot. Future Hall of Famers Burleigh Grimes, the spitball pitcher, and Billy Herman, second baseman and Indiana native, were Chicago regulars.
In 1946, Havlish concluded a stint in the U.S. Army -- he served in The Philippines during World War II -- and he got married the former Bernadine Sullivan.
A brick outside Wrigley Field marks the union. It reads:
BABO AND BERNIE
In 1952, Havlish built the home on the corner of Corona and Marine where he still resides and where he and his wife raised four children -- Susan, Mark, Kit and Lynn. Today, Mark and Lynn live in Elkhart. Susan is in Nashville, Tenn. Kit's home is in Grayslake, Ill., north of Chicago.
"We grew up with Wrigley Field as our playground practically," says Kit, who once lived in the same neighborhood as the historic ballpark.
Havlish's home opener streak began in 1958. On April 18, the Cubs, managed by Bob Scheffing, beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0. Future Hall of Famer Ernie Banks was the shortstop for that Chicago team and on his way to the first of two straight National League MVP awards. Relief pitcher Glen Hobbie won a team-best 10 games. Decades later, Hobbie would entertain Havlish with baseball stories when they met up at spring training in Arizona.
Havlish's all-time favorites Cubs are Banks and Ryne Sandberg.
Leo Durocher joined the Cubs as manager in 1966. Harry Caray became a Cubs broadcaster in 1982.
"I wasn't a fan of Leo Durocher," says Havlish. "I accepted him when he put on a Cubs uniform. I wasn't a fan of Harry Caray, but I accepted it because he was associated with the Cubs."
In 1984, Havlish purchased his season tickets in Aisle 25. The infield club box seats were in the first row before dugout boxes were installed in recent years.
It was also in 1984 that Havlish experienced his biggest thrill and greatest disappointment as a Cubs loyalist.
"Of all the thrills I've witnessed at Wrigley Field, I'd say the biggest was when they clinched the pennant and played San Diego in the playoffs," says Havlish.
As Cubs fans know, Chicago took a 2-0 lead in the series then traveled to San Diego. Babo and Bernie were there in Southern California to see the Cubs, managed by Jim Frey, lose three straight as the Padres moved on to the World Series and the Cubs faithful moved into a state of depression.
"When I walked out of that stadium in San Diego, I was sick," says Havlish. "I got paid dearly for the highlights."
Havlish, who got his nickname from Mack DeShone during a card game at the Elkhart Elks Lodge, says another highlight was the four summers he kept an apartment six blocks from Wrigley Field. After his wife died and he retired from his business, Auspro Manufacturing, in 1987, Havlish secured a studio apartment during the baseball season.
"It was costly, but I managed," says Havlish. "I really enjoyed it."
Not as mobile as he once was, Havlish now attends Friday home games and -- of course -- Opening Day.
What's so special about being there for the first home game of the season?
"It's the idea that I follow the Cubs," says Havlish. "I'm loyal."