Born and reared in the shadow of Chicago's Wrigley Field, Gifford became an addict at an early age. From kindergarten (1951) to college (1964), he attended roughly 50 games a season, saw Phil Cavaretta, Ernie Banks, George Altman, Ron Santo, Billie Williams, et al. in action--and also, unfortunately, the likes of Art Ceccarelli, Harry Chiti, and Jack Littrell. The club never could move up in the National League standings, what with the Wrigley minions' genius for trading away top talent--most notably Lou Brock, who went to the St. Louis Cardinals for sorearmed pitcher Ernie Broglio. Counterpointing Gifford's yeasty season-by-season memories of bleacher bumhood in a park with no night lights (but ivy on its outfield walls) are equally evocative recollections of a boyhood athletic career that produced a number of lasting satisfactions--and interim frustrations. But, like a hot hitter who tails off after a great start, the last third of the text fails to keep pace. Though Gifford left the immediate scene--for college, Europe, and, eventually, the Bay Area--he continues to chronicle the Cubs' misfortunes on a season-by-season basis. At the dose, there's a sort of rite-of-passage redemption. On a 1980 return to Chicago, Gilford watches a week's worth of ""indifferent, so-so baseball"" from the press box of still-welcoming Wrigley Field. Then, headed home, he stops in Kansas City to visit a friend; they attend a well-played night contest between the champion Royals and Baltimore. At this point, almost too conveniently, Gifford realizes: ""It was to the sport itself, baseball, that I owed my allegiance, as well as to the Cubs."" Despite, or perhaps because of, such lapses, this unusual memoir could command the same sort of affection among devotees of sporting literature as is bestowed on losers like the Cubs.