CHICAGO -- The 7-year-old boy approached the man in the authentic, head-to-toe Chicago Cubs uniform, reached out his hand and asked a question.
"Sir," the boy asked, "do you play for the Cubs?"
"No," the man answered.
"Did you ever play for the Cubs?" the boy asked.
"No, I didn't," the man said. "I'm just a Cubs fan."
But Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers is anything but just a Cubs fan. He is the Cubs fan, begging and borrowing his way into nearly every home game since the 1960s, including an eight-year span in the 1980s when he was homeless. He owns some 40 authentic jerseys with "WOO WOO" on the back and wears them every minute of every day -- even when sleeping. He has taken a life that started with a mom who beat him and an education that ended in the fifth grade at age 17, and turned it into a baseball fantasy. "The Cubs saved my life," Wickers says. "Without the Cubs, I don't think I'd be here."
Wickers is not only one of the team's most popular fans of all time, he's also one of its most polarizing. For all the fans who help get him tickets, for all the Chicago-area college coaches who beg him to attend one of their basketball games, there are scores of fans who despise Wickers. Some of it is jealousy, some of it is the way he mooches freebies and some of it is his in-game shtick during which he screeches, "Cubs-Woo, Cubs-Woo, Cubs-Woo" longer than most humans can take. It makes Wickers a frequent target of the one-fingered peace sign.
"You learn to take it when people make fun of you your entire life," Wicker says. "I just smile, nod my head and say, 'Thank you for thinking of me.' And then I move on. Look, people come and people go, life goes up and down, but the one constant is the Cubs. People might get a divorce, find a new wife or die, but you still got the Cubs."
Wickers has no official tie to the organization, but has "represented" the team by woo-ing in cars, trains, airplanes and boats, in restaurants, bars, the Grand Canyon and even in opposing stadiums, including U.S. Cellular Field, home of the White Sox. Now retired as a janitor and living off Social Security, Wickers begins each day by visiting a statue of Jesus on the campus of Loyola University. There, he prays for the world. He prays for himself. And he prays for his team.
"There were a few times when I had no other place to go and I slept behind that statue," Wickers says. "It's a special place to me. No matter the weather, I go there and ask God for peace. And a World Series."
Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.