WORLD SERIES 1945
by Allen D. Olson
When Anthony Rizzo caught the ball that ended the game that gave the Cubs their first National League Championship in 71 years, my thoughts reached back to the evening of October 7, 1945, when my kid brother and I took a bus from rural Indiana to Gary to board a South Shore commuter train to Chicago followed by an “Elevated” train ride to Wrigley Field. I had recently turned fifteen; a day earlier he had reached age thirteen. We were going to watch the Cubs play the Tigers in Game 6 of the World Series, the first World Series after World War II.
We carried a lunch our mother had packed and wallets holding enough cash for train fare, bleacher tickets, and snacks. We were going to spend all night in line for next day’s game at 1:20 p.m. About 7:00 that evening., we found ourselves in the second concentric line around the ball park, amazed to find that not only had the people in the first line been there since the end of that afternoon’s game, some had been hanging around for a couple of days. Nearly everyone was equipped with blankets, pillows, umbrellas, and radios. We were only in street clothes and a light jacket.
Some of the more seasoned fans were kind to us, lending us a blanket to lie on and sharing some of their snacks. A number of them were veterans just back from the War, eager to see some baseball and to tell us that these cement sidewalks beat fox holes for sleeping. We did sleep off and on, at first taking great pains to secure our wallets but gradually came to see that the Cub fans around us were as trustworthy as family. Food and souvenir vendors were on duty all night, but their numbers greatly increased at daybreak.
People in line began to stir around 9:30 a.m. because the box office would open at 10:00.
Somewhat after 10:00 the line began to move. But just before noon, the line dispersed; word was coming along that the seats and standing room were all sold. There would be no more fans admitted, not even two disappointed rural Indiana teenagers.
We had come too far, however, to retreat home. Besides, there was a lot of excitement all around us, so we decided to walk clear around Wrigley Field. On Waveland Avenue, paralleling left field, we saw some tall trees across the street from the wall which was low enough that we thought we could probably see the playing field from the upper branches of one of those trees, not an unrealistic belief to a naïve country boy used to climbing trees.
Being the older, I told my brother I’d check it out. The lower branches were about ten feet above the sidewalk – but they posed a challenge: the barbed wire entwined around the trunk and bottom branches. No problem. With care, I evaded the barbs and continued my ascent and could in fact get a glimpse of the green field inside the ball park. But then the foothold I had secured gave way, and I began a painful slide down, ripping my right hand as I clutched at branches and the barbed wire to slow my fall. Down I came, bruised and bleeding.
One of the firemen who had been watching us from the Wrigley Field Fire Station came to check us out. After looking at my badly-cut hand, he took us into the station and found a medic who cleaned and sutured my cuts. The whole fire crew had been on hand for the entire process, and one of them said he knew something that would make me feel better. He walked us through a small door, up a few steps and a long ramp to the back of the grandstand behind the Cubs dugout and told us to stay there until we would be asked to leave.
The game was in the fifth inning and would go to twelve innings. No one ever came to move us. The Cubs beat the Tigers 8 – 7 when the winning run came on an extra-base hit by third baseman Stan Hack. At first, his hit had been ruled an error by left-fielder Hank Greenberg, but after the game the call was changed to a double for Hack. That was Game 6 and tied the Series at three wins each.
Next day the Tigers beat the Cubs to win the Series, but my brother and I were home listening on the radio and nursing my wounded hand. I shall enjoy this 2016 Cubs World Series from the safety of my living room and look down occasionally at the scars on my fingers, now 71 years old.