'True fan' of 80+ years just misses Cubs' playoff season

George Spannenberg spent overlapping honeymoons with the two great loves of his life in 1945.

Shortly after his Sept. 1 wedding, he put in a bid for World Series tickets to watch the Chicago Cubs play the Detroit Tigers at Wrigley Field - despite the fact that his bride, Stephanie, deemed the $36 total cost to be too expensive at more than half their rent.

He made a prophetic statement then, one he recalled many years later at their 50th wedding anniversary celebration.

"Well, I think we should go," he said. "You never know if we're going to get this chance again."

The Cubs haven't been back to the World Series since - an occurrence some blame on bad team management, others on the infamous Billy Goat Curse put on the team by a tavern owner asked to leave Wrigley with his stinking pet goat.

And Spannenberg, who marked decades of loyal attendance at games, died in 2014.

But it's clear to his clan, now dotted around the Northwest suburbs, that "Grandpa's" spirit lives on as they watch the Cubs, who have clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2008. He would have been proud to have seen it, family members say.

"He loved the Cubbies so much it was like they were an extension of our family," says granddaughter Lindsay Coil of Palatine.

The team's success has become not only cause for celebration, but also an extra occasion to reminisce about the man they loved and the team that has been an integral part of his life.

Spannenberg, a native of Chicago's Northwest Side who later moved to Arlington Heights, spent more than 80 of his years regularly going to games at Wrigley Field, often with children and grandchildren in tow.

"It was a love of the pure game," daughter Susan Kazlo of Arlington Heights said. "No foam fingers, no throwing the T-shirts into the stands, he was a true fan of the game, not the extra things that might be fun for some people."

Family members recall Spannenberg as a formal man, attending games in a button-down shirt and khakis, meticulously filling out a score card from his seat.

When Stephanie, an assistant to the president at Thiessen Printing, was given company tickets her boss wasn't using, it gave the couple an opportunity for him to take their three young daughters along to games. The routine was always the same, Susan said: Stephanie would pack them a lunch and, come the fifth inning, they'd be treated to a Frosty Malt. The girls were required each game to fill out their score cards, and no matter how badly the Cubs were playing, they never left before the end of the game.

When grandchildren came along - a total of seven - he continued the same routine, taking two at a time to the ballpark.

"He took us all and he took us all fairly," Coil said. "We all had the same experience when we went to a game with Grandpa. It was grab your pencil and your score card, make sure we were there for the national anthem, stay in our seat, watch the game ... and we did not leave until the last out."

Knowing his days were numbered after he was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2012, the family organized a skybox outing - one which George was ultimately too ill to attend, but Coil said they felt his presence there, anyway.

Too sick to travel to the ballpark anymore, George still made a habit of watching every Cubs game at home on television - but with the sound turned off and WGN 720-AM broadcasters playing in the background, as he liked their coverage of the game better.

"He would watch the game no matter how bad they were doing," Kazlo said. "I don't know that he was necessarily saying, 'This is the year we'll get to the World Series.' I think he just watched game by game."

He was buried wearing a Cubs tie.

Following his death, Stephanie found rolls of quarters he'd been saving in coffee cans, hoping to give each of his grandchildren a collection of coins commemorating each of the 50 states.

Coil said the grandkids came to an easy decision about what to do with the money: Attend a game together in his memory on Aug. 8 with their respective spouses.

"He built this family and he taught us well and he implanted really wonderful things in us," Coil said.

As the Cubs head to the playoffs, Coil said the family is convinced he's "smiling from heaven."

"I think he would have taken it day by day," Kazlo said. "Happy to watch each game and happy for each win."

• Are you remembering someone who would have liked to see the Cubs get another shot at the World Series? Email klester@ if you'd like to tell us about the fan.

Family members recall George Spannenberg of Arlington Heights had a "love of the pure game" of baseball. courtesy of Lindsay Coil
George Spannenberg's seven grandchildren and their spouses got together for a game at Wrigley Field this August to celebrate their grandfather's life and love of the Cubs. courtesy of Lindsay Coil
  Family members Susan Kazlo of Arlington Heights, right, and Lindsay Coil of Palatine, holding son Grant Coil, talk about the late George Spannenberg and his love of the Chicago Cubs. MarkWelsh/
  George Spannenberg saw the 1945 Cubs in the World Series. An 80-year fan, he would have loved this playoff season, his family says, but he died in 2014, MarkWelsh/
  Family members Susan Kazlo of Arlington Heights, right, and Lindsay Coil of Palatine, holding son Grant Coil, talk about George Spannenberg of Arlington Heights and his love of the Chicago Cubs, which included spending more than half a month's rent for 1945 World Series tickets. Spannenberg died in 2014 but would have loved seeing the Cubs in this year's playoff season, they said. MarkWelsh/
AT DAILYHERALD.COM/MORE: The late George Spannenberg's daughter and granddaughter recall his love of baseball and the Cubs. Here, he holds a great-grandchild. courtesy of Lindsay Coil
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