Lifelong Cubs fan from Palatine recalls attending '45 World Series
Many Cubs fans today have spent their entire lives dreaming of their favorite team reaching the World Series, without ever having seen any evidence it could happen.
Palatine resident Ron Kennedy has no such handicap.
As a 15-year-old high school student, he was in the stands of Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs host the Detroit Tigers in Game 5 of the 1945 World Series.
"For many years, I carried the ticket stub in my wallet, but it got so long (after the Series) it disintegrated," Kennedy said. "I wish I still had it. ... I always like to brag I'm one of the last few World Series veterans."
What he does still have 70 years later is a commemorative brick from Wrigley Field that proclaims his attendance at the World Series, as well as memories that are priceless to any Cubs fan.
But there's even more to his personal connection to Wrigley Field.
After graduating from Steinmetz High School in Chicago in 1948, Kennedy was signed to the White Sox's farm team in Kentucky, but was cut after a couple of weeks.
Shortly after that, he was among about 50 players offered a tryout for the Cubs' organization at Wrigley Field.
"I grounded a single to right field," Kennedy recalls. "So as far as Wrigley Field is concerned, I'm batting 1.000."
Ironically, his contract to play in Kentucky -- as brief as it was -- meant he was labeled a professional and couldn't play on the Purdue University team when he later attended to major in civil engineering.
His interest in a baseball career and attendance of the 1945 World Series was all consistent with who Kennedy was as a teen. During the regular Cubs season in 1945, he estimates he was at a quarter of the 77 home games. He still can recite that season's starting lineup.
"Now I've kind of outgrown it, but at the time I was a dyed-in-the-wool fan," he said.
Kennedy admits the team's long losing streak after the '45 World Series finally began to try his patience during the 1980s.
Before 1945, the team managed to have winning seasons every three or four years -- despite frequently falling to the Tigers or New York Yankees in the World Series, he said.
And so, as disappointed as Cubs fans were to see Game 7 go to the Tigers in 1945, no one imagined a seven-decade drought, Kennedy said.
"I have pessimism as far as the Cubs are concerned after all these years," he said. "In fact, I thought they were going to lose" the wild card game.
His pessimism was never strong enough to stop him watching, however, even though he hasn't been to Wrigley Field in more than 20 years.
Speaking on Friday, Kennedy knew exactly what he needed to see to restore his long-lost optimism -- the Cubs taking the lead in their series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
While his growing reluctance to deal with the crowds at Wrigley Field has had a lot to do with his long absence from The Friendly Confines, he's not closing the door on attending another World Series if the Cubs get there.
He still has high praise for Wrigley Field, which he recognizes as a major part of the Cubs' appeal even during years when team was not successful in the standings.
"There's a great cadre of fans," Kennedy said. "Wrigley Field draws a lot more fans than the White Sox. At Wrigley Field, it's a happening."
If that theory ever needed a test, Kennedy points to the White Sox's 2005 World Series victory and how little it affected the popularity sweepstakes in Chicago.
As upset as he became by the Cubs' long dry spell after the World Series he attended, Kennedy doesn't blame or believe in any curses.
He thinks the long failure to become a strong contender has more to do with a mindset the team fell into after a while.
But if he's seen anything in the past 70 years that could change that negative mindset, Kennedy believes it's the Ricketts family's ownership of the team and everything done to forge a new tradition.