Constable: How Cubs fans celebrated a century before Twitter
This summer's championship dreams send Cubs fan Bruce Reinger of Mount Prospect to his attic stash of one-of-a-kind keepsakes from the last time the Cubs won the World Series.
"They spent hours teasing each other, having a ball," Reinger, 77, says of the more than a century-old, hand-drawn postcards mailed among his grandfather, Rudy Reinger, who died in 1936, and his grandpa's buddies from the early 20th century. "They didn't have phones and Twitter and stuff like that."
So they drew cartoons to poke fun and capture the moments, and used 1-cent stamps to mail them to each other.
"I suppose that a good drubbing is still in store for the Cubs," reads a caption on one postcard. A rebuttal postcard drawn after Chicago beat the Detroit Tigers in the 1907 World Series shows a Tiger mascot in a coffin.
Reinger and his brother, Roger, of Elk Grove Village, inherited the collection from their father, Russell, who died in a car crash in 1964. The collection of postcards was mailed to the Reinger family in 1940 from Edward R. Watson, who lived in Pasadena, California. Watson wanted the Reingers to have the artwork done by himself, Rudy "Bunco" Reinger and unknown friends mentioned on the postcard only as DeMuth, Chip and Mike.
Watson evidently rooted for the White Sox in 1906 just to make it interesting and wrote that he playfully tormented his Cubs pals during "our baseball civil war days of 1906-1909," when they wagered on some of the outcomes.
"I can just see these guys teasing each other," Reinger says as he thumbs through the postcards. "They were good friends and buddies."
While the Sox upset the Cubs to win the 1906 World Series, the Cubs stormed back to take the crown in 1907 and 1908 from the American League champion Detroit Tigers. In addition to the hand-drawn postcards, Reinger's collection includes official Cubs postcards from that era, featuring star players such as pitcher Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown and the famed double-play combo of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance.
Rudy Reinger wasn't the only Cubs fan in the family. His wife, Lillian, who worked full time as an accountant, went to plenty of games at the West Side Grounds where Chicago played before moving in 1916 to what is now Wrigley Field.
"My great-grandmother took all her vacation time for Cubs games," says Kristin Reinger, who shares her ancestor's passions by rooting for the Cubs and working as a senior examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
Bruce Reinger, who grew up in Skokie, saw plenty of Cubs games as a boy. One of his most memorable Wrigley Field outings didn't even include a game. "It was Jackie Robinson's first game in Chicago and it was a Ladies Day, too," remembers Reinger, who went with his mom, Dorothy. "There were 10 thousand-gazillion people there and we didn't get in."
He knew Andy Frain, the founder of the famed ushering company, and sometimes worked that connection to get into games. His own baseball skill got him into an entire season of games for free.
"I was All-Chicago-Suburban in 1955 and the Cubs gave me a free pass," says Reinger, who batted .460 as third baseman for Niles Township High School. "I wasn't the best fielder, but I could hit."
He played baseball, basketball and football at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he met his wife, Llona, on a blind date. "I didn't go on blind dates," Llona Reinger says, explaining how she only went because her friend offered to buy her a hot fudge sundae. "St. Olaf had very good ice cream."
In addition to their daughter, Kristin, who lives in Mount Prospect, they have a daughter, Karen, who lives in Roselle. While the Reingers all are Cubs fans, Bruce Reinger says he discovered a White Sox branch of their family tree. One relative was Oscar "Happy" Felsch, a star center fielder for the White Sox. Felsch, who was played by Charlie Sheen in the movie "Eight Men Out," was banned from baseball after he was part of the infamous so-called Black Sox, who intentionally lost the 1919 World Series to appease gamblers. It wasn't until Bruce Reinger saw Felsch's name and address among relatives in his father's address book that he realized the connection.
"My dad never once mentioned it," Reinger says. "He must have been embarrassed about it,"
As a Cubs fan, he might have been embarrassed just to have a relative who played on the South Side.