Constable: A flood of all-star memories for 50-year Cubs fan

 
 
Updated 7/17/2018 8:20 PM
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  • Fifty years ago, Steve Schmid saw his first Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field with his grandfather, whose favorite player, Ernie Banks, hit a game-winning grand slam. When Schmid's grandfather was dying of cancer, Banks surprised him with an personalized "Get Well" baseball with his autograph.

      Fifty years ago, Steve Schmid saw his first Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field with his grandfather, whose favorite player, Ernie Banks, hit a game-winning grand slam. When Schmid's grandfather was dying of cancer, Banks surprised him with an personalized "Get Well" baseball with his autograph. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • What started 50 years ago when his grandfather took Steve Schmid to his first Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field has turned into a passion. The East Dundee man's basement has a shrine of autographs, scorecards, photographs and more from his love affair with the Cubs.

      What started 50 years ago when his grandfather took Steve Schmid to his first Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field has turned into a passion. The East Dundee man's basement has a shrine of autographs, scorecards, photographs and more from his love affair with the Cubs. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • The relationship with Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks began 50 years ago with Steve Schmid's first game at Wrigley Field, when Banks hit a game-winning grand slam. Banks later autographed a "Get Well" baseball for Schmid's grandpa. The final chapter came when Banks died in 2015, and Schmid worked the funeral as an usher.

    The relationship with Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks began 50 years ago with Steve Schmid's first game at Wrigley Field, when Banks hit a game-winning grand slam. Banks later autographed a "Get Well" baseball for Schmid's grandpa. The final chapter came when Banks died in 2015, and Schmid worked the funeral as an usher. Courtesy of Steve Schmid

  • Victor Jacoby inspired his young grandson, Steve Schmid, to love the Cubs and his favorite player, Ernie Banks. When Jacoby was dying of cancer in 1982, Schmid hoped to get an autographed photo of Banks to give to Jacoby. Instead, Banks wrote a personal message on a baseball for Jacoby.

      Victor Jacoby inspired his young grandson, Steve Schmid, to love the Cubs and his favorite player, Ernie Banks. When Jacoby was dying of cancer in 1982, Schmid hoped to get an autographed photo of Banks to give to Jacoby. Instead, Banks wrote a personal message on a baseball for Jacoby. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Starting his collection with these memories from his first trip to Wrigley Field on July 7, 1968, Steve Schmid of East Dundee boasts a half-century of memorabilia that pays tribute to the Chicago Cubs.

      Starting his collection with these memories from his first trip to Wrigley Field on July 7, 1968, Steve Schmid of East Dundee boasts a half-century of memorabilia that pays tribute to the Chicago Cubs. Rick West | Staff Photographer

It didn't matter who won Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, a mere exhibition to showcase a game most people quit playing in grade school. And yet, baseball is woven into the DNA of Steve Schmid of East Dundee by his all-star collection of memories.

"My grandfather, the Cubs, Wrigley Field and Ernie Banks," begins Schmid, 64, as he walks through a shrine in his basement that includes tickets, scorecards, autographs and hundreds of photographs accumulated during the past half-century. Schmid built a career as an award-winning chemist who earned patents for DSM in Elgin, makers of high-tech optical fiber coating. He and his wife, Diana, have been married nearly 43 years. They have two grown daughters. They've taken wonderful vacations.

But the mention of baseball returns him to that young boy on the knee of his grandfather, Victor Jacoby, who planted that baseball seed. "We had been watching games on the black-and-white TV," says Schmid, who grew up in Mount Prospect but enjoyed trips to his grandparents' house in Wilmette, where they watched the Cubs together. Jacoby, a lithographer with Edwards & Deutsch Lithograph Co., had grown up near Wrigley Field and told his grandson about seeing old-timers such as Kiki Cuyler, Riggs Stephenson, Charlie Grimm and Gabby Hartnett play for the Cubs. When the grandpa scored two tickets to a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 7, 1968, he brought Schmid.

"That was the first time I saw Wrigley Field in color," Schmid says. "That was fantastic. I was awestruck."

Legendary Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks is "Mr. Cub" to generations of fans. But for Steve Schmid of East Dundee, the late player provided a lifetime of memories, beginning with the fan's first game at Wrigley Field, when Banks crushed a grand slam to lead the Cubs to victory.
  Legendary Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks is "Mr. Cub" to generations of fans. But for Steve Schmid of East Dundee, the late player provided a lifetime of memories, beginning with the fan's first game at Wrigley Field, when Banks crushed a grand slam to lead the Cubs to victory. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

While his grandfather smoked a cigar and read the sports pages in the stands before the game, Schmid ran to the brick wall hoping to get a player's autograph. That autograph, from Pirates' Hall-of-Famer Roberto Clemente, now is on display in Schmid's basement, along with a miniature bat engraved with Chicago Local 245 of the Lithographers and Photoengravers International Union. So is Schmid's scorecard from his first game, showing how the Cubs won behind a first-inning grand slam from the legendary Ernie Banks, his grandfather's favorite player.

Fifty years ago, when Steve Schmid saw his first Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field, he kept score. Cubs slugger Ernie Banks cracked a grand-slam homer in the first inning, and the Cubs went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Fifty years ago, when Steve Schmid saw his first Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field, he kept score. Cubs slugger Ernie Banks cracked a grand-slam homer in the first inning, and the Cubs went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates. - Courtesy of Steve Schmid

Schmid and his grandfather went to more than a dozen Cubs games together, including the memorable 1969 Opener, when Banks clubbed two home runs and the Cubs won in the 10th inning on pinch-hitter Willie Smith's walk-off homer.

In 1982, as his grandfather was dying, Schmid reached out to someone who knew Banks, hoping to get an autographed photo. Banks did better than that, mailing Jacoby a personalized "get well" autographed baseball. When Banks died in 2015, Schmid, who took a job as a Wrigley usher after he retired, worked Mr. Cub's funeral. "I thought it would be a fitting way to close out the circle with my grandfather," he says.

As a boy, Steve Schmid developed a love for baseball from his grandfather, Victor Jacoby. A half-century later, the East Dundee man says baseball has been a constant throughout his life's memories.
As a boy, Steve Schmid developed a love for baseball from his grandfather, Victor Jacoby. A half-century later, the East Dundee man says baseball has been a constant throughout his life's memories. - Courtesy of Steve Schmid

Schmid, his wife, and their daughters, Kristen and Donna, have attended everything Cubs, including spring training games, the Hall of Fame inductions of Ryne Sandberg and Ron Santo, and a host of charity events. One winning bid gave his family the chance to work inside the iconic Wrigley Field scoreboard for three innings of a game.

Schmid watched the Cubs win the 2016 World Series on television at his daughter's home, but he made it to Wrigley Field in the middle of the night to shoot a great photograph of Anthony Rizzo carrying the World Series trophy off the team bus. His collection includes dozens of photographs he's shot at Cubs games.

Among the memorable Chicago Cubs games seen by Steve Schmid of East Dundee includes Opening Day in 1969, when Ernie Banks slugged two home runs and the Cubs won in extra innings. Schmid's collection includes scorecards, autographs, photographs and more.
  Among the memorable Chicago Cubs games seen by Steve Schmid of East Dundee includes Opening Day in 1969, when Ernie Banks slugged two home runs and the Cubs won in extra innings. Schmid's collection includes scorecards, autographs, photographs and more. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

Always a fan, Schmid never played baseball as a boy. "My dad wasn't a big sports guy. I didn't even know the existence of Little League while growing up," he says, noting his father, Robert, was involved in Boy Scouts and helped Schmid become an Eagle Scout. Schmid played in a church softball league as an adult, but he has a memorable baseball story of his own, thanks to the Randy Hundley Fantasy Baseball Camp he attended six years ago.

During the final game of that old-timers' camp, facing legendary Cubs' closer Lee Smith, Schmid hit a slow roller down the third-base line that former All-Star and current Cubs radio analyst Ron Coomer couldn't come up with, and a generous official scorer would call a hit.

During his first visit to Wrigley Field as a boy, Steve Schmid saw Ernie Banks crush a game-winning grand slam. Fifty years to the day later, Schmid and his wife, Diana, watched the Cubs rally from five runs down to beat the Cincinnati Reds.
During his first visit to Wrigley Field as a boy, Steve Schmid saw Ernie Banks crush a game-winning grand slam. Fifty years to the day later, Schmid and his wife, Diana, watched the Cubs rally from five runs down to beat the Cincinnati Reds. - Courtesy of Steve Schmid

On July 7 of this year, on the 50th anniversary of his first game at Wrigley Field, Schmid and his wife were in the stands to see the Cubs rally from 5 runs down and beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-7. They've seen many memorable Cubs games. But it's not really about the games.

"Baseball and the Cubs are part of my life," says Schmid, who finds meaning in one at-bat, one series or even 108 years of frustration. "It's about persevering and reaching your goals."

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