CHICAGO -- Jim Schlegel picked up Friday night where he left off in 1945.The 97-year-old Cubs fan and World War II vet calmly and purposefully descended the field-box aisle steps and made his way to the green paradise that was Aisle 32, Seat 102. It was the first row behind
CHICAGO -- Jim Schlegel picked up Friday night where he left off in 1945.
The 97-year-old Cubs fan and World War II vet calmly and purposefully descended the field-box aisle steps and made his way to the green paradise that was Aisle 32, Seat 102. It was the first row behind the visitor's dugout at Wrigley Field, for Game 3 of the 112th World Series, an eventual 1-0 Cleveland victory to put the Indians up 2-1 in the Series.
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The seat was better than when he was here as a 26-year-old man watching Game 7 of the 42nd World Series against the Tigers. This time he required the assistance of a walker, but he did just fine. This time the seat had a higher value than $7.50, and it was the gift of a lifetime.
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Schlegel, who is from Elgin, Ill., was watching his favorite team in the Fall Classic once again.
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"I can't believe I'm here," he said during pregame ceremonies. "It's beautiful."
There were many people to thank for this.
There was his family, who shared a determination to get him back to another Fall Classic after the Cubs clinched the pennant. There were all those people who continue to raise money through GoFundMe -- at first to hopefully raise $10,000 so that they could afford a ticket on the secondary market to send Schlegel to the game.
There was Marcus Limonis, the CNBC host who had been looking for just the right fan to gift a pair of his seats behind the Indians' dugout, who found just the right fan when he heard about the fundraising effort started by Helen Schlegel, Jim's granddaughter. Limonis gifted the two tickets rather than asking for money. Instead, he said he would match the fundraising total, and all of those combined funds are going to the Purple Heart Foundation.
Helen Schlegel, who was texted a photo of her father, Bill, and grandfather sitting in their seats, replied with thanks for everyone who helped make this happen. In addition, Bill brought along a homemade sign thanking Jim's "Supporters" for doing this.
"It's all overwhelming but I'm grateful for everyone that supported my grandpa and to Marcus for gifting us the tickets," Helen said. "I'm extremely excited for my grandpa and dad for having the opportunity to see a once in a lifetime game. Or the third time in my grandpas case. I never expected any of this to happen. "
According to Jim's daughter, Beverly, this was the second time that he was gifted World Series tickets. The last time, he was standing in line, wearing his Army uniform, and a cop asked what he was doing. Upon hearing that Schlegel wanted tickets, the officer took him up to the box office and he was given four tickets.
Schlegel was brought to Friday's game by Bill, who was holding an envelope that included the very ticket stub Jim used for Games 6 and 7. It was one ticket, with a "6" on one side and a "7" on the other. It is in pristine condition, and now he has another great souvenir.
"The last time I came to the World Series, 1945. I had just gotten discharged from the Army," Jim said. "I was 26 years old at that time."
Bill said this all began by a determination to get his dad back to the ultimate event.
"All of those years," Bill said. "The night [the clincher[ happened, we said, 'We're going to figure out a way to get you back to the World Series.' That's how this all started. My daughter and I talked about it Saturday night and said we've got to calm down, let's figure this out Sunday. I thought of GoFundMe. I asked my daughter if she knew how to do it, she said no. Our granddaughter, Celeste, knew how to do this. They started on Sunday, and on Sunday night, she sent it to all of her social media. At 4 o'clock in the morning, we were starting to receive phone calls.
"The rest is history."
Jim Schlegel survived Pearl Harbor and attained the rank of corporal. He was a baseball fan long before that 1941 bombing. Ask him to name his favorite Cub of all-time, and he does not hesitate.
"Hack Wilson," Jim said. "He has the record for driving in 191 runs in one season, and he still holds that record. "
The current Cub stars are working their way toward the top of that list. But you never forget when you were a kid and indoctrinated on the national pastime.
Limonis could not attend, but he had others close to him in his two seats next to Jim and Bill, and he was there in spirit. Bill told the story about how Jim received these.
"Marcus' secretary called and I said, 'Can I ask where they are?'" Bill said. "'Oh, they're front row.' She said it nonchalant, and I couldn't believe it. I was just totally dumbfounded. I didn't know what to say, and I still don't know how to thank everyone for the opportunity."
When MLB.com's Alyson Footer thanked Jim for doing the pregame interview in their seats, Jim's reply said it all:
"I hope we can do it again next year."
For the record, Jim Schlegel now has a two-game losing streak going in World Series games attended. The Cubs fell short in this one, 1-0, when Javier Báez struck out in the bottom of the ninth with two runners in scoring position.
"I think the Cubs are still going to win the whole thing -- keep pulling for them," Schlegel said as he stayed in his seat well after the last out. He said the whole night was "unexpected," and he added: "Very seldom do I fall asleep at a ballgame. But it does happen. I made it through tonight."
Asked what the best part of the evening was, Schlegel said: "Well, nobody hit a home run on the Cubs. That's what I wanted. No homers tonight, very unusual."
When asked if he will come back to Wrigley again, Schlegel said, "Oh yeah. I live in Elgin. I cannot drive anymore, so I've got to count on my daughter or [Bill] to take me to one of these ballgames."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.