Buffalo Grove Cubs fan ready to let go of 'last' World Series
Buffalo Grove resident Lew Bernstein knows there's a certain amount of collector value to his ticket stub and score card from Game 5 of the 1945 World Series, the last to involve the Cubs.
But he'd gladly see that distinction vanish for younger generations to have the same opportunity he did 70 years ago.
"I just hope they make it again this year," the 85-year-old retired purchasing agent said. "I think we really thought they'd be back sooner."
Bernstein's father worked for Cuneo Press back then and tried to get to Wrigley Field in time to buy tickets for Game 5 after work. But he arrived just in time to see the ticket window close.
Bernstein, then the 15-year-old editor of the student newspaper at Crane Tech High School, was determined to get bleacher tickets instead and waited in line all night for the chance.
Bonfires and blankets warmed the crowd on that chilly night, but Bernstein successfully made his way to the front of the line that morning to buy his $1.20 ticket. At the time, he earned about 50 cents an hour.
The downside was that he was so exhausted by game time that he had to struggle to keep awake. But keeping score helped him pay attention.
Excitement for the '45 World Series against the Detroit Tigers was similar in many ways, but different in others, to the thrilling season the Cubs have enjoyed in 2015, Bernstein said.
"There was a lot of hoopla, but there wasn't any television," he said.
While Bernstein doesn't consider himself one of the crazier Cubs fans, he did get his World Series stub and score card lovingly framed along with the stub from the 1947 All-Star Game at Wrigley Field, which he attended on his 17th birthday.
Out of curiosity, he considered bringing his score card to a memorabilia show about 35 years ago to find out its value. But his son, Steve, then 16, admonished him not to even consider selling it as the Cubs might never be in a World Series again.
"To me, that was the curse, if there ever was a curse," Bernstein said with a laugh.
About six months ago, he did finally research the current value of his original 25-cent score card online and found it to be about $250.
Though he didn't do a similar search of his ticket stub's value, eBay listings on Tuesday showed stubs from earlier games in the '45 World Series hosted by the Detroit Tigers offered for $250 and $275.
A full ticket for the same Game 5 Bernstein attended at Wrigley Field was offered on eBay for $745.
Bernstein and his entire family have continued to have strong ties to professional baseball -- and the Cubs in particular -- since the '45 World Series.
The following season, Bernstein himself began working as a soda vendor at Wrigley Field, a job he held for a few years.
Son Steve now lives in downstate Bloomington and served on a committee that helped bring the independent franchise, the Normal CornBelters, to the area. The team is among the Frontier League rivals of the Schaumburg Boomers.
And Bernstein's grandson Cody Battaglia, a physical education teacher at an alternative school in DuPage County, has been the director of the Cubs' summer camp for youngsters the past few years.
Perhaps unusual for a Chicago baseball fan, Bernstein has not confined his appreciation to just one team. He said he was pleased the White Sox swept the Astros in the World Series a decade ago, and always felt the Sox had a more liberal policy when it came to bringing large groups of kids to the ballpark.
"I was happy to see it," he said. "It was a Chicago team. Let 'em win!"
Having grown up with a Cubs team that made the World Series more regularly, Bernstein said there's one simple explanation for how they remained so popular through decades of losing seasons.
"Channel 9," he said. "And I wish they went back on cable the way they were then."
WGN-TV's early involvement with cable television and its status as a "super station" carried across the country more or less made the Cubs everyone's honorary home team.
He also cites the appeal of the Cubs' stadium for those able to attend the games in person.
"Wrigley Field always had a certain aura about it -- I don't know why," Bernstein said.