Ruzicka twins maintained close ties to Cubs, Yosh Kawano

  • Tony Ruzicka at his Glencoe home with a Louisville Slugger bat with his signature given to him by longtime Cubs clubhouse manager Yosh Kawano.

      Tony Ruzicka at his Glencoe home with a Louisville Slugger bat with his signature given to him by longtime Cubs clubhouse manager Yosh Kawano. Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

  • Tony Ruzicka points to an autographed scorecard of the April 29, 2005, matchup between the Cubs' Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens of the Astros. It was the first time in 18 years that 300-game winners faced each other.

      Tony Ruzicka points to an autographed scorecard of the April 29, 2005, matchup between the Cubs' Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens of the Astros. It was the first time in 18 years that 300-game winners faced each other. Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

  • Carl Ruzicka, Yosh Kawano, Ryne Sandberg and Tony Ruzicka at Cooperstown.

    Carl Ruzicka, Yosh Kawano, Ryne Sandberg and Tony Ruzicka at Cooperstown. COURTESY OF CARL AND TONY RUZICKA

  • Carl Ruzicka and Tony Ruzicka in their last picture with Yosh Kawano, who died June 25, 2018.

    Carl Ruzicka and Tony Ruzicka in their last picture with Yosh Kawano, who died June 25, 2018. COURTESY OF CARL AND TONY RUZICKA

 
Updated 4/2/2022 5:41 PM

Part 2 of 2

Growing up as Chicago sports fans, twins Carl and Tony Ruzicka lived the ultimate fantasy, getting to meet many of their heroes.

 

As they graduated from Morton East High School, attended Yale University and the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and then pursued careers as accountants, they continued to have memorable contacts with members of their beloved Cubs.

As clubhouse boys for the Bears, they forged connections with members of the Wrigley Field grounds crew. It helped when they needed to send a message to Ron Santo that helped him emerge from a slump.

Carl said, "They would bring the batter's box (the frame filled with chalk) out from the right field bleachers. And the one guy in charge of it, he certainly knew who we were."

The twins, who were sitting in the first row of the bleachers, wrote a note for the man to pass to Santo, suggesting he move closer to the plate.

"He gave it to Ron Santo, pointed to us, and Ron Santo went on a tear. And years later, at Joe Pepitone's bar off Division Street, Ron Santo was in there and he remembered that note."

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• • •

Later, after Carl began working for Price Waterhouse, he was given the job of auditing the Cubs for three years. While working in a Wrigley Field office near Cubs GM John Holland in 1973, he overheard a trade being made sending Glenn Beckert to San Diego. He then quickly phoned Tony, who was working at Arthur Young & Co.

One year, he discovered a $16,000 shortage in the box office.

He said, "They were petrified over it and wanted to have a meeting with P.K. Wrigley. And so we met him. We're walking in there, and he was talking about selling Catalina Island, which he ended up donating for, I think, a half a billion dollars. And we're talking about $16,000."

• • •

The relationships with Cubs personnel continued when the accounting firm Ruzicka & Associates Ltd. was formed.

When the twins began holding season tickets near the Cubs dugout, they continued to develop close ties with Cubs players, especially their favorite, reliever Bill Caudill.

Their disappointment when GM Dallas Green dealt Caudill to make room for lackluster reliever Herman Segelke played an indirect role in an infamous episode in Cubs history, the Lee Elia tirade.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

During the April 29, 1983, game against the Dodgers, Tony was sitting in the first row by the Cubs dugout. The Cubs had gone through a slew of relievers, when Tony, who had taken a day off and was wearing a business suit, sarcastically told Elia, "Why don't you put in Bill Caudill?" The twins believe that was the spark that set off the Elia tirade.

• • •

A significant tie the twins had with the Cubs was clubhouse manager Yosh Kawano, whom they first met when they worked for the Bears in 1963.

Through Kawano, the twins gained access to both the Cubs and the visitors' clubhouses.

Carl remembered playing catch in the Cubs clubhouse with Tony, using what turned out to be the glove left fielder Brant Brown used a week later when he dropped a fly ball that turned a potential game-ending catch into a walk off win for the Brewers on Sept. 23 1998.

"I said, literally, 'How in the world could he catch with this thing. It's so stiff.' That very next week, 'He dropped the ball,' " as announcer Santo said.

The twins were among the only people Kawano allowed to put the players' uniform numbers on the bottom of their bats.

Tony said he has an autographed Sammy Sosa bat with "21C" on it. He said the C is for a cup bat, not cork, as some might think.

From 1994 to 2006, the end of spring training, the twins helped Kawano pack the clubhouse for the trip from Mesa to Chicago. They would then help unload when everything arrived in Chicago.

Carl said, "We would walk into the clubhouse and (first baseman) Mark Grace would go, 'Time to pack up boys. The twins are in town.' "

During the 1998 spring training, the twins were pleasantly surprised to be presented by Kawano with Louisville Slugger bats containing their signatures. Kawano had mysteriously asked to have them sign their names for him at the end of the 1997 season.

Tony just missed playing in a spring training game.

Tony remembered, "One of the last days of spring training. The Cubs are winning by nine runs or something in the ninth inning. And all the players basically got dressed so they could leave. And only the scrubs were in. And Kyle Farnsworth gave up nine runs in the ninth inning to tie the game. So the Cubs have one more at bat and they're looking at who's going to bat and Billy Williams (managing the game) says, 'Go find Jeff Blauser, and if you can't find him, bring your bat.' And that was the one thing to this day I regret. I went and found Jeff Blauser."

Eventually, Kawano wound up living with Carl, who was single at the time, in Highland Park.

That meant that Kawano, in his 80s at the time, would walk to the Metra station at 6 a.m. and then transfer in Evanston to the CTA and, later, make the return trip.

Carl said, "At any moment in time Yosh could fall asleep. On his way back, he missed a lot of stops. And we got calls to come pick him up." But if Yosh needed to borrow a phone, "He would look to see the most beautiful woman and that's who he would ask if he could place the call."

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