Longtime Cubs fans rewarded with World Series berth
By Manny Randhawa
Dan Pellettiere was 9 years old in October 1945, when his older brother, John, took him to the World Series at Wrigley Field.
John was 27 and had returned that summer from serving in the Army during World War II. He came home to Chicago a hero after fighting with the 712th tank battalion that landed on Utah Beach in Normandy in the weeks following D-Day.
As Dan, now 80, watched Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo squeeze the final out of the National League Championship Series in a 5-0 win over the Dodgers on Saturday night in the same ballpark seven decades later, he thought of his late brother as tears streamed down his face.
Dan brought with him to the ballpark a photograph of himself standing next to his brother, holding his tickets to the 1945 Series, the last one the Cubs had played in before clinching the NL pennant on Saturday.
"He reached into his pocket, unfolded the picture, and held it up to the sky," said John Jr., who took his uncle to Game 6 in the hopes that the family would see something he's waited 71 years to witness.
The Pellettiere brothers were devoted Cubs fans, as was their father and his father before them. After being awarded two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars and a Silver Star among other service medals, John was thrilled to take his younger brother and father to see his beloved ballclub take on the Tigers for the championship.
"My brother was quite proud to be able to do this," Dan said. "It was an important thing."
John died on Aug. 6, 1980, 36 years to the day he was wounded in combat while in Mayenne, France. The Cubs lost both ends of a doubleheader to the Pirates at Forbes Field that day in 1944. And on the day he passed, the Cubs lost both ends of a doubleheader … against the Pirates at Wrigley.
But the Cubs won on Saturday night, bringing joy too sweet to be expressed in words for Dan Pellettiere and countless others who have been waiting to see this day, not entirely sure it would come again during their lifetime. It didn't come in his brother John's, but Dan's tears at the final out were joyous in his memory as he hugged his family around him.
"It was like, 'My God, I've died and gone to heaven,'" Dan said. "And it happened before I actually do die."
Jerry Pritkin, a 79-year-old Chicagoan, went to his first Cubs game in the late summer of 1945, just weeks before the club won the pennant.
"My father bought me a two-wheel Schwinn, gave me a J.C. Higgins mitt and gave me a crash course in Cubs history," Pritkin said. "I asked him to take me to the World Series, but he felt I was a little too young at 8 years old. But he made me a promise: he would take me the next time.
"So I've been living on a promise."
That promise was closer to being fulfilled than ever before on Saturday, at the same site Pritkin watched his first big league game in wonder 71 years earlier.
"I'm awake. It's happening," Pritkin said. "It usually only happens in my dreams."
Known as the "Bleacher Preacher" for his decades of dedication to trying to "convert" fans of other teams to the Cubs, Pritkin doesn't go to every Cubs game anymore. But he would never miss Game 6.
"It's the most euphoric feeling of my lifetime," he said of the Cubs' pennant-clinching victory. "There's a tear coming down my eye, and I'm not an actor."
Cubs fans have waited 71 years to reach the World Series again, and now that their beloved club has made it back to the Fall Classic, it faces a team that seeks to end a long drought of its own: The Indians haven't won a championship in 68 years.
The last living member of the 1948 Indians, the last in franchise history to win the World Series, hopes he will bear that distinction no more in a matter of days.
Robinson sees similarities between his championship club and this year's Indians, and hopes the result for the 2016 Tribe will be the same.
"That team is a better team than I thought it was," Robinson said about this year's club. "They've proven it by going out and winning, but they've actually won it with a lot of guys that the baseball world isn't too familiar with."
Back in 1948, the Indians were coming off a fourth-place finish in the American League, 17 games out of first.
"We won our first four games of the season, and Joe Gordon, who was my roommate on the road, told me, 'We're going to win the pennant,'" Robinson said. "The whole year was a wonderful year. It was the highlight of my whole big league career."
As the Cubs meet the Indians in Cleveland for Game 1 of the 2016 World Series at 8 p.m. ET on FOX on Tuesday, fans across the country and across the world who have waited their entire lives to witness their storied ballclub play in the Fall Classic will be watching with bated breath.
When the Series comes to the North Side of Chicago beginning with Game 3 on Friday, both Dan Pellettiere and Jerry Pritkin will be in attendance, living out a dream they thought they may never realize.
"I've been to a couple of thousand Cubs games," Pritkin said. "I'm looking forward to my first-ever World Series game. I can feel it. I can touch it. I can smell it."
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyRsports This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.