MLB.com Columnist

Terence Moore

Glove story: Preserving last out of 1945 WS

Family of former Tigers player inherited his items used in previous Fall Classic at Wrigley

Glove story: Preserving last out of 1945 WS

ATLANTA -- If you wish to find someone whose family surpasses that of Pam Burton regarding ties to Major League Baseball, here's a warning: Your search may last as long as it took the Cubs to reach another World Series. That's 71 years.

More specifically, when the Cubs hosted the Indians on Friday night in Game 3, Wrigley Field featured a World Series game for the first time since Burton's father, James "Skeeter" Webb, made the last out of the 1945 Series along the way to the Cubs dropping Game 7 to the Tigers.

Nobody knew then, but the Cubs were off to decades of hearing about demons and curses after Webb fielded a grounder at shortstop from Don Johnson, then stepped on second base for a forceout to make the Tigers World Series champions. Webb saved a couple of items for posterity: His glove and his cap.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 25 CLE 6, CHC 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 26 CHC 5, CLE 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 28 CLE 1, CHC 0 video
Gm 4 Oct. 29 CLE 7, CHC 2 video
Gm 5 Oct. 30 CHC 3, CLE 2 video
Gm 6 Nov. 1 CHC 9, CLE 3 video
Gm 7 Nov. 2 CHC 8 CLE, 7 (10) video

"Yeah, I've got them," said Burton, 64, chuckling to suggest there is more to the story, and here you go: To the chagrin of Burton's 38-year-old son Joshua, the glove and the cap are somewhere in the loft of her Atlanta home, which is located across the street from fabled East Lake Golf Course, where her husband, Rick, is chairman after a couple of decades as general manager.

Shop for World Series gear: Cubs | Indians

But let's return to the glove, a smallish bundle of dark leather that barely is larger than your average adult hand. To Cubs fans, it's another tangible reminder of their team's reputation as a lovable loser.

All Burton knows is that after Webb died 30 years ago in Cleveland at age 76, she and her three older siblings divided much of their father's baseball goodies between themselves and Olive, their late mother. The Skeeter Webb collection was massive and impressive since he played for five teams over 17 Major League seasons through 1948.

Plus, Webb owned a bunch of stuff from his father (Burton's grandfather), Steve O'Neill, who caught in the Major Leagues for four teams from 1911-28. He hit .333 for the Indians during their victory over the Brooklyn Robins in the 1920 World Series.

In case you're wondering, we're just getting started. Burton's father also had memorabilia from O'Neill's three brothers who were Major Leaguers, beginning with Mike in 1901, followed by Jack in '02 and Jim in '20. In fact, according to baseball historians, Mike (pitcher) and Jack (catcher) were the first battery in Major League history comprised of brothers.

Then there were items from O'Neill's managerial stints with four Major League teams, including -- get this -- the 1945 Tigers with his son.

So about Skeeter Webb's stuff ...

Those autographed bats, especially the one from the 1955 Dodgers after that Jackie Robinson bunch won its only World Series. A picture of Webb throwing out Ted Williams at first base. The shot of O'Neill and somebody named Babe Ruth riding horses. Old baseballs. A Rawlings dickie. Photos of Webb demonstrating his skills as a scratch golfer with Bing Crosby.

In the end, Burton inherited a slew of those Skeeter/O'Neill things, but I'm thinking nothing surpasses the glove and the cap.

"I really don't believe I'm taking that great of care of the glove, because I just have it displayed on a nail on a wall up there," Burton said, suggesting that Joshua's head nearly explodes with the thought. For one, he's a sports producer for a local television station.

For another, well, I'll let Burton give her point of view.

"You have to understand that my son can be really dramatic over this situation, so he has kept telling me for years, 'Mom, do you realize this is an artifact? It's an antique. It's the glove that caught the last out of the last World Series the Cubs were in,' " Burton said. "Then, he gets more excited and emotional and says, 'Mom, you shouldn't just have this hanging on the wall like that. It should be in a glass case or something.' "

It really should. Then again, these are the good old days for Webb's glove when it comes to preservation. During Burton's youth in Meridian, Miss., her two older brothers used the glove in pickup games around the neighborhood. Otherwise, it sat somewhere on the floor of their basement.

You know, in the vicinity of Webb's cap from the 1945 World Series.

"Since that cap was just lying around the house during all of those years, I think we used to go trick-or-treating while wearing it," Webb said, chuckling some more, but she wasn't kidding. "We didn't take that cap as seriously as we should have, and I've got another one that he wore, but it's not the one I have in the loft on a nail. The one up there, that's the one he wore during the World Series. And I'm sure if I really look around my trunk, I probably can find some old scorecards that he kept from those games."

Webb never played for another World Series championship, and the two runs he scored in Game 7 ranked among the offensive highlights of his career that ended with a lifetime batting average of .219.

You already know Webb's defensive highlight from that game. For nearly an eternity after that, he joined others in watching the Cubs finish yearly among baseball's worst teams. Then came 1969, when they didn't reach the playoffs despite an 8 1/2-game lead in August and Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins.

The Cubs also had a 2-0 lead on the Padres in 1984 during what was then a best-of-five National League Championship Series, but they couldn't close the deal.

"I don't think my dad believed the Cubs were cursed, because he just laughed about it," Burton said of Webb, who passed away 17 years before anybody ever heard of Steve Bartman. "He played for St. Louis, Cleveland, the White Sox, the Tigers and the Athletics. He had so many friends from teams that he played with and played against, and he stayed in touch with them his whole life. So I'm sure he cared about the Cubs. But the thing is, just like [my grandfather], who always played and managed in the American League, except for that time he managed the Phillies, they both cheered for the American League."

The same goes for Burton.

"Well, I have to go for the American League, because I was born in Cleveland, and my grandfather played for Cleveland, and so did daddy, but I won't be brokenhearted if the Cubs win," Burton said. "I asked my husband last night, 'Who are you pulling for?' And he said, 'The Cubs.' I asked him, 'Since when did you become a Cubs fan?' And he said, 'Well, I just think they deserve it.' So do you think I should break up with him for that?"

I don't know.

I do know Burton needs a better place for the glove and cap.

Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.