Fan, 86, likes chances of Cubs winning a Series before he dies

SHARE Fan, 86, likes chances of Cubs winning a Series before he dies

There were times Tom Brueck was sure he’d never see the Cubs return to the World Series. He was at their last Series game before this year, a loss to Detroit in 1945. He’ll be in the stands Saturday. | Provided

As they walked out of Wrigley Field alongside thousands of dejected fellow Cubs fans on Oct. 10, 1945, O.J. Brueck patted his despondent, 15-year-old son, Tommy, on the shoulder.

“Don’t worry,” the father told his son. “They’ve got a good team. They’ll be back next year.”

The Cubs had just dropped Game 7 to lose the World Series to the Detroit Tigers, but O.J. Brueck was of a generation for whom such confidence was justifiable. He had grown up watching the powerhouse squads of the early 1900s, and the Cubs played in the World Series four times from 1929 to 1938.

But that loss to the Tigers was the last World Series game played at Wrigley Field. A few months before he died, in 1995, O.J.’s love for the Cubs remained, but his optimism had long since faded.

“He told me, ‘Remember what I told you? Well, I guess I won’t live to see the Cubs win the Series, and I don’t think you will, either,’” Tom Brueck, now 86, recalled this week. Brueck had his 80th birthday party at Wrigley in 2011, with the Cubs nearing the bottom of a rebuilding process that would see them lose 101 games the following season.

“I said pretty much the same thing to my son that day,” Brueck said. “I told him, ‘I don’t think I’ll get to see (a World Series) but maybe you will.”

Tom Brueck was wrong about that, not that he’s complaining. He’ll be back in the stands Saturday, for just the second World Series game played at Wrigley Field in 71 years, and his confidence in his beloved Cubs has at long last returned as well.

Tom Brueck has this memento from the 1945 World Series, but is hoping for more pleasant memories this year. | Provided

Tom Brueck has this memento from the 1945 World Series, but is hoping for more pleasant memories this year. | Provided

Brueck will be in the terrace reserved section, a few dozen rows in front of where he sat with his father 71 years ago, thanks to a surprise gift from a friend whose son is a high-ranking member of the Cubs’ front office.

It won’t be the first time the Cubs have handed Brueck a free ticket. As a boy growing up in Rogers Park, he and friends from the neighborhood picked up trash after games in exchange for free seats to the next day’s game.

“You’d turn in your gunny sack, with all the paper cups and Cracker Jack bags and trash, and they’d give you a ticket,” Brueck said. “We’d do that

all summer long.”

Brueck moved to Minnesota in the 1950s, watching his beloved Cubs only sporadically on nationally broadcast games until the advent of cable television.

He caught games at Wrigley during visits to Chicago every year, and even took his mother, Marie, also a die-hard Cubs fan, to two games of the Cubs-Padres National League championship games in 1984. One of Marie’s early dates with Brueck’s father had been a trip to the 1929 Series, and the program from that game remains a family heirloom.

“That was the Depression,” Brueck said. “He told her she could have the program, or a hotdog.”

The day after the Cubs clinched their trip to the World Series by beating the Dodgers, Brueck’s sister draped a “W” flag over their parents’ headstone.

Brueck is now confident the Cubs will be contenders for years after he dies — which will be awhile, he figures; both his parents lived into their 90s.

“This team, this organization, is just awesome,” he said. “They have such good young players, I think they’re going to win it and they’re going to be in it for a long time after I’m gone.”

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