As he watched his hometown team lose that series, Schlegel couldn’t have known it would take another seven decades before there would be a second chance.
The story of how a young soldier fresh out of the service scored World Series tickets is a family favorite. And now, with the Cubs back in contention, Schlegel’s family wanted to get him to a game again.
So, his granddaughter, Helen Schlegel, did what would have been unimaginable 71 years ago. She asked the Internet for help.
“My Grandpa is 97 years old. He served in Pearl Harbor and is the BIGGEST Cubs fan I know,” she wrote on a GoFundMe page. “He had the opportunity to go see the Cubs in 1945 World Series Game 7 and still has the original ticket stubs. He has been waiting since that heartbreaking day, to see the Cubs in World Series. Please help my Grandpa witness the Cubs in the World Series again.”
The page went up Sunday, and by Monday local media were all over the story of the World War II veteran who served on a nearby base in Hawaii during the Pearl Harbor attacks and who waited a lifetime for another Cubs World Series. Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of strangers, the online campaign reached, and then surpassed, its $10,000 goal within days.
But then Marcus Lemonis of the CNBC reality show “The Profit” offered Schlegel his two front-row tickets to Friday’s Game 3.
Because they no longer need the $12,000 raised to purchase tickets, the family is planning to donate all of it to the Purple Heart Foundation.
When Schlegel answered the phone at his home Wednesday afternoon, he said they were “all overwhelmed” by the attention the story had received.
“It’s bigger than I had any idea of, and nobody told me this was going to be like this,” he said. “My son said, ‘Dad, you’re too damn popular.’ ”
Remarkably, the reason he got these tickets isn’t so different from why he did all those decades ago.
Schlegel told the Elgin Courier-News that he’d been in line at the Wrigley box office when a police officer spotted him in his uniform and took him straight to the cashier’s window. The clerk, whose name Schlegel recalled was Mabel, gave him the tickets for free to thank him for his service.
“I didn’t realize I could go anywhere wearing a uniform and not get charged for anything,” he said on the phone Wednesday with a chuckle.
Those tickets would have cost him about a dollar. The seats he’ll have Friday are going for around $7,000 or more on StubHub.
Schlegel lives with his daughter, but because she works, he’s alone most of the day, he said. He fills his days reading, watching TV and taking short walks. He said he couldn’t talk long because he was tired from all the excitement.
But his granddaughter posted a thank-you video on Twitter:
The Cubs are now 1-1, and Schlegel is optimistic.
“I’m a Cubs fan,” Schlegel said. “I believe in what they can do.”
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