By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
ST. JOSEPH — Sorting through some of his mother’s safekeepings a couple months back, John Carter stumbled across a piece of baseball history.
One day in August, as the 2016 Chicago Cubs were well on their way to clinching a berth in this year’s National League playoffs, Carter rediscovered his ticket stub to Game 3 of the 1945 World Series.
As all fans of the “Lovable Losers” know, the Cubs’ last World Series appearance was in 1945 against the Detroit Tigers. That’s a 71-year absence from baseball’s pinnacle stage.
While the Tigers would eventually win, Carter had little inkling then of how significant the series would be one day.
“I didn’t realize how big it would be,” Carter said. “I mean, I understood how important a World Series was, I just didn’t know what would happen to the Cubs.”
The ticket to Game 3 in Briggs Stadium in Detroit cost $3.60, or about $48 in today’s money. According to StubHub.com, when the series returns to Wrigley Field for Game 3, the average listing price will be more than $3,500.
There were a few special circumstances that year in baseball, Carter recalled. Since it was the final year of World War II, a few players from each team were uncertain whether they would be back in time for the majority of the season. Among the midseason service returnees was Detroit Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg.
Carter was 12 years old when he went to the game with his father and two others. The St. Joseph resident is now 83 and a retired physician.
While growing up, Carter had aspirations to play baseball professionally. Baseball and scouting were his two main hobbies.
The head coach of his little league team took notice and offered Carter’s dad a pair of tickets. All four of them were Tigers fans.
“I had followed both teams and was fired up to see the Tigers play,” Carter said. “I remember very clearly Claude Passeau (of the Cubs) pitched against Stubby Overmire. (Passeau) pitched a one-hitter.”
In Game 3, Passeau threw a one-hit complete game in Detroit for a 3-0 win. The Cubs would head back to Chicago (where the final games would be played) and into Game 4 ahead 2-1 in the series. However, the long-fabled “Curse of the Billy Goat” originated before the start of Game 4. Legend has it (in one of several variations) that the owner of the famed Billy Goat Tavern was asked to leave that game, along with his goat, because the foul-smelling animal bothered other fans, prompting the tavern owner to put a curse on the team’s future post-season fortunes.
Carter said he thought the ticket stub to the ’45 game had been lost. Little did he know that his mother had kept it, along with a few other memorable ticket stubs.
The Cubs in ’84
Carter attended another game in a postseason series that brought more misery to Cubs fans.
In 1984, Carter attended an NLCS game between the Cubs and San Diego Padres. The Cubs were two games ahead of the Padres and needed one more to clinch the best-of-five series. However, fortune did not favor the (cursed?) Northsiders that year, as they failed to close out the series with a third win. Had the Cubs beat the Padres, their old foes from Detroit were waiting.
Carter said he went to one of the early games of that series and wore his Tigers hat.
“When we came out of the stadium and (some Cubs fans) saw my hat, they said ‘We’re gonna whip you guys,’” Carter said, in reference to the potential match up. “I said, ‘We’ll see. You gotta get there first.’ It was the only time I felt claustrophobic coming out of a stadium.”
He wasn’t able to attend any Tigers games during their championship run, but celebrated as his team won the world title.
This year, Carter predicts his friends on the north side of Chicago will be celebrating, just as he did in ’84 and ’45 when the Tigers won.
“I think the Cubs are going to win in seven games,” he said. “I’m really torn on this, because I normally root for the American League team. But (Cleveland) beat the hell out of the Tigers this year and Chicago needs this.”