Paul Kimball, 81, is the epitome of sports’ most loyal soldier – the Long Suffering Cubs Fan.
Everyone knows about the “LSCFs,” the legion of believers who have remained true to the cause through thick and thin.
Even the good moments turned dark.
The “LSCFs” did not abandon ship after the collapse of 1969 or the Steve Bartman incident in the 2003 National League Championship Series. They did not look for greener pastures after the lordly Yankees embarrassed their favorites by sweeping both the 1932 and ’38 World Series. The indignity included Babe Ruth’s supposedly “calling his shot” before hitting a home run.
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The “LSCFs” foresaw better days after falling to the Tigers in the 1945 Series and firmly believed their championship drought that dated to 1908 – 1908! – would end “this year.”
Well, “this year” might have arrived and naturally Paul Kimball, who grew up four blocks from Wrigley Field and recently moved to the Irmo area, is – like all “LSCFs” – psyched and ready to celebrate.
Daughter Rosie gave him a call Monday morning and innocently wondered, “What are you doing Friday night?”
Silly question. He would be watching the third game of the World Series, he replied.
“Where?” she wanted to know.
“Right here,” he said, indicating his big-screen television.
“How would you like to watch the game in Wrigley Field?” she asked.
Paul Kimball could not believe his ears and asked, “What are you smoking?”
Paul and Jane Kimball flew to Chicago on Thursday and will take their place among the throng in Wrigley Field on Friday night, thanks to Starwood Preferred Guests, a loyalty program operated by Marriott International.
Unknown to Paul, the Kimball clan that stretches from the District of Columbia to Montana sought ways to get the patriarch to watch his beloved Cubs in person in the World Series. They entered lotteries for tickets and checked exorbitant scalpers’ prices and made pleas through social media.
Rosie Jones’ Facebook post resonated with a public relations agency: What better way to promote our client than to get an 81-year-old “LSCF” to the World Series? Starwood Preferred Guests officials loved the idea.
“Seeing this game will be a big item on my bucket list,” said Kimball, whose “all-things-Cubs” shirt features everything from announcer Harry Caray’s trademark glasses to the Addison Street sign.
He saw his first Cubs’ game in 1945, the year of the team’s last World Series appearance and became a regular during his youth. College and a career in the Navy took him away from his old stomping grounds, but he never lost the faith.
“Andy Pafko was my favorite,” Kimbell said in reminiscing about players from yesteryear. “Centerfielder, all-star, very solid player with a nice, long career. I remember when Ernie Banks and Gene Baker came up, and Hank Aaron played for the Braves. Phil Cavarratta was another one. First baseman, wore No. 44. Anthony Rizzo (current Cubs’ first baseman) wears No, 44, too. Maybe that’s a good omen.”
His mom took him to his first game at Wrigley, paying $1.25 for a grandstand seat. Later, he and his friends would pay 60 cents for a bleacher ticket – and could convert that into what amounted to a season ticket.
“We’d sit in the bleachers and watch the game,” Kimball recalled. “Then, in the eighth or ninth inning, we would drift down under the grandstand. They had a deal; they would give you a gunny sack and you would pick up trash – hot dog wrappers, cups, peanut bags, whatever – and fill the bag. They would give you a ticket for the next game, and we did that all summer.
“I didn’t miss many games in the late ’40s. We had a blast.”
He’ll have another blast Friday night.
‘They never quit’
After graduating from Wabash College, Kimball served in the Navy, a submariner, and retired a Commander. He did consulting work in the D.C. area for 15 years before retiring to Reedville, Va., He and Jane relocated to the Columbia area in June to be near daughter Rosie “and live in a house with no stairs.”
All the time, he remained true to the Cubs. He would return to Chicago periodically, attended playoff games in the 1990s, made the trek to Wrigley for the first night game and this year he estimated he watched 150 of the team’s 162 games on a Major League Baseball television package.
During his Washington days, he became a member – “No. 57,” he said – of the Emil Verban Society, a Chicago Cubs’ fan club in the nation’s capital. An internet report says Verban was picked as the epitome of a Cubs player, competent but obscure and typifying the work ethic. The membership roll included President Ronald Reagan, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun and journalist George Will.
“We had a lot of fun with that group,” Kimball said. “We would bring back players for meetings. Pafko came three or four times. When she was First Lady, Hillary Clinton was our speaker and that was really a good day,”
With the memories are the moments, and one of Kimball’s favorites is a framed replica of the Chicago Tribune’s front sports page from Sept. 30, 1945.
The boxcar-sized headline reads: “Cubs Win Pennant! Third Title for Grimm”
Other news of that day: Notre Dame edged Illinois 7-0 and Indiana and Northwestern played to a tie.
“That page was a place mat at one of the Verban meetings,” Kimball said.
The headline – Cubs win the pennant – had not been used since, until “this year.” The team earned the National League title with a ninth-inning rally to beat the Giants 6-5. The game ended about 2 a.m. Eastern time, but of course Paul Kimball saw every pitch.
‘They never quit,” he said. “That why I think they’ll win the World Series. Five games or maybe six. They just never quit.”
That describes “LSCFs” like Kimball. They will not quit, and getting to see one of the World Series games in person . . . that’s a slice of heaven.
Who: Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians
What: Game 3 of series (tied 1-1)
Where: Wrigley Field, Chicago
Time: 8 p.m. Friday