JIM PETERS: World Series trip an annual rite for Stiles

2013-10-23T17:00:00Z 2013-10-24T02:13:14Z JIM PETERS: World Series trip an annual rite for StilesJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
October 23, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

It was 1945. World War II had recently ended. The Cubs were in the World Series, and 13-year-old John Stiles was at Wrigley Field with his dad for Games 4 and 5 against the Detroit Tigers.

"I'm probably one of the few people alive to see the Cubs in the World Series," Stiles said. "I saw them lose two games, which is consistent with history. My dad asked me if I wanted to go see Game 6, and I said no. They won that one, then lost Game 7."

More than six decades have passed, and the Cubs haven't been back to the Fall Classic. That puts them 33 behind Stiles, who has been to every one since 1979, with the exception of the "earthquake" series between Oakland and San Francisco in 1989.

"That was the year I was so sure the Cubs were going to go, and when they got knocked off, I said no, I'm not going," Stiles said.

Still a practicing attorney at age 81, the Ogden Dunes resident began making the October trips in the late '70s with car dealer John Kerr. In recent years, it's been with Kerr's son Bob.

"I'm always happy to go," Stiles said. "I'd be ecstatic not only if the Cubs were playing, but if they would win. I'm not sure I'm going to live to see it."

While Bob Kerr is in Boston for the first two games, Stiles, a Harvard Law School graduate, passed on Beantown. He plans to attend only Games 3 and 4 in St. Louis this weekend.

"I'll watch Game 5 on TV and really have a good seat," Stiles said. "I've been to (Fenway Park) a couple times."

Over the years, Stiles has taken numerous family members with him. His wife, Judith Root, had gone nine times. Daughter Jennifer Stewart, who lives in Katy, Texas, accompanied him to Minute Maid Park in Houston in 2005, when the White Sox won. Daughter Sarah Pralle, a die-hard Cubs fan until she moved to the Cincinnati area, and son-in-law Derek will join him Saturday, and Root's son Michael Lunn on Sunday.

"It's always fun to take different family members to their first ones," Stiles said. "Sarah's all hyped up."

Understandably, his memories are infinite.

"The years start to run together," Stiles said.

He attended the Yankees-Reds series in '79, the coldest on record. Cleveland in '97 was a close second. In '86, Stiles witnessed Mookie Wilson's ground ball roll through Bill Buckner's legs at Shea Stadium. The most emotional series was New York vs. Arizona in 2001, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"President (George W.) Bush threw out the first ball," Stiles said. "You could still smell the smoke (from the World Trade Center)."

Stiles has attended enough series to have been to more than one stadium in many cities -- Detroit, Cincinnati, New York (Yankees), Cleveland, St. Louis, and Atlanta, where he met President Jimmy Carter. Other venues include Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Oakland, Toronto and Colorado.

"Ir's always fun to see a new park," Stiles said. "Sometimes, I've gone to both places. A lot of times, I've had enough after two games."

Over the years, Stiles has collected an impressive cache of cherished souvenirs, many of which have their own stories.

"I always buy a couple baseballs, a couple programs, a mug or a hat if I don't have one," he said. "I save the tickets. I have a collection of those. I have to start framing them."

While the Cubs haven't made it in the last 68 years, Stiles makes sure they still have a presence.

"Now and then, I'll wear a Cubs hat to gain sympathy," he said. "As I get older, I get help to my seat, and they'll ask me, 'Are you really a Cubs fan?' I'll say, 'Yeah, it's a genetic flaw.'"

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com.

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