George Spear was one of the most loyal Chicago Cub fans around. Most people in Quincy knew of his loyalty, and it didn’t take long for someone to see him in Chicago to realize the same. When the Cubs made the playoffs in 1984 for the first time since their last World Series appearance in 1945, both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times interviewed him. Maybe it was the gleam in his eyes. Or maybe it was the ivy that he had braided into his baseball cap. Or maybe it was because a 56 year old man was sitting in the bleachers instead of a comfortable box seat.
That began the saga of George’s season tickets at Wrigley Field. As a friend of longtime Cub player, manager and scout, Elvin Tappe, a Quincian who went to high school with Charlotte, George attended many games as a guest of El or just because of his gregarious nature and ability to schmooze. He became familiar with Cub ticket manager, Salty Saltwell, and knew most of the pass gate staff by name. He estimated that he saw a thousand games by just showing up to the pass gate. (I did the math and it was probably more like two or three hundred.) And he didn’t just get standing room only tickets. “George, I can get you in the third row behind the dugout today because Mrs. Grace isn’t coming”. The Tribune Company purchased the Cubs from the Wrigley Gum family in 1981, and personnel and policy changes ended George’s ability to show up and get great seats.
George claimed to have seen 10 games in 1945 when the Cubs last made the World Series, and they went 10-0 at the games he saw! But he was in the Army in October during the World Series so never got to see a playoff game. Can you imagine his excitement in finally getting an opportunity with the 1984 Cubs (Sandberg/ Sutcliffe/ Durham/ Lee Smith etc). Then can you imagine his frustration when he just could not find a decent ticket. This was well before Stub Hub and the internet, so the availability was not there, and his ticket connections were non-existent. In addition there was also an entire generation of Cub fans that were in the same boat as George.
Finally he managed to scalp a bleacher ticket. Charlotte, his wife and long-time Cub game companion, had no interest in sitting in the bleachers. Maybe it was because of the stories she heard from her children who were ‘raised’ in the bleachers. Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, mom and dad would let us take the El to Wrigley and get in line for bleacher tickets since those tickets were never presold. It was first come, first served. (Another time I will relate some of those stories- teen age boys sitting amidst the true Bleacher Bums! What an education!)
George also travelled to San Diego that year to watch the Cubs collapse and miss out on a trip to the World Series. Tickets were much easier to secure there than in Chicago.
George made the decision, based on the quality of the team and the ‘fact’ that they would certainly make the playoffs the next couple of years, to purchase season tickets. The first couple of years the tickets were in a section behind where the current seats are located. By 1988, year of the first night game at Wrigley Field, we had been relocated to the 5th row behind the visitor’s bullpen. Mom and Dad were even featured in that time frame with an article in Vine Lines, the official magazine of the Cubs, as being the season ticket holder located farthest from Wrigley Field.
George obviously could not attend 82 games a year, so the decision was made to sell off excess tickets to local Cub fans and some Chicago ticket brokers, or to donate them to local charities. Will and I went back several years and determined that we routinely donate over $7000 worth of tickets annually to various organizations in the community. That list includes the Quincy Notre Dame Extravaganza, Quincy Public Schools Dream Big, Gem City Kiwanis, Quincy Noon Kiwanis, Advocacy Network, Quincy Humane Society, St. James School Spring Fling, CareNet Pregnancy Services, Special Olympics of Illinois, Birthright of Quincy, National Wild Turkey Federation, as well as occasionally helping with a fundraiser for someone with an illness that is looking for help with expenses. In addition to our monetary and volunteer donations to so many charities, we estimate that we have donated over $200,000 just in Cub tickets in the past 30 or so years.
It has been an honor to be able to provide local Cub fans (and occasionally Cardinal fans) an ability to buy great seats at cost from us, rather than going online and getting scalped. This is truly the only way a small company can afford the expense of season tickets at Wrigley Field. In appreciation, we are going to give away four tickets to the Sunday, July 22, 2018 game versus the Cardinals on Facebook to someone that posts a picture of themselves using “George’s” seats.
And what if you have never used our seats?
Well here is the cool part….you can still qualify for the drawing.
In the renovation this winter at Wrigley Field our seats were removed and replaced. We were given the first option to buy the physical seats, and they have been installed outside the back door of the funeral home. So you can stop by any time and get your picture taken in the Hansen-Spear seats from Wrigley Field. Just make sure you have baseball apparel on. It doesn’t matter which team. In fact, when the Cubs were playing poorly and the Cardinal fans were ribbing George, he would sometimes joke that he was a Toronto Blue Jay fan. So we are really looking for another local Blue Jay fan!
Check out our Facebook Page in April 2018 for details and a chance to win the tickets to the game or one of the other great prizes.
Enter the Contest: http://hansenspear.celebrate-life.us/cubs-cards-tickets-giveaway/
Let play some ball!