Lorraine and Roy Klingberg each grew up within walking distance of Wrigley Field, Lorraine a block away and Roy five blocks away. Their memories as Chicago Cubs fans run deep.
When Lorraine was about 6 years old, she dared to cross the street with friends and sneak under a fence to get into the stadium. With no game going on, they made their way to the contraption used to roll up the field tarp. They crawled inside and got a kick out of hearing their voices echo off the metal tubing. Not everyone thought it was amusing. The caretaker found the intruders, scolded them harshly, and escorted them out of the stadium.
“Boy, he scared the pudding out of us,” Lorraine recalls. She was in her 20s before she worked up the courage to tell her mother about the escapade.
Roy never snuck into the stadium, but he spent many an afternoon there, taking in a ballgame. He remembers when 50 cents would get you bleacher seats.
“Every chance we could, we’d go. For 50 cents, you could have a lot of fun,” he said.
Lorraine and Roy are 88 and 89 years old, respectively. They went to high school together, lived in Chicago for 80 years, 30 of those years in the suburbs, and have been married for 67 years. Seven years ago, they moved to London to be closer to their daughter who lives in Galloway. They reside at Bluebird Retirement Community.
Through it all, they’ve remained diehard Cubs fans. So, a few weeks ago when Bluebird owners Jane Herman and Paul Gross came to them with the idea of taking them to see the Cubs play the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series in Cleveland, they were flabbergasted.
“I thought, ‘Pinch me!’ “ Lorraine says, “and wondered if we could manage it. We’re not young anymore. We can’t just get up and go places. But how could we refuse?”
On Oct. 25, they climbed into Paul’s car and made the trip north, only to run into gridlock traffic once they hit Cleveland. Not only were the Indians hosting Game 1 of the World Series, next door the Cavaliers were commemorating their NBA Finals win and opening their 2016-17 season. The city streets were clogged. With game time approaching, Paul convinced a traffic controller to let him leave his car packed in the middle of the street long enough to get Lorraine and Roy into the stadium.
“We got there in time for the National Anthem,” Lorraine says. Exhausted but thrilled, they settled into their seats along the first baseline in the area reserved for spectators with handicaps.
Back when they lived in the Chicago suburbs, they’d drive into the city early for games, go out for pancakes, park in the old neighborhood, walk around, and then head into Wrigley.
“The first thing we’d do once we were in was get a hotdog and Coke,” Roy says.
“A plain hot dog with mustard,” Lorraine adds.
They repeated their tradition in Cleveland on Oct. 25, the first time they’d been to see a Cubs game since 1996.
Though their beloved Cubbies lost the game, Lorraine and Roy loved every minute of it.
“It was like a dream come true. We never, ever thought we’d get to a game again,” Lorraine says. “Of course, we wanted the Cubs to win, but even though they didn’t, we had a wonderful time. We were there! It was an event of a lifetime.”
Fellow fans helped to get them in and out of the stadium, offering to push Roy’s wheelchair and assist Lorraine with her walker. They met one Cubs fan who lives on the same block as Lorraine’s best girlfriend. And they received nothing but good vibes from Indians fans.
“It’s neat how you can meet people you didn’t know before at a game and it’s like you’re old friends,” Roy says.
The whole experience spanned 12 hours, starting at 3 p.m. when they left London. The trip took three hours up and another three hours back. They didn’t get home until 3 a.m. the next day. Was it worth it?
“Definitely,” Roy said, with a sparkle in his eye. “I’ve been to a lot of games, but nothing ever like that.”
Over the course of the following week, Lorraine and Roy were glued to their television sets. They watched the Cubs defy the odds, coming back from three games to win the franchise’s first World Series title since 1908. They watched every minute of every game, clear through the rain delay and extra inning of the nail biter that was Game 7.
“This whole season has been absolutely wonderful,” Lorraine says. “We’re going to have a nice long winter thinking about it, then look forward to spring.”