By Mike Ellis
Most Chicago Cubs fans will not have seen their team play in the World Series at Wrigley Field until tomorrow night, but at least one man from Clarendon Hills has.
Many Walker Elementary School families know Ulysses "Uly" Backus, 94, as a neighborly man that reads to children at their school, but they might be surprised to learn that he is perhaps the only current Clarendon Hills resident that attended the last game the Cubs played at Wrigley Field in the World Series.
1908 is, of course, the last time the Northsiders won the series, but they last clinched the National League pennant in 1945, setting up a World Series collision with the American League champion Detroit Tigers.
The series would come down to a decisive Game 7, and Backus was determined to experience the game in person.
Growing up on the South Side, he was the only Cubs fan in his neighborhood.
After returning from service in the Navy during World War II--which had just concluded two months earlier in August--, Backus was at home on leave, staying with his parents.
On the morning of Oct. 6, 1945, he asked his mother to wake him up at 3:30 a.m. so he could head to the ballpark--a request that confounded his mother, a European immigrant that was not acquainted with baseball.
"I took the streetcar to 63rd and Halsted, took the El [train] to Wrigley Field, got off at about 5 o'clock in the morning," Backus said.
Backus said people made fires on the street beyond right field to keep warm overnight.
"Those of us that were there had heard rumors that there were seats available," he said.
Backus said he sat on Addison Street with other GIs home from the war "hoping against hope that something might happen."
He finished listening to the Star-Spangled Banner, when "all of a sudden, a well-dressed man came out, and he said, 'All you fellas, standing-room only--follow me.' "
The man that addressed Backus and his peers was Andy Frain, head of all ushers at major sporting events in Chicago at the time.
"So, we got in [to Game 7 of the World Series] for nothing," he said.
Backus said he didn't really recall how the game played out, as the details blended in with the many other games he has viewed over the years.
The Tigers jumped on the Cubs with a five-run first inning, which was all Detroit ace Hal Newhouser needed, going the distance en route to a 9-3 Tigers win.
"The last few years, I've had a lot of fun when I'm out on the streets, and I see someone with a Cub hat or Cub jersey, and I'll walk up to them and I'll say, 'Have you ever met a man that saw the Cubs in a World Series?' " Backus said. ... "And I say, 'You are now.' "