I’m proud to say that one of them, George Wiseman, is a good friend of mine, a man I’ve known for more than 25 years as a fellow bleacher season-ticket holder.
George is 72. That means he’s just old enough to have been alive when the Cubs made the World Series in 1945, though of course not old enough to have any memory of it. His uncle later introduced him to the Cubs and gave George the Chicago Tribune sports section reporting on Ernie Banks’ major-league debut on September 17, 1953, telling him, “This player’s going to be really good.” (Obviously, Ernie was far better than just “good.”) George saved that newspaper and many years later got Ernie to sign it.
Like many of his generation, George would hang out at the ballpark after games, when the Cubs would allow kids who put seats back up (in the days when the seats didn’t automatically go up as they do now) or collect seat cushions and in return get a ticket for the next game. George was one of the young people who ran onto the field after Don Cardwell’s no-hitter in 1960 (back in the days when that kind of thing wasn’t frowned upon).
George served in the military from 1965-67 in Vietnam. Years later, he developed cancer as a result of Agent Orange exposure, but after surgery in 2006 he’s now been cancer-free for 11 years. The disease resulted in a removal of part of George’s jaw and he can no longer speak, but communicates easily by carrying around a small notebook (and also via iPad).
One of my favorite memories of George stems from 2004, when Cubs pre-season ticket sales went through the roof and people had to wait 90 minutes in line just to get a wristband. I spotted George wearing a wristband at Wrigley Field at the end of April that year. I asked him why he still had it on. Answer: “They haven’t called my number yet!”
He told me that the Cubs winning the World Series “is still sinking in, and being a ring bearer is just frosting on the cake.”
And he says that he’ll be representing “all my bleacher friends” (of whom there are many!) when he presents a World Series ring on April 12.
George is a great fan and a better person. If you’re in Mesa during spring training you can find him on the left-field lawn. Congratulations to my friend George for winning this great honor.
Here’s the video submitted for him by his friend Marlene: