by Kara Brown
MESA — Thousands gathered outside Sloan Park Friday to see something that has eluded Chicago Cubs fans for 108 years.
A World Series trophy.
Although attendance couldn’t match the numbers that flooded the streets of Chicago following the victory over the Cleveland Indians, the crowd at the Cubs’ spring training facility enjoyed reliving the moment.
Larry Spaeth, 85, had waited 74 years.
The Wisconsin native became a fan in 1943 when he started listening to Cubs games on the radio. He remained loyal despite many losing seasons.
“Regardless of not winning, I still have a lot of great memories,” Spaeth said. “Getting a photo with the trophy is just another great memory to add, something to pass on through our family.”
He is not the only die-hard Cubs fan in his family. Its passion is four generations deep.
In 2013, Spaeth contacted Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and was invited to throw the first pitch at Wrigley Field with his son, grandson and great-grandson.
The family purchased 80 tickets so friends and family could witness the moment.
“My goal was to get the pitch to the catcher without hitting the ground,” Spaeth said. “Which I did.”
The Cubs and manager Joe Maddon thought it was important for the Commissioner’s Trophy to make a public appearance at Sloan Park, which draws large crowds throughout spring training.
Outfielder Jason Heyward believes the strong attendance in Mesa inspires the team.
“At home, with 15,000-plus sold-out crowds, there’s not really any better way to get ready for your baseball season,” Heyward said.
Another lucky fan in attendance to see the trophy was Kentucky native Kevin Harper.
A lifelong fan, Harper reflected on the many years he spent watching and waiting for a World Series win.
“I remember sitting at the foot of my dad’s recliner watching the Cubs throughout every afternoon, throughout every summer of my entire life,” Harper said.
This past season was the first he watched every single game.
“When they won I just broke down,” Harper said. “It was awesome.”