ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (AP) — The last living player from the 1945 World Series has been pulling for the Cubs.
Ed Mierkowicz didn't play for Chicago. He was on the Detroit team that beat the Cubs in Game 7 at Wrigley Field 71 years ago. Now 92, the Michigan native remains a big baseball fan and was looking forward to this year's World Series finale Wednesday night between the Cubs and Cleveland Indians.
"I'd like to see the Cubs win," he said Wednesday. "Not because I don't like Cleveland, but it's been a long time for the Cubs."
The Cubs were trying for their first title since 1908. Before this season, they hadn't even made it to the World Series since 1945 , when Mierkowicz was on the field for the final outs. His only appearance of that series came at the end of Game 7.
Chicago had tied the series with a 12-inning victory in Game 6, but the Tigers scored five runs in the top of the first in Game 7 and never looked back. Mierkowicz admits he doesn't remember a lot of the details from games over seven decades ago, but the play-by-play at Baseball-Reference.com helps fill in the gaps.
With the Tigers up 9-3, a nervous Mierkowicz entered to start the bottom of the ninth, replacing Detroit star Hank Greenberg in left field.
"If I took my pants off, my knees would be shaking," he said. "I just went along with the flow."
Mierkowicz was a 21-year-old rookie who had appeared in only 10 games during the regular season.
"It was exciting," he said. "In fact, it was so exciting, I don't know what the hell was going on — all the people going crazy."
The first batter singled his way, but the final three outs came quickly after that, and the Tigers were champions. Mierkowicz said there was no wild, bubbly-filled celebration the way there would be these days.
"They couldn't afford it," he said. "They probably had a little drink or something like that, but it wasn't like now."
Mierkowicz recalls throngs of fans waiting when the team took the train back to the Detroit area. He said there was a party at a hotel — and he won a car in a raffle.
He also speaks highly of Greenberg.
"I was a rookie. The other guys sort of shunned the rookies," Mierkowicz said. "He was good to me. I didn't know him that well, but he was a great guy, great ballplayer."
Mierkowicz was born in Wyandotte, which is just south of Detroit. He's friends with Bob Kuzava, the Wyandotte native whose big league pitching career spanned over a decade. Kuzava was the man on the mound when the New York Yankees closed out World Series championships in 1951 and 1952.
Mierkowicz ended up playing only 35 major league games over four different seasons with the Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals. He said it was like a cup of coffee — "but no cream."
Still, not many players can say they were in the game when their team won a World Series, and Mierkowicz enjoys talking about his career.
At his home in a senior living community in suburban Detroit, he has a team picture of the 1945 Tigers.
"God gave me the ability to play ball," he said. "Made a pretty good living. We didn't make a lot of money, but it was a lot of fun."
The game has changed a lot since then, needless to say.
"They've got better equipment, and they're staying healthy because they're making big money. Equipment is so much different than we used to have," he said. "We used to have to buy our glove and shoes. We have to buy it. Now, they give them 25 pairs of shoes. It's like everything else. It changes. For the better, of course."
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