Last liv­ing player from 1945 Series shares mem­o­ries

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Noah Tris­ter

ROCHESTER HILLS, MICH. >> 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 Base­bal­lRef­er­ence.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-yearold 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.”

CHAR­LIE RIEDEL — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Cleveland In­di­ans’ Ra­jai Davis cel­e­brates af­ter his two-run home run against the Chicago Cubs dur­ing the eighth in­ning of Game 7 of the World Series Wed­nes­day in Cleveland. The game went into a rain de­lay af­ter mid­night with the teams tied, 6-6, in the 10th in­ning. For more, visit us on­line at dailylocal.com.

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