At 92 years old, Pete Pantos still drives himself to work. “Sometimes they honk at me, because they’ think I’m too slow,” Pete says with a laugh.
Of course, Pete doesn’t drive to work every day…. just when the Chicago Cubs are in town. Pete has been an usher at Wrigley Field, the home of the Cubs, for the past 18 years.
Pete says he started in 2003, “after I retired from my regular work, which was a sign business.”
The fans at Wrigley love him, and his boss, Vanessa Ward, says he’s ideal. “He’s always ready to greet you with a smile and a handshake, so really, just beloved by all.”
And Pete loves them back. He says he loves his job almost as much as he loves baseball and Wrigley Field. But there’s something that Pete knows about baseball that they don’t. He knows what it’s like to lace up a pair of spikes, grab a glove and then a bat and play a baseball game at Wrigley in front of thousands of cheering fans.
Back in 1946 Esquire Magazine sponsored a national high school All American Boys all star game at Wrigley Field, and Chicago’s Amundsen High School standout Pete Pantos started at third base. His manager was one of the greatest baseball players ever. The Georgia Peach, Ty Cobb.
Pete said Cobb was with the team all the time. “He wasn’t just a figurehead. He made the lineups, he put the ballplayers where they belonged and so forth. He was a very nice man.”
Very nice man aren’t the words most people use to describe Ty Cobb.
He was one of the fiercest competitors in the history of baseball, setting 90 records during his 24-year career, including the highest lifetime batting average, a record which may never be broken. As great as he was, Cobb had a widespread reputation as a mean man. “I saw a picture once”, Pete said, “he went into the stands and got into a fight with one of the fans.” But Pete didn’t see any evidence of that on the field.
Cobb’s team won the game 10-4 in front of 28,000 fans at Wrigley on August 10, 1946.
Pete, in addition to his lifelong memories, received a book of newspaper clippings about the game from Esquire magazine, along with personally signed photos of all the coaches, players and managers, including Ty Cobb.
“I’ll give this to my grandchildren and as times goes by, when they get old, maybe it’ll be more important, ” Pete says. The only one not to sign his autograph was the losing manager, Hall of Famer Honus Wagner. Pete remembers walking by his hotel room one night. “I walked down the hall to my room and outside of Honus Wagner’s hotel room were two or three empty whiskey bottles.”
That was 75 years ago, and a lot of things have changed since then. But thankfully, many things have remained the same. You can still buy peanuts and Cracker Jack. It’s still one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ball game, and you can still find Pete Pantos smiling and having a great time at Wrigley Field.