“Whenever I worked Wrigley Field, I looked beyond centerfield and out into the bleachers. My mind goes back to when I was eleven years old and I sat in those same bleachers.
“I was born and raised in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, 153 miles from Chicago. I used to listen to Cubs games on the radio and tried to imagine ‘Beautiful Wrigley Field‘ that the announcers were talking about. It was always my big dream to visit Wrigley Field and see the Cubs play. But 153 miles was a long trip back then, and my father was a working man who couldn’t get the time off to take me to a game. Some folks think I’m stubborn now, and I guess I was stubborn then, because I made up my mind that I’d go by myself. There was just one thing wrong with that idea–I didn’t have dad’s permission . . .
“I walked out to Highway 41–remember I was eleven years old–and stuck out my thumb and hitchhiked all the way to Wrigley Field. Now that’s a Cubs fan!
“As you might guess my family was worried and reported me missing–their boy, a runaway. Although I had slipped away without telling my parents, I had bragged about my plans to everyone else in Oshkosh. When my parents became worried, someone must have let them in on my secret. The next day I was back at Wrigley Field, enjoying my second Cub game, when a couple of Chicago police officers picked me up and put me on a train back to Oshkosh.”
–Major league umpire “Dutch” Rennert reminiscing, as quoted in A Day at the Park: In Celebration of Wrigley Field by William Hartel, Sagamore Publishing, 1994.
Laurence Henry “Dutch” Rennert was born on June 12 of 1934 which would have made him eleven years old during the summer of 1945 and the spring of 1946. Personally I’m guessing that it’s more likely that he took his thumb ride in 1946, because he would have been going on 12 and that’s the sort of thing a twelve-year-old would do. There also might have been more long-distance automobile traffic because gas rationing had ended. In 1945 the Cubs won the National League pennant and played in the World Series, losing to the Detroit Tigers.