07/10/2003 1:06 PM ET
He's seen it all on South Side
Longtime Sox fan to witness another All-Star Game
CHICAGO -- Pete Purvin will be in the stands at U.S. Cellular Field Tuesday night when the first pitch is thrown for the 74th All-Star Game.
It will be the 10th All-Star Game that Purvin has attended, including three at Wrigley Field and all four on the South Side of town. He was at Comiskey Park in 1983, when Fred Lynn hit the only All-Star Game grand slam off of the San Francisco Giants’ Atlee Hammaker.
Purvin was there in 1950, the first game televised by NBC, which featured an exciting 14-inning contest won by the National League. Jackie Robinson was there, as was Ted Williams and the DiMaggio brothers, Joe and Dom. But the most unforgettable experience for the 81-year-old was the inaugural All-Star Game at Comiskey in 1933.
Even a casual baseball fan would appreciate watching Gabby Hartnett, Bill Dickey, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Lefty Gomez and Lou Gehrig in action. Of course, there was also Babe Ruth, the “Sultan of Swat,” playing right field for the American League.
“He saved baseball, you know, after the Black Sox,” said Purvin, talking from his Chicago home about one of baseball’s greatest all-time players. “Babe Ruth was one of the greatest home run hitters, but more importantly, he was a very popular player and he was very good to kids.
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
“I remember when I was a kid, he was coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers and I saw him at Wrigley Field. He would come out after the game, and all the kids wanted autographs.
“But the Babe did the smartest thing,” Purvin added. “He had calling cards with his name on it and passed it out to the kids. I saved that for a long time.”
At 11 years old, Purvin witnessed Ruth’s first All-Star home run, a blast that proved to be the game-winner in the American League’s 4-2 victory. It was a quirk of fate that allowed Purvin to get into the game, a rare act of kindness that probably would not happen in this present day and age.
Purvin was selling newspapers called the Daily Times outside of the ballpark, when an older man approached him and said that he had an extra ticket for the day’s game because his friend couldn’t attend at the last minute. Purvin checked with his boss, who said he could take care of his papers later and should not pass up the All-Star experience.
“We sat behind the first-base dugout, and the man bought me a hot dog and a coke,” Purvin said. “He could have been either a doctor, a lawyer or a businessman because he was very well-dressed.
“I never asked his name. I was 11 years old and just happy to get the ticket. When the game was over, I told him that I would never forget that game as long as I lived. I just wish I could have got a program.”
Purvin, an armed services’ veteran and a retired newspaper pressman, has been married 44 years and has four kids. Pete Jr., his 40-year-old son, will be accompanying him to the All-Star Game on Tuesday, courtesy of the White Sox.
From 1938 to 1942, Purvin served as a White Sox batboy and has been an ardent fan of the team for 76 years.
“Since I was about five years old,” said Purvin, who used to live a few miles from Comiskey on 31st Street. “I had season tickets for two years in the new ballpark in the upper-deck reserve area, but I couldn’t walk that much because I have bad circulation.”
Along with Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park, Purvin viewed All-Star Games at the old Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis and County Stadium in Milwaukee. He watches the White Sox as much as he possibly can, talking about how his team hit into far too many double plays with runners on base during Tuesday’s loss at Detroit.
But when you are a Chicago baseball fan for almost eight decades, you get used to a great deal of disappointment. Then again, not many fans have the ability to reminisce about Ruth, Gehrig, Williams and DiMaggio, as well as more recent Hall-of-Famers such as Rod Carew and Robin Yount, playing on the South Side from a first-person point of view.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
"I never asked his name. I was 11 years old and just happy to get the ticket. When the game was
over, I told him that I would never forget that game as long as I lived. I just wish I could have got a program."
-- Pete Purvin