By S.C. Zuba
Claude Clyde Zuba wears a ring on both of his ring fingers: On his left, a symbol of his undying love for his wife of more than 50 years, and on his right, a class ring from the University of Notre Dame.
These rings tell the tale of two completely different love stories in the life of a 79-year-old retired CPA—and avid Chicago sports fan—from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Tracing Zuba’s love for Chicago sports and Notre Dame leads back to the late 1930s when he was just a boy riding in a cab, from his home on the south side of Chicago to the old Comiskey Park with his father, Clyde.
“When I was really young, my dad would take me to Comiskey Park,” Zuba said. “He loved Joe DiMaggio, so whenever the Yankees would come to Chicago, we would go to the games. As a result of me going to the games, I got hooked on the White Sox.”
While in high school, Zuba’s journey led him to a part-time job as an “Andy Frain” usher for the Chicago White Sox, Cubs, Bears and Cardinals.
Andy Frain ushers were under contract with each of the professional teams in Chicago, and each usher would be assigned to a different team for each shift.
The ushers would escort patrons to their seats before the start of each game. Each usher sported a navy blue jacket, blue pants plated with a gold stripe down the seam, topped off with a blue hat.
“We looked sharp,” he said. “They were sharp uniforms—everything was tightly put together. People respected you, they really did. You walked the stadium with some authority.”
The idea of getting paid to watch sporting events immediately grabbed the high school junior’s attention, although for him, it was never about the money.
“We had to be there an hour before the game and stay an hour after, so it was basically a five-hour job, and they’d pay you five bucks,” Zuba said. “I loved it. I couldn’t care less about the money, because I got paid to watch baseball. If there was a doubleheader, they’d give you an extra dollar because they figured people already knew where they were sitting.”
While in high school, Zuba met, and fell in love with, the love of his life, Ange McInerney.
“When my wife and I were dating, she would take a streetcar after work and meet me at Comiskey Park, and we would go see twi-night doubleheaders,” he said. “It would start at 6 and be done around 12. She had no interest in baseball at all, but we were together, and that was important.”
After high school, Zuba attended the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in accounting. Notre Dame wasn’t his first choice, but he quickly fell in love with the South Bend, Ind., campus.
“I was accepted at Northwestern—that’s where I was going to go,” he said. “One of my buddies had decided to go to Notre Dame to visit the campus, so I went along. By the time I came back, I was going to Notre Dame. I just loved it.”
Zuba never missed a football game during his four-year career at Notre Dame, and as a freshman in 1949, the Fighting Irish were ranked No. 1.
“I went to every Notre Dame football game while I was in college,” he said. “That’s when Notre Dame was a powerhouse, really a powerhouse.”
Upon graduation, he was given a gift from Ange: a gold ring symbolizing that he was a part of the graduating class of 1953.
After college, Claude and Ange married in 1954 and had eight children, 21 grandchildren, and now, three great grandchildren. The couple has been one another’s strength and support for more than five decades. What started as just a young couple going to watch doubleheaders evolved into the rarest form of love.
The epitome of Zuba’s sports fanship came half a century later in 2005 when the White Sox brought a World Series championship to the city of Chicago for the first time in 88 years.
As the White Sox fan of nearly eight decades sat and watched the 2005 World Series unfold in his favorite chair, he remembers the feeling as they went to the final inning of game four.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Zuba said. “You’re on pins and needles—you’re so excited. You’re watching every pitch, every move.
“The final game, [my son John] was here watching it with me,” Zuba said. “He said he wanted to be with his father when the White Sox won the pennant. That was very special to me.”
Behind the dark brown eyes of my grandfather lie millions of memories. He could describe to you in detail what it felt like to see his favorite team win a World Series. He could sit down and reminisce about memory after memory. He could tell you about when the Bears won the Super Bowl during the 1985 season. He could reflect on Notre Dame football’s national championship in 1989.
But to my grandfather, the memories of the ring on his left hand mean far, far more than the ones from his right.
Zuba said: “I have tears in my eyes just thinking about when my wife and I met. … I’ve always said the greatest gift of my life was her love.”
From the May 12-18, 2010 issue