- Associated Press - Saturday, June 7, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - As his wheelchair rolled onto the dirt, Lennie Merullo took a good look around Wrigley Field.

It’d been a while since the last living person to play in a World Series game for the Chicago Cubs had visited the old ballpark.

“It’s changed,” he said Saturday, “but it hasn’t changed a bit.”

Now 97, Merullo wore a Cubs jersey and used a walker when he threw out the first pitch before Chicago beat the Miami Marlins 5-2.

Merullo played for the Cubs in 1945 during their seven-game loss to Detroit. The Cubs haven’t been back to the World Series since then.

The former infielder went 0 for 2 in that World Series and played in three games. He said that at the time, the Cubs figured they’d be back in the Series sometime soon.

“Yeah, sure,” he said. “We never gave up hope.”

Merullo lives in Massachusetts and said this was his first trip to Wrigley since the 1980s.

Merullo was honored as part of the celebration of Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary. He drew a rousing ovation when, standing next to his son, he made the opening toss about 15 minutes before gametime.

“I’ll tell you, it’s a feeling that I can’t describe,” he said, smiling. “The excitement that is going through my body right now, it’s saying, ‘Lennie, do you realize you’re right in the center of Wrigley Field, the ballpark that you love?”

Merullo was anything but bitter about the result of the ‘45 Series.

“They beat us,” he said. “Somebody’s got to win. You got to have a winner and you’ve got to have a loser.”

Merullo, who also was a scout for the organization, went on the defensive when asked about the Cubs’ troubles over the last seven decades.

“I never looked at it like they were struggling,” he said. “When I think of the Cubs, I think of Wrigley Field. It’s beautiful and it’s one of the few ballparks that was always filled with the fans. They used to have to turn the fans away from the park because there was no more room for them. How many ballparks in all of baseball can you say that about?”

“Only Wrigley Field,” he said.

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