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By Jean Lotus
Like Wrigley Field itself, Forest Parker Edna Mae Kleinfall has seen 98 years on this earth. And since 1925, when her family in Spring Valley, Ill., bought its first radio for Christmas, she has been a Cubs fan.
"I started to follow them in seventh grade. My friend showed me how to fill out a scorecard and I would follow along."
Kleinfall moved to the Altenheim Senior Community on Madison Street 11 years ago.
"I saw my first game in 1931 when I came up to Chicago to look for a job," she recalls. "There weren't any jobs in 1931. At the time they were trying to get women to be fans, so Fridays were ladies days. Later women's tickets were 25 cents. I sent away for a ticket and went to the game."
When the family moved up to Chicago — and finally to Oak Park — Kleinfall took a job as a secretary with the National Re-employment Service, helping to get workers back into the workforce. Later she worked for wartime industry manufacturing company Amphenol.
But on weekends and holidays, she hopped the train to Wrigley Field.
Babe Ruth "calling his shot" in 1932? She was there. The 1938 "Homer in the Gloamin'?" She saw it.
"I was never so excited in my life as when Gabby Hartnett hit that home run [against the Pittsburg Pirates in '38]. I'm glad my sister and her boyfriend were with me because I almost passed out."
Over seven decades at the Friendly Confines, she has a preferred seat in the grandstands: Section 229, because that's near first base.
"First base is where you get the most action. In 1945 I had season tickets and the seats were over the Cubs dugout near third base. You don't get as much action as first base."
The only time she sat in the bleachers was the 1932 World Series game vs. the New York Yankees where Babe Ruth pointed his finger into the outfield before slamming the ball in the same direction.
"He had two strikes and he was holding up a finger to show that he had only one strike left," she explained. "The newspapers kept saying that he called [where his ball would go], and he denied it. But after a while he said, 'Let'em think it.' I was in the outfield, way down the left field line, because it was the series."
More recently, in 1998, she witnessed pitcher Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout shutout vs. the Houston Astros. "My scorecard was all lined with little black squares with a 'K' in the center." Kleinfall says she doesn't purchase scorecards anymore, since the price increased to $2.
Most of the time, Kleinfall took the el, alone, to the games. "Even when I could drive, I always took the el." She brought a portable radio so she could keep track of what's happening. "If I can't see it, I can hear it."
Her favorite players over the years have been Ron Santo, Guy "Mississippi Mudcat" Bush, Ryne Sandberg ("I wanted him to be manager") and catcher Giovany Soto. "Smiling" Stan Hack, third baseman (1935) was the "love of my life," she joked with Altenheim Director Gayle Fahey. "I like that shortstop [Starlin] Castro, too," she says, of one of the current players.
"They used to have a good outfield for hitting but they don't have that now."
The last game she attended was Sept. 1, 2010 when the team honored her by displaying her name in lights on the famous Wrigley Field marquee: "Welcome Edna Mae Kleinfall."
Since then, she follows the team on the radio or television. "I used to go to about eight games a year. Now I'm doubtful about traveling. There are so many steps on the el. You used to be able to walk up and get your ticket on game day," said Kleinfall. "Now you have to buy in advance."
Fahey said the Community Center Senior trips offer Cubs outings throughout the summer. "She's asked about those this year."
Wrigley Field opened its doors for the 98th year on Thursday, April 5.
"I should be out there," said Kleinfall, wistfully.