On a daily basis, professional baseball players are cheered by tens of thousands of fans in the stands for plays made on the field, many times with those actions bringing onlookers on their feet.
That same reaction — and for a far greater reason than a good hit, catch or pitch — was on display for Sandwich resident Nick Scull at Wrigley Field prior to the Chicago Cubs taking on the Cincinnati Reds on July 17.
A United States Army World War II veteran, Scull was honored by the Cubs and the Boeing Company as part of their military appreciation program and was greeted by a standing ovation from the 37,260 in attendance at the Friendly Confines.
"I was very excited, but wasn't sure I could make it (to the event) because it is so hard to get around with my walker," said Scull, who turns 95 years old this month and attended Plano High School before joining the Army. "It was a real thrill, and I just tipped my hat to the crowd. This was a very special day for me."
Scull served with the 28th Infantry Division's combat engineers and was part of the landings at Normandy in the D-Day invasion. He fought in and was captured during the Battle of the Bulge — the largest battle fought on the Western Front in Europe during World War II; it is also the largest battle ever fought by the United States Army. Scull spent time in a German P.O.W. camp.
He received two Purple Heart medals, and last week was awarded by Guillaume Lacroix the General of France in Chicago, the Knights of the Legion Honor medal, an order of distinction first established by Napoleon Bonaparte in May of 1802. It is one of the highest decorations bestowed in France.
After returning from the war, Nick played one season of minor league baseball as a first baseman with the Tampa Bay Smokers of the Florida Atlantic League. His baseball career, however, was cut short after a combination of his father-in-law becoming ill, a move back home to care for the family farm and bad knees due to the wear and tear of the war.
He operated Nick's Barber Shop in Plano for many years and was also a foreman at Plano Metal Specialties Inc, where he worked until he retired.
"The daughter of the lady that delivers Meals on Wheels to my father submitted my dad's name for this honor," said Jeff Scull, Nick's son. "My niece works at Commonwealth Edison, and when she asked for the day off to attend the event, they asked why. When they found out, they offered their skybox suite — with lunch and extra tickets — to friends and family for the event."
Nick was not only presented with a jersey from both the Cubs and ComEd, but also received a special personal thank you from Cubs manager Joe Maddon just before the first pitch.
"Joe Maddon thanked me for my service to the country during World War II. He then came back over to me again and said, 'I really mean that, Mr. Scull.'
"I've been a life-long Cubs fan. I either watch the games on the television or listen to them on the radio.
"That day was extra special."