Chicago Cubs fulfill a dream 70 years in the making


Many kids grow up dreaming of playing for a big league club. Most of those kids act out their dream of hitting the game-winning home run to win the World Series or pitching the last out to win the championship. While few of these dreams actually do come true, some do happen. For one, it took a little bit longer than expected – about 70 years longer, but it did happen.

On Sunday afternoon, a 92-year-old World War II veteran named Tony Gianunzio threw out a ceremonial first pitch before the Chicago Cubs vs. the Kansas City Royals game.

Gianunzio at the age of 19 was invited to try out for the Chicago Cubs. Unfortunately for Gianunzio his country needed him more than the Chicago Cubs did. The draft age was lowered to 19, making him eligible for the draft.

Instead of toeing the mound as a pitcher for the Cubs, Gianunzio would become a gunner’s mate for the United States Coast Guard. While he never made it to the majors, Gianunzio did play some semi-pro ball but that was as far as he would go with his baseball aspirations – he decided that it was more important for him to get a college education.

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“My dream really ended with the war, because after the war and late in the war I knew I wanted to get a college education,” he said. “I wasn’t going into professional baseball – as much as I loved it – because my real love was in teaching.” – Tony Gianunzio courtesy of

With the help of a college film student, the former Cubs prospect would finally get a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream.

Daniel Deal, who is a college student at the Compass College of Cinematic Arts in Grand Rapids Michigan, found out about Gianunzio’s story when conducting interviews for a documentary about Gianunzio and other West Michigan World War II veterans that the student was trying to make.

After hearing about the sacrifice that Gianunzio had to make, Deal decided to contact the Chicago Cubs about this, and after confirming all the details, the Cubs decided to invite Gianunzio to throw out the first pitch for Sunday’s game.

“I know I can throw it 50 feet on a line. It’s still got some punch on it”

According to, Deal and his filming crew decided to break the news to Gianunzio during one of their scheduled filming sessions. To say that the WWII vet was happy would be an understatement. “I had to turn away because I couldn’t hold back the feelings inside,” Gianunzio said in the report, “I wasn’t crying, but eyes were definitely watering.”

Not wanting to go up to the mound and deliver, Gianunzio decided to start training again to show Wrigleyville what he still has left in his arm. “I know I can throw it 50 feet on a line. It’s still got some punch on it.”

So how did he do?

Not too bad, I’d say. He stepped on the mound just in front of the pitching rubber and threw it to Cubs pitcher Justin Grimm on a few bounces. Not bad, at all I’d say, but he thought he could do better. “I kept my love for baseball, but I hadn’t thrown a ball, up until two weeks ago, for 45 years, he said, “That’s a long time. I worked out about 10 times. I would love to come back two months from now. I know I could reach home plate with a decent curveball. I’m not kidding.” –

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