Hello! We are twin brothers, Tony and Carl Ruzicka. Growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Cicero, Illinois, a suburb just west of Chicago, we were sport fans. Life seemed much simpler back then. Sports, while important, did not serve as the huge, money making industry it is today. Each town seemed like a true community. Each neighborhood had its own school. Students, “gifted” or “not”, living within the school’s boundaries, had to attend that school. Each neighborhood had its own bank and savings & loan. Mortgages were made by and stayed with the local institution. For the most part, families could happily sustain themselves with one income parent. The Prudential Building at 601 vertical feet was Chicago’s tallest skyscraper. Professional athletes usually had secondary jobs in their off season and seemed more attached to their fans.
Using our uniqueness of being twins, some courage, and our knowledge of Chicago sports, we managed to become lifelong friends with many of our heroes. These friendships, and what would appear to be pure chance, took us on a serendipitous lifetime journey that would have been impossible to predict or even comprehend.
One day, at age 11, while reading the sports page of the local newspaper, the ”Cicero Life”, we were about to embark on that adventurous journey that continues to shape our lives even today at age 71. Who knew that our journey would include writing this book? Hopefully, it will be a nostalgic look back at Chicago sports, but also serve as an inspiration to youngsters that many things are possible if an effort is made and to professional athletes and to all adults that their interest in youth can truly make a positive impact.
This is our story.
Living the good life in the brave new world of America in the 1950s, gave hope to a wide spectrum of possibilities for the young post-World War II men and women of the “Great Generation”. These hard-nosed people, you must understand, had dreams to fulfill, with children to raise, that would be unthinkable in the decades to come. Television, space travel, counter-culture revolutions, and the computer world would all be ahead in the next years and century.
Like the authors’ parents, Anthony and Martha Ruzicka, my mother and father grew up in the great depression years preceding and following the Stock Market Crash of 1929. With jobs in short supply and times difficult at best, these very special kids and young adults rolled up their sleeves and worked hard at any menial job they could find while learning trades and seeking education with the promise of a better life. This was the American dream that immigrant parents sought while leaving the “old country” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With World War II now in the rearview mirror, this new rising society had the belief that any career and future dreams would be easy to accomplish after having survived their previous 20 years of life and death struggles on a daily basis. However, those dreams would mostly wait to be fulfilled by their newborn sons and daughters of the baby boomer era.
Twin brothers Tony and Carl Ruzicka joined Bob Sirott to talk about their book: “The Twins: A Journey of a Lifetime“. The book covers a wide spectrum of their experiences with Chicago sports icons, including run-ins the brothers had over the years with names like George Halas, Phil Esposito, Mike Ditka and Stan Mikita. Click to read the Interview on WGN Radio720
A Journey of a Lifetime
The turn of the page of our local newspaper embarked us on our serendipitous journey
This describes our town and gives an introduction to our immediate family, childhood friends, childhood games, collecting baseball cards, television shows and music of that period.
Our local newspaper had a picture of Chicago Bears Football player, Bill Bishop, stating he resided in our town. His phone number and address was listed in the telephone book. We rode our bikes to his house, rang his doorbell, and developed a lifelong relationship. His wife, Marilyn, suggested we write George Halas (coach, owner, and founder of the NFL) to see if we could be clubhouse boys for the Chicago Bears. We discuss devising the same defense as the Bears defensive coach to stop the San Francisco 49ers “shotgun” formation led offense in 1961.
Just like riding our bikes to Bill Bishop, we similarly did the same with players of the Chicago Black Hawk hockey team. Players included Pierre Pilote, Glenn Hall, Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Chico Maki. We describe our relationships and experiences.
We held the clubhouse boy positions for our four years of high school. The first year 1963, the Bears won the championship. Players included many Hall of Fame members such as Doug Atkins, Bill George and Mike Ditka. In 1965, the Bears had one of the greatest drafts in NFL history. Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers were part of this draft. We describe our experiences and relationships with these player, Coach Halas, Coach Sid Luckman, and others. We discuss “deflagate” made famous by current quarterback Tom Brady and playing catch with actor Mark Harmon, star of the “NCIS” television show and playing catch with Archie Manning, father of Peyton and Eli Manning, star NFL quarterbacks. We discuss suggesting to Mike Ditka that he write a letter to George Halas stating his desire to once again become a Bear and calling George Halas with our recommendation of Mike Ditka as coach, and our experiences in 2013 at the 50 year reunion of the 1963 championship held at Chicago’s Hilton Hotel. We are filmed for a segment of “Inside the Bears” that aired on 1/17/14 titled “Halas Twin Ball Boys”. You can view the episode at the following website: www.chicagobears.com/video/inside-the-bears. You have to click on “Load More” at the bottom of the page a number of times until you get to the 1/17/14 date.
Because we worked for the Bears, we had to switch sports while in high school. We ran track and cross country. Our high school cross country coach suggested that we apply to Yale. We would never have thought of this. We describe our experiences at Yale, including being teammates with Frank Shorter, who became the Gold medal and Silver medal winner in the 1972 and 1976 Olympic marathons, respectively. We describe our meeting Eric Segal, the author and screenwriter of “Love Story” and screenwriter of “Yellow Submarine”. We discuss issues of diversity at Yale, its rising tuition costs, and experiences with Don Schollander, Gold medal Olympic swimmer. We also discuss our hitchhiking to Shea Stadium to see the Cubs play the Mets in 1969. At one game, from an advantage point of a window behind home plate, Carl witnessed an iconic Cubs moment when Tommy Agee of the Mets was called safe at home plate. This is referred to as the “Black Cat” game in Cubs lore.
After playing tennis and having experiences with Billy Jean King, Chris Evert, and Eddie Dibbs, we get back into running. We describe our growing relationship with Frank Shorter. This included the experiences involving his running apparel and retail stores, working with him and Olan Cassell of the AAU to bring money into the sport, becoming founding members of the Chicago Marathon, founding running for philanthropy, and forming friendships with other runners such as Steve Flanagan, Herb Lindsay, Gordon Minty, Francie Larrieu Smith, and Ellen Hart. We run with former Chicago Mayor, Michael Bilandic, and are blessed by Pope John Paul II when we see him on one of our runs. We meet singers David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and Gene Pitney; television personalities Phil Donahue, Marlo Thomas, and Scott Brady; and Arnold Scwarzenegger. Tony meets actress Rachel Welch. Tony meets Barack Obama. We discuss lessons applied by Tony as president of the Village of Glencoe, IL.
Throughout the narrative is our love for the Chicago Cubs. We relay experiences of going to Cubs games at an early age with our brother Tom. We describe collecting autographs, kept scorecards, and experiences in the right field bleachers with a group of elderly fans. In right center field, Joe Mantegna, actor and high school classmate, was doing the same. He wrote a famous play about his experiences entitled “The Bleacher Bums”.
Carl worked on the Cubs audit while at Price Waterhouse & Company. He met P.K. Wrigley, the owner of the Cubs and Wrigley Chewing Gum Company. Because of his relationship with Cubs personnel, we become season ticket holders, with seats in the third row behind the Cubs dugout. We describe some experiences, including a relationship formed with a mentally and physically challenged individual who enriched our lives. We describe how Tony played a part in a famous moment in Cubs lore: The Lee Elia Tirade. We form friendships with individuals who forwarded photos of O.J. Simpson wearing Bruno Magli shoes to the prosecutors in Simpson’s civil trial. We help Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons finish a song at a Chicago Concert.
We become great friends with Yosh Kawano, legendary Cubs clubhouse manager. We describe Yosh’s background, including his friendships with Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Pro Golfer Raymond Floyd. We discuss his being in a Japanese internment camp at the outbreak of World War II. Our relationship with Yosh affords us experiences that were not available to any Cubs fan. They included access to the Cubs clubhouse and dugout, receiving one of three game balls from Kerry Wood’s 20 strikeout game, and celebrating with the team in the clubhouse after the 1998 playoff victory against the Giants. We became part of another moment in Cub lore when Brant Brown dropped a flyball resulting in a key loss near the end of the 1998 season.
We describe various experiences we shared with Yosh, Billy Williams, Sammy Sosa, Mark Grace, Cubs managers, and others. We met singer Eddie Money.
Yosh moved in with Carl for the last 10 years of his employment with the Cubs. His involvement with the team spanned 65 or more years. We describe some of the most interesting and humorous stories. We discuss meeting Sandy Koufax and Duke Snider, Dodger icons. We made attempts to get Yosh into the Hall of Fame (His trademark white floppy fishing hat is on display in Cooperstown), hosted his 85th birthday party, and accompanied him on the Cubs plane for a 3 game series against Houston. Through Houston’s clubhouse manager we met Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. In his last years, Yosh was confined to a nursing home in LA. We visited him every year on his birthday. When the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, we purchased and presented him a World Series ring. Yosh died in 2018. As a celebration of his life, a party was thrown at Harry Caray’s restaurant in Chicago.
We become good friends with the father of Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks. This allows us access to players. We describe these experiences and family experiences that culminate in the 2016 championship. We discuss the rising costs of Cubs season tickets.
We summarize our journey, describing how our lives changed with the day we rang the doorbell of Bill Bishop. We discuss what lessons we learned along the way.
This section affords some of the personalities we met along our journey to describe the experiences from their perspective. These people include: Marilyn Bishop (89 years old widow of Chicago Bears Bill Bishop), Nancy Maki (80 years old and first wife of Chicago Blackhawks Chico Maki), Bobby Hull (Hall of Fame member of the Chicago Blackhawks), Mike Ditka (Hall of Fame player and coach of the Chicago Bears), Johnny Morris (84 year old star Bear),various other Bears, Frank Shorter (Olympic Gold and Silver winner 1972 and 1976 marathons), Steve Flanagan (outstanding runner in the late 1970s and early 1980s), Herb Lindsay (outstanding runner in the late 1970s and early 1980s), Lee Flaherty (founder Chicago Marathon), Billy Williams (Hall of fame Chicago Cubs outfielder), Mark Grace (Cubs first baseman), Jim Riggleman (former Cubs manager), and Raymond Floyd (Hall of Fame professional golfer).
A Journey of a Lifetime Book Reviews
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“The Twins” A Journey of a Lifetime Press & Media
The anatomy of the twins’ path to lifelong relationships with their sports heroes began with the siblings’ thumbs. Carl and Tony Ruzicka—now 71-year-old brothers, Yale