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Working on the chain gang, 46 years and counting

Bob and Carolyn Schultz have been married for 44 calendar years, hitched in 1968. The way Bob, the longtime member of the St. Bede Academy football chain gang, looks at it, it’s really more like 43.

“I know I’ve seen at least 365 St. Bede varsity football games in that span. I’ve been married 44 years, but I’ve been away for a year, so I’ve only been home for 43,” Schultz said.

“I was dating her when I started this, so that’s all she knows — that nine Fridays in the fall, I’m pretty much gone.”

He was recruited by a friend, Sandy Ptak, to join the chain gang in the fall of 1967 after coming home from college, the same year St. Bede varsity coach John Bellino was a senior member of the Bruins football team.

“He was a great ballplayer. He was a tough kid,” Schultz said.

He’d never given it much thought about lasting so long.

“St. Bede football is a lifelong passion with me. When I was younger I was a radical fan, but I guess I never thought that far ahead,” he said.

A 1960 graduate of the Academy, or “a golden Bruin plus 2,” he jokes, Schultz is not sure how many more years he has in him. As the senior member of the chain gang, he moves the box with the down marker down the sidelines.

“I’ll be 70 in November, and it’s a little less work if you hold the chains,” he said. “I think my next move is the sidelines, I think. I doubt if I make 50 years, but I’d like to make a couple more years.”

St. Bede rewarded their longtime booster this fall with an admission into the Academy’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He was surprised by the phone call because he said he was hardly athletic.

“I only played football for two years at St. Bede, and I was third string at that,” he said. “My actual athletic accomplishment is zero. Of course my involvement has been long. Forty six years has no meaning to me. If it was my 50th or if I was retiring, but it definitely surprised me. It came out of the blue.”

He has missed just a handful of Bruins home games over the years and goes to 90 percent of the road games. The first one came on his honeymoon during his second year on the job. Then he went 22 years without missing a home game.

Schultz has never been taken out by a player on the sidelines, but he’s had some close calls.

“You’ve got to be looking upfield as well as downfield,” he said.

They don’t move the yard-marker without him.

• I have a confession, I was rooting for a Cub Tuesday. Stop the presses, yes I was rooting for a Cub, a former Cub, that is.

Adam Greenberg got to complete his only at-bat in the Major Leagues that was taken away from him in 2005. Then with the Cubs he was beaned in the head by the very first, and only pitch, he’d ever seen in the Big Leagues. The former Cubs prospect has been physically unable to make it back before, but appears to be in tip-top playing shape as he tries to make a comeback.

Thanks to the “One At-Bat Campaign,” he got his shot with the Marlins Tuesday. Unfortunately, he struck out on three pitches, but it certainly was no easy task facing Mets’ knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Hitting that pitch is like catching a butterfly.

Yes, I was rooting for the former Cub. He deserved all of our support. It was the most deserving at-bat since Moonlight Graham in the Field of Dreams.

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com

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