Bleacher Bums

04-08-1982 Chicago Cubs 4 New York Mets 7 (American League Western Division) Wrigley Field, Chicago

Not my first visit to the ‘friendly confines’ of Wrigley Field as I’d been there a few times to watch the Chicago Sting in action in the NASL. But it was a chance for visiting pals SE20 Blue and Springer to take in some baseball action and my chance to see the Chicago Cubs in the flesh for the first time since my move to the Windy City a year earlier.

Wrigley Field, aka Wrigleyville, picked up the ‘friendly confines’ nickname after it referred to as such by Ernie Banks who spent all nineteen years of his playing career (1953–1971) with the Cubs. It is famous for the ivy that covers the outfield wall which dates from 1937 when Cubs owner PK Wrigley, the chewing gum manufacturer, embarked on a beautification plan for the stadium. He succeeded in creating a gem as it must rank as one of the most pleasant sporting venues anywhere in the world.

The Cubs-Mets game was a mid-week afternoon affair – the introduction of floodlights at Wrigley was a few years off yet – so we virtually had the entire bleachers to ourselves unlike the picture of the bleachers at Wrigley Field (above) taken at the height of Bleacher Bum’dom in the 1970’s.

The nearest thing in football to use as a comparison to the bleachers would be “Home End”. They’re the cheap seats set at the very extremities of a baseball stadium which, in the case of Wrigley is behind center field, some 390 feet from home plate. Chicago summers are pretty hot to say the least so the bleachers (literally meaning to get bleached in the sun) is an ideal place to meet up with your mates, down a few beers, eat a hot dog or two and top-up the tan.

Mrs ExtremeGroundhopping, a good decade or so before we met, would go along with her mum on Friday afternoons for Ladies Day at Wrigley which included free entry for those of the fairer sex of 16 or over, occasionally bunking off class if it was still school term. Her mum was an avid fan who, if not at Wrigley, would tune into WGN Radio to catch their ball-by-ball commentaries, rarely missing any of the 162 regular season games.

More on the Cubs and Wrigleyville to come in future posts.

[Footnote: Picture by Chicago born photographer Archie Lieberman. During WWII Lieberman served as Marine combat photographer in the Pacific and post-war became a photojournalist working for many magazines, including Time, Life, Fortune and Paris-Match]


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