Bleacher Bums Change With the Times : Wrigley’s Cheap Seats Score 52 Big Ones
Built by Bill Veeck, pointed at by Babe Ruth when he called his home run shot in the 1932 World Series and inhabited by hundreds of Bleacher Bums, Wrigley Field’s cheap seats celebrate their 52nd anniversary this Sunday.
“The bleachers have changed over the years. Most of the old-timers aren’t around any more, and the Yuppies have taken over somewhat,” said Jerry Pritikin, a regular who calls himself the “Bleacher Preacher.”
Wrigley, the oldest park in the National League at 75 this season, has changed a lot in recent years.
Lights have been added to provide 18 night games a season after a strict day-game schedule for 74 1/2 years. Skyboxes were installed to further remind the Bums that they are the peasants of Cub fandom. And the introduction of advanced bleacher tickets has been blamed for changing the character of the cast that occupies the benches behind the ivy-covered outfield walls.
Speaking of the cast, Pritikin is one of the faithful Bleacher Bums, immortalized in the play of the same name that is being revived at the Organic Theater three blocks south of the ballpark.
The Bums, in fact and fiction, are famous for throwing back home-run balls hit by opposing players, drinking beer, sunning themselves in skimpy outfits, taunting opposing outfielders and blindly rooting for losing teams.
After an afternoon in 1983 of hearing the bleacherites booing his players, Lee Elia, then Cubs manager, told reporters the Bums “ought to go out and earn a (expletive) living. Eighty-five percent of the (expletive) world is working. The other 15% come out here. It’s a (expletive) playground for the (expletive).”
The most famous Bleacher Bum is Ronnie (Woo Woo) Wickers, a shameless Cub cheerleader whose ear-splitting chants of “Cubs Woo, Cubs Woo, Cubs Woo” can be heard for blocks.
A couple of years ago, the 46-year-old North Sider didn’t attend a game for several weeks, and left-fielder Gary (Sarge) Matthews reported that he had heard rumors that Wickers had been murdered.
But Wickers was found delivering pizzas and trying to get his life in order.
He had taken Elia literally.
Wickers now rarely attends games.