|Friday, August 16
Wrigley Field: In Geek heaven
By Anna Sivadasan
Editor's note: ESPN.com assistant editor Anna Sivadasan went on a two-week tour of major-league ballparks. She filed reports from six different parks during her trip.
CHICAGO -- They are the type of fans you hope your kid grows up to be one day.
They're devoted, knowledgeable and friendly. They sit in the last row of the bleacher seats in right field and enjoy every game -- win or lose -- because they're watching a sport and team they love.
They are the Bleacher Geeks of Wrigley Field.
Al, the "Mayor," has been an occupant of Cubs home games for the last 20 years. Mike is the walking encyclopedia who can tell you anything about anyone on the team -- past or present. And Jeff and Howard round out this foursome, which are also joined by plenty of their friends.
"Why do we come out?" Al asks. "Well, sometimes (Kerry) Wood strikes out 20 and sometimes Sammy (Sosa) hits three home runs."
It's that undying optimism and loyalty that makes these guys the unique fans they are. Prior to each game, one of the four men arrives two hours before the first pitch to save seats. Some days a few show up, but on days like Thursday, 19 friends were in the stands for the final game of the Astros-Cubs four-game series.
The Bleacher Geeks don't care about getting the closest seats possible. For them, it's about baseball. They're not standing in beer lines, but instead are keeping score with some of the most meticulous scorecards you'll ever see. They're not chanting: "Hey, (fill in the blank), you suck" or holding up signs that say: "Houston, we have a problem!" (Side note: Cubs fans need to get new material because that stuff is outdated.) The Bleacher Geeks were not doing the wave, and they didn't collect beer cups during the game to stack on top of each other. They'll leave that stuff for the frat guys and others that have had too much to drink.
Al, Mike, Howard, Jeff and Co. are more interested in how Mark Prior's seventh consecutive strikeout on Thursday tied a club record or how Mark Bellhorn set a team record for home runs (19) by a switch hitter or how Fred McGriff tied Willie Stargell and Stan Musial with his 475th home run (19th on the all-time list).
In fact, the only time the Bleacher Geeks and the regular bleacher bums were one in the same was when catcher Todd Hundley was at the plate, in the field or anywhere in sight. Hundley might be the most hated man in Chicago these days. He recently criticized fans for booing him, and when an unnamed Cubs player was found sleeping in the clubhouse during Tuesday's game, some of the Bleacher Geeks said they wouldn't be surprised if it was Hundley, who did not play that day.
But don't let the name Bleacher Geeks fool you into thinking they don't have a great sense of humor. During the seventh inning stretch on Thursday, they sang along to the seventh inning stretch: "Root, root, root for the Cubbies, if they don't win it's the same."
However, despite the Cubs lack of wins, the foursome remains optimistic for next season. Of course, Al, Howard, Mike and Jeff will still be in the last row of right field rooting for the Cubs next year.
For the Bleacher Geeks, that's what it's about.
Anna Sivadasan is an assistant editor at ESPN.com