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The rooftops across the street have long since ceased being part of Wrigley Field's charm.
Once the first occupant of a particularly cool Lakeview apartment on Waveland or Sheffield was denied entry onto his or her building's roof because there was money to be made charging outsiders, the wonder that was watching the Cubs from a decent seat outside the ballpark started fading.
And once the last cheap folding chair was broken down and put away after the final three-flat with a view was replaced by a "club" expressly constructed to do business based on views of something going on across the street, the charm was completely gone.
Those chairs were what people sat on back when roof-sitting was a delightful little deal enjoyed by a handful of ballpark neighbors.
It is hard to describe those ridiculous clubs, owned and operated by wealthy Wrigleyville bar and club owners, as anything other than parasites.
Let me be clear, though, that I'm not taking Cubs management's side in the dispute over whether the team should be able to put up advertising that blocks the views from across the street. The Ricketts family knew what it was getting into when it purchased the Cubs. They knew a 20-year contract had been signed with the rooftop owners a few years prior, a contract that still has more than 10 years left to go. A plague on both their houses.
Except, of course, I don't really feel that way about the house owned by the baseball team I've been a fanatic for since childhood. I'm sure just about everyone can agree that the glorious old ballpark should remain plague-less. The Rickettses on the other hand . . . I suppose I have a tiny personal stake in this because I had the great good fortune to take in three innings of a playoff game from the rooftop of what I believe was the fourth building north of Addison on Sheffield in 1989.
It was Game 1 of the National League Championship Series (a game the Cubs would lose 11-3 to the Giants - their first of four losses in five playoff games that year) and I had been sent over to the ballpark by the City News Bureau to collect some "color" from the neighborhood.
As I walked down the street behind Wrigley's right field I was inspired to yell up to a few guys I could see up on top of the multilevel residence in question and they invited me in. I had to go around to the back, climb a couple sets of stairs and then hoist myself up the long ladder that poked through to the roof. Once there I explained what I was doing and who I was working for (I think they believed me although, as usual, they hadn't heard of City News), conducted a few interviews with and took in the scene and the game. There were maybe eight people up there total. It would have been worth it to pay an extra hundred a month at least in rent to live in that building.
When I think about that 1989 Cubs playoff appearance, that's what I remember.
Well, that and Will Clark getting a hit just about every time up (he hit .650 in that series, including an RBI double in the first inning while I was on the rooftop).
These days, a reporter wouldn't be so lucky; they'd probably have to arrange to sit on a rooftop ahead of time and then bear being surrounded by a bunch of suits masquerading as fans.
There would be no charming ladders and no crappy patio furniture. And no one who really knew much about the game.
Those aren't the rooftops the building owners are fighting for anymore.
Back in 1989, by the way, the Giants had the best of it by far in the NLCS, but the World Series, the team's first since 1962, was a different story. San Francisco was swept by Oakland but the big story was the Loma Prieta earthquake. The 15-second tumbler struck about a half-hour before Game 3 and did serious damage all over the Bay Area. Huge sections of Interstate 880 collapsed and 42 people died. The Series was delayed for 10 days.
I suppose the moral of that story is that it could be worse, Cubs fans; the ballpark could be damaged by an earthquake.
On the other hand, it may take some sort of natural phenomenon to bridge the divide between the two sides on this one.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.
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