View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003



January 2012



Tradition (Huh! Yeah!) What Is It Good For?

Written by , Posted in General

When your team is on the wrong side of 100 years of futility, you have to choose carefully which traditions to hold onto and which to let go.  Protecting too much of your tradition means you run the risk of celebrating incompetence.  Dump it all and you might as well load up the Mayflower trucks and move the whole operation to a new city.

Tradition means a lot to Cubs fans.  For some–in place of championships and past glory–it means everything.

But sometimes that tradition can hold you back.  For nearly half a century, the Cubs organization chose not to install lights at Wrigley Field and play only day games because that’s the way they’d always done it.  Don’t get me wrong–day games aren’t necessarily a disadvantage.  In fact, if anything, they ought to be an advantage.  But instead of making the most of the scheduling peculiarity, the Cubs let it become an excuse for failure–and more than a few players used it as license to become fixtures of the Chicago nightlife, squandering considerable potential in the process.  Did the abundance of day games automatically make the Cubs losers?  No, but it paved the way for a variety of failures.

Most Cubs fans can’t agree on which traditions they’d like to preserve, even if they’re far less consequential than the decades of day games.  Some fans love the bricks and ivy, the old manual scoreboard, and the schizophrenic ways that Wrigley Field plays depending on the weather.  Others want to tear the whole thing down and build a domed stadium on the same land–still others want to move out to the northwest suburbs where parking is more plentiful and the commute shorter.

I can’t agree with that kind of thinking.  I want Wrigley Field to stay the way it is, and with some thorough, careful renovations, I think it can.

But that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of all the Wrigley Field traditions.  Along with the bricks, ivy, and the manual scoreboard, I’d keep:

  • The “W” and “L” flags  As a former frequent passenger on the Red Line, I know how fun it is to ride past Wrigley and see the result of the day’s game flapping in the wind.  And the abundance of “W” flags unfurled after road wins has helped cement it as celebratory tradition.  (I still can’t figure out why some division rival hasn’t started selling the blue “L” flags for their fans to display after Cubs losses.)
  • Wayne Messmer singing the National Anthem  His trademark glory note on the word “brave” is my Pavlovian indicator that a Cubs game is about to begin.
  • No mascots or cheerleaders  Ronnie Woo-Woo and the Dixieland band don’t count.
  • The 7th inning stretch  “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is simply more appropriate than “God Bless America.”  (More on this below.)
  • The rooftop bleachers  You’ll remember that a few years back, the Cubs installed screens to block out the view from the rooftops until they came to a financial agreement with their Wrigleyville neighbors.  In the years before and since then, the Cubs have had opportunities to buy those buildings.  I hope they eventually do, because I like the idea of watching a game from a nearby rooftop, and I think the only way to keep them open long term would be for the Cubs to take full control.

Most other Wrigley traditions I could take or leave, although there are a few that need to die, preferably sooner than later.  I would gleefully get rid of:

  • The guest conductor for the 7th inning stretch  C-list celebrities garbling the words to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” does not honor the memory of Harry Caray.  It’s time to dump the guest conductor gig–and the usually nauseating interview that follows–and just use a recording of Harry or Ron Santo (I’d use Harry for day games, and Ron for night games).  And if you want to have the occasional guest conductor with some true connection to the Cubs, I’ll give in.  But the list needs to be short.  Real short.  Like “let’s limit it to Cubs Hall of Famers and Bill Murray” short.
  • “Go Cubs Go” needs to go  This one is relatively new, and I’ll admit I’m a little torn.  On the one hand, I only hear it after Cubs wins, so I’m predisposed to want to hear it.  But the song is so mind-numbingly, teeth-gratingly hokey.  Really, if we want to honor Steve Goodman, wouldn’t it be better to play “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request”–a far superior song–after every Cubs loss?  I don’t know if a lyrical update or a rerecording of “Go Cubs Go” could improve the song, but something needs to be done.  Soon.
  • Another job well done JJ…and can’t agree more with your ‘need to go’ list. I do think Marla the ballgirl may have been more cheerleader-esque than anything. Pretty sure Seymour would love to see that tradition reinstated.


    I like Go Cubs Go. I want to keep it after wins. I hope the Cubs buy the rooftops as they become available also. That would bring in a lot of dough eventually. Because buying the rooftops is a one-shot deal. But now instead of getting 20% of rooftop revenues, they will get 100% of revenues. I think a couple of rooftops have failed also. Ricketts has to buy them up.

  • Jedi

    If the Cubs can get the majority of the buildings on Waveland and Sheffield, what are the chances they could get permission to gate off the streets permanently and turn the current roads into a sort of promenade area?

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I think those chances significantly improve, Jedi. And I’m all for it.

    I also think the price for watching a game from the rooftop would go down somewhat. BLPCB is right, some of the rooftop owners have had to cut back significantly the number of games they host–not enough people are buying the $225 tickets any more. Those prices could come down if they could consolidate food and drink costs, and if you lose the 20% for the Cubs. Not saying they will definitely come down, but I think the Cubs would be motivated to make better, more consistent use of the space than some of the floundering owners have been.


    I thought food and drink was already included in the rooftop prices, all you can eat and drink

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    It is–I meant the cost to the owners. I don’t know what deals the individual rooftop owners have with their suppliers, but I’m guessing the Cubs get a better deal just based on the quantities they’re buying. Lower prices for the owners (in this hypothetical case, the Cubs) might mean lower prices for us fans.


    And lower quality food and drinks on the rooftops?

  • Yes. Non-kosher hot dogs and Pabst Red Ribbon.

  • Buddy

    The guest conductor/singer program is an absolute joke. How it has survived this long is beyond me.

  • Dr. vanNostrand

    And keep the organ music…the canned recorded music experiment was a disaster!

  • flyslinger2

    The lovely and talented Mrs. Fly would cringe everytime she heard Harry sing the 7th inning stretch. Personally I think his speech was so slurred because he had a tap installed the desk where he called the game and was always 3 sheets to the wind. Sobriety and Harry should never be used in the same sentence.

  • With all respect to Mr. Messmer, I would do away with his singing of the anthem. But then, I would do away with all performances of the anthem at all events. Once upon a time, the crowd sang the anthem. That has always made more sense to me.

    As for the guest conductor for the seventh inning stretch, I agree that most of the guests should not be there. This should be restricted to people who are a) Cub fans and b) can sing at least a little bit. I would argue for a process that would allow average fans to have a shot at it, but it would probably be too much work to screen for fan status and singing ability.


    They ought to auction it off for some games. Another way to raise revenue. Along with the ceremonial first pitch.

  • Buddy

    Just play a recording of Harry (before the stroke) and call it good.

  • CubbieDude

    I’m all for the Star-Spangled Banner on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and my birthday. Maybe opening day, too. Other than those occasions, it’s out of place at a for-profit athletic/entertainment event
    I second the HOFers and Bill Murray suggestion.
    I like “Go Cubs Go”, although probably only because it was written and performed by Steve Goodman. Maybe they should play “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request” at the seventh inning, (with video on the new jumbotron or smartphones). Or before each game (instead of the National Anthem).

  • flyslinger2

    Read this:

    The cubs are mentioned in the article. This is why the SSB is played at every major event.

  • Eddie Von White

    Can’t close the streets – fans are waiting to catch home runs while playing catch and dodging cars,tour buses, fire trucks and ambulances. It would take too much away from the game – not to mention the vendors working Sheffield and Waveland.

    Keep the Star Spangled Banner and Go Cubs Go.

    The 7th inning stretch guest is kind of ridiculous. All I can think of is Jim Belushi singing.


    The worst singer ever was Ozzy Ozzburne. Jalen Rose was pretty bad too. But what I want to know is why they had a White Sox fan in Bernie Mac sing during the playoffs?

    Another bad singer was Ditka, even though he brought us luck in 2003 with the 6-0 comeback vs. the Cardinals. Other than Woody’s 20K game, that has to be my favorite game ever. I still remember it like it was yesterday:

    Cardinals are up 2-0 in the 5th inning. J.D. Drew hits a grand slam to put them up 6-0. 15 year old me got really angry. I was wearing my Cubs shirt, and back then, every time I wore that shirt (I only had one at the time), the Cubs would lose. So at this point, I got really mad, and literally ripped my shirt off, went outside to my backyard, used a magnifying glass to start a fire, and burned it. Went back in. Bottom of the 6th inning: Sosa gets on base, Alou (pissed off from the night before because umpire Justin Klemm called a line drive he hit with the bases loaded foul even though it kicked up chalk) drives him in, Ramirez goes yard, it’s now 6-3.

    7th inning, Cardinals get a run, I believe Fernando Vina went yard, not sure Ditka sings the stretch. Sosa gets on base again, Alou goes yard. Gonzo goes yard. 7-6.

    Bottom of the 8th inning: Womack gets on base. Lofton sacrifices him to 2nd. Grudz triples him in to tie the game. Sosa K’s. Alou singles him in to give the Cubs an 8-7 lead.

    9th inning, Borowski slams the door shut, and the Cubs win. That was a 5-game series with the Cardinals, and we took 4 of the 5 games, and it would have been a sweep if the umpire made the right call.


    I don’t know what to think of playing the anthem before every sporting event. I think it’s kind of silly. I mean even before every swim meet in high school, they would play it before the meets. Kind of lame IMO.

  • chuck

    I think people are missing the point of the guest singers for the 7th inning. They are not supposed to be good. They are supposed to be terrible. The best one ever was Ditka and he was so bad it was great. They do need to make sure that all the “singers” are there for the right reasons and not to shill some personal product. If I ever see a Kardasian doing the 7th inning, I am turning in my fan card and they can do away with the whole thing.
    Here are my thoughts on the other stuff:
    W and L flags: They are not obnoxious so keep them.
    Wayne Messmer: The Cubs can do a LOT worse and somebody has to do it.
    Cheerleaders: Do we really need cheerleaders at EVERYTHING? Really? Baseball has more dignity than that. Leave cheerleaders to the neanderthal sports like football.
    7th Inning: Take Me Out To The Ballgame is the 7th inning song. Period.
    Rooftop Bleachers: It is something unique to Wrigley (as far as I know) and as long as they and the team have come to some sort of agreement, keep them forever.
    Go Cubs Go: Who doesn’t like that song? Really!? Are you some sort of closet Cards fan? Do you enjoy making babies cry? Do you go around telling kids the truth about Santa and the Tooth Fairy? Don’t cheezy songs and baseball go together? Lighten up…


    What about the Ozzburne’s? Wasn’t their rendition the worst ever that it had to be good? I remember seeing a sign on TV when Ditka sung at the before mentioned 2003 game:

  • Doc Raker

    The Cubs were almost the first to have lights. In 1941 all the materials for the lights were at Wrigley ready to go, then Pearl Harbor and Mr Wrigley donated all the materials to the war effort. Mr. Wrigley thought night baseball would be a passing fad.
    * The Cubs were the first ones to sing the National Anthem before a game so you can say they started that whole tradition throughout sports.
    * I like the singing of Go Cubs Go. Wrigley is about a party and singing about a Cubs victory is a good way to celebrate, especially for people who aren’t drinking and skirt chasing like seniors and kids.

  • Buddy

    Other Cub firsts…
    1. First to serve Clear Pepsi at a Major League Baseball park
    2. First to have Max Headroom day for fans
    3. First to publicly denounce this new fad called “the Internet”
    4. First to invite Jar Jar Binks for an autograph signing session
    5. First to give away “I’m what Willis was talkin’ about” t-shirts

  • I’m fine with the anthem as long as it’s done relatively straight up. “Artists” who attempt to personalize it too much can be annoying.

    Ozzie. Have the lyrics ever been mutated that much?

    I like the elusive W flag.

  • Bryan

    I don’t mind the celebrities singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as long as they are genuine Cubs fans i.e. Murray, Vedder, Sinese, etc. While Ozzy was the worst, Jeff Gordon comes in a close second in my opinion with “Wrigley Stadium.”

  • Larry Sproul

    You keep the W and L flags . If you can get a real Cubs fan to sing in the 7 th ditch it . Really did we need to see Larry King try and sing it . He had never been to Wrigley and is a Dodgers fan ??

    Wayne Messmer does a great job . So do the Old Style vendors!! Go Cubs 2012 …See ya in Mesa !!

  • Doc Raker

    I like the idea of the Old Style vendors singing and completely agree that people should be true Cub fans in order to sing the 7th inning stretch. Celebrities pimping their latest project is not appreciated, we will watch Letterman if we want to here Tom Cruise babble on about his latest movie he thinks everyone should go see, real Cub fans sing or junk it.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I think it was BLPCB who suggest the Cubs auction off the job of leading “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” I can’t find it now, but I read somewhere in the aftermath of the most recent Cubs Convention that the auction is an idea they’re strongly considering, as most of the front office agrees they need to change the current format. If I find the article again, I’ll post the link.

  • MJ

    Messmer = overrated.

  • Kris

    Messmer = much less overrated than Jim Cornelison. (I suppose it’s just my taste in music, but I do not understand why other Hawks fans think he is just the best thing ever.)

    Wrigley/Cubs traditions that I’d always want to stay:
    -The W/L flags
    -The organ music (I had blacked out the recorded music experiment before batters from a few years ago, because it wasn’t worth it.)
    -Bricks and Ivy
    -Chocolate Malt Cups!!
    -Pinstriped uniforms (none of this crazy updating–white with blue pinstripes will always be good enough)