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The One Time I Broke Into Wrigley Field

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Alex Quigley

Former rock DJ, currently a multipurpose Chicago media guy.

The story you're about to read is true. Certain names have been changed to protect the innocent, the not-so-innocent, and details I may have forgotten.

It was the first weekend of October 2005. The Cubs were slogging through their first under-.500 season since Dusty Baker took over. They were finishing on the road against the Astros in a meaningless-for-us-but-very-meaningful-to-them series. Houston had an important part later that postseason in Fate's grandest sports-related musical, "Screw You, Chicago Cubs", by allowing the White Sox to sweep them en route to their first championship in 88 years. This followed the 2004 Red Sox breaking their crazy-long title drought and the 2003 Cubs...well, we know.

 

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Lane won 3 times at the 2006 Tonys for his portrayal of "Pudge Rodriguez" in SYCC.

Much like the current Cubbie climate, it wasn't a great time to be a fan. You took pleasure in little things when you could.

I was working at a radio station in town at the time. I won't say the name of it, but for the sake of storytelling I'll just call it "Q101". Our station's main competition, "94.7 the Zone", had just flipped their musical format from "basically the same stuff Q101 plays, minus 3 or 4 bands plus Guns 'N Roses" to its current "true oldies" identity. For us at Q101, it meant good times, better ratings, and more revenue were all in the near future. (Side note: holy hell, were we wrong about that.)

So our program director decided to throw a party at his Wrigleyville home for the staff. It was a perfect fall Saturday night in Chicago...not too cold, a stiff breeze off the still-warm lake, drinking beers in red Solo cups from a keg on the patio, everyone smiling and more relaxed than we'd been in a long, long time.

 

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It's the Chicago Way.

As the party began to wane, a fellow DJ and friend of mine offered to let me spend the night over at his place. (Again, to protect the names of the not-so-innocent, let's call this co-worker "Mancow".) He lived on the opposite side of Wrigley, at Clark & Grace. So our stumbly, bumbly walk to his house took us westbound down Waveland Avenue around 1:00. With the Cubs out of town and the boys (and corresponding girls) of summer gone, there wasn't a soul to be seen.

The off-season rehab of the bleachers at Wrigley seemingly began the moment the Cubs lost the home finale on the 28th against the Pirates. Already virtually all of the concrete and brick was torn down, revealing the greenish-gray steel beam superstructure that held up all those bums all those years. The Cubs put up a high security fence all along the torn exterior, in most places about 10 feet high. Near the scoreboard, the fence was extended upward to about 20 feet. These two sections were directly fastened together at a point about 80 feet east of Kenmore.

Did you just have the same idea we did that night?

My co-worker said it first, probably because he was more drunk than I was. "Dude...let's jump it and climb up the steel!"

I offered about thirty seconds of resistance. Then I took off across Waveland from the north-side sidewalk, jumped straight for the still-sorta-wobbly junction between the 10- and 20-foot fence sections, and got my fingertips over the cold metal railing after a toehold or two in the rattling chain-link fence.

We were in.

Sort of. Although the "security" fence was cleared, we weren't yet inside the Friendly Confines. We had to spider-crab-walk our way up between the exposed steel girders, kinda like the way you could climb up to the top of a hallway when you were a kid by pressing hard against the walls with your feet and hands. (You didn't do that? Uh...I was weird.)

 

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Pictured: weirdness.

But once we did that...we were in.

Standing in the bleachers at night in complete darkness is indescribable. It's also unphotographable with a phone camera, because the high grandstands and lack of any internal lights make it once of the darkest places possible within Chicago's city limits. As we walked down a bleacher row to the left-field foul line, the echoing footfalls on the metal benches sounded as loud as muffled gunshots. We didn't care by that point. It was full-on kiddie mode for me and "Mancow". We reached the gray concrete of the left-field wall and walked down its slope to the field.

We were on, now.

The square bases were missing and a strange, deep trench followed the basepaths where white chalk would lay on gamedays. But home plate was still there, and you had better believe I went for it.

At full volume: "Now batting-atting, number forty-four-our-our, Alex-ex-ex Quigley-ley-ley-ley!" Ever the impatient imaginary slugger, I took a gargantuan hack at the first pitch Imaginary Randy Johnson hurled and sent it out. I'm pretty sure I fake-broke a fake-window on real Sheffield Avenue. I trotted the bases, for some reason did a 1988 Kirk Gibson fist pump between fake first and fake second, and slid into home for absolutely no reason. I was simultaneously 26, 16, and 6 years old at that moment.

While I was "hitting", my co-worker was running around the outfield grass. We switched it up and while he took his at-bat I ran straight to the yellow 400 in center field. I kissed the top of the center zero. (It had a very unexpected texture. Super slick. No, I did not use tongue. Breaking in to Wrigley: awesome. Frenching any part of Wrigley: not cool.)

 

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I tried to get her number, but it turned out that 400 was a fake number. That's fine...her friend 368 was cooler, anyway.

Then I decided to moon the imaginary crowd, because of the aforementioned drinking. Also, so I could honestly say I've mooned Wrigley Field to anyone who may ask me that question.

No one has. Yet.

Co-worker finished up his homer sequence and we started to think about our escape route. The big gate in right field was a completely open archway, so we elected to saunter through there and take a running jump over the security fence to be home-free and scot-free. We each grabbed five or so ivy leaves, each one bigger than my outstretched hand and greener than I could ever discern from TV. We got to the archway, and...

Flashlight in the eyes. "Good evening, fellas!" came from behind the beacon, in a lazy drawl that suggested he'd been watching us for a while.

The evening's emotions had run from relaxation to brief trepidation to jubilation to figuring out who I'm gonna dial with my one phone call.

I don't remember everything he said. I do remember "Mancow" trying to talk our way out of it, but since he was pretty drunk it seemed to be making our situation worse. I simply said, "Sir, we didn't take anything or hurt anyone. I promise we'll leave immediately and never come back."

Security Guard let us sweat for an eternal ten seconds and said, "Tell ya what. You show me how the hell you got in, I'll let you go. But you gotta give me the ivy."

Damn. I really wanted those leaves.

But a night in jail wasn't worth Wrigley Ivy, so we forked over the foliage. We walked around the corner of Sheffield and Waveland, showed the guard exactly where we did it, and he laughed. Then he walked us over to a locked gate, unlocked it, and told us to "go home, boys."

The first few steps westbound on Waveland were cautious, slow, and trembling. But by the time we had passed the fire station, our pace had picked up. And by the time we hit Clark, we were full-on sprinting, screaming, and jumping for joy.

We did it. We got caught. And we got out of it.

This co-worker was amongst the first people in the world to get Guitar Hero. Through our job we sometimes got access to games before their release date. I recall a complete and total jam-out to "More Than A Feeling". When I hear that song, I think of my Wrigley caper.

The Cubs hit bottom the following season, almost losing 100 games and Dusty bit the dust. But after that the team rebounded and gave fans the first back-to-back postseason trips since any of us were born. (And I'm pretty confident in the phrase "any of us". If you're 102 years old and reading this, please email me. You're getting a beer from me.)

So I got to thinking...maybe I need to do this again. Maybe it was the slide into home. Maybe it was the "400" kiss. Maybe it was my butt. But something needs to be done to reset the karma at Clark & Addison. And very clearly, the someone who must do it is me.

If you get a phone call in the wee hours of the morning this October, please pick up. I'll be at the 23rd District police station at Halsted & Addison...and I'll have ivy leaves in my pants.

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11 Comments

plamorte said:

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awesome. I'm jealous. This story would have been a lot crappier had it been like Turd or someone. Never would have made it over the fence and story would have ended. yay mancow.

Alex Quigley said:

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1) I appreciate the Turd/crappier pun.

2) It was not Mancow.

plamorte said:

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1) completely unintentional (which makes it even funnier)

2) yea i know, i should have said yay "mancow"

Dmband said:

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Great story. compelling, and rich.

Seriously, nice work man.

Alex Quigley said:

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I'm currently working with the ChicagoNow IT guys to find a way to get this article to smell of rich mahogany.

Dmband said:

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And here I was thinking it was an accomplishment when I talked the McDonalds drive thru worker to let me "walk up" to the drive thru and place an order.

tjbrave902 said:

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And for a brief moment all was right with the world. This story made my day.

Nora ex Crowd Management Superviser said:

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Alex u naughty boy! My name is Nora H. and I used to be a Crowd Management Supervisor at Wrigley Field in the 80's. Boy can I tell u stories about that ballpark. My favorite is when Harry Carey fell out of the pressbox drunk after a game and I was the first one on the scene. After he broke his wrist that day I had to pick him up after the games in a golfcart because management knew Harry was getting old and he was a boozehound, LOL. When I would pick him up he would always call me a beautiful girl and try to kiss me with his big purple slobbery lips. I would always drive a fast as I could to his waiting car to avoid this contact, LOL. I have lots of stories of working the midknight shift at the park when people like u would climb over the gate by the firehouse and try and run the bases amoung other things. I would get on the microphone in the office and tell the intruders that after I counted to ten I was going to release the dogs....it worked everytime. My other favorite memory is working on a winter evening and building a snowman on the pitchers mound. He had on a Cub's hat and was holding a bat. In the moring right before I got off work, Lubie Veal the head of the grounds crew said to me, "Nora u don't know anything about the snowman on the pitchers mound, do u?" I replied "no Lubie" and he gave me the biggest smile and that guy never smiled. :)

Alex Quigley said:

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Awesome stories, Nora. I bet you could launch a pretty sweet blog of your own with all those tales!

Joey said:

What a fantastic story Alex... And Nora H! :) felt like I was there and got away with it too!!!

David said:

Found this post while searching for a way to BUY a Wrigley Ivy sprig to grow in my "friendly confines". Know how? BTW, great story!

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