Cubs fans sign 'friendly chalkboard' on Wrigley walls
CHICAGO (AP) Matt Ridley climbed his ladder, scrawled a tribute to his deceased loved ones and high fived his mom when his feet hit the sidewalk.
The Cubs winning it all still seemed a bit surreal to him. Yet, there he was writing ''Ridley Nation'' high on the brick bleacher wall along Waveland Avenue in honor of his brother, father and uncle.
''Every time I hear the call of the last out, it almost sounds like it's not real – like it's a joke,'' Ridley said Monday.
No joke, the Chicago Cubs at long last won the World Series when they beat the Cleveland Indians last week. And their first championship in 108 years stirred all sorts of emotions.
Fans who weren't sure they would ever see it happen have been thinking about loved ones who never got to witness it. They've been flowing to Wrigley Field in a steady stream, turning the walls and sidewalks outside the famed ballpark into one gigantic chalkboard.
The bricks beyond the ivy are jammed with names and notes to family members. There are messages encouraging the team, and drawings, too.
It's all in chalk, and it's all about to go away.
The Cubs announced Monday they need to remove the messages and artwork due to offseason construction. Fans have until 5 p.m. CST Tuesday. After that, final photographs will be taken and displayed publicly at a later date.
Fans started writing encouraging messages to the team in chalk on the walls outside the bleachers during the run to the Cubs' first championship since 1908, and they have continued in such a steady stream there is little room left anywhere outside the ballpark, be it outside the bleachers or near the marquee.
Along Sheffield Avenue, beyond right field, Kathleen and Bob Dove of Evanston found a spot a few feet up the wall to pay tribute to her mother. They colored a brick in light blue chalk and wrote ''Dorothy McGuire'' in white.
''The whole time I grew up, it revolved around the Cubs game – meals,'' Kathleen Dove said. ''She knew all the players every year. She would tell me all the statistics, this will be the year. She was a very typical diehard, I mean just brutally diehard, Cubs fan. She would be really amazed at this.''
Bob Dove, a retired sound technician for Chicago PBS affiliate WTTW, recalled working on a documentary about Bill Veeck Jr. during the last year of his life. And he has little doubt Veeck would have loved the scene playing out along the streets outside Wrigley.
''We have all of this angst about immigrants and racial animus and all that stuff,'' Bob Dove said. ''The Cubs' victory is the greatest thing to happen in Chicago right now because everything else that's going on right now is so negative. Veeck would love this wall because it's representative of his philosophy of being a team for everyone. And he was the person that integrated the American League.''
Bill Veeck went to work for the Cubs when his father Bill Sr. was team president and was responsible for the ivy being planted in 1937. He also integrated the American League as owner of the Cleveland Indians when he signed Larry Doby and frequently hung out in the Wrigley Field bleachers after selling the White Sox to Jerry Reinsdorf in 1981.
Kim Bresnahan of Evanston was on the phone with her friend Nana Sedor in Homer, Alaska, as she looked for space on the wall along Sheffield. Bresnahan was there to pay tribute to her ex-husband's father as well as her friend's brother Chris, a loyal fan who died at 16.
''This victory was for every underdog in the world,'' Nana Sedor said.
The two friends have been following the Cubs for decades, going back to the black cat and the collapse against the New York Mets in 1969. They recalled ditching school to go to Wrigley Field as teenagers and cheer on those ''Lovable Losers.'' In some ways, this championship run was like a shock to the system – a glorious shock to the system.
''In our lives, we don't have a lot of hope,'' Bresnahan said. ''There's a lot of bad stuff going on. And it's like, `Oh my God, if the Cubs can do it in 108 years, we can do anything.' Right?''
Lifelong Cubs fan Becky Ellous cried when the championship drought ended and thought about her grandfather Frank Sokol, who died five years ago at age 87. To him, the Cubs were ''bozos,'' yet he would watch every game no matter how bad they were.
''This would have made him so happy,'' Ellous said. ''He would have loved every single minute of it.''
Along Waveland Avenue, Ridley said he started ''bawling'' listening to Eddie Vedder's ''Someday We'll Go All The Way'' heading to the ballpark on Monday.
He came with his 12-year-old son Matthew Jr., and his mom Nancy Ridley, who grew up on Addison a few blocks from the famed marquee. She was in the bleachers for Game 6 of the NLCS when then the Cubs beat the Dodgers for their first pennant since 1945. And she was blunt when asked if she thought she would see a moment like this.
''No,'' she said. ''I really didn't.''